Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/19/2019

Politics and Policy

More than 300 people had been arrested by Wednesday in climate protests that have gridlocked the core of London this week.  Those protests have been staged by Extinction Rebellion, which is working to bring similar disruptive protests to the U.S.  Guardian columnist George Monbiot, writing in support of Extinction Rebellion, said “Our system – characterized by perpetual economic growth on a planet that is not growing – will inevitably implode.  The only question is whether the transformation is planned or unplanned.  Our task is to ensure it is planned, and fast.”  International lawyer Polly Higgens is calling for the International Criminal Court in the Hague to recognize ‘ecocide’ as a crime against humanity, alongside genocide and war crimes.  Mat Hope interviewed her for Desmog.

In an open letter to The Guardian accompanying the launch of a report from the Network for Greening the Financial System, the governors of the Bank of England and the Banque de France warned that the global financial system faces an existential threat from climate change and must take urgent steps to reform.  Although he has not yet done so, President Trump has said he will appoint Heritage Foundation senior fellow Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board.  Moore has a history of rejecting climate science, although he has said he would support a carbon tax under certain conditions.

The New York Times (NYT) asked all 18 declared Democratic presidential candidates for their views on a number of policy options related to climate change.  You can read an article about their responses, as well as their individual responses.  Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who has made climate change the focal point of his presidential campaign, called on the Democratic National Committee to hold a debate centered solely on the issue.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) this week became the latest major presidential candidate to promise to halt all new leases for fossil fuel development on federal lands and offshore if elected.  The NYT also published an opinion piece by Amory B. Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty of the Rocky Mountain Institute arguing that “Any serious energy transformation effort … will need to harness America’s immensely powerful and creative economic engine, not dismantle it.”  At Vox, David Roberts interviewed Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), co-sponsor of the Green New Deal Resolution, about some of the claims that have been made about it.

Alberta, the home of Canada’s tar sands, elected a conservative leader who promised to cancel the province’s carbon tax, lift a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands, and create a “war room” to combat the oil industry’s opponents.  In addition, the federal and Ontario governments squared off in the province’s top court over the federal government’s climate change law.  New York City set an ambitious new standard for combating greenhouse gas emissions by approving a package of policies designed to slash energy use in big buildings.  Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a major overhaul of state oil and gas rules, turning the focus away from encouraging production and directing regulators to make public safety and the environment their top priority.  As the cost of renewable energy drops and its popularity rises around the country, Republican lawmakers in several key states are ratcheting up their attacks on wind power.

Potpourri

For Earth Day, The Washington Post created a different way to read about climate change: an all-cover issue of their Magazine, with each cover illustrating an aspect of climate change that The Post wrote about in the past year or so.  Links are provided to the articles.  A new biannual magazine called Atmos explores climate and culture because “in order for us to have an impact on our changing climate, it has to start with people.”  In a seven-minute video beautifully illustrated by Molly Crabapple, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Avi Lewis provide a thought experiment of what the world might look like if we actually adopted the Green New Deal.  It is accompanied by an essay by Naomi Klein.  For Earth Day, the Pew Research Center looked at attitudes about climate change around the world and in the U.S.  Students from Virginia Tech were the Grand Winner at this year’s Solar Decathlon Design Challenge sponsored by DOE.  They also placed first in the Attached Housing Division.  The NYT had a couple of articles about things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint: Repair rather than replace broken items and use less single-use plastic.  “Degrees of Change” from Science Friday is a new series that explores the problem of climate change and how we as a planet are adapting to it.  You can sign up for a newsletter associated with it here.  Last week I provided a link to an excerpt from Bill McKibben’s new book Falter.  Jared Diamond provided a review this week.  Sunday was the first anniversary of the death of David Buckel, who died by self-immolation in hopes of catalyzing action on climate change.  The Guardian published a tribute by Oliver Conroy.  Yale Climate Connections has an informative article about John Kaiser, who is a former climate change denier who now regrets “how wrongheaded but certain I was.”  Lastly, be sure to check Earth Doctor Doug Hendren’s website periodically to see what new songs and albums he’s posted.

Climate

NASA’s GISTEMP surface temperature data set, one of the major data sets that have found the last five years to be the hottest on record and Earth to be 1°C warmer than in the late 1800s, has found new backing from an independent satellite record — suggesting that its findings are on a sound footing, scientists reported in the journal Environmental Research Letters.  Simulation results from the new generation of climate models being developed for the next IPCC report show greater warming projections than previous models, and their developers aren’t sure why.

To understand how the U.S. has warmed since 1970, Climate Central looked at temperature trends in 242 cities and 49 states.  They found that Las Vegas, NV was the fastest warming city and Alaska was the fastest warming state.  Meanwhile, more evidence for an exceptionally warm Arctic, especially in Greenland, has been building up, including early ice breakup on rivers and an early thaw in Alaska.  Unfortunately, the growing frequency of extreme weather dulls people’s awareness of climate change impacts, with the result that most people normalize extreme weather over just two to eight years.

Hurricane Maria was the rainiest storm known to have hit Puerto Rico, and climate change is partly to blame, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.  As hurricane season nears, Paul Douglas of the Capital Weather Gang called for better prediction systems so we can prepare vulnerable coastal areas for bigger, wetter, and faster-strengthening hurricanes.  The problems plaguing farmers in Honduras and elsewhere have mounted with rising temperatures and increasingly unpredictable weather, causing them to abandon their farms and head north.

Thawing permafrost in the Arctic may be releasing 12 times as much nitrous oxide as previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.  Nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2, can remain in the atmosphere for up to 114 years.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has prepared a climate change position statement that says that limiting the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C since preindustrial times is critical to maintaining the ecological function of the reef.  Ocean acidification is another result of increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.  Gavin MacRae reviewed its impacts on marine food webs.

Energy

The US Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. energy consumption hit a record high in 2018, in large part due to the growing use of petroleum and natural gas.  The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved construction of two proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals.  Duke Energy announced that it has put on hold for at least 15 years its plan to build a $100+ million gas-fired power plant at Lake Julian in western North Carolina.  The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors has approved the final permits for what will be the largest solar facility in Virginia and among the biggest in the nation.

Researchers from Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland and the Energy Watch Group have compiled the first scenario for optimally transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  New studies suggest that as more renewable energy is introduced on the U.S.’s electric grids, a wider use of electric heat pumps will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Eve Andrews at Grist examined the question “Why do we continue to expand car-dependent infrastructure?”.  U.S. electric bus maker Proterra announced an agreement that will help it scale up its battery leasing program, which will remove the upfront cost premium of buying an electric bus.  Nikola Motors is a start-up company that will build long-haul trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells along with a hydrogen fueling system to jump-start the industry.   Some of the world’s largest automobile companies unveiled new electric vehicles (EVs) at the Shanghai Auto Show.  Due to the plunging price of batteries, EVs will be cost-competitive with internal combustion-engine cars by 2022, according to a report at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Eric Niiler provided a review of where off-shore wind turbine deployment stands now in the U.S.  Harnessing wave power to generate electricity is another type of renewable energy, although it is much less developed than wind turbines.  Now, three companies are gearing up to conduct long-term tests of their devices at the same site in Hawaii.

