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.

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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.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/8/2019

Joy Loving is this week’s author.

Politics and Policy

This article in Yes! Magazine provided a perspective on government action and inaction on climate change, asking “After 40 Years of Government Inaction on Climate, Have We Finally Turned a Corner?”  The author was inspired in part by his reporting about The Children’s Trust.  Perhaps an answer lies in part in actions such as this one by the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis:  The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported on passage of a bill to protect some public lands.

Last week’s Roundup highlighted several articles about young climate activists.  The Guardian weighed in as well this week, with a close look at some individuals involved in the Sunrise Movement.  Perhaps these young people and others in their movement will be heartened to learn that there is a strong climate advocate, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, who says he will run for President in 2020.  The Washington Post’s (WaPo) Energy 202 gave the details.

You’ve no doubt heard about Democratic proposals for a “green new deal”.  The Hill reported that the conservative approach would look a lot different.  And the Washington Examiner offered a slightly different, but related, take. republicEn offered this perspective:

“The caucus will not focus on climate change, but instead on returning Republicans to the conservation and environmental roots laid by President Theodore Roosevelt by tackling public lands issues, wildlife conservation, and environmental degradation of rivers, streams, and animal habitats. Toward that end, the caucus will work on ‘conservative solutions which are driven by a commitment to innovation, competitive markers, and entrepreneurialism.’”

Is there a way forward for the c-words (compromise? consensus? climate action?)?  See what you think about this Inside Climate News item titled “Green New Deal vs. Carbon Tax: A Clash of 2 Worldviews, Both Seeking Climate Action” and subtitled “The contest is elevating climate policy conversations on the campaign trail and in Washington. It could inspire compromises that bring together pieces of each.”  Maybe not, according to this author writing in FiveThirtyEight. USA Today reported a somewhat related story.  And then there’s this Bloomberg piece, which suggested maybe some level of bipartisanship is a possibility, this item from DW.com about shifting attitudes among evangelicals, and this PBS Frontline story about the self-described “conservative Republican and libertarian” mayor of Georgetown TX.  This WaPo Energy 202 story talked about the first debate in the Senate this week, suggesting so far compromise is not “in the air”.  And yet, two senators of different parties penned a March 8 op-ed in the WaPo on why we need to act on climate change.

There’s a new government panel that Mr. Trump is convening to let us all know just how much of a climate-related security problem we have.  Here’s Reuter’s report “White House drafts guidelines for panel questioning climate threat to security”.  Not everybody thinks that’s a good idea, as these WaPo items reportedAxios weighed in also.  Also, Bloomberg reported that Mr. Trump’s soon-to-be-released 2020 budget proposal would slash Department of Energy funding for renewable energy from $2.3B to $700M.  The author doesn’t believe Congress will go along. In this WaPo opinion piece, the authors explored how they consider Mr. Trump “at war with his own government over climate change”.

Nexus noted that “A report released Tuesday by the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU details how the administration’s efforts to eliminate regulations in key industries, including the automotive and fossil fuel sectors, ‘amount to a virtual surrender to climate change.’”  Nexus listed several media articles, including one by the Washington Examiner and another by ThinkProgress that present somewhat different “takes” on the report. This Grist article briefly summarized expected legal battles about six environmental regulatory rollbacks, and the Daily Press wrote a story about VA’s attorney general supporting challenges to offshore drilling.  Apparently, offshore drilling is preceded by seismic testing, and a SC lawmaker demonstrated just how harmful that might be to marine wildlife, the Post and Courier reported.

Potpourri

Is the world ready for lab-grown meat?  That question is examined in this Guardian article.  In a related article, Guardian asked “What the Green New Deal will mean for your hamburger”.

Like olive oil?  “Italy sees 57% drop in olive harvest as result of climate change, scientist says”, according to The Guardian.

Here’s a surprising WaPo Energy 202 piece headlined: “The Energy 202: Oil giant makes business case for taking climate change seriously”.  Guess who the “oil giant” is?  Of all companies, BP!

Union of Concerned Scientists published an October 2018 report that may help you more fully understand why lower rates don’t necessarily mean lower electricity costs.  The story is a few months old but the information remains relevant.

A Guardian reporter provided some history (past and present) about environmental injustice. VA is featured in several examples he cited.