Global energy storage deployments are projected to grow by a factor of 13 to reach 158 GW-hrs by 2024, according to a report by Wood Mackenzie.  Swedish company SaltX, which achieves electrical and heat storage using specially nanocoated salt, has installed a large-scale demonstration facility in Germany.  The company believes that its technology can be economically competitive with pumped hydro.  Another demonstration facility, this one in Thailand, is using a hybrid lithium-ion and zinc-bromine flow battery system to store electricity from solar panels for a remote village that is off the grid.

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.

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/12/2019

Politics and Policy

Climate change poses security risks, according to decades of intelligence reports.  Nevertheless, you may recall that last February, the National Security Council (NSC) began considering establishing a new federal advisory committee to challenge the consensus on climate change.  Now, former Ambassador C. Paul Robinson, who served as chief negotiator for the Geneva nuclear testing talks from 1988 to 1990, is said to be favored to lead the review panel.  Nevertheless, several agencies have informed the NSC that they do not anticipate taking part in the committee.

Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a nominee to serve on the Federal Reserve Board, told E&E News in a brief interview on Monday that the Fed should not consider the risks that rising temperatures could have on the economy.  However, the Urban Land Institute partnered with Heitman, a global real estate investment management firm, to assess the potential impacts of climate change on the long-term viability of real estate assets.  Canada’s building rules are being rewritten due to climate change because if no changes are made in the way they build, infrastructure failures linked to climate change could cost Canadians $300 billion over the next decade.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has contrasted his nation’s approach to climate change with that of the U.S., arguing that his country takes the threat seriously.  President Trump signed a pair of executive orders on Wednesday seeking to make it easier for firms to build oil and gas pipelines and harder for state agencies to intervene.  In a Reuters interview about those executive orders, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that other issues were more important than climate change.  The Senate voted 56-41 on Thursday to confirm David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas and water lobbyist, as Secretary of the Interior.  A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday to expand the electric vehicle tax credit by 400,000 vehicles per manufacturer.  Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday to increase federal funding toward developing carbon capture technology.  Also, the White House will begin promoting carbon capture and storage technology.  New York City is the first U.S. city to adopt a congestion pricing fee, which will be applied to the “central business district.”  Justine Calma looked at the implications of such a fee for Grist.  According to a new report from The International Renewable Energy Agency, the most cost-effective strategy to achieve a “climate-safe future” is an accelerated energy transition to renewables and energy efficiency coupled with electrification of key sectors like transportation.

In a letter to the journal Science in support of the youth climate protestors, 22 prominent climate scientists said “Their concerns are justified and supported by the best available science. … They deserve our respect and full support.”  More than 4200 Amazon employees are pushing the company to approve a shareholder resolution that would force Amazon to develop a plan to address its carbon footprint.  Meanwhile, Apple announced on Thursday that 21 manufacturers in its supply chain have vowed to obtain all their electricity from renewable sources, bringing to more than 5 GW the total amount of renewable energy that will be used by the company and its suppliers by 2020.

Potpourri

Last August Nathaniel Rich published an essay in the New York Times Magazine about the decade from 1979 to 1989, which he labeled the decade in which humanity missed its chance to fix climate change.  He has expanded the essay into a book — Losing Earth: A Recent History.  Amy Brady interviewed British novelist and journalist John Lanchester about his new cli-fi novel The WallRolling Stone published an excerpt from Bill McKibben’s new book FALTER: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?.  In an opinion piece in The Guardian, McKibben wrote “The respectable have punted; so now it’s up to the scruffy, the young, the marginal, the angry to do the necessary work.  Their discipline and good humor and profound nonviolence are remarkable…”  The April 9 issue of The New York Times Magazine was called “The Climate Issue.”  It contains six interesting articles.  Peter Sinclair’s latest video addresses the question “Should a Green New Deal include nuclear power?”.  On the subject of videos, The New York Times published a review of the Netflix series “Our Planet” on Wednesday.  It seems obvious to say it, but children born today will have to live their lives with drastically smaller carbon footprints than their grandparents if climate change is to be controlled.  Now, Carbon Brief has quantified the reduction, as reported in this piece from The Guardian.  Virginia Tech doctoral candidate Maria Saxton investigated the impact on someone’s ecological footprint of moving into a tiny house.  Joanna Boehnert argued that designers cannot design sustainable ways of living without a shift in economic priorities.  Burger King is testing a Whopper containing a vegetarian alternative made by Impossible Foods rather than beef.  The burger received a glowing review from a senior meat industry lobbyist.

Climate

On Tuesday, NOAA released data showing that, overall, March temperatures in Alaska were as much as 20°F above historical averages.  A new paper in the journal The Cryosphere reported on simulation studies examining the future of glaciers in the European Alps.  Under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, 95% of the ice in the glaciers will be gone by 2100.  Research conducted by an international team of scientists and summarized in a new paper in Environmental Research Letters, found that “The Arctic system is trending away from its 20th century state and into an unprecedented state, with implications not only within but beyond the Arctic,” according to lead author Jason Box.

Copernicus Climate Change Service operates a network of satellites for the EU that collects weather, soil, air, and water data.  Bloomberg presented a number of satellite photos and summarized what has been learned from the data about the impacts of climate change on Europe.  The San Francisco–based start-up Planet, along with two other satellite companies, has been participating in a NASA program to determine whether the companies’ imagery and data can be used to create a dashboard of “essential climate variables.”  A study presented this week in Vienna at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union showed that last summer’s extreme heat in the Northern Hemisphere was an “unprecedented” event that would not have happened without increased heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Climate change is making every day hazardous for many.  Hundreds of thousands of Americans — from New York to Miami to Phoenix —live in government-subsidized housing that is at serious risk of flooding.  In addition, a McClatchy analysis revealed that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities that exist almost entirely within “very high fire hazard severity zones”.  On the subject of hazards, a paper in Monday’s Nature Climate Change determined that if we continue with business-as-usual CO2 emissions, the damages will cost the U.S. about $500 billion per year by 2090.  If we take actions to limit warming to 2.5°C, however, the damages will drop to $280 billion per year.

In a study, published Monday in the journal Nature, scientists used ground and satellite measurements to look at 19,000 glaciers and found that they are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s.  A study by researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany has shown that Earth’s climate is highly sensitive to small changes in CO2 levels and that changes in CO2 levels were a main driver of the ice ages, together with variations in Earth’s orbit around the sun.

Energy

Australia is developing systems to use solar energy to supply “green” hydrogen to power the global economy.  A new technique for combining two types of solar cells offers the promise of increasing solar cell efficiency by as much as 20%.  Also, Australia is debating new mandates for electric vehicles.  Several of the points raised in the debate are germane to the U.S.  Akshat Rathi wrapped up his series on batteries at Quartz by examining what will be required to make significant advances in battery technology.

New research shows that people in the U.S. are biased against nuclear power.  An opinion piece in The New York Times advocating for nuclear power ended with “If the American public and politicians can face real threats and overcome unfounded fears, we can solve humanity’s most pressing challenge and leave our grandchildren a bright future of climate stability and abundant energy.”  The U.S. NRC has issued a final environmental impact statement and the staff has recommended issuing an early site permit for the Clinch River Nuclear Site in west Oak Ridge, TN, where two or more small modular nuclear reactors could be built.

In a report published on Thursday, Legal and General Investment Management, which manages assets worth $1.3 trillion worldwide, said oil demand could start to decline from 2025 if countries impose strict policies to curb climate change.  However, the total cost to the global economy to act on climate change could be as low as 0.5% of global GDP.