When climate disasters strike, we can always count on FEMA to help those affected, right?  Maybe not, as NPR reported in “How Federal Disaster Money Favors The Rich”.

A 2017 VA law provided Dominion a lot of money for a variety of energy initiatives, including energy efficiency.  As a regulated monopoly, Dominion is guaranteed cost recovery and a minimum rate of return for many of its projects. This opinion piece from Bacon’s Rebellion is a bit wonky but reminds us about unintended consequences and their effects on our wallets.

Climate

In the “financial costs of climate change” department, here’s a NRDC story reporting on homeowners’ plights following the multiple hurricanes in the south in the past few years.  In last week’s Roundup we learned that “property value losses from coastal flooding in 17 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states were nearly $16 billion from 2005 to 2017.” But what about California’s fires?  Incredibly costly, according to this recent Bloomberg article:  “California’s Wildfires Burn Through America’s Climate Illusions”.  The Economist published a report that by 2100 “Climate change will affect more than the weather”—specifically the U.S Gross Domestic Product or GDP.  The graphics indicate—surprise!—the poorer among us will be hit harder economically than the wealthier and—another surprise!—the warmer areas more than the more northern ones.

National Geographic is offering its film “Paris to Pittsburgh” on its website.  Introducing the film, National Geo said: “As scientists’ warnings about the impacts of climate change become more and more dire—and the level of inaction from the federal government becomes more and more alarming—a growing number of leaders are fighting global warming with local solutions.”

This AP News article reported on efforts by legislators in several states, including VA, to ensure “balance” in the way schools present climate-related materials.

This Nature article addressed the question of whether humans can engineer our way out of our excessive carbon emissions.

Do we really need insects?  After reading this WaPo article, you might conclude we do.  But then there’s mosquitoes, which like to live where it’s warm (CityLab).  This Guardian item made a case that “Endangered species face ‘disaster’ under Trump administration” because “Trump’s push to expand oil and gas drilling is eroding protections for some of America’s most at-risk wildlife”.  You know the one about the frog in water that is very gradually heated up so the animal does not realize the danger until it’s too late?  What about humans?  The Atlantic said maybe we’re somewhat like that frog.

Bad news about ocean warming, sea level rise, and low sea ice in these four articles from The Guardian (“Heatwaves sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’, scientists reveal” and “Australia’s marine heatwaves provide a glimpse of the new ecological order”); RNZ (“The world talks about climate change while Kiribati waits…and suffers”); and the AP (“Correction: Bering Sea-Low Ice story”).

Energy

A VA solar installer penned an op-ed about Virginia energy policy that appeared in the Virginia Mercury (VA Merc).  He wants more transparency and inclusiveness.

The Virginia State Water Control Board decided not to consider revoking its certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) but declared it’s in favor of strong “enforcement” around “compliance” matters.  The VA Mercury described what happened and, sort of, why (based on the Board’s public explanation).  The online paper followed up with an opinion piece by Editor Robert Zullo that had some harsh words about the process.  A Forbes contributor and investment advisor analyzed the possible economic effects on the developers of the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which he believes will be built.

In the Central Valley, when pipelines come up in a discussion, usually so does eminent domain.  It also comes up in Texas—by a Republican State Senator whose family “has run a gasoline and fuel distribution company”–interesting item appearing in the Texas Tribune.  The Senator’s constituents facing eminent domain land seizure agreed with her.  In NC, a judge sided, at least temporarily, with a landowner over Dominion and Duke, in what was described in The Progressive Pulse as another setback to the utilities wanting to build the ACP.  At least one VA legislator tried “to give landowners who don’t want pipeline construction on their land a fair chance against … companies involved in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline”. He wasn’t successful as reported by WSHV TV 3.  My Buckhannon (WV) provided a March 6 update on the ACP titled “Atlantic Coast Pipeline construction unlikely to recommence prior to September”.

Remember the tree sitters who oppose the pipelines?  Well, some of them are still there, per this CITYLAB article.  And, speaking of trees, here’s a tale, from WVTF Public Radio, about what happens in one part of the world affecting others.

Water water everywhere—at least in the climate news.  Related to our dependence on it, here’s a VERY detailed presentation from Ensia of how, when, where, and why the U.S. uses water.  Certainly makes one pause when one considers what may happen to water supplies because of climate disruptions and our apparently insatiable need for water.  One industry that uses LOTS of it is the concrete industry.  This report in The Guardian provided some alarming details about concrete’s hazards.  And then there’s waste from the coal industry (aka coal ash) according to this Inside Climate News report.

Another energy industry that can unfavorably affect water availability and safety is hydro fracturing (aka fracking).  Energy News reported that fracking produces another “side effect” in the territory of the grid operator PJM.  PJM services VA, among other nearby mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states.  The reporter made the argument that “Shale gas boom slows progress on renewables in PJM grid territory” so that “Wind and solar generation on the nation’s largest regional electric grid lags other parts of the country.”  A surprising part of the report suggests that PJM states can’t produce as much solar energy as other, sunnier states like NC, apparently overlooking how close VA is to NC, how much farther south it is than Great Lakes states, and how much sunshine VA actually receives.

Farther south, in GA, the Atlanta City Council decided “… to OK plan to have facilities run on clean energy by 2035”, apparently believing it has enough solar energy to do that.

Mining has been big business in Brazil but the benefits to mining companies have come at a huge cost to the indigenous peoples whose lands are being mined.  The Guardian reported on how they are fighting back and why.

The Energy Democracy Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) “tracks and scores states based on their energy policies and how these policies help or hinder local clean energy action.”  Its latest Community Power Scorecard rates Virginia a C.  Reviewing their “policies that matter for local energy” makes it hard to understand how Virginia scored that well.  John Farrell of ILSR explained in a Renewable Energy News “Why ILSR’s 2019 Community Power Scorecard Matters”.

Locally and elsewhere in Virginia and other states, proposals for “solar farms” are attracting a lot of attention from proponents and opponents.  In a recent opinion piece, a former Augusta County Supervisor, weighed in writing in the Daily Progress.  And, a recent CivilEats piece described a way to have solar panels on land that is also being farmed. The WaPo Business section wrote about some pros and cons of IL farmers “raising” solar panels on farmable land in “The next money crop for farmers: Solar panels”.

Speaking of solar, here’s some good news about Nepal, from Thomson Reuters Foundation News (“In rural Nepal, solar irrigation helps keep families together”). Closer to home, Augusta County has joined Albemarle in putting solar panels on 7 schools, WHSV TV reported.  Harrisonburg’s school system plans to have solar energy producing electricity for one or more of its schools, and Rockingham County is considering that possibility.  Here’s some more good VA solar news from WVPT.

Remember the Exxon Valdez?  How about the Deepwater Horizon?  Probably yes.  But, have you heard about Taylor Energy of New Orleans?  Here are an article from the WaPo and another from the SunSentinel.  The Solomon Islands also recently experienced a catastrophic oil spill, as reported in the Guardian.

Action Items

Robert Whitescarver, a farmer and blogger in Swope VA, wrote extensively about proposed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changes to the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS).  He noted that the definition “has profound implications”—e.g., “How much can we pollute these waters? How much can we dredge, fill, or alter them?”  He suggested each of us should consider “Just how far upstream do we allow the federal government to regulate and protect?” and let the EPA know our answer.  The public comment period ends April 15.

Renew Rocktown, CAAV, and Shenandoah Group of Sierra Club plan to do a Solar Census to count the number of solar installations within the city of Harrisonburg.  If you own solar, check out this site.

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/1/2019

Politics and Policy

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee announced his candidacy for U.S. President, with climate change as his first priority.  Switzerland wants the world to talk about if and how to use geoengineering to slow climate change – and will ask the UN’s environment arm to take the lead.  Costa Rica’s president has launched an economy-wide plan to decarbonize the country by 2050, saying he wants to show other nations what is possible to address climate change.  Writing about putting a price on carbon emissions, Frank Ackerman said: “…under either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system, the price level matters more than the mechanism used to reach that price. …[U]nder either approach, a reasonably high price is necessary but not sufficient for climate policy; other measures are needed to complement price incentives.”  In an opinion piece to accompany “Concrete Week” at The Guardian, John Vidal lays out the case for imposing a carbon tax on cement.