The Environmental Defense Fund announced new evidence Thursday that methane emissions in New Mexico are climbing amid a surge in oil and natural gas production in the Permian Basin drilling zone that straddles the state boundary with Texas.

Shell announced on Monday that it plans to invest $300m over the next three years in natural ecosystem-based projects, such as planting trees.  Chevron, Occidental Petroleum, and BHP have invested in Carbon Engineering, a start-up developing technology to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  A new study, published in the journal Nature Energy, found that taking into account resources needed to create and run systems needed for carbon capture, more energy can be produced by investing in wind farms and solar panels, combined with various kinds of energy storage.

Vox has published a five-part series about the comprehensive urban plan being implemented in Barcelona, Spain, which would reclaim more than half the streets now devoted to cars for mixed-use public spaces, or “superblocks.”  The series presents a case study of how to undo the large impact that cars have had on cities worldwide.

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.

 

Celebrating Earth Day with a Free Screening of The Red Turtle

redturtle

In celebration of Earth Day on Monday, April 22nd, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and Court Square Theater are offering a FREE, community showing of the Academy-Award-nominated animated film The Red Turtle!

The Red Turtle
Monday, April 22 | 7PM
Court Square Theater
41-F Court Square, Harrisonburg
FREE! All welcome!

The Red Turtle‘s simple but stunning story about humankind’s struggle against nature will appeal to audiences young and old. The film is completely dialogue free, so members of the community who speak different languages can appreciate its universal message together!

At its simplest level, the film is about a man who is isolated on an island and battles a giant turtle. Looking at it symbolically, Dutch illustrator, animator and director Michaël Dudok de Wit says that the man represents humankind and the turtle represents nature. In recorded interviews he calls it “a love letter to nature.” He also intended the story as a statement about the power of nature and about humankind reconnecting with nature.

The 80-minute animation was a hit at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, critically acclaimed at its 2017 U.S. release, and later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Rotten Tomatoes, a leading review website, gave it 94% and called it “…a beautifully animated effort whose deceptively simple story boasts narrative layers as richly absorbing as its lovely visuals.”

The Red Turtle appeals to viewers young and old, English-speakers and non-English speakers, casual movie-goers and analytical movie-goers. De Wit successfully uses visual storytelling and the characters’ face and body language to convey emotion in place of dialogue. He describes The Red Turtle as kid-friendly, though there is animal death which reviewers suggest will be appropriate for children age 10 and up.

Early arrivers can enjoy FREE POPCORN thanks to support from the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club! (Limited supply of free small popcorn for the first 33 guests).

Come celebrate our connection to Earth with your community this Earth Day!

Check out the movie trailer HERE.

Learn more about The Red Turtle in this interview with the movie’s director Michaël Dudok de Wit HERE.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/5/2019

Politics and Policy

During an interview with Euractiv, Nobel Prize laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz called on Europe and China to join forces against the U.S. at the WTO, saying America has become a “free-rider” on climate change under the Trump administration, in violation of global free trade rules.  Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich summarized the characteristics of initiatives putting a price on carbon around the world.  Canada imposed a carbon tax on four provinces that had defied Ottawa’s push to combat climate change.  Although this article is not about climate change per se, it raises some interesting questions about infrastructure and associated expectations that are germane to lowering CO2 emissions.  Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are opposing the markup of a bill introduced last week by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) that would bind the Trump administration to uphold the goals agreed to in the Paris Climate Agreement.  A federal judge ruled that an executive order by President Trump that lifted an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast was unlawful.

In a lengthy New Yorker feature, Jonathan Blitzer reported from the western highlands of Guatemala where he found that climate change is influencing people’s decisions to leave and migrate to the U.S.  In a letter to the head of the International Energy Agency, publisher of the annual “World Energy Outlook”, the signatories called on the Paris-based institution to “make clearer that [its] business-as-usual scenario… charts a dangerous course to a world with between 2.7°C and 3°C of warming”.  The World Economic Forum released the 2019 edition of its “Fostering Effective Energy Transition” report.  David Victor summarized the report’s major insights.

When asked whether he had lost his edge as the climate change candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020, Jay Inslee replied “I am the only candidate—I repeat the only candidate—who has said unequivocally and forcefully that defeating climate change has to be the number one priority.”  Bloomberg looked at positions on fighting climate change being taken by Democrats who oppose the Green New Deal (GND).  To mark its first hearing, the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis welcomed a group of young climate activists who testified about their experiences with climate change.  On Instagram Live Wednesday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke to critics, warning “And for those of you who are trying to mock and delay this moment, I mean, I just feel bad for you.  I pity you for your role in history right now.”  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), author of the Green Real Deal resolution, made his case in an opinion piece on Real Clear Politics.  Like AOC, Gaetz said at a press conference, “History will judge harshly my Republican colleagues who deny the science of climate change.”  You may have seen a cost of $93 trillion attached by some to the GND.  E&E News looked at where that number came from.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year would slash funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs at the DOE national labs.  A federal judge ruled that Mr. Trump’s executive order that lifted an Obama-era ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the North Atlantic coast was unlawful.  A government advisory group scrapped by President Trump has reassembled independently to call for better adaptation to the impacts of climate change.  It released a report on Thursday warning that Americans are being put at risk due to a muddled response to climate science.  Brad Plumer fact-checked some dubious claims made recently by President Trump about wind power.  The morning after the President’s claims, a bipartisan group of 19 senators announced a push for “robust” funding of federal programs to support the industry.

Potpourri

Psychologist Jeffrey T. Kiehl provided some helpful advice about effectively communicating with people about climate change, as did performance artist Peterson Toscano.  Semi-naked climate change protesters interrupted a House of Commons Brexit debate and glued their hands to the glass of the public gallery, spending almost 20 minutes with their buttocks facing the chamber.  For those who want to take a deep dive into batteries, Quartz provided a guide to the elements that can be used in them.  The Economist pondered the question “Can the novel handle a subject as cataclysmic as climate change?”  Luke Buckmaster reviewed the documentary film 2040 at The Guardian and concluded that it would have been better as a TV series.  Netflix’s Our Planet does what no other natural-history documentary has done — it forces viewers to acknowledge their own complicity in the destruction of nature.  In a very sobering essay at Common Dreams last Friday, Gus Speth compared the U.S. to the other OECD nations in “A People’s State of the Nation.”

Climate

New research published Wednesday in the journal Nature found that warmer waters associated with climate change are making it harder for corals in the Great Barrier Reef to reproduce.  Following major coral bleaching events due to heat stress in 2016 and 2017, the amount of reproductive material collected in the water after a mass spawning event in 2018 was down by 89%.

The last time Earth had as much CO2 in the atmosphere as now, Antarctica was 20°C warmer, with beech and possibly conifer trees growing within 300 miles of the South Pole, sea level was 65 ft higher, and global average temperatures were 3-4°C warmer, according to a paper presented at a Royal Meteorological Society meeting.  A large iceberg is about the calve from the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, but it won’t be because of climate change.  A study, published this month in the journal Geology, suggests that ice on glacial cliffs in Greenland and Antarctica is acting like soil and rock by slumping — that is, when weakened sediment breaks apart from land and slides down a slope.  This may eventually lead to a more rapid rise in sea levels.