In her New Yorker essay about climate-related business failures, Sheelah Kolhatkar wrote “If the coming climate-related business crises will have one positive side effect, it’s that acute financial losses are likely to force policy changes in a way that environmental damage on its own has not.”  A report by the UK-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that 100 global financial institutions have introduced policies restricting coal funding.  The German think tank Adelphi analyzed the manifestos, public statements, and voting behavior of 21 right-wing populist parties represented in the European Parliament, and found that only three of them accept the scientific consensus that humans are creating significant climate change.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) submitted the names of Republican members of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), who is the chair of the panel.  The Senate on Thursday approved former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to head the EPA by a vote of 52 to 47.  One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, voted against Wheeler’s confirmation.  Tim Gallaudet, the acting administrator of NOAA, was suddenly replaced on Monday by the No. 3 official at the agency, former weather industry scientist Neil A. Jacobs.  Pennsylvania state legislators are debating whether to subsidize existing nuclear power plants to keep them operating.

The editorial board of The Washington Post proposed their alternative to the Green New Deal (GND).  Responding to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “cynical Green New Deal vote,” Democrats are looking “to get Republicans on record on climate change,” by introducing their own climate resolution.  More than 100 youth climate protesters, part of The Sunrise Movement, entered McConnell’s office Monday to advocate for the GND.  Ultimately, 42 people, all over 18, were arrested.  Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also had an encounter with young people, which was kind of tense.  This caused Bill McKibben to write “… youth carry the moral authority here, and, at the very least, should be treated with the solicitousness due a generation that older ones have managed to screw over.”  Caitlin Flanagan at The Atlantic had a different take on it.  Perhaps the GND critics should consider why David Roberts at Vox thinks so many of them “…have missed the mark.”  Last week I included an article about a plan to reassess whether climate change poses a national security threat.  Well, the plan has morphed into an ad-hoc group that will conduct an adversarial review of climate science out of the public eye.  These new efforts to question or undermine the established science of climate change have created a widening rift between the White House and some leading figures in the president’s own party.  As Amy Harder at Axios said, “some congressional Republicans are beginning to publicly acknowledge it, and a few are even considering policies addressing it.”

Potpourri

The New York Times has an informative article entitled “Teach About Climate Change with These 24 New York Times Graphs.”  Be sure to pass it on to anyone you know who is a teacher.  There are two new books out about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and its aftermath.  Sonja Schmid reviewed them for Nature.  Michael Svoboda compiled a list of books dealing with environmental justice for Yale Climate Connections.  Amy Brady interviewed photographer Virginia Hanusik about her project “A Receding Coast.”  In another dispatch from Antarctica, Jeff Goodell talked with expedition chief scientist Rob Larter about Thwaites Glacier.

Climate

A paper published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change celebrated the 40th anniversary of three key events in climate change science.  One finding of the paper was that climate scientists are now 99.9999% certain that current climate change is being caused by human emissions of CO2.  (That is the level of certainty associated with the “five-sigma” threshold mentioned in the article.)  Something much less certain about CO2 buildup in the atmosphere is what it will do to clouds.  A new paper in the journal Nature Geoscience used simulation to examine the impacts of very high CO2 concentrations on the formation and stability of stratocumulus clouds, the kind that hover low in the sky and create vast decks of cloud cover, cooling Earth.  The authors found that when the CO2 level reached 1300 ppm, those clouds disappear, causing temperatures to increase rapidly.

An iceberg roughly twice the size of New York City is set to break away from the Brunt ice shelf in Antarctica as a result of a rapidly spreading rift.

According to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it took just two to eight years for Americans in a given location to stop recognizing that extreme temperatures were, in fact, extreme.  Temperatures in the UK and Europe were unseasonably warm this week, setting many wintertime high temperature records.  And in the Southern Hemisphere, Australia posted its hottest summer ever and the first season in which temperatures exceeded 2°C above the long-term average.

A new analysis, published Wednesday by First Street Foundation, estimates that property value losses from coastal flooding in 17 Atlantic and Gulf Coast states were nearly $16 billion from 2005 to 2017.  Florida, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina each saw more than $1 billion in losses.