Canada is warming on average at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world, a new scientific report from the government indicates.  Klawock, a town in southeastern Alaska, reached 70°F on March 19, the state’s earliest reading ever to reach that temperature.  A new study, published in Nature Communications, documents the 60-fold increase in permafrost landslides that has occurred over the past three decades in the Canadian Arctic.  As glaciers melt and retreat, exposing ice-free earth as they go, they can kick up clouds of dust into the atmosphere.  New research suggests that these dust particles may strongly affect the formation of Arctic clouds, which have a major influence over the region’s temperatures and precipitation.

The restoration of natural forests and coasts can simultaneously tackle climate change and the annihilation of wildlife, but is being overlooked, an international group of campaigners has said.  In writing about natural climate solutions, George Monbiot of The Guardian said “What I love about natural climate solutions is that we should be doing all these things anyway.”

An abnormally hot summer in Australia ended with the warmest March on record, with temperatures 2.13°C above the average, according to new data from the Bureau of Meteorology.  In 2011, Shark Bay – a world heritage area in Western Australia famous for its seagrass meadows and unique wildlife – faced an unprecedented marine heatwave.  Now, research published in the journal Current Biology has found that the impacts of that heatwave were propagated up the food chain, resulting in a 12% decline in the number of bottle-nosed dolphins.

Energy

Last week I linked to an article about lithium-ion battery costs dropping 35% since last year.  This week Eric Holthaus of Grist wrote about the implications of that drop.  In the UK, Pivot Power will collaborate with manufacturer and system integrator redT on what is claimed to be the world’s first grid-scale hybrid battery energy storage project to use a combination of lithium-ion and vanadium technologies.  Last week, Florida Power and Light (FPL) announced that it would retire two natural gas plants and replace them with what is likely to be the world’s largest solar-powered battery bank when it’s completed in 2021.

With electric vehicle (EV) sales climbing, electric utilities are investing in thousands of new EV charging stations, recognizing that if they don’t move now, they could lose out on a growing and increasingly competitive market.  In a recent blog post, Robert Scribbler evaluated five EVs.

Andreas Hoffrichter of Michigan State University, a self-described “scholar of rail,” states at The Conversation “it’s clear to me that the quickest way to decrease greenhouse gases from transportation is to travel by train and move goods by rail instead of on the road or by air.”

More than 140 GW of solar and wind generation capacity were added globally last year, with solar installations hitting a record 94 GW, new figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency show.  Global wind power capacity is expected to increase by 50% in the next five years as technology costs fall further and emerging markets drive growth, the Global Wind Energy Council said in an annual report on the wind industry.  While at CERAWeek in Houston, Edward Klump of E&E News spoke with four CEOs about the economics, technology, and trends driving the electricity sector in a greener direction.

Europe has more than 45 demonstration projects to improve electricity-to-hydrogen gas technologies and their integration with power grids and existing natural gas networks.  The principal focus has been to make the electrolyzers that convert electricity to hydrogen more efficient, longer-lasting, and cheaper to produce.  Dominion Energy plans to reduce methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure in half over the next decade.

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.

Champions of Us All

Daily News-Record, April 1, 2019

Open Forum: Irvin Peckham

I read Michael Meredith’s open forum, (“Tony Wilt A Champion for Business,” March 14) in which he promoted Tony Wilt’s 26th District voting record, calling him “a champion for business.” Certainly, our representatives should support local business owners; but they should also support other citizens, education, community infrastructure and environmental preservation. At times, these elements may seem in conflict with one another; how a candidate negotiates these conflicts influences how many of us will vote.

Like Wilt and Meredith, I am not a fan of big government; but I do support government that works in the interest of all citizens, protecting consumers against fraudulent business practices, prioritizing public education, supporting community development and protecting the environment.

Wilt says he supports a “balanced approach to environmental and water quality issues.” A “balanced” approach implies that he might tolerate some degree of water pollution and environmental destruction if government regulations would hamper business profits. To suggest that we should balance current benefits at the expense of environmental preservation takes one down the infamous slippery slope. At what point is environmental destruction less important than business profit? Are we not concerned about preserving our environment for our children? Or is it: After us, the storm?

Because concrete contributes to CO2 production, global warming and water run-off, it should go without saying that Wilt, the owner of a concrete company, has an interest in voting against bills protecting our environment. Although loosely related through energy consumption, Delegate Wilt’s adherence to a “balanced” approach might explain his recent votes restricting solar development in Virginia, siding with Dominion and Appalachian Power over organizations promoting renewable energy.

Wilt’s vote is one example of how he might resolve issues when different interests, including his own, are in conflict. I am equally concerned about his positions on public education, the minimum wage, and Medicaid expansion. Although I applaud his position on testing, his attempts to divert monies from public education will undermine local schools, accounting for his low rating of 50 percent from the Virginia Education Association.

In support of Wilt’s positions on the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion, Meredith says that a wage of $15 an hour is “ridiculously high,” a claim that makes me shiver, and that Medicaid expansion would increase health cost, a claim not supported by the Kaiser Foundation research and the experience of other states in spite of recent efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. But even if Medicaid expansion increases costs, I believe that in the interest of the whole community, such an expansion would be worth supporting.

Although I respect champions of small business, I am looking for a representative who will be champions of us all. Mr. Meredith suggests that these priorities are socialist; I see them as caring for others, including our children and their children.

Irvin Peckham lives in Harrisonburg.

Irvin serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/29/2019

Politics and Policy

The Trump administration announced last Friday that the government would provide an additional $3.7 billion in loan guarantees to the Plant Vogtle nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia, with Energy Secretary Rick Perry saying, “This is the real new green deal.”  Americans are evenly split over the use of nuclear power to supply the nation’s energy grid, a new Gallup poll revealed Wednesday.  In New Mexico the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has had both successes and problems during the 20 years it has been storing radioactive waste underground, thereby providing valuable experience for devising plans for the nuclear power industry.

Calling the Senate vote on the Green New Deal (GND) a sham, all but three Democrats voted “present” as the measure was defeated 57-0.  On the heels of that defeat, Democrats tried to prove they would not give up on tackling climate change.  Meanwhile, politicians from both sides of the aisle have been presenting alternatives to the GND, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy.  In addition, on Wednesday morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that House Democrats were introducing HR 9, the “Climate Action Now Act,” which aims to keep the U.S. in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  As a climate advocate of a libertarian persuasion, Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center wrote an open letter to Green New Dealers explaining why he can’t support their initiative.  In an impassioned column, Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin wrote “…climate change should be properly thought of as an epidemic that left untreated will injure, impoverish and kill our people.  Denying the cause of those calamities isn’t climate denial, it’s a denial of human suffering.”  At Vox, David Roberts made “the case against incremental climate policy.”  Does that mean that climate policy will ultimately be determined by lawsuits, much as tobacco policy was?  Perhaps that would be easier if Polly Higgins is successful in making ecocide an international crime.

Bills to clamp down on pipeline protests have spread to at least nine new states this year, part of an industry-backed push that began two years ago to heighten penalties for activists who try to block fossil fuel infrastructure projects.  President Trump is expected to sign an executive order imminently to expedite gas and oil pipeline development.  Also, on Friday afternoon the President handed a victory to TransCanada Corp. with a new presidential permit allowing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to go forward.  Many say the move is an effort to sidestep judiciary and environmental review and is likely to face legal challenges.  Shareholder activism is one tool of capitalism that has been used to influence the climate policies of corporations.  Unfortunately, under President Trump the Securities and Exchange Commission has made it more difficult for shareholders to be heard.