Marine fish around the world are already feeling the effects of climate change.  Rising sea temperatures have reduced the productivity of some fisheries by 15% to 35% over 8 decades, although in other places fish are thriving because warming waters are becoming more suitable.  Also, in the past decade ocean oxygen levels have taken a dive—an alarming trend that is linked to climate change.  Writing in Scientific American, Laura Poppick reviewed the causes and consequences of such changes.

Energy

The cover article in this week’s issue of Chemical and Engineering News is about carbon capture and the various technologies available.  Although it must undergo a lot of development before it can be applied, an article in the journal Nature Communications described a new process that can convert CO2 into solid particles of carbon, which would be much easier to store than liquid CO2.

New research, published Monday in the journal Nature Energy, found that hydrogen produced using renewable energy is already cost competitive in niche applications and is likely to be competitive in industrial-scale applications within a decade.  (The linked article is from the UK.  If, like me, you don’t know what a “hob” is in this context, it is a cooktop.)  Meanwhile, Australia’s government is setting up a coalition to explore a hydrogen economy.

An analysis of newly released official energy data from China by Unearthed revealed several interesting items.  Among them, China’s CO2 emissions grew by approximately 3% last year, the largest rise since at least 2013.  On the other hand, power generation from non-fossil sources grew by 29%, with wind power generation increasing 20% and solar PV 50%.  Wind and solar generated 8% of China’s power needs, up from 3% five years ago.  Efforts to cut emissions of CO2 and tackle climate change in developed economies are beginning to pay off according to research led by the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia in the UK and published Monday in Nature Climate Change.  New government figures from Australia revealed that its greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise, reaching their highest on a quarterly level since mid-2011, as soaring pollution from the liquefied natural gas export sector overwhelmed ongoing decreases from power plants.

Flow batteries are typically used in large installations, such as for storing energy at solar or wind farms.  Now, researchers are working to decrease their size so that they can be employed in electric vehicles, thereby reducing the time it takes to recharge the vehicles.  A new “conventional” battery using a zinc-bromine combination has been unveiled at Sydney University in Australia.  The appeal of zinc-bromine includes the materials’ relative abundance, particularly compared with lithium, and the nonflammability of the electrolyte gel.  Battery prices have fallen so low that the technology is now the least expensive way to provide customers in the Southwest with electricity, according to Arizona Public Service Co. (APS).  To take advantage of this shift, APS will add large, building-size batteries to the power grid across Arizona.

On February 1, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced it was making available $28 million in funding for research projects to develop new technologies for floating offshore wind turbines.  Wind turbines are typically designed to shut down at temperatures below −20°F, so when temperatures plunged during the January polar vortex, turbines in the Upper Midwest shut down, renewing the debate about the role of onshore wind in meeting baseload power needs.  As more renewable energy is installed in the best places for wind and solar, the challenge will be to get the electricity to the places that need it, particularly when states and localities display a NIMBY mentality.  E&E News asks if this will be the next GND battlefront.

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.

Tom Benevento

tom_pic2Tom Benevento met with CAAV steering committee members on February 19, 2019.

Tom Benevento started Vine and Fig in Harrisonburg, “a program of the New Community Project (NCP), a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to the creation of sustainable systems that care for the earth, empower people most marginalized and impoverished, educate and inspire, and build the foundation for a nonviolent lifestyle.”  The program teaches people how to live a sustainable way of life.

Tom is trying to get the city of Harrisonburg more involved in developing sustainable ways of living.  He discussed environmental performance standards for the city, encouraging the city to accept a sustainability coordinator, and a greenhouse gas inventory for the city.  He stated that the city should set high targets for reduction in residential, commercial and municipal greenhouse gases with 10% reduction every 5 years.  The challenges he discussed were annual budget cycles, city ordinances, and building codes.  Building code efficiency should be encouraged with incentives.  Tom stated that greenhouse gas emissions will be decreased the most by increasing the contribution of renewable energy to the electrical grid.  Another way to reduce emissions would be to encourage the use of electric vehicles and add more charging stations in the city.

– Michele Thomas, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, February 2019

Most months, Sept – May, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

 

 

Wake up Virginia!!!

Find our recap, and media coverage of this event HERE.


wakeup2.90

Wake up Virginia!!! Mobilizing for Our Climate Crisis
A panel discussion featuring experts on state climate legislation

Wednesday, March 20 | 7-8:30PM
Community Room
Entrance C
Rockingham County Administration Center
20 E Gay St, Harrisonburg
All welcome!

… [C]limate change is running faster than we are – and we are running out of time.” – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, December 3, 2018

A recent report to the United Nations from the world’s leading climate scientists indicates the humanitarian crisis and scale of ecological devastation to come has seen no precedent in human history. Likewise the scale of needed intervention requires an unprecedented, united will and effort. Are we up for it?

The Harrisonburg-based Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) has invited three regional experts in Virginia climate legislative initiatives for a panel discussion focused on current efforts and next steps needed to turn the tide of the climate crisis and slow our sinking ship! The program, “Wake Up Virginia!!! Mobilizing for Our Climate Crisis,” will be held on Wednesday, March 20 at 7PM at the Rockingham County Administration Center in Harrisonburg. In addition to looking at efforts now underway, it will explore options and possibilities, including the hope, scope and promise offered of a Green New Deal, and concrete actions for audience members.

“Wake up Virginia!!! Mobilizing for Our Climate Crisis” will feature 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 Chair of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter; and April Moore of Shenandoah County, member of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network Board of Directors.

CAAV is encouraging all citizens to attend! There will be a drawing for some great door prizes after hearing from the guest panelists and an audience question and answer segment.

Door Prizes include:

  • Certificate for 4 adults to have refreshments and a home and garden tour in Bridgewater. (The home has 8.3 kW rooftop solar, solar tubes, and a densely planted landscape of native plants and edibles.)
  • owlprintsnipBoxed set of two exterior solar spotlights
  • Hand crafted earrings of fused glass in climate-friendly green
  • Print of a Great Gray Owl created by local artist Karen Lee for The Defenders project

The event is co-sponsored by the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

About our invited panelists:

Karen Campblin.250Karen Campblin of Fairfax is Co-Chair of the Green New Deal Virginia Coalition, and Environmental and Climate Justice Chair for the NAACP’s Virginia chapter. Green New Deal Virginia’s co-founder, Delegate Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, says that environmental, economic and social justice cannot be separated. A Green New Deal, he believes, would give Virginia a way to greatly reduce poverty and bring economic prosperity by “creating tens of thousands of good paying jobs in clean energy”.

BobShippee.250Richmond resident Bob Shippee is Legislative and Political Chair of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. As Legislative Chair, he tracks legislation, does lobbying, leads the chapter’s legislative committee and collaborates with them to develop position papers. Sierra Club is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the country.


April Moore Portrait.250April Moore is a climate activist, organizer, and author, who lives in Shenandoah County.  She is a board member of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and a member of CAAV’s speakers’ bureau. Her long-running blogsite, www.theEarthConnection.org, offers “to nourish and inspire people who love the earth.”

CCAN’s website says its major successes, since its founding in 2002, include cleanup of coal-related mercury in Wise County, cleanup of three dump sites of coal ash in Maryland, an anti-fracking law and strong carbon cap in Maryland, and the groundbreaking Clean Energy DC Act of 2018 in Washington D.C., the strongest climate law in the country.

Contact Karen Lee: karenrlee [at] gmail [dot] com

Please share this event with friends, family, and community groups! Printable flyer is HERE.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/22/2019

Politics and Policy

Even though federal intelligence agencies have affirmed several times since President Trump took office that climate change poses a national security threat, the White House is preparing to assemble a panel under the leadership of William Happer to assess that conclusion.  At a meeting of the Planetary Security Initiative at The Hague on Tuesday, scholars and international officials warned that the Middle East and North Africa are about to be plunged into further chaos because of ongoing climate change and its associated impacts on food and water supplies.