Glenn Rudebusch, the San Francisco Fed’s executive vice president for research, warned in a report on Monday that “climate-based risk could threaten the stability of the financial system as a whole.”  But fixes like those taken by the European Central Bank are currently not within the Fed’s authority.  Every year, the world’s five largest publicly owned oil and gas companies spend approximately $200 million on lobbying designed to control, delay, or block binding climate-motivated policy.  By 2025, Copenhagen aims to be net carbon neutral, thereby demonstrating to the rest of the world policies that cities can adopt to tackle climate change.

Potpourri

At Yale Climate Connections, Craig Chandler presented a five part series on how to cut your carbon footprint: One, Two, Three, Four, Five.  Herman Daly, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy and a long-time advocate for steady-state economics, had an essay at Local Futures on ”growthism.”  The Conversation has introduced a new newsletter called “Imagine” that presents a vision of a world acting on climate change.  You can read the first issue and subscribe to it hereYale Climate Connections observed Women’s History Month by publishing a list of books and reports on gender and climate change.  At The New York Times, John Schwartz collected the stories of men and women with a family history in fossil fuels who now work in renewable energy.  Jeff Goodell sent his last dispatch to Rolling Stone from onboard the Nathanial B. Palmer as it neared Punta Arenas, Chile.  Climate scientist David Goodrich has ridden his bicycle, lots, to experience climate change first hand.  He was interviewed at Yale Climate Connections about his experiences.

Climate

This week the World Meteorological Organization released its 25th annual State of the Climate report.  A major message in the report is that both the physical and financial impacts of global warming are accelerating.  Vast area of Australia are experiencing record drought and it is taking a toll on the mental health of farmers.

In the Arctic, the retreat of Greenland’s Jakobshavn glacier has stalled since 2016, according to new research in Nature Geoscience.  The pause has been caused by a pulse of cool water entering the sea surrounding the glacier. This cool water burst came as a result of changes to ocean circulation patterns.  In the Antarctic, Two rifts on the Brunt Ice Shelf are close to creating an iceberg over 560 square miles in size.

A new study, published last month in the journal Global Change Biology, found that cod larvae that survive when reared under conditions of ocean acidification expected by the end of the century suffer significant organ damage and developmental delays that could cause problems throughout their lifetimes.

Researchers across the U.S. say the milder winters of a changing climate are inducing earlier flowering of temperate tree fruits, exposing the blooms and nascent fruit to increasingly erratic frosts, hail, and other adverse weather.  An expanding network of researchers has discovered the greenhouse gas methane flowing out of trees from the vast flooded forests of the Amazon basin to Borneo’s soggy peatlands, from temperate upland woods in Maryland and Hungary to forested mountain slopes in China.  These findings complicate our ability to assess the role of forests in the global climate system.

A new study, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease, aims to estimate how the geographic ranges of the mosquitoes Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, which carry viral diseases such as dengue fever, Zika, yellow fever and chikungunya, are likely to change with varying levels of future climate change.  The results show that, under business-as-usual carbon emissions, almost one billion additional people could be exposed to mosquito-borne diseases by 2080.

Energy

Greenhouse-gas emissions from the use of energy — by far their largest source — surged in 2018, reaching a record high of 33.1 billion tons, despite an increase in renewable energy.  Emissions showed 1.7% growth, well above the average since 2010.  Nevertheless, a report from Global Energy Monitor stated that the number of coal-fired power plants on which construction was begun each year has fallen by 84% since 2015, and 39% in 2018 alone, while the number of completed plants has dropped by more than half since 2015.  Carbon Brief has updated its map of the world’s coal-fired power plants.  More good news came from the climate policy NGO Sandbag, which released a new report on Tuesday revealing that the EU is on track to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, far exceeding official targets.  Furthermore, according to a new report issued Monday by Energy Innovation and Vibrant Clean Energy, nearly three-quarters of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. cost more to operate than it would cost to build new wind and solar in the same area.

The Charles City County (VA) Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to approve a special-use permit for a 340-MW solar energy project planned for the western part of the county.  The project still needs approval from the State Corporation Commission and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  In Spotsylvania County, VA, the largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains could soon be built and, depending on whom you ask, it would be either a dangerous eyesore that will destroy the area’s rural character or a win-win, boosting the local economy and the environment.  Dominion Energy has decided to permanently close ten older and less-efficient generating units in Virginia that had previously been put into cold storage because they could no longer compete profitably.  The units include a mixture of coal and gas-fired resources, along with one biomass unit.

Scotland’s Orkney islands produce more clean energy than their inhabitants can use, so they convert the excess to hydrogen to power cars and other things, thereby serving as a demonstration project for the rest of the world.  EURACTIV’s energy and environment editor, Frédéric Simon, spoke with Jan Ingwersen, who is the general manager of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas.  Among the things they discussed was the conversion of gas pipelines from natural gas to hydrogen.

Florida Power & Light Company is planning to build the world’s largest battery energy storage system adjacent to an existing PV solar power plant, but others have the same idea.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen 35% compared to the first six months of 2018, while offshore wind costs have decreased 24% over the same period.  While battery energy storage works well to level out short-term fluctuations in energy availability, other technologies are required for long-term energy storage, i.e., over days or weeks.  One now being deployed is cryogenic energy storage, which uses liquid air.

At Vox, Umair Irfan and Javier Zarracina answered the question, “Why does a huge swath of the country have hardly any wind turbines at all?”.

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.

Common Sense Vs. Partisan Nonsense

Daily News-Record, March 23, 2019

Open Forum: Dave Pruett

On Feb. 13, 26th-District Sen. Mark Obenshain voted for an extraordinarily shortsighted bill. House Bill 2611 “prohibits the governor or any state agency from adopting any regulation establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program … ”

The bill intentionally hamstrings Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It passed narrowly on party- line vote.

What is RGGI? It is a market-based consortium of 10 Northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont— organized to reduce greenhouse gases by capping overall emissions and trading “allowances.” Since 2005, carbon emissions in RGGI states have fallen by 40 percent while their economies have grown by eight.

What’s so disagreeable about RGGI? Carbon reduction? Economic growth and new jobs? Health benefits? Were no climate catastrophe looming, RGGI would still make sense in terms of energy efficiency, economic impacts, and health. But in the wake of two recent and terrifying climate studies — the National Climate Assessment and the 2018 Report of the International Panel on Climate Change — not to commit to a proven program of carbon reduction borders on indefensible.

Yet, at national and state levels, the GOP seems firmly committed to the fantasy that climate change is a hoax. Never mind that 73 percent of Americans think global warming is happening now, and most are worried, according to a national survey called Climate Change in the American Mind.

Never mind the consensus of America’s premier scientific bodies that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause. Among these agencies: The National Academy of Sciences, American Physical Society, American Geophysical Union, NASA, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Never mind as four decades of predictions by climate scientists materialize before our very eyes. Seasons are shifting, ice caps melting, hurricanes stronger and wetter, wildfires larger and more devastating and tides are inundating Miami and Norfolk.

Never mind the assessment of our armed forces that changing climate is a global “threat multiplier” and rising sea level puts Norfolk Naval Base at risk, according to a Pentagon report from 2014.

Why then deny? Because denial pays handsomely. According to the watchdog agency vpap.org, eight of Obenshain’s top 25 campaign contributors are linked to fossil fuels, including Koch Industries, Dominion Energy and Consol Energy.

And so Obenshain and GOP colleagues: Heed former Virginia Air Quality Board member Rebecca Rubin: “If you cannot lead from a position of environmental justice in this day and age, then you cannot lead.”

Come November, I will cast my vote for a senatorial candidate of integrity who refuses the fossil-fuel lobby’s 30 pieces of silver, blood money for selling out the futures of our children and grandchildren. I will vote for April Moore, a candidate of common sense, not partisan nonsense.

Dave Pruett lives in Harrisonburg.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/22/2019

Politics and Policy

U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in Wyoming.  He temporarily blocked drilling on about 300,000 acres of land in the state.  Inside Climate News reported that activists are using similar approaches against the Trump administration’s rush to open more U.S. property to oil and gas leases.  Meanwhile, at Axios Amy Harder argued that “President Trump and congressional Republicans are increasingly outliers in an otherwise emerging consensus across America that climate change is a problem and that the government should pass new laws to address it.”  On March 8 Dominion Energy Virginia came back to the State Corporation Commission with a revised Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that reduces the number of new gas combustion turbines in half.  According to Ivy Main, this would diminish the justification for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has expressed support for a carbon tax for years.  Tuesday, Hassett told E&E News that he has a long record of supporting carbon taxes, but would not say if he has broached the subject with President Trump.  In the opinion section of The New York Times, Steven Rattner, a counselor to the Treasury secretary in the Obama administration and a Wall Street executive, made the case for a carbon tax.  On Thursday republicEn.org hosted a webinar entitled “The Carbon Tax Bill: 10 Years Later” featuring former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina.  In his annual “Energy Outlook” report, Michael Cembalest, chairman of market investment and strategy for J.P. Morgan Asset Management, wrote that the U.S. needs to reduce its use of carbon much faster, but changing that will require far harder choices than most people realize.  Indeed, in an opinion piece in The Guardian, Phil McDuff wrote: “Policy tweaks such as a carbon tax won’t do it.  We need to fundamentally re-evaluate our relationship to ownership, work and capital.”

During an interview Wednesday on “CBS This Morning” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”  That prompted Emily Atkin at The New Republic to write “The EPA chief’s latest argument against fighting climate change is astonishingly foolish—but it’s exactly what most of us want to hear.”  Centrist Democrats are pushing back on the fast-paced approach to climate change legislation preferred by Green New Deal supporters, arguing instead for a more gradual manner that they think will have a stronger chance of passing and reaching across the aisle.  Because Senate Democrats consider the upcoming vote on the Green New Deal resolution to be a sham, they are apparently planning to vote “present”, even though they introduced it.  Nevertheless, Robinson Meyer argued that “America cares about climate change again.”

The Arctic region’s cooperation in the battle against global warming by reducing black carbon emissions is being hampered by the U.S. and Russia, the Finnish foreign ministry said on Wednesday.  A report released Friday from British nonprofit “Influence Map” shows that ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP, and Total have spent more than $1 billion combined on lobbying to delay, control, or block policies to tackle climate change since the Paris Agreement was signed.  Also, according to a new report from a group of environmental nonprofits, during the same time period the 33 largest global banks collectively provided $1.9 trillion in financing for fossil fuel companies.  Russia is considering climate legislation that could give the world’s fifth largest emitter a framework for regulating carbon emissions for the first time.

Potpourri

Jeff Goodell filed another dispatch from the Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel in Antarctica.  As the ship was leaving the region of the Thwaites Glacier, its 25 mile wide by 15 mile deep floating ice shelf disintegrated.  At Yale Climate Connections (YCC), Michael Svoboda briefly reviewed the eight movies of 2018 with a cli-fi element and looked forward to those that will be released in 2019.  Also at YCC, SueEllen Campbell compiled a list of stories about the impacts of climate change in National Parks.  Board games are the latest devices to help both planners and citizens learn how to adapt to sea level rise and other consequences of climate change.  According to a new report released Wednesday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, local governments can better prepare for disasters by investing in resilience programs and tending to societal problems that are often made worse during and after catastrophes.  With coal mining jobs disappearing in southeast Kentucky, environmental and energy reporter Elizabeth McGowen visited to determine whether green jobs could replace them.  At The Guardian, columnist Rebecca Solnit reflected on “Why climate action is the antithesis of white supremacy.”

Climate

The first results from a new generation of global climate models are now becoming available.  According to a report from a group of European climate modelers, early results suggest that estimates of “climate sensitivity” from these models are higher than previous values.  Last week the first item under “Climate” was about dramatic temperature increases in the Arctic being unavoidable.  However, it turns out that the degree of warming was overstated due to ambiguity in a key paragraph in the report from the UN Environment Assembly and the accompanying press release.

Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for the year on March 13, peaking at 14.78m sq km.  It is tied with 2007 as the seventh smallest winter maximum in the 40-year satellite record.  Thawing permafrost in high-altitude mountains has been contributing to rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, new research published in the journal Nature Communications suggests.

Deadly and historic flooding is plaguing states across the Midwest, isolating entire towns and upending the region.  The Great Lakes Basin has warmed more over the last 30 years than the rest of the contiguous U.S. and could warm dramatically more by the end of the 21st Century.  Insurers have warned that climate change could make coverage for ordinary people unaffordable after the world’s largest reinsurance firm, Munich Re, blamed global warming for $24 billion of losses in the California wildfires.  As damaging storms and other effects of climate change have hit Florida particularly hard in the past few years, some older adults living there have become concerned about their safety and their ability to enjoy retirement. So they’re fleeing the state.

Spring is usually a coordinated dance of singing birds, bursting leaves, buzzing insects, and blooming flowers, but climate change is throwing off the rhythm.  Samantha Harrington summarized five examples of winners and losers as a result.  The AP looked at 424 weather stations throughout the U.S. lower 48 states that had consistent temperature records since 1920 and counted how many times daily hot temperature records were tied or broken and how many daily cold records were set.  In a stable climate, the numbers should be roughly equal.  Since 1999, the ratio has been two warm records set or broken for every cold one.

Daisy Dunne has a very informative article about the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef that also examines the question of whether the reef can survive.  The article is accompanied by great multimedia presentations.  Meanwhile, researchers in Australia are re-engineering corals to make them more resistant to higher temperatures using techniques as old as the domestication of plants and as new as the latest gene-editing tools.

Energy

At Inside Climate News, Nicholas Kusnetz provided a wrap-up of the activities at the CERAWeek oil and gas conference in Houston the week of March 11-15, noting that it was a week of contradictions, with some executives touting clean energy and others treating gas as a “forever fuel.”  At The New Yorker, Bill McKibben explained why gas isn’t even a bridge fuel, much less a “forever” one.

Buildings are responsible for about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., so tackling those emissions is an important component of fighting climate change.  At Vox, David Roberts surveyed the parts of the U.S. that are displaying leadership in reducing building energy use.  The Brattle Group projects that $30 billion to $90 billion would have to be spent on transmission lines by 2030 to cost-effectively serve the electrification of the American economy.  That investment would represent a 20-50% increase in average annual transmission spending compared to the past 10 years.

Amnesty International (AI) attacked the electric vehicle (EV) industry on Thursday for selling itself as environmentally friendly while producing many of its batteries using polluting fossil fuels and unethically sourced minerals.  While AI’s allegations may well be true, there are many myths about renewable energy out there.  Karin Kirk presented some ways to counter them at Yale Climate Connections.  Two reports released yesterday, one by the Energy Information Agency and the other by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, highlight the impressive growth of renewable power and EVs — but also how far they have to go before replacing fossil fuels’ role in the energy system.  The New York City government’s maintenance costs for its EV fleet were much less per automobile than its gasoline-powered cars.