The Trump administration has broken off talks with the California Air Resources Board over vehicle fuel-efficiency standards and is on track to roll back standards set by former President Obama, the White House said in a statement Thursday.  A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by two Pennsylvania boys and an environmental group seeking to stop President Trump from rolling back regulations addressing climate change, saying the court does not have power to tell the White House what to do.  Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly have passed legislation allowing electric coops to raise their net metering caps from 1% to 7%.  A provision to raise the net metering cap for customers of investor-owned utilities — Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power — didn’t advance into the final legislation.  The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

 Changes in land use to foster more uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere is an important component of many countries’ pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement.  A recent “Perspective” piece in the journal Nature Climate Change argues that there are many shortcomings associated with those pledges, making it likely that those countries will fail to meet them.  The lead author of the Perspective piece had a guest post about the article at Carbon Brief.  ClimateWise, an initiative of the University of Cambridge that studies climate-related insurance risks, has issued new reports demonstrating how to a more precise look at those risks and their financial impacts.  This is most timely, since according to The Economist, corporate-risk managers are rotten at assessing their exposure to a changing climate.

Janos Pasztor, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General on Climate Change and currently Executive Director of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative, said: “For the moment, …, the world simply doesn’t know enough to decide [about solar geoengineering].  It doesn’t even know how it should go about making such a decision, how to research solar radiation modification, or even whether to consider the possibility of deployment at all.”  In The Washington Post, Leah C. Stokes, an assistant professor of environmental politics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, wrote about five things we should know about the Green New Deal (GND).  Lisa Friedman and Trip Gabriel of The New York Times called the GND “an extraordinarily complicated series of trade-offs that could be realized, experts say, with extensive sacrifices that people are only starting to understand.”  Decarbonizing buildings is an important component of any serious plan to reduce CO2 emissions.  California is beginning to tackle the problem as described by David Roberts at Vox.

Potpourri

Wallace Broecker, the geochemist who popularized the phrase “global warming,” died on Monday at 87.  He was fond of saying “The climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks.”  On Wednesday, Oliver Krug published an article in The Guardian about some of the artists who are illuminating the impacts of climate change.  Megan Mayhew Bergman had another article about how people in the southern U.S. are responding to climate change.  This one is mainly about Florida.  Journalist and translator Philipp Blom has a new book, entitled Nature’s Mutiny, about the 17th century’s Little Ice Age (LIA) and how it transformed Europe.  Blom contends that we can learn how climate change might influence society by looking backward at the LIA.  David Wallace-Wells used his New York Magazine article from last year as a starting point for his new book entitled The Uninhabitable Earth.  Kate Yoder of Grist described it as “an immersion in seemingly all of the worst-case climate scenarios.”  Whether that will be helpful or not depends on where you stand on the spectrum of how people react to troubling information, as discussed by climate scientist and psychologist Jeffrey Kiehl.  Wallace-Wells also had a rather long opinion piece entitled “Time to Panic” in The New York Times.  In contrast to Wallace-Wells’ book, the film “2040”, which was inspired by Project Drawdown, focuses on the work that is being done now to steer the right course through the potential hazards of climate change.

Climate

According to NOAA, January 2019 was the third-warmest January in the history of global weather record-keeping, which dates back to the 1880s.  The only warmer global Januaries in the instrumental record were 2016 and 2017.  The impacts of climate change don’t occur in isolation; rather they occur together.  Climate Central has prepared a new report entitled “CLIMATE PILE-UP: Global Warming’s Compounding Dangers” that quantifies those interactions for many cities in the U.S.  You can read either a synopsis or the full report.  Climate change was responsible for the majority of under-reported humanitarian disasters last year, according to an analysis of more than a million online news stories commissioned by Care International.  Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that, as a result of climate change, air pollution is lingering longer over cities and summer storms are becoming more powerful.

The Bramble Cay melomys, a small brown rodent living on a tiny Torres Strait island near Papua New Guinea, has been declared extinct, giving it the distinction of being the first mammal driven to extinction by human-caused climate change.  Climate change also influences where insect populations thrive and in New England large infestations of moose (or winter) ticks are taking a toll on moose calves.

A new paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, reported that laboratory-grown meat may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle.  A study from European thinktank IDDRI claims that pesticides can be phased out and greenhouse gas emissions reduced in Europe through agroecological farming, while still producing enough nutritious food for an increasing population.  In an opinion piece at Medium, farmer Alex Heffron argues that we need to stop focusing on what we eat, and start focusing on how the food we eat is produced.