Last week I provided links to two articles about hydrogen production.  Both systems must use freshwater as the source of the hydrogen via electrolysis.  This week there was an article about research at Stanford that allows seawater to be used to produce hydrogen.  Toyota and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency are teaming up to transform part of a decommissioned car manufacturing site in Altona into a commercial-grade hydrogen production and refueling site.

SK Innovation plans a lithium-ion battery factory in Jackson County, GA, about 65 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, where the company says it will invest nearly $1.7 billion and hire 2,000 by 2025.  24M, a startup battery company, claims it has made a breakthrough in creating semi-solid lithium-ion battery cells with an energy density exceeding 350Wh/kg.

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.

Wake up Virginia!!! Recap

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On March 20, 2019, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley presented “Wake up Virginia!!! Mobilizing for Our Climate Crisis.” We proudly hosted Karen Campblin of Fairfax, Co-Chair of the Green New Deal Virginia Coalition, and Environmental and Climate Justice Chair for the Virginia NAACP; Bob Shippee of Richmond, Legislative and Political Chairs of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter; and April Moore of Shenandoah County, member of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Board of Directors, to answer questions on state level legislative ways to address the rapidly evolving issue of fossil fuel-driven environmental degradation. Some 85 community members gathered at the Rockingham County Government Center’s community room to be part of this discussion.

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Moderator Karen Lee posed a series of five questions to the panelists, followed by questions from the audience. These questions, and the responses, are summarized below:

About the scope of the climate problem—Are we looking at a crisis where we need to mobilize like we did in WW II?  What lessons do you think that experience offers us today? 

The three panelists all agreed that the Climate Crisis facing our nation and world is unequivocally worthy of a World War II scale mobilization and investment. They agreed that we are experiencing a true emergency that calls for leadership by government, science, and business to ensure we respond promptly and effectively.

What is the status of the legislation you have been focusing on? What have been the biggest obstacles to getting them passed?

Major legislation during the 2019 General Assembly session included bills focused on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pronounced like the name “Reggie”), Solar Freedom, Solar Demonstration Project, and Coal Ash Removal. RGGI would have authorized proceeds from carbon auctions to belong to Virginia and Virginia would determine how to use them. Without RGGI, the utilities would receive proceeds and decide on their use. The Solar Freedom legislation would have removed existing barriers to Virginians—individuals and businesses—who want to deploy solar energy.  The Solar Demonstration Project would have allowed a pilot project to examine the feasibility of solar in low and moderate income communities. Coal Ash Removal would require appropriate disposal of massive amounts of toxic coal residue from several “ponds.” All but the last piece of legislation was defeated because of legislative partisanship and parochialism and the persuasive power of Virginia’s largest utility.

What strategies are your organization and partners using to move forward the legislation you support in future legislative sessions?

The newly formed Virginia Green New Deal is hosting an April 27 partner summit during which it hopes to form alliances and partnerships with other organizations to develop legislative framework for the 2020 General Assembly session. The panelists suggested not only participating in this activity but also having off-season conversations with legislators and organizations around issues such as clean air, safe water, renewable energy, local-scale agriculture, and job training.

What suggestions do you have about how we can work with other groups to move Virginia toward more renewable energy and toward less fossil fuel dependence? I am thinking of groups like conservatives for clean energy, evangelicals, creation care groups, libertarian groups, and environment social justice groups.

Suggestions included:

  • Develop local “people power” such as local solar cooperatives.
  • Establish relationships with diverse organizations that share a common interest such as labor groups, coal miners, cleaner transportation advocates, and health workers.
  • Do coalition building within a community and among other Virginia communities to focus on the intersection of economic, climate, and social justice priorities and propose ways to move forward within that overlap.
  • Don’t build walls. Meet others where they are. Look for commonality.

Even though next year’s General Assembly session convenes in January, we recognize that a lot of legislative work happens much earlier. What are the most effective actions we can take as individuals and communities, especially between now and when they convene?

  • Get involved in the election process. Find the candidates whose positions you agree with and help them get elected. Canvas for them. Donate to their campaigns.
  • Reach out to local legislators and let them hear what you want; do that repeatedly. “Badger” your elected leaders … all year.
  • Write letters to your legislators spelling out your priorities as their constituent. Letters appear to have the most impact; emails and phone calls can be effective provided they are personalized. Personal stories are compelling. Form emails and petitions have less value. Then send your letters to the newspapers.
  • Become aware of the local budget process to learn the local elected officials’ priorities. Speak up about budget proposals. Look at local zoning rules to see if there are areas for improvement.
  • Early submissions for a General Assembly session begin in November. So don’t wait to put forward your requests.
  • In reaching out to others, be cognizant of your approach. Using words like “conserve” and “preserve” might resonate better with some people than “climate change.” Talk jobs (e.g., clean energy jobs, retraining of coal industry workers).  Raise health risks from environmental degradation. Express solutions in terms of “free market” methods.
  • Use the Virginia Public Access Project’s website to learn how your local legislator voted and where your political contributions are going.
  • Consider supporting campaign finance reform in Virginia.

A few other ideas from the question and answer session:

  • Read The Solar Patriot by Erik Curren to learn how to “pitch” the value of solar energy to conservatives and libertarians, as well as progressives and liberals.
  • Do what plays to your strengths and personality. Noise, rallies, protests all play a role and help inspire others.
  • Join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) mailing list. Read its Weekly Climate News Roundup, ask to work on one of its four standing committees: Coalition Building, Education and Events, Legislation and Elections, and Speakers Bureau. Write CAAV at contactcaav [at] gmail [dot] com to ask questions, offer ideas, learn where to look for information.
  • Reach out to organizations like local Rotary clubs and the Christian Coalition.
  • Stay informed. Our National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provides reliable online resources here.
  • Volunteer! Local grass roots groups like CAAV, Renew Rocktown, and RAPTORS could all use your help.
  • And not least: plant a tree! 🙂

CAAV Founder, Steering Committee member and one of the event planners, Cathy Strickler, was pleased with the “great questions and comments from the audience.” She noted that “the panelists were very strong on intense contact with elected officials, the immoral power of Dominion, the importance of the State Corporation Commission … , ways to communicate with conservatives, and the importance of outside pressure ‘street actions’ on elected officials.”

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Media Roundup!

Liesl Graber reported on it for Harrisonburg’s The Citizen here: Virginia’s Green New Deal can be built on common ground between people of all political stripes, activists say

WMRA’s Anna Saunders covered the discussion here: Panel Discusses Need to Address Climate Change.

The Daily News-Record‘s Jessica Wetzler’s article Panel Talks Politics Of Climate Change, Election was published on March 22.

JMU’s The Breeze published Experts speak on Virginia climate change legislation by Christian Lovallo on March 25.

Karen appeared on WHSV-TV3’s 1on1 with Bob Corso earlier in the day on March 20, to help promote the event: Climate crisis forum is tonight in Harrisonburg.

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/15/2019

Politics and Policy

On Friday students in nearly 100 countries around the world joined Greta Thunberg in her “school strikes for climate” protest.  At The Washington Post, Griff Witte, Sarah Kaplan and Brady Dennis reported on the events and profiled several students from around the U.S. who joined in.  The Guardian presented some of the posters from around the world.  A group of climate scientists wrote an open letter in support of the students.  Inside Climate News illustrated what climate scientists were saying when various world leaders were the age of today’s students.  Both the United Mine Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers came out against the Green New Deal (GND), saying “We will not stand by and allow threats to our members’ jobs and their families’ standard of living go unanswered,” even though the GND calls for a “fair and just transition” as we move toward zero net greenhouse gas emissions.  Evidently, Upton Sinclair was right.  Not surprisingly, President Trump’s 2020 budget proposal is not friendly to research and other programs related to climate change.  Australia’s annual carbon emissions have reached a new high and drops in emissions from the electricity sector have been wiped out by increases from other industries.

A new paper in Nature Climate Change provided more fuel to the debate about solar radiation management, a form of geoengineering, as a policy for slowing global warming.  The ideas are too complicated to cover in a sentence or two, so I encourage you to read Chris Mooney’s article.  The U.S. and Saudi Arabia blocked a Swiss push to develop geoengineering governance at the UN Environment Assembly.  The town of Exeter, N.H. passed an ordinance recognizing the “right to a healthy climate system capable of sustaining human societies”, the second ordinance of its kind to be passed in the U.S.  It follows a law passed by the town of Lafayette, CO, which enacted a “Climate Bill of Rights” ordinance in 2017.  On the other hand, Indiana is the latest state to consider legislation increasing to a felony the penalty for peaceful protests on private property of fossil fuel companies.  Fossil fuel and other corporate trade groups paid public relations and advertising firms at least $1.4 billion from 2008 to 2017 to help them win over the American public.

No matter what you might think about the Green New Deal, it has already had one important impact: Republicans are speaking out about climate change, including former Ohio Gov. John KasichCBS News had a piece about Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA), the ranking member of the new House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.  As infrastructure talks progress in Congress, Democrats are calling for any legislative package to address climate change, even though exactly how is not yet clear.  Executives from two Canadian oilsands companies praised a carbon tax at this year’s CERAWeek, a conference in Houston considered to be one of the most important for the world’s energy sector.  Inside Climate News summarized other activity at the conference.

Australia’s central bank warned that climate change is likely to cause economic shocks and threaten the country’s financial stability unless businesses take immediate stock of the risks.  Ivy Main summarized the fate of this year’s energy legislation in Virginia under the title “How the General Assembly failed Virginia again on clean energy.”  As expected, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam vetoed two bills that would have made it difficult for Virginia to join two interstate agreements limiting greenhouse gas emissions, one from the power sector and one from transportation.  On March 4, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that climate change was making tornadoes worse.  Scientists at Climate Feedback concluded that the statement was misleading.

Potpourri

Calling themselves BirthStrikers, women and men are refusing to have children until climate change ends.  At Vox, Umair Irfan looked at the broader questions around the ethics of child bearing in an age of climate change.  Climate scientist Michael Mann had a strongly worded opinion piece at Newsweek.  Dan Charles had an interesting series on NPR in which he helped us imagine what life would be like in 2050 after climate change had been stopped.  Jeff Goodell filed more dispatches at Rolling Stone from Antarctica where he is aboard the research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer.  He also filed three while I was gone: March 1, March 6, and March 8.  At Yale Climate Connections, Sara Peach explained how climate change is affecting spring by examining “Spring” in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”  Alina Tugend asked the question “Can art help save the planet?” at The New York Times.  In his new book, The Snap Forward, futurist Alex Steffen encourages people to think of tackling climate change as an ongoing opportunity to build a sustainable future, not a fight we’ve already lost.

Climate

Dramatic temperature increases in the Arctic are unavoidable, according to a report released at the UN Environment Assembly.  Even meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, would do nothing to stop Arctic winter temperatures from increasing 3° to 5°C by 2050 and 5° to 9°C by 2080.

On Wednesday, a team of U.S. Geological Survey scientists published the results of a large study of the impacts of sea level rise on California’s coast.  The team concluded that damage by the end of the century could be more devastating than the worst earthquakes and wildfires in state history.  As sea levels rise, high-tide flooding is becoming a growing problem in many parts of the globe, including cities on the U.S. East Coast.  Now, new research shows that as these waters recede, they carry toxic pollutants and excess nutrients into rivers, bays, and oceans.

Carbon Brief has published an update of its 2017 interactive map illustrating the extreme weather events that have been studied to determine whether they can be attributed to climate change.  The analysis suggests that 68% of the 260 extreme weather events studied were made more likely or more severe by human-caused climate change.

A new paper published Monday in Nature Climate Change investigated the conditions required to hold global warming to 2°C by 2100.  By examining 5.2 million possible climate futures, the authors concluded that carbon emissions must reach zero by 2030 in every country in the world if we are to achieve that without geoengineering or other technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  A paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that people in cooler states, where air conditioning and other ways to cool down are less common, are likely to misjudge the deadly dangers hot spells can pose to their health.

Another paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used computer simulation to examine future conditions for crop growth and found that by 2040, without reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, up to 14% of land dedicated to wheat, corn, rice, and soy beans will be drier than in 1986-2005, while 31% will be wetter.

Energy

Two papers described new research with proton conducting fuel cells.  One device harnessed as much as 98% of the electricity it was fed to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, providing an efficient way to store energy.  Engineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed an artificial leaf that can remove CO2 from the atmosphere or flue gas and convert it into a fuel with ~14% solar-to-fuel efficiency.

On Wednesday, the U.S. and India agreed to build six U.S.-designed nuclear power plants in India.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., NRC commissioners rejected a recommendation from their staff to require reactor owners to recognize the new climate reality and fortify their plants against flooding and seismic events.

Renewable energy sources supplied nearly 65% of Germany’s electricity last week, with wind turbines alone responsible for 48.4% of power production nationwide.  At Axios Ben Geman explained why offshore wind is finally expected to experience rapid growth in the U.S.  Goldman Sachs said it expected utility-scale solar installations globally to reach 108 GW in 2019, up 12% on 2018, and then grow by another 10% in 2020 to 119 GW.  In the past I have linked to several articles about the difficulty of siting new power lines to move renewable electricity across the country.  Well, a new project has an interesting solution: burying the power lines along railroad rights-of-way.  Joel Stronberg wrote about the implications to the fight against climate change of local communities rejecting wind and solar farms.

BP announced on Wednesday a three-year partnership with EDF aimed at developing further technologies to detect and prevent methane leaks.  BP had aimed to reduce methane emissions to 0.2% of its overall oil and gas production by 2025, but was able to achieve that target in 2018.  Other oil and gas companies, including Shell, are also pledging to reduce methane emissions and are calling for more regulation of the gas.  On the other hand, according to Unearthed, “British oil major BP successfully lobbied the Trump administration to roll back key climate regulations preventing the release of methane into the atmosphere, despite claiming to support the Paris agreement to limit global warming to well below 2°C.”

General Motors has recently established the position of VP for electric vehicle charging and infrastructure.  Ben Geman of Axios interviewed the first person to hold the post and gained insights into how GM views the development of that infrastructure.  He also reported on discussions about EVs at the Houston energy conference.  Volkswagen is increasing the number of new EV models it plans to build over the next decade from 50 to 70.  On Thursday, Toyota announced that it will invest about $750 million in facilities in five states to increase production of hybrid vehicles.  Joel Stronberg discussed CAFE fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks and offered his opinion on the problems the auto industry faces as a result of the Trump administrations desire to roll them back.

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.