According to a new analysis, there is enough room in the world’s existing parks, forests, and abandoned land to plant 1.2 trillion additional trees, which would have the CO2 storage capacity to cancel out a decade of emissions.  Older trees have long been thought to be more efficient carbon ‘sinks’, but new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that young trees are actually better at absorbing CO2 than established tropical rainforests.  The Natural Resources Defense Council and Stand.earth reported that the largest U.S. makers of at-home tissue products use only virgin fiber from Canada’s northern forests — one of the world’s best absorbers of atmospheric CO2 — in their major brands, thereby making climate change worse.

Data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s Climate Change in the American Mind surveys show that, over the past five years, the proportion of Americans who think global warming is happening and who worry about it has increased sharply.  The program also recently released its 2018 set of “Partisan Climate Opinion Maps.”  They are definitely worth a look.

Energy

Mining company Glencore has promised to cap the amount of the coal it is capable of taking out of the ground.  Glencore made its decision after facing pressure from a shareholder network known as Climate Action 100+, which has the backing of more than 300 investors managing $32 trillion.  Major tech companies are teaming with oil giants to use automation, AI, and big data services to enhance oil exploration, extraction, and production.  The EPA said CO2 output grew 0.6% in 2018 over the previous year, to 1.93 billion tons, while electricity generated grew 5%, to 23.4 quadrillion BTUs.

The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, Simon Denyer, had an article on Wednesday about the Japanese prefecture of Fukushima eight years after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident.  Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis on Thursday outlined the government’s plan to build a number of new nuclear reactors.

In total, 16.7 GW of new wind projects reached a final investment decision last year in Europe — 12.5 GW onshore and 4.2 GW offshore — 45% more than in 2017, according to WindEurope’s annual report.  Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed an executive order ending the moratorium on wind turbine permits imposed one year ago by former Republican Gov. Paul LePage.  Portland General Electric (PGE) plans to build the 380 MW Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility just north of Lexington, Oregon.  It is being touted as the first in the U.S. to combine wind and solar power with battery storage.  A tidal turbine array in the north of Scotland set a new world record for generating power and exporting it into the national grid.

The results of a study published in the journal Energies show that as much as 25% of the increase in the UK’s GDP between 1971 and 2013 was driven by energy efficiency gains.  This suggests that improving energy efficiency has benefits beyond climate policy, given that the delivery of increased energy services can improve various aspects of society.  The EU agreed on Tuesday to reduce CO2 emissions from new trucks and buses by 30% compared to 2019 levels by 2030.

At Yale Climate Connections, Karin Kirk addressed three myths about renewable energy and provided a “friendly response” to each.  Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables studied the performance of a hypothetical power grid if electricity generation in it was 100% renewable (50% wind and 50% solar) with battery storage and winter conditions like those experienced during the recent polar vortex occurred.  It required a lot of storage.

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.

 

Solar Caucus Support

Please join CAAV in urging our representative Ben Cline to join the Solar Caucus to make progress on this local energy and jobs opportunity. Find a letter writing tool from Solar United Neighbors here:

https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/get-involved-with-solar-united-neighbors/advocate-for-solar/urge-your-congress-member-to-join-the-solar-caucus/


Congressman Cline:

We are writing to encourage you to join the new Bipartisan Congressional Solar Caucus. Co-founded by Republican Ralph Norman and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, the caucus is an important opportunity to find common ground on federal solar policies.

In the Shenandoah Valley, and in Harrisonburg City / Rockingham County, there are no significant energy producers with greater economic ability than renewable wind and solar.  We produce no coal, no natural gas, no oil, and we have an agricultural climate that we seek to sustain.

We believe that every home, business, and farm in America should have the
ability to make clean, inexpensive, local power with solar panels. It will add to America’s energy independence and it will create great local jobs. It is a way that private citizens can use private property and their own investments to rebuild their local communities.

Because solar is pro-consumer, pro-business, and pro-environment, solar is an issue that can bring together people from all walks of life and political perspectives.  As Rep. Norman observes, “The public always hears we are fighting; this is something we can get together on”.

By joining the Bipartisan Congressional Solar Caucus, you will be helping to grow solar use in the U.S., and you will be sending a clear message that Congress can work together on issues that directly impact our energy rights, costs, and quality of life.

Thank you for your consideration.

To join the Solar Caucus, please contact Hillary Caron in Congressman Krishnamoorthi’s office at hillary.caron@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,
The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley