Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/6/2022

We all face real-world challenges and tough choices that complicate the effort to completely decarbonize our lives in a system that is still reliant on fossil fuel infrastructure. We must change the system. Individual efforts to reduce one’s carbon footprint are laudable. But without systemic change, we will not achieve the massive decarbonization of our economy that is necessary to avert catastrophic change. – Michael Mann

Our Climate Crisis

Thousands of firefighters in New Mexico are presently battling a colossal wildfire that has become the largest in state history. In a recent PBS interview, Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University and author of The New Climate War, says that such wildfires are a function of heat and how dry the climate has become. We need to address the problem at its core—our consumption of fossil fuels.

A World Meteorological Organization report shows global temperatures above pre-industrial levels could temporarily hit the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold within the next five years. While a single year of temperatures above the 1.5°C threshold set by the Paris Climate Agreement does not mean we have breached the agreement, it will reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where it could be exceeded for an extended period.

Climate change is exacerbating rising temperatures combined with high humidity beyond levels the human body can endure. The threshold of human endurance is 95 degrees Fahrenheit combined with wet bulb or 100% humidity. The Persian Gulf, India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America are all careening toward this threshold before the end of the century. People should be advised that any temperature above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, especially when combined with high humidity, can be dangerous and deadly.

A recent analysis finds that extreme heat that used to occur every 300 years in northwest India and Pakistan may now happen about every three years. Related news is that a recent heat wave has decimated the mango harvest in India.

Heavy pre-monsoon rains have washed away train stations, towns and villages, leaving millions of people homeless in India and Bangladesh. Both countries are particularly vulnerable to such events exacerbated by global warming because of their proximity to the warm tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. This extends a pattern where extreme rainfall and landslides washed away a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp overnight last year. Torrential rains submerged at least a quarter of Bangladesh in 2020.

Politics and Policy

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the Shenandoah Group of the Virginia Sierra Club, and 50 by 25 Harrisonburg are proposing that the Harrisonburg City Council add the words “environmentally sustainable” to the mandate of the Harrisonburg Electric Commission, Harrisonburg’s municipal utility. They are also asking council members and candidates to publicly state their response to the proposal. A recent article in the Harrisonburg Citizen explains how this will help the city to reach its goal of having 100% renewable energy on our local electrical grid by 2035. To view the letter that was sent to the candidates, click here. To view candidate responses, click here.

Most of the past three decades have been a painful slog for Australian climate activists. The conservatives, who ran Australia under Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have unabashedly promoted the fossil fuel industry and scoffed at concerns about climate change. This has now changed dramatically when the Labor Party, led by Anthony Albanese, trounced the conservatives in the last election with the promise to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower.” While supporting renewable energy and EVs, Labor’s strategy, however, largely leaves Australia’s huge fossil fuel energy sector untouched. That makes especially significant the surge of votes for Green Party candidates and others outside the two-party system who make it a priority to combat global warming by reducing consumption of fossil fuels.

Electric heat pumps are two to four times more efficient than competing fossil fuel devices and can dramatically reduce indoor air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. A recent Senate bill, introduced by Amy Klobuchar, would incentivize manufacturers to build two-way heat pumps that both heat and cool. This has the potential to quickly cut emissions while saving consumers money. The bill has the potential of gaining needed bipartisan support in the Senate.

There is a boom in large-scale solar electric farms in Virginia.  The number of large-scale solar farms in Virginia has grown from zero in 2015 to 51 today. Furthermore, 279 applications for large-scale facilities have been, or are being, reviewed across the Commonwealth. This is pushing the need to develop comprehensive land plans governing the size, location, and environmental impact of solar farms.

A Charlottesville clean energy company has applied for a permit to build a 138-megawatt solar farm on approximately 650 acres in southeast Albemarle County. The site is on a 2,300-acre property with pine trees that have been heavily industrially timbered over the past 80 years. The installation would supply electricity to 25,000 homes in the area.  The Albemarle County Climate Action Plan supports utility scale solar energy and prioritizes placing them on roof tops, parking lots, brownfields, landfills and post-industrial or other open lands over forested or ecologically valuable lands.

New York state’s landmark 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act commits the state to reaching 100 percent zero-emissions electricity by 2040. A major obstacle is that 85% of New York City’s electricity comes from fossil fuels. State regulators accordingly recently approved two clean energy projects that will reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels by more than 50 percent over the next 10 years. The first project will supply the city with wind and solar power from upstate. The second, more controversial project—opposed by some environmental and community groups—will supply the city with hydro-power from Quebec, Canada.

Energy

Green hydrogen has the potential to become a key energy source—especially for heavy industry and trucks. That’s why a $9.5 billion package for the development of hydrogen as a fuel was wrapped into the 2021 federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Alleyn Harned, the executive director of Virginia Clean Cities, is a proponent of green hydrogen. In an interview with Elizabeth McGowan, a reporter for the Energy News Network, he explains how it can benefit Virginia’s economy and environment.

A recent report by Energy Innovation demonstrates that EV models are competitive or cheaper to purchase and maintain than their gasoline-fueled equivalents over the life of a six-year auto loan. The real savings comes after the loan has been paid off. Depending on the EV model, the annual comparative savings is between $800 to $1,400.

A new generation of electric trucks is beginning to hit cost and range targets that makes them competitive for short-haul U.S. freight-moving. To facilitate the transition to electric trucks, the Port of Long Beach in California, one of our country’s busiest freight hubs, is installing 26 high-speed electric truck charging bays as part of its push to reach a zero-emissions fleet by 2030.

Climate Justice

Climate modeling at NASA and other agencies is increasingly focusing on the impact that global warming is having on food production. It’s becoming increasingly clear that climate change is a “threat multiplier,” making hunger emergencies worse. The United Nations reports that a record number of 283 million people in 80 countries went hungry or were at high risk of going hungry last year and that this number is expected to increase in the future. Global warming is creating much more year-to-year variability in food production. A major worry is climate-induced “food shocks” in many countries.

Climate anxiety is now part of the zeitgeist, as evidenced by data from Google Trends. Stanford University researcher Britt Wray’s newly released book Generation Dread dives into the hard emotional truths of the climate crisis. It’s also about real, acute mental health impacts of disasters in frontline communities such as what’s happening to Indigenous people who live very close to the land.

The Hadza people in Tanzania, one of Africa’s last hunter-gatherer tribes, are embracing environmentalism. They are doing so by selling carbon credits generated from conserving their forests and using the revenues to employ their youth as scouts to protect their land. The Ujamaa Community Resource Team, a local NGO, has helped the Hadza secure legal title to their territories and works in concert with The Nature Conservancy to secure carbon credits to fund the effort.

Climate Action

ACTION ALERT: Many of us who live, work, or volunteer in Harrisonburg, have participated in Phase 1 in-person meetings and/or the online survey to get community input on how our city should allocate the $23.8 million it will receive in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in response to the Covid pandemic. We now have the opportunity to fill out a Phase 2 survey here for more targeted responses (the survey will be open for two weeks). This is a great opportunity to advocate for responding to human needs in ways that help to combat climate change and enhance our natural environment. There is more opportunity to do so in this Phase 2 survey than there was in the Phase 1 survey.

Making the transition to solar energy is easier and more affordable than ever, thanks to Solarize Virginia. Sign up through June 30 to access discounted prices and get connected with a vetted installer. Experts will be by your side to answer any questions and take the guesswork out of the process. Get started at SolarizeVA.org and find out if your home is solar-ready.

You can also register at this link for Solar United Neighbors (SUN) Ready Set Solar program, happening online on June 15 at noon. You can also attend a SUN in-person session at Massanutten Regional Library (174 S Main St, Harrisonburg) on July 17 at 6 pm. These programs are for Shenandoah Valley residents.

Community Housing Partners Energy Solutions and the Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) are partnering to provide no-cost weatherization services for income-qualifying households to help lower utility bills and improve energy efficiency. The first 25 HEC customers to complete their application will receive a $100 bill credit. Click here or call 888-229-3714 to see if your household qualifies.

Donate to the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project’s Energy Efficiency and Solar Effort. CAAV supports helping SVBHP reduce its energy costs; we hope you will too.

The loss of bee populations is a harbinger of the impact of climate change. The extinction rate of bees and other insects is eight times greater than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Scientists have, therefore, begun mapping the genomes of dozens of different bees to bolster our knowledge of bee biology and behavior. They can then use this information to tackle big picture questions like how to protect bees and how they’ve evolved alongside us over time.

Dominion Energy investors recently supported a resolution calling on the utility to reevaluate its natural gas investments in response to climate change. Ruth Amundsen, a solar project financier who is a Dominion shareholder, said that “Dominion cannot keep investing in natural gas while saying they’re going for net-zero by 2050.”

Washington and Lee University is partnering with a solar energy developer to build a solar farm in North Carolina to purchase enough solar energy to match 100% of the university’s annual electricity consumption.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/6/2022

If we continue with more of the same, we can kiss 1.5°C goodbye. Even 2 degrees may be out of reach. And that would be catastrophe. This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction. — UN Secretary-General António Guterres

Our Climate Crisis

Christiana Figueres, a former UN climate chief and co-author of The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, says that we’re caught between joy and despair. We can be grateful that pledges by countries to reduce emissions made since the Paris agreement could keep global warming within 2°C. That is a huge improvement on where we’d be headed without these efforts but it doesn’t even come close to the 1.5°C goal and will lead to a world that will not be livable for vast swaths of humanity. Christiana comments, “So we are caught between two truths, and two deep feelings in our bones: outrage and optimism. Both are valid responses and both are necessary.”

South Asia is at the forefront of places in the world where climate change could make life become unbearable before the end of the century. Temperatures have recently soared to dangerously high levels in India and Pakistan. While this part of the world is no stranger to extreme heat, scientists say that recent heat waves have been worsened by climate change. The high temperatures are increasing the danger of fires, contributing to the predicted 20% decrease in the regional wheat harvest, and the danger of river flooding caused by rapidly melting glaciers in the Himalayas. 

A scientific study at Princeton University finds that marine life will be decimated by 2300 at the current pace of global warming. That would be on par with the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. On the other hand, if we can rein in emissions to keep within the upper limit of the Paris climate agreement, it would reduce ocean extinction risks by more than 70 percent.

Rising groundwater levels and intensifying rains, exacerbated by climate change, are creating overflowing septic tanks and back-yard drain fields. This causes smelly, unhealthy wastewater to collect in yards and back up into homes, creating vexing problems for homeowners and local governments. The problem is especially pronounced in the coastal middle peninsula of Virginia, which local people refer to as suffering from a “soggy socks” problem. In a related story, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed colonial Jamestown on a list of the country’s most endangered historical places because it is losing its battle with rising water levels caused by climate change.

Politics and Policy

Maryland just passed one of the most aggressive climate laws in the US. It mandates reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state to 60 percent below 2006 levels by 2031 and sets a 2045 deadline for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the state’s economy. Central to that effort will be reducing energy use in buildings, which are responsible for about 40 percent of Maryland’s carbon emissions.

California recently announced its plan to phase out all new gas-powered cars by 2035. Under the proposed plan the state will require 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in 2026 to be powered by batteries or hydrogen before making it mandatory for all passenger vehicles less than a decade later. If enacted, the plan will mark a big clean energy transition as 12.4% of new vehicles sold in California are currently zero-emissions.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a proponent of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), praised the recent Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approval of the MVP plan to bore under streams and wetlands at 120 locations in West Virginia and Virginia after the original plan to cross these areas by open trenching had been rejected. The approval is, however, contingent on the success of other permitting processes that are being held up in court.

In another development, Sen. Manchin and Republican lawmakers have publicly denounced FERC for adopting rules requiring energy regulators to consider new gas pipelines’ effects on climate change and environmental justice. In response to the political pressure from Manchin and Republicans, FERC backtracked and voted to recategorize the policies as mere drafts that wouldn’t apply to new gas projects. Part of the reason for the new rules had been court rulings that FERC had ignored climate change and environmental justice in its approval of projects.

In an even more recent development, Sen. Manchin and several of his colleagues in Congress have begun talks to gauge bipartisan interest in a climate deal. One policy that has been repeatedly mentioned in these talks is some form of carbon pricing legislation.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality recently rolled out several major changes to the management of stormwater runoff from solar farms, saying prior policies may have underestimated the impact of stormwater runoff. The solar industry worries that the policy shift could dampen efforts to build renewable energy, but some local officials and environmental groups say it could help to better account for how precipitation, which is increasing in both frequency and intensity due to climate change, interacts with solar farms. 

Energy

As part of President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, Virginia will receive $31.8M this fiscal year to fund projects to cut down on carbon emissions. Executive Director of VA Clean Cities, Alleyn Harned says it’s a step in the right direction because “transportation is our leading source of greenhouse gases in the commonwealth and in the country and in Harrisonburg. And for us to be able to see some light at the end of the tunnel with a valued federal program like this really presents a lot of great opportunities.”

The sales of electric vehicles have been rising in the first quarter of this year while just about every other category is falling. This surge was enough to double EVs’ share of the market to 5.2 percent, up from 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

Virginia generated more electricity from the sun than from coal in 2021. This is a first for our state, which ranked number four in the country in solar installation last year.

A Virginia legislative bill that creates a property tax exemption for residential and mixed-use solar energy systems up to 25 kilowatts was signed into law by Gov. Glen Youngkin. The bill expands clean energy choice for consumers and promotes the local solar industry. It attracts businesses and creates jobs in our state. For some unknown reason, local state house delegates Tony Wilt and Chris Runion both voted against the bill.

In a move that runs counter to his top priority of lowering Virginian’s cost-of-living, Gov. Glen Youngkin vetoed an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill aimed at lowering the electric consumption of veterans, low-income, elderly and disabled ratepayers. The bill targets energy savings by focusing energy efficiency projects on those homes that are the most dilapidated and difficult to weatherize.

In a bid to show that it is working to increase the domestic oil supply as prices surge in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration announced plans to resume selling leases for new oil and gas drilling on public lands. This violates a signature campaign pledge made by Mr. Biden to climate activists when he was running for office.

Climate Justice

Low-income households in the US spent an average of 8.1 percent of their income on energy costs, compared to 2.3 percent for wealthier households. That’s why poor families often need to pull back on other expenses, like medicine, groceries, or childcare to cover their energy bills. One consistently overlooked aspect of our nation’s affordable housing crisis is the staggering number of homes occupied by poor families that require substantial repairs before they are eligible for federal weatherization funds. To address this, a bipartisan group of Pennsylvania state legislators is putting forward the Whole-Home Repairs Act, providing a legislative solution to the problem. It will do so by providing eligible residents with grants up to $50,000 to make needed home repairs. Small landlords could apply for the same amount in forgivable loans.

In an effort to bring down the price of gasoline, President Biden recently visited Iowa to announce his plan to accelerate the production of ethanol from corn. This is at a time when poor people around the world are suffering because the price of food grains around the world are skyrocketing because of the war in Ukraine. The amount of corn it takes to fill an SUV with ethanol could feed a person for a year.

Climate Action

Environmental activist Bill McKibben is stepping away from some of his other involvements to  help launch a new organization, called Third Act, aimed at engaging activists over age 60. He is in that age bracket himself and said that “he’s become convinced that his generation should more actively join the climate movement, following in the footsteps of a galvanized youth. He noted that Americans his age and older have a large share of the country’s financial assets and a tendency to vote in high numbers, giving them political power.”

Using commercial solar installations as pastureland for sheep is proving beneficial for farmers and solar operators, while sequestering carbon and improving soil health. Still in its infancy, such combined use of solar sites makes sense on various levels. Flocks of sheep are already grazing contentedly under and around solar panels in Virginia and other states.

Levels of methane in the atmosphere have been increasing steadily over the past 15 years. Last year they rose by a record amount over the year before for the second year in a row. Most methane spews from oil and natural gas operations, sometimes through unintentional leaks. Other sources of methane include livestock, landfills, and the natural decay of organic material in wetlands. While it is less abundant and not as long-lasting as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it has more potent near-term effects. That makes quickly cutting down methane emissions crucial to combating global warming.

Your household can cut down on its carbon emissions by switching from your old gas range to a new super-efficient induction electric range. You’ll be surprised by how quickly and precisely it heats—beating a gas range on both counts. It also eliminates the indoor pollution of a gas range. Click here to learn more about cooking with an induction range. Or you can ask me about how I like our induction range.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/5/2022

Reversing the climate crisis cannot be done by one country, one economic sector, one industry, one culture, or one demographic. There is not going to be a magic technology that will fix it. We cannot wait to see if experts, governments, or corporations figure out how to end the crisis, because they can’t by themselves. The crisis, if it could speak, would tell us all that we have forgotten that we truly are a “we,” and nothing less than our joint effort is sufficient to reverse decades and centuries of exploiting people and the earth. Climate change and poverty have the same roots. —Paul Hawken

Our Climate Crisis

Countries racing to replace Russian oil, gas and coal with their own dirty energy are making matters worse, warns United Nations secretary general António Guterres. Continuing to rely on fossil fuels instead of pivoting to clean energy is “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe.” While we are making progress in bending the curve in emissions, they are still set to increase by 14% in the next decade. The most recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claims that it’s still possible to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change if societies take immediate, drastic action. This includes slashing annual greenhouse gas emissions by almost half in the next eight years and finding a way to zero out carbon pollution by the middle of the century.

Embedded in all future calculations on climate change is the assumption that global economic activity will increase steadily throughout this century. The Covid pandemic has, however, demonstrated that a future health pandemic could dramatically curtail economic activity. Furthermore, the frightening possible escalation of the war in Ukraine (which could even go nuclear) makes global economic collapse no longer seem inconceivable. In the most extreme scenario, nuclear war could even cause extensive global cooling and create a nuclear winter.

Unusually high temperatures have recently been recorded in both Antarctica and the Arctic. The Arctic, as a whole, was 3.3°C warmer than average, while the Antarctic, as a whole, was 4.8°C warmer than average. These temperature spikes have shocked researchers, who warn that such extremes will become more common as a result of the climate crisis. In a related occurrence, a 450-square-mile ice shelf recently collapsed in the eastern part of Antarctica. This is the first observed collapse of an ice shelf in that region of the continent since satellites began observing Antarctica nearly half a century ago.

Using an “OK doomer” riff on “OK boomer,” some young climate activists are focusing on climate solutions in response to the all too common doomsday focus on how bad things are. While they do not want to minimize the climate crisis, they believe that “focusing solely on terrible climate news can sow dread and paralysis, foster inaction, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” Using social media, they seek to change the narrative by highlighting positive climate news as well as offer ways that people can personally become engaged in fighting the climate crisis.

Politics and Policy

Dominion Energy has received regulatory approval in Virginia for a series of solar projects expected to generate enough electricity to power 250,000 homes. This is the second batch of annual projects submitted under the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act, which calls for 16,100 megawatts in solar or wind energy projects to be in place or under way by 2035. Accordingly, projects of a similar scale will be submitted by Dominion every year over the next 15 years.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, recently laid out some energy policies he supports, including a tax credit for clean energy manufacturing, replacing fossil fuel generation with advanced nuclear power, developing hydrogen energy, and the development of carbon capture technology. It is reported that he is willing to negotiate on a slimmed down clean energy bill in the coming months. Because of his pivotal role in an evenly divided senate, the climate lobby and other senators are being very circumspect in criticizing him in hopes that he will support at least part of their clean energy agenda.

Now weatherization, a decades-old program, has become central to the Biden administration’s plans to cut Americans’ power bills and lower fossil fuel emissions. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced roughly $3.2 billion of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill will be used  to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes in low-income communities. Emphasizing the potential cost savings, she noted that the program has lowered some families’ power bills by as much as 30 percent.

Energy

Data from 75 countries, which represent 93% of the global power demand, shows that clean energy—including wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear, and biofuels—accounted for a total of 38% of the world’s electricity generated in 2021. The share wind and solar has more than doubled to 10.3% from 4.6% when the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2015. A big part of this growth stems from advancements in technology which has cut the price of solar electricity by 89%, and the price of onshore wind by 70%.

Tony Smith, CEO of Virginia solar energy company Secure Futures, says that the best way to unhook from oil and gas wars is by rapidly transitioning to solar energy. Their company introduced the first solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in Virginia, with a 104-kW rooftop solar array at Eastern Mennonite University in 2010. Today there are 700 times as many kWs of solar energy produced under solar PPAs in Virginia. Even so, natural gas still accounts for 61 percent of the electricity generation in our state. We should rapidly transition to solar, which is much cleaner, cheaper, and not tied to the volatility of global fossil fuel markets.

Efforts to electrify commercial vehicles have lagged behind EV passenger cars. That is now rapidly beginning to change. Carriers such as UPS, Amazon, and FedEx are investing billions to build out EV delivery fleets. At the same time, the US Postal Service ordered as many as 148,000 gas guzzling mail delivery trucks despite opposition from top environmental regulators and directives from the Biden administration to green the federal fleet.

Decarbonizing heavy industry such as steel manufacturing and transportation will depend on alternative fuels such as green hydrogen, which still remain prohibitively expensive. Australian researchers now claim they have made a giant technological leap in producing affordable green hydrogen. Denmark has also made a big investment in green hydrogen, including subsidies to make it commercially viable. Given the war in Ukraine, they see this as an important step in achieving independence from fossil fuels.

The United Kingdom, as an island nation, is making big investments in clean tidal energy, which is on track to be cheaper than both nuclear power and fossil fuels. While the country presently produces only 3% of its energy this way, the goal is to increase that to 10%. To help reach this goal, a North Wales firm recently secured £31m ($40.75m) in government funding to develop a tidal energy project in the Irish Sea.

Climate Justice

Internationally recognized environmental lawyer and climate negotiator, Farhana Yamin was a key architect of the Paris climate agreement who helped to secure the goal of net-zero emissions by midcentury. When Donald Trump then pulled the US out of the Paris agreement and other countries continually delayed strong action on climate, she decided “we cannot rely on lawyers and diplomats alone.” She came to see that the climate movement is fragile because it mostly relies on insider tactics and not on movement building. She, therefore, became involved with social mobilization and nonviolent action to advance the cause. More recently she has begun social organizing with frontline communities of color in Britain and is helping to mobilize more broadly with a focus on climate justice.

Climate Action

Climate change is spurring a movement to build more resilient homes. FEMA told Becky Nixon that she would receive another mobile home after her triple-wide trailer on the Florida panhandle was destroyed by hurricane Michael in 2018. She, instead, had a brand new two-bedroom home built for her in a joint effort of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), Samaritan’s Purse, and donated materials. The home was built to considerably more than standard requirements for energy efficiency and hurricane ratings following guidelines advocated by the Resilient Design Institute.

Charlottesville, VA is on track to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. Overall, emissions are down 30% from 2011 even though energy use is up. Much of this progress is because of the availability of cleaner electricity. Heating and the cooling of homes consumes the largest amounts of energy in the city. Susan Kruse, the executive director of the Community Climate Collaborative, says this makes residential energy efficiency programs especially important. There has, however, been a virtually non-existent drop in emissions from vehicles. This makes weaning vehicles off of fossil fuels vital, as is getting people to use buses and public transport. Moving to a fleet of electric city buses will have an even greater impact.

The food system produces about one-third of our greenhouse emissions. This calls for making dramatic cuts to reach our goal of cutting emissions to zero by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Furthermore, we will need to feed a population expected to approach 10 billion by 2050, meaning we’ll need to make those drastic cuts while increasing food production by more than 50 percent. This calls for huge structural changes in how we grow, process, package, and distribute food. On a personal level, changing our eating behaviors is perhaps the most impactful change we can make. Some suggested practices are:  

  • Move to a mostly plant-based diet.
  • Buy locally grown food.
  • Eat everything you buy.
  • Eat healthy amounts.

This shift will not only help combat climate change. Other environmental harms driven by the food industry include loss of biodiversity, vital forest ecosystems being destroyed for grazing and farming purposes, fertilizer runoff creating dead zones in the ocean, and the massive extinction and loss of insects due to pesticides.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/11/2022

In a sense, our climate radar has been pointing in the wrong direction—at coal, cars, and carbon. Of course, these are crucial causes, and they are being addressed brilliantly by many. However, the radar needs to point the other way too, to the true cause, which is what we believe and how we treat one another.—Paul Hawken

Our Climate Crisis

The big climate news this month has been the release of the U.N. Climate Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The picture it paints is not encouraging. Written by 270 researchers from 67 countries, the report warns that any further delay in global action to slow climate change and adapt to its impacts “will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

Climate reporter Raymond Zhong contrasts this with the previous IPCC report in 2014, which said that global warming was having a “relatively small” effect on human health compared with other stressors. It also said that there was “limited evidence” that nations needed more money to cope with its dangers. The new report tells a dramatically different story.

It finds that “climate change is not only adding to ecological threats such as wildfires, heat waves and rising sea levels, it is also displacing people from their homes and jeopardizing food and water supplies. It is harming people’s physical and mental health, with increasing incidence of food and waterborne illness, respiratory distress from wildfire smoke and trauma from natural disasters.” Furthermore, finding necessary funding for dealing with all this has widened significantly.

The report is “an atlas on human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership,” according to António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general. “With fact upon fact, this report reveals how people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.” Some takeaways can serve as a roadmap of what needs to be done to mitigate the worst effects of global warming:

·       The widespread adverse impacts of global warming have disproportionately affected the most vulnerable humans and ecosystems, pushing them beyond their ability to adapt.

·       Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in highly vulnerable regions.

·       If global warming reaches 1.5°C (it is presently at 1.1°C) it will cause multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. Actions that will limit warming to 1.5°C, however, would substantially reduce those damages compared to even higher degrees of warming,

·       Near term actions to mitigate global warming will significantly reduce losses and damages accrued by 2040 and beyond.

·       Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage.

·       If global warming exceeds 1.5°C in the coming decades, many human and environmental systems will face additional severe risks, some of which will be irreversible even of global warming is later reduced.

Politics and Policy

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is pressuring FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) to reverse the 4th Circuit Court decision blocking the completion of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. He says that the 4th Circuit has been unmerciful on allowing any progress and that the case can be moved to the D.C. Circuit Court. He argues, “Energy independence is our greatest geopolitical and economic tool and we cannot lose sight of that as instability rises around the globe.”

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sen. Manchin wants to use natural gas from West Virginia to achieve U. S. energy independence and to help European countries. He is now calling on President Biden to invoke the Defense Production Act if necessary to complete the Mountain Valley Pipeline following the ban on oil imports from Russia.

The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing strict new limits on pollution from buses, delivery vans, tractor-trailers and other heavy trucks. It would require heavy-duty trucks to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide—which is linked to lung cancer, heart disease and premature death—by 90 percent by 2031. It would also slightly tighten truck emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is driving climate change.

Energy

Dominion Energy is building a $500 million ship to build wind turbines up and down the Atlantic Coast, beginning in 2023. Depending on the approval of state-regulators, it will also be used to build Dominion Energy’s own 2,640-megawatt wind turbine farm off the coast of Virginia. Scheduled to go online in 2026, it will power the equivalent of 660,000 homes.

Six energy companies bid a total of $4.27 billion in an auction for leases to develop offshore wind in federal waters off the coast of New York and New Jersey. This is huge! To help put it in perspective, it is 10 times more than what was paid for any previous off-shore wind lease. It is also much more than the record for winning bids of $191.7 million for oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021. A federal judge revoked those Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases because the federal government had not adequately factored in the impact they would have on climate change.

Climate Justice

Liz Carlisle, an assistant professor in the Environmental Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara, where she teaches courses on food and farming, has recently written the book Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming. She writes that young farmers and scientists of color are “reviving ancestral regenerative farming traditions in a self-conscious effort to respond to climate change and racial injustice in tandem.” They understand “regenerative agriculture not as a menu of discrete, isolated practices from which one can pick and choose and then tally up into a sustainability score. Rather, they see regenerative agriculture as their ancestors had—as a way of life.”

The practice of redlining, where loan banks and loan agencies deemed minority urban neighborhoods too risky to invest in, still has adverse environmental effects even though it was banned 50 years ago. The practice made it difficult for people of color to get home mortgages. Furthermore, local zoning officials worked with businesses to place polluting operations such as industrial plants, major roadways. and shipping ports in  or near these neighborhoods. A recent study finds that, as a result, 45 million people in these neighborhoods are still breathing dirtier air and face other environmental challenges, including excessive urban heat, sparse tree canopy and few green spaces.

Climate Action

Cheap, fast, and disposable fashions are accelerating the greenhouse emissions of the clothing and textiles industry, which accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than international aviation and shipping combined. Lower prices means poorer quality clothes that don’t last as long. Those lower prices have also “resulted from unseen human and environmental costs such as pollution of rivers, poor working conditions, low wages and exploitation of workers in factories.” We can do our part to mitigate this trend by buying second hand, repairing or adjusting existing clothes, and restricting our purchases to fewer items that are durable and will last.

Cities that are serious about meeting their carbon reduction goals will want to make their streets more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Melinda Hanson, co-founder of micromobility firm Electric Avenue, says that “upward of 50% of all car trips in the U.S. are relatively short and are taken by a single person.” Examples from all across the world demonstrate that building pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is not that expensive, and it works.

London has taken a more aggressive approach to reducing carbon emissions within its city limits. Beginning next year, anyone who wants to drive a more-polluting older vehicle manufactured before 2014 will have to pay a 12.50 pound ($16.70) daily charge to do it.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/16/2022

“The climate crisis is not a science problem. It is a human problem. The ultimate power to change the world does not reside in technologies. It relies on reverence, respect, and compassion—for ourselves, for all people, and for all life,” Paul Hawken, Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation.

Our Climate Crisis

As we write our monthly Climate and Energy News Roundup, Joy Loving and I find that it can be challenging to know how to honestly acknowledge the severity of our climate crisis, get into the nitty-gritty of politics, and advocate for climate action in ways that encourage resilience and offer hope. This tension is also evident in the words of Paul Hawken and Jane Goodall below.

In his book Regeneration, Paul Hawken states, “We live on a dying planet—a phrase that sounded inflated or over the top not long ago. . . The Earth will come back to life no matter what. Nations, peoples, and cultures may not.” In her forward to the book, Jane Goodall strikes a more encouraging note, “I have three reasons for hope: the energy and commitment of youth: the resilience of nature . . . and the way animal and plant species can be rescued from extinction; and the human intellect, which is focusing on how we can live in greater harmony with nature.”

While I want to recognize and celebrate progress and our human creativity, I don’t want to downplay the severity of the crisis we humans have created. For example, a recent scientific study published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that the present megadrought, exacerbated by climate change, in the Western U.S. and northern Mexico is the region’s driest period in at least 1,200 years. During that last comparable extended megadrought the region was still largely inhabited by scattered Native American tribes. Today it is home to more than 10 million people. This rapidly growing population has been relying on the amount of water that was available a century ago. Park Williams, the lead scientist of the study says that this megadrought in the southwest is forcing us to “pull out all the stops” and plan for less water.

When psychologist Thomas Doherty and his colleague, Susan Clayton, published a paper a decade ago proposing that climate change would have a powerful psychological impact, it was met with lots of skepticism. Eco-anxiety is now becoming widely recognized, affecting not only those bearing the brutal brunt of climate change but also people following it through news and research. Professional certification programs in climate psychology have begun to appear and the recently formed Climate Psychology Alliance is providing an online directory of climate-aware therapists.

Politics and Policy

In a win for environmentalists, Democrats in the Virginia Senate recently voted along party lines 21-19 to reject Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s nomination of Andrew Wheeler as Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, had served as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator under President Donald Trump, where he systematically worked to deconstruct environmental regulations.

Even though the Build Back Better bill hit a wall in the U.S. Senate, it now appears that a stand-alone climate bill  has the possibility of moving forward with the crucial support of Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. President Biden indicated that he has been talking to colleagues on the Hill and recently told reporters, “I think it’s clear that we would be able to get support for the $500 billion plus for energy and the environment.” Several Republicans also indicated support for portions of a climate bill, but none were willing to go on record as supporting the climate provisions that had been in the Build Back Better bill.

Top U.S. corporations like Google and Amazon have made pledges to combat climate change and to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. The question is if they are serious about this or if these public pledges are another example of corporate green-washing. The report Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor indicates that they are the latter. They are exaggerating their goals and their efforts lack transparency.

The historically high $770 billion military spending bill—$24 billion more than the president had requested—sailed through congress with broad bipartisan support. Yet, there is almost nothing in this mammoth bill that addresses climate change and its related disasters, which is the greatest threat to our national safety and well-being.

At the same time, the U.S. Army recently released its first ever climate strategy, an effort to brace the service for a world beset by global-warming-driven conflicts. “The plan aims to slash the Army’s emissions in half by 2030; electrify all noncombat vehicles by 2035 and develop electric combat vehicles by 2050; and train a generation of officers on how to prepare for a hotter, more chaotic world.” If implemented, this could be huge! The Defense Department accounts for 56 percent of the federal government’s carbon footprint and 52 percent of its electricity use.

Energy

It is projected that by this summer Harrisonburg residents will have the option to buy solar powered electricity from the Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC) for a few extra pennies per kilowatt-hour. ( A valid critique is why solar-powered electricity should cost more when it actually costs less to generate.) This will make HEC the first municipal utility in the state to offer a community solar option to customers. The solar-powered electricity will flow from a 1.4-megawatt array being developed by Dominion Energy on a 10-acre plot on Acorn Dr. that the city purchased for $550,000.

As wind and solar power have become dramatically cheaper, and their share of electricity generation grows, skeptics are propagating the myth that renewable energy will make the electricity supply undependable. While the variable output of wind and solar power is a challenge, it is neither new nor especially hard to manage. No electricity supply is constant.

Most discussions on managing variability focuses on giant batteries and other expensive storage technologies. There are less costly options such as increasing energy efficiency in buildings and managing demand flexibility around peak-use hours. The bottom line is that electrical grids can deal with a much larger percentage of renewable energy at zero or modest cost, and this has been known for some time.  

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down two government permits that are needed for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest. The company vows to push through with the completion of the pipeline, which it says is 94% completed. Complying with changes necessary to get the permits will, however, most likely push back the completion date that had been projected for this summer to sometime in 2024.

House Bill 1257, prohibiting local governments from banning natural gas, is wending its way through the Virginia House of Representatives. No Virginia municipalities have been moving aggressively in that direction, but the Richmond City Council recently passed a climate resolution that committed them “to working with the city’s administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in city-owned renewable energy.” The Virginia Oil and Gas Association has been urging the legislature to preempt local governments from placing restrictions on the use of natural gas.

Climate Action

Native American environmental activists were able to draw on the Virginia Environmental Justice Act passed in 2020 to advocate before the Virginia Air Pollution board against the proposed Lambert Compressor Station that the Mountain Valley Pipeline wanted to install in their community in Chatham, Va. As reported in The Nation, “In an astonishing precedent, the Air Pollution board agreed—by a margin of six to one. This has never happened before in Virginia, where regulatory boards always vote in favor of industry.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy reports that 2021 was a landmark year for energy efficiency legislation. At least a dozen states passed new clean energy legislation or adopted new energy-saving standards such as fuel switching and electrification, encouraging clean heating systems, strengthening building codes, and the creation of transit-oriented affordable housing projects. Now comes the hard part—implementing this legislation.

Mark and Ben Cullen, in their recent article in the Toronto Star, give some handy tips on fighting climate change in your own garden. These same practices can also be used on a larger scale by farmers and ranchers.

  • Minimum tillage or “no-till” supports microscopic bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. Tilling tears apart these beneficial structures allowing nutrients such as carbon to escape into the atmosphere.
  • Cover-cropping and inter-cropping are climate-friendly tactics that prevent soil erosion and improve the fertility of your soil.
  • Avoid synthetic fertilizers, which are a massive contributor to climate change. The production of synthetic fertilizers uses a tremendous amount of energy, including natural gas.
  • Plant perennials such as berries and tree fruits. Perennial plants develop deeper root systems which enhance soil health, and they are more effective in attracting pollinators.
  • Compost. Compost uses food waste from your kitchen as well as plant waste from your yard and garden. Composting greatly diminishes the greenhouse gas emissions from plant waste that would otherwise be bound for a landfill. Furthermore, finished compost will greatly enrich the soil in your yard and garden.

Mark and Ben Cullen say that “climate change can make us feel overwhelmed — and maybe helpless. But taking direct action in your own garden is one way to make a positive contribution to this major issue of our time, while enjoying the vast benefits of gardening.” I can personally attest to the psychological benefits of working in my garden when I feel overwhelmed by the severity of our climate crisis.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 1/30/2022

This edition continues the format similar to that for the 2nd December roundup. The emphasis will again be on articles and perspectives from sources and voices that will hopefully uplift us as we continue our journey into 2022. Alas, there’s no avoiding some reporting and opinions that are more sobering, but I limited their numbers and put them right after the action alerts, so you can easily skip them! As always, the diversity of subjects is amazing. Once you get past the not so good news, the rest should bring you some hope and inspiration, some smiles, some ideas, and some entertainment.

Action Alerts!!

Not So Good News

Good News

Climate Solutions and Adaptations (and the communities working on them)

Ideas, Events, Entertainment and Information

Listen, Watch, Read, and Learn …

Joy Loving
CAAV Steering Committee Member

Climate and Energy “Good News” Roundup 12/2021

This edition focuses on articles and perspectives from sources and voices that will hopefully uplift us as we review 2021 and look ahead to 2022. There will be time enough to read the reporting and opinions that are more sobering but we’ll put that off until at least January. When I decided I wanted to produce a “good news” roundup to close out the holidays, I was worried I wouldn’t find enough material. I’m thrilled to say I was wrong! The diversity of subjects is amazing. I hope you enjoy what follows.

Action Alerts!!

  1. Save the Date—January 20, 7 pm, virtual and in-person author event: Erik Curren will discuss his new book, Abolish Oil Now! —at Eastern Mennonite University’s Swartzendruber Hall (Suter Science Center) and online on Facebook. I hope to see you there!
  2. Sign the Southern Environmental Law Center petition to join birders and others who want to end the mass cutting of U.S. forests to produce biomass—a practice that’s killing our birds by eliminating their habitats.
  3. California’s “Monarch butterflies may be thriving after years of decline.” Learn how you can help these beautiful creatures: Sierra Club/Falls of the James Group Webinar: MONARCHS: ENDANGERED BUT NOT PROTECTED – Jan. 11, 2022, 7 PM. Register here. And plant milkweed!

Good News

  1. The Washington Post’s Editorial Board listed “21 good things that happened in 2021.” Here are two:
    • “The United States reentered the Paris climate agreement.”
    • Restoring “protection to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and other monuments — protecting natural grandeur, Indigenous tribes’ sacred land and delicate ecosystems along with it.”
  2. Large EU insurers are seriously considering ending coverage for coal mines and plants.
  3. There’s a “sustainable industrial revolution” underway in the shipping, steel, and plastics industries—e.g., the North Carolina ferries.
  4. Like to bike? “Cycling is on a roll. More than 2,900 miles in the West and Midwest have been added to the U.S. Bicycle Route System’s national network.”
  5. The Biden Administration “launched a new energy division of its Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and appointed Sally Benson, a well-known energy expert at Stanford University, to a high-level position to contribute to climate change policy.”
  6. Biden also approved “the first offshore wind farm to supply power to New York.”
  7. The Administration proposes a “road ban on much of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The move would restrict development on roughly 9.3 million acres in North America’s largest temperate rainforest …, reversing [a] Trump administration decision.” The Interior Department believes “Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on public lands and waters.”

Climate Solutions and Adaptations (and the communities working on them)

  1. Looking ForwardGrist’s “new newsletter from Fix, Grist’s solutions lab.” Note the hopeful 2022 predictions from “climate visionaries.”
  2. There is technology to help reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from the trucking industry.
  3. Two companies have launched “the construction of their first biomethane production unit, in Friona, Texas. The biomethane will be used as an alternative fuel for mobility, thus contributing to decarbonize road transportation.”
  4. Portable large-scale batteries help ensure that utilities have storage capacity when and where they need it and can supplement or reduce the need for permanent charging hubs. Energy storage is becoming a big business.
  5. A changing climate is buckling concrete and flooding roads. States are moving slowly to guard the nation’s infrastructure.”
  6. John Kerry, the U.S. climate envoy, believes the private sector is key to “solving climate change.” The executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change says we must empower young people.
  7. A bit of irony—Russia is “cashing in” on the climate crisis—a look at an upside.
  8. Pittsburgh and other localities are shutting down coal plants to meet wastewater standards; Pittsburgh is also thinking about taxing plastic bags.
  9. A West Virginia community, historically dependent on its coal economy, is examining ways it can move forward and avoid repeating past mistakes.
  10. FreshFarm FoodPrints is a D.C.-based educational program that has partnered with 19 schools across the city and works with about 7,000 kids. Students learn how to grow, harvest and cook all kinds of different plants, but they also get lessons in social and emotional learning, English, language arts, mathematics and other subjects.”
  11. Farmers are looking at a new “crop”—carbon credits earned through improved sustainability practices—to help reduce their GHG emissions.
  12. Despite concerns of some about loss of “prime land”, Texas “farmers and ranchers have embraced a renewable energy boom that … promise[s] to make agricultural operations more sustainable and deliver steady income in an industry in which economic fortunes swing from season to season.”
  13. Farmers and conservationists in the West “are teaming up to preserve grasslands, which act as a carbon dioxide sink that could support climate goals.”
  14. A Norfolk, England farmer has “a plan to transform dozens of fields into grazing wetlands on [his] 10,000-hectare (25,000-acre) farm and nature reserve.”
  15. Private landowners in Kansas may be critical to saving “the Prairie, acre by acre.”
  16. The architect Maya Lin “planted 49 trees … for [an] exhibition, which opened in May and drew crowds and critical acclaim with its haunting evocation of environmental apocalypse. The trees, Atlantic white cedars, came from a dying grove that was slated to be cleared as part of a restoration project in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, where climate change has caused a large swath of forest to die, and with the installation Lin was making a statement about climate change and environmental sustainability.” Lin then authorized the dismantling of her work “Ghost Forests”—for students to create boats, delivering high-profile, and creative, messaging AND recycling.
  17. An old technology—cloud seeding—may be making a comeback and may help the West’s prolonged drought.
  18. Scotland is “Harnessing the energy of the ocean to power homes, planes and whisky distilleries.”
  19. The U.S. West “has particularly immense potential for renewable energy generation [with its] vast sunny skies, windy open plains, rapid rivers, and ample underground geothermal activity.”
  20. A Florida Conservatives for Clean Energy study of rooftop solar showed the industry “creates $18.3B in Economic Impact” in the state.
  21. A Colorado town prepared successfully for its economic security once its coal plant shut down.
  22. Native Renewables plans to provide solar power to provide electricity to 15,000 Navajo and Hopi Native Americans unable to access a utility grid.
  23. An amateur scientist’s 50-year study of snowfall in the high Rockies “helped shape climate research” there.
  24. A Sierra Leone entrepreneur never forgot his experience in a mudslide caused by deforestation; he’s doing something to keep that devastation from happening again.
  25. A new report from the Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group gave North Carolina high marks for its progress on clean energy.
  26. A Kentucky “college [is the] first in the US to finish [a] hydropower project…. The 2.64‑megawatt plant [along the Kentucky River in Estill County] began generating electricity for Berea College in May [2021] and will give power to hundreds of Jackson Energy Cooperative customers…. The $11 million project … has an expected lifespan of at least 50 years.”
  27. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has produced a “great coral spawning, giving … hope for climate change recovery.” And, who would have guessed? Healthy corals support fish that produce “‘mind-blowing’ noises” that scientists perceive as “song.”
  28. Belize “committed to protecting 30 percent of its ocean territory, with the support of the largest debt conversion for ocean conservation to date.”
  29. New York is unearthing Tibbetts Brook, part of a wetlands system destroyed 100+ years ago for development. “An engineering feat known as ‘daylighting’” will restore the Brook and help ease flooding in the area. New York City added 11 million oysters to the Hudson River “as part of an ongoing project to rehabilitate the polluted waterways around the city.”

Ideas, Events, Entertainment and Information

Listen, Read, and Learn …

  1. Understanding Earth from a geographic approach can foster ideas for meeting the planet’s challenges—a TED talk by a renowned geographic information systems pioneer.
  2. Did you know that “Nature’s Air Sensors Are Growing on Your Street”? Think carbon emissions can smell good—like “fig leaf, orange peel and jasmine”? Air Company makes Eau de Parfum and says yes they can.
  3. This New York Times pictorial and text piece giving us a glimpse of a fragile Norwegian archipelago that likely will not survive climate change. Don’t miss it!
  4. Floating homes in the Netherlands—A “Dutch reality TV director by day and guerrilla sustainable commune organizer by night” spearheaded a movement in her community of Schoonschip proving “that the technology already exists to make floating urban development a solution for the world’s densely populated waterfront cities that are grappling with rising sea levels and the accelerating impacts of climate change.” Find out what else got built.
  5. VA Tech researchers found “two species of Antarctic fish” who appear to have “responded to progressive warming with an elaborate array of behavioral maneuvers.” This could be a hopeful indication that, as the Antarctic warms (as predicted), its native marine animals will be able to survive.
  6. Heard of Cape Lookout National Seashore? It’s on the North Carolina Outer Banks and now has “certified Dark Sky Park designation.”
  7. There’s a “crucial intersection of climate and capital”—a TED talk by an investment decarbonization expert.
  8. “[T]here isn’t a single ‘solution’ to climate change.” Here are five from Canary Media. Some eco-righters believe there are natural climate solutions, including the American Conservation Coalition. Its website is “Rooted in America.”
  9. Britain is looking to “the financial industry … to meet climate goals.”
  10. Two climate and climate justice activists discuss “climate crisis and global inequality” in a moderated conversation.
  11. Recycling, innovation, and reuse may offer ways to reduce the environmental hazards posed by the emerging EV market with its dependence on battery power.
  12. Generation 180 says, “All Grown Up: EV Charging in 2022.” But wait–“Move over, electric cars: E-boats are coming — and investors are on board”
  13. Indigenous peoples gave thanks for Interior Secretary Haaland’s efforts to save many localities sacred to their culture.
  14. A Long Island resident “Works for God (and Against Lawns).” He and his wife “say fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity starts at home. Or rather, right outside their suburban house.”
  15. A Duff, Tennessee resident is spearheading efforts to educate neighbors about, locate, and clean up acid mine drainage in his community.
  16. Research in Oregon shows “a well-positioned skylight is a simple way to harness ‘passive solar’ power.”
  17. You might be surprised at some of “the top 10 states with the most installed solar power capacity.” Ditto for the top 10 states with the most wind power. Virginia isn’t on either list. See the maps below.
  18. Nate the House Whisperer has a Facebook page to help you “Electrify Everything.” “Buy Nothing” groups collaborate to reduce their collective waste.
  19. Some eco-righters want the Republican Party to embrace climate change solutions. Here’s a YouTube post with this message.
  20. The Biosphere 2 project in the Arizona mountains has solar panels that provide shade to numerous crops. The concept is one farming practice of indigenous peoples who used native trees as cover. The project is “part of a movement aimed at reimagining and remaking agriculture in a warming world. In the Southwest, projects are looking to plants and farming practices that Native Americans have long used as potential solutions to growing worries over future food supplies. At the same time, they are seeking to build energy resilience.”

Happy Holidays from CAAV and Joy Loving, CAAV Steering Committee Member

Climate and Energy News Roundup 12/02/2021

“All our major energy challenges are connected in complex ways both globally and nationally. Energy security, energy affordability, and the protection of the environment, the three pillars of energy policy, are inextricably linked.”Neil Hirst, The Energy Conundrum: Climate Change, Global Prosperity, and the Tough Decisions We Have to Make

Climate Change

After two decades of climate negotiations, we all got a reality check at the recently concluded COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow. The climate has already heated by 1.1°C above preindustrial levels and there is a fifty-fifty chance that global warming will exceed 1.5°C in the next two decades. It is estimated to reach 2.7°C at the end of the century. To keep global warming to the 1.5°C limit proposed at the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, we will need to halve global carbon emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. But achieving these goals requires an effort unlike any that humanity has undertaken before.

The African continent is already suffering and will continue to suffer the worst economic and social effects of rising temperatures in the coming decades. This will especially affect children and youth, as half of Africa’s population is under the age of 20. Yet little was accomplished at the Glasgow Climate Summit to address how to compensate African countries for the damage created by centuries of fossil fuels and other emissions in rich countries. It also failed to agree on a meaningful plan to help African countries alleviate that damage while sustainably developing the capacity to meet their own rapidly growing energy demands.

Using language normally applied to conventional adversaries like China and Russia, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin recently described the climate crisis as “a profoundly destabilizing force for our world.” To counter this threat the Department of Defense will have to mobilize its capabilities as if preparing for a major war. This will not be an easy task because the Pentagon is the nation’s leading institutional consumer of fossil fuels and the single largest institutional producer of greenhouse gases in the world. The U.S. cannot, therefore, reduce its national greenhouse gas emissions rapidly without a sustained drive by the Pentagon to abandon carbon-based fuels in favor of renewable energy.

Experiencing a climate disaster and living with climate change as a constant threat on the horizon creates climate anxiety and changes how we think about our own existence. Yale psychologist Sarah Lowe advises:

  • Planning for a potential climate event can be empowering because it exerts some sense of control.
  • We will want to own our ecological grief as a valid emotion because it’s sad to see ecosystems change.
  • We should seek help when we experience signs of clinical depression such as loss of appetite, sleeplessness, or an inability to concentrate.
  • Anxiety serves a purpose. It can motivate action and helpthose who are most vulnerable.

Politics and Policy

Following the COP26 climate summit, President Biden has submitted a treaty fighting climate super-pollutants for Senate approval. These hydrofluorocarbons, widely used in refrigeration and air conditioning, are hundreds of times more potent than carbon dioxide. There appears to be broad bipartisan congressional support for this effort.

During his campaign, Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said that he wouldn’t have signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, saying it was too costly and “puts our entire energy grid at risk.” Even so, energy experts say he will find it hard to significantly weaken or slow down the law, given its ongoing support in the State Senate and the staggered board terms at two key regulatory agencies. He would not only have to contend with a Democrat-controlled Senate but also Republican legislators who favor the law and an electorate that broadly supports it. Furthermore, he has spoken favorably of renewable energy and has expressed support for offshore wind in Virginia.

Sea level rise and more frequent intense rainstorms are putting pressure on communities in Virginia, especially in the Eastern Shore and Hampton Roads regions. Some state officials are, therefore, pushing for the creation of a state flood board to better coordinate and utilize more than $64 million in funds earmarked for flood protection, which Virginia has received in 2021 from its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an 11-state cap-and-invest carbon market on the East Coast of the United States.

Our changing climate is playing havoc with our transportation system, buckling concrete and flooding roads. The federal Infrastructure Bill recently signed into law includes $7.3 billion for states to spend on transportation resilience projects. Another $1.4 billion for competitive grants would give cities and counties federal help to adapt their road networks.

Climate migrants are roiling politics across the United States. People displaced by Hurricane Maria in 2017 have changed the political demographics of the Orlando area of Florida where the Puerto Rican population has grown by more than 12%. Less dramatically, people in low-lying areas of Virginia are moving to less flood prone areas. Of the quarter million Louisianans who fled New Orleans for Texas after Hurricane Katrina, about 40,000 stayed bringing more non-white and Democratic voters to formerly conservative precincts. And people in Boise, Idaho, are concerned about the political ramifications of migrants from California who are relocating because of drought and wildfires.

Energy

Dangerous mining conditions, political gamesmanship, and corruption plague the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to the world’s largest supply of cobalt, a key ingredient in electric cars. A Chinese company bought two of the country’s largest cobalt deposits over the past five years while both the Obama and Trump administrations stood idly by.

Norilsk, a Siberian city, which is one of the most polluted places on earth, now aims to ramp up production to sell the high-purity metals needed for batteries and other technologies of the clean energy economy. In another development, the state of Alaska has approved building a highway to facilitate mining for minerals used for solar panels and other green energy. The highway, which has no other purpose, will endanger a pristine Alaskan wilderness above the Arctic Circle.

Ever larger offshore wind turbines are driving down costs, making it competitive with the costs of electricity from natural gas power plants. (Onshore wind and solar are still cheaper than all other alternatives). Another benefit is that offshore wind farms can be built close to major population centers. This is especially encouraging for states like New Jersey and Virginia, which have laws requiring the construction of offshore wind.

Despite the green image, putting acres of solar panels on undeveloped land is environmentally problematic. In contrast, the benefits of installing them as canopies on parking lots are that they are abundant, close to customers, largely untapped for solar power generation, and on land that has already been stripped of much of its biological value. Even so, solar canopies are barely beginning to show up in our country’s endless acreage of parking lots but that is beginning to change. For instance, the Washington, D.C., Metro transit system has just contracted to build its first solar canopies at four of its rail station parking lots, with a projected capacity of 12.8 megawatts.

European countries searching for a long-term and constant source of energy to complement the intermittent energy of wind and solar green sources are increasingly looking to nuclear power to help them reach their ambitious climate goals. France and England are looking to the next-generation technology of small modular nuclear reactors that supporters say are safe, cheap and efficient. Eastern European countries especially see such nuclear power as an alternative to their long-standing dependence on coal. Alternatively, Germany is at the head of a group of other European nations that want to defuse efforts to include more nuclear power in Europe’s green energy mix because of their concerns about safety and radioactive waste.

Climate Action

Reductions in home energy use and residential greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved in a variety of ways, including through modifications to improve the efficiency of existing structures, and standards and building techniques that promote better energy performance in new homes. Policies that Local Housing Solutions proposes to achieve this include:

  • Housing trust funds and other sources of local funding can be used to support energy-efficiency upgrades.
  • A range of policies can be used to create and preserve dedicated affordable housing near public transit stations and job centers.
  • Employer-assisted housing programs can create opportunities for residents to live closer to their workplace.
  • Zoning and building codes can facilitate development of higher-density and lower-cost housing types that support the creation of homes that consume less energy.

The sustainable industrial revolution is just getting started but there are some promising initial developments. Heavy industries like shipping, steel and plastics contribute 40% of global carbon emissions, but have long opted out of climate action. This is starting to change. For example, electric motors consume about half of the world’s electricity. Infinitum Electric, a start-up company in Texas, is now developing a new efficient motor design that replaces the copper wire and laminated iron core found in conventional motors with a printed circuit board stator, making the motor smaller, lighter and much more efficient. In another promising breakthrough, the Swedish steel maker SSAB has begun developing a fossil fuel-free steel making process where iron ore is refined, or reduced, with green hydrogen and renewable energy. The iron is then shaped into finished steel with electric arc furnaces.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, has set an ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. This goal is especially audacious given that the city’s electric provider DTE Electric remains tethered to coal and natural gas. To work around that, Ann Arbor plans to set up its own sustainable community-based electric company which will generate renewable power, incorporate battery storage and tie homes and businesses to micro-grids.

Ithaca, New York, also just made an unprecedented move to tackle its carbon footprint with the goal of being carbon neutral by 2030. Its electric grid already receives 80% of its power from renewable sources, so instead, they will focus on the full decarbonization of city buildings which consume 40% of the energy in the city. Because it would be impossible to fund such a huge effort with the city budget and other public funds, they have initially lined up $100 million in private financing through their private equity partner Alturus to fund the work of BlocPower, their building energy efficiency partner.

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 11/21/2021

This edition offers articles and perspectives from sources and voices other than “mainstream media”.  So, no articles from the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian!  It’s not that they didn’t produce volumes of good reporting and opinions, especially about COP26. But we’ll learn about COP26, Eco Right views, and our usual subjects from a plethora of other entities who take these subjects very seriously.

COP26

Many, many articles about this much anticipated but arguably so far disappointing UN conference being held in Glasgow Scotland.  Here’s a potpourri covering some of the many aspects:

The Eco Right

There are a number of groups and individuals—self‑described conservatives—who acknowledge the need for climate action.  Here is a sampling of some recent articles and links:

  • Courtesy of RepublicEn.org and American Conservation Coalition, which offered the following in their recent email newsletters….
  • Three Republican Senators propose a climate plan that strives to reduce global emissions 40 percent by 2050.
  • Former member and FERC chair Neil Chatterjee supports a carbon dividends policy as one market-based solution.
  • Canadian PM Trudeau urged all countries to agree to some sort of global price on carbon.… “Not only will that encourage innovation, it will give that clear price signal to the private sector that making the right capital investments to transform to lower emissions makes sense …” he said. The American Petroleum Institute says it endorses a “carbon pricing model.”
  • The Global Methane Pledge at COP26, which, if honored, would reduce warming by at least 0.2C by 2050, EU and US leaders say. Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas warming the planet, after carbon dioxide…, produced when countries burn oil, coal and natural gas for energy.
  • GOP COP26 delegation leader Rep. John Curtis told Inside Climate News that COP followers should watch for his coalition to “talk about U.S. innovation—nuclear, carbon sequestration, hydrogen, those types of things, and ways that we can support the president, such as holding China and Russia accountable. We’ll be looking for those opportunities to show that we are sincere about this and we really would like to work with our Democratic colleagues.”  Green Market Revolution touted an “International Declaration on Market Environmentalism” signed by 130 companies and governments.
  • Just prior to the COP, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called out those who cite job loss as a reason not to implement climate policies, noting California has experienced “an increase in job creation since 1990, about 35 percent in [the] green sector….  It shows you … can protect the environment and … the economy at the same time.”
  • This segment from CNN delves into the history on climate science denialism and features [RepublicEn founder Bob Inglis talking about how to depolarize the issue.  Mr. Inglis also said “It’s Time for America to Embrace Carbon Border Adjustments.
  • A freshman Republican Congressman wants to restore the numbers of his party’s members in the “depleted” House climate caucus.
  • The Audubon Society talked with several folks about what sort of climate action they favor.

Events, News, and Opinions

Internationally—

  • A UK company developed a new prototype for EV buses that will be cheaper than diesel-powered ones.
  • “Weslee Andrews, entrepreneur and philanthropist …, recently announced an exciting new endeavor of the launch of a micro-electric car model within the Europe and UK areas.”
  • “In major shift, IEA World Energy Outlook mainstreams 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion.”  IEA is the International Energy Agency.  The same outlet, Oil Change International also produced this report:  “New Report: Emissions from Proposed U.S. Fossil Fuel Projects Equivalent to Doubling U.S. Coal Plants if Biden Approves Construction.”
  • This working paper by the International Monetary Fund is wonky, but the conclusion is clear:  The world is “Still Not Getting Energy Prices Right.”

Nationally—

(Some of) The States–

Texas

Louisiana

Carolinas

Florida/Georgia

West Virginia/Appalachia/Ohio River Valley

  • WV Public Radio said coal’s recent rebound may not last.
  • A WV coal plant’s intent to remain operating could benefit one of its Senators.
  • The Charleston Gazette‑Mail ran a story, “West Virginia at risk for greater climate change costs with Manchin holding out on spending plan.”
  • The Black Appalachian Coalition wants to ensure black voices are heard on energy and other issues.
  • A recent report by “regional and national clean energy advocacy groups … makes the case that fully remediating coal ash disposal sites would create more jobs and protect communities as more coal plants close in the region….”

New York

Sierra Club applauded the decision to deny permits for two fracked gas plants.

Tennessee

Activists said no to coal ash being put in Memphis’ landfill.

Ideas, Events, Entertainment and Information

Happy Thanksgiving from CAAV and Joy Loving, CAAV Steering Committee

Climate and Energy News Roundup 10/12/2021

Our Changing Climate

This summer has been one climate related calamity after the next. So much so that it feels like sensory overload. Did all that actually happen in one summer? It began with unprecedented drought, heat, and wildfires in the American West. This was followed by devastating floods in Europe and China. Then there were more wildfires in Siberia and Turkey. Since then, Hurricane Ida unleased flooding in Louisiana and the Northeast, including New York City, leaving more than 45 dead. We could go on. The list of calamities is not exhausted.

In the August Climate and Energy News Roundup, I recalled how my wife Ruth and I experienced 118-degree heat in the city of Barstow on the edge of California’s Central Valley as we drove to Oakland to visit family in July. Farmers in the Central Valley face huge challenges as they contend with climate induced heat and drought. What I did not say was that the next day we visited the Sequoia National Park. At this high altitude, the temperature reached an unseasonably high 85 degrees but it was still relatively comfortable as we walked under the majestic giant Sequoias, some of which are more than 2,000 years old.

Now those Sequoias, which are among the most fire adapted trees on our planet, are being threatened by climate induced hot complexes of wildfires. More than 10,000 trees (about 14% of the population) have succumbed. These trees had survived and thrived in all kinds of extreme weather for thousands of years. It was especially jarring to recently see photos of the giant Sequoias we had recently walked under now wrapped in massive aluminum foil sheets in a desperate attempt to save them.

It is not only the Sequoias that are experiencing unprecedented stress. Native American communities that have lived in North America for thousands of years are also under threat. The Yurok Tribal Reservation is in a remote area along the Klamath River on the misty northern California coast. Now, due to a history of regional water mismanagement combined with a historic drought, the river is sick – and the Yurok are too. Earlier this year, a fish kill of enormous magnitude left 70% of juvenile salmon dead from a deadly pathogen which spreads when the flow of water is curtailed and water quality is low.

The Yurok have traditionally relied on salmon from the Klamath River for their livelihood and their diet. They have now had their fishing rights severely curtailed to protect the remaining salmon population, creating a financial and dietary crisis for them. The underlying problem, unaddressed by state and federal regulators, is that upstream dams severely restrict the flow of water and divert it for other purposes, thereby destroying the entire ecosystem.

The Hopi Native American tribe has survived for more than a thousand years in the arid mesas of Arizona. Now, the two-decade long megadrought gripping the Southwest is testing their resilience. Researchers have estimated that human-influenced climate change has contributed considerably to the severity of the drought, which is considered to be as bad or worse than any in the region over the last 1,200 years. In response, the Hopi tribal council has been forced to ask native ranchers to slash livestock numbers to avoid further catastrophe. They are also urging tribal members to do everything they can to preserve dry farming, an ancient practice in which crops grow despite scant rainfall through drought-resistant seeds, small fields, and terraced gardens.

Politics and Policy

A recent study published by Lancet Planetary Health finds that children and young people around the world are experiencing “widespread psychological distress” over the fate of the planet because of climate change. That fear and anxiety is real and tied to their concern that governments around the world are not doing enough to address the crisis.  A first-of-its-kind study postulates that today’s kids will live through three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents.

This fear for the future propels the actions of many young climate activists from around the world. Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a teenage climate activist from the Philippines says she cannot help thinking about it because our whole future is ahead. She has tried to channel the uncertainty into her work, talking about the environment at schools, helping farmers get irrigation equipment, and joining fishing communities fighting shorefront commercial development.

The Citizens Climate Lobby has been pushing hard for a carbon price as part of the fight against global warming. They are encouraged that both progressives and moderates are now seriously working to include that in the reconciliation “Build Back Better” bill. Major players in the Senate are now working on putting a carbon fee and dividend into the bill.

Governor Northam recently initiated the new commuter-friendly Amtrak train connecting Richmond-to-D.C. by being among the first to board the new line’s inaugural run. This line is the first project under the state’s $37 billion, 10-year program called Transforming Rail, which aims to expand and streamline commuter, passenger and freight rail systems.

California governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that received bipartisan support, requiring carbon emissions per ton of cement produced to be cut by 40 percent below 2019 levels by 2035. Cement production is responsible for 7 to 8 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions globally. Climate activists are hopeful that this will spur innovation that can be emulated in other countries like China and India.

Energy

Energy is hard to come by as global leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow, Scotland for a climate conference. Some regions in China are rationing electricity, because of a shortage of coal and oil. The price of natural gas is sky-high in Europe and power plants in India are on the verge of running out of coal. The recent spike in demand comes after a year of pandemic related retrenchment in coal, oil and gas extraction, stretching global supply chains. Advocates for renewable energy argue that the crisis shows the need to move further away from fossil fuels while their critics contend that moving too rapidly to green energy has created the problem.

Coalfield Development, the largest nonprofit in West Virginia located in Huntington, West Virginia, is training former coal miners to transition to renewable energy jobs. They recently partnered with Solar Hollar, a local startup solar installer, to install a 294-solar panel project on the roof of their factory. The installation will produce enough power to offset the usage of all their operations on the site and save them over $135,000. The mission is to make solar affordable, accessible and achievable for everyone in West Virginia and to bring good clean energy jobs to people in this historic coal mining region.

The Harrisonburg school board decided to have Affordable Energy Concepts install new solar panels on the roof and campus of Bluestone Elementary School. The installation will include an interactive electric sign and a solar-powered water fountain, which can serve as teaching tools. The solar system could get Bluestone close to generating as much energy as it uses.

The latest edition of The National Geographic focuses on “the dream of a cleaner commute.” All the big automakers are moving rapidly toward an electric vehicle future. The more difficult challenge is going green in air travel. Alternative fuels such as electric batteries and hydrogen are too heavy or cumbersome for use in long distance flight. The airline industry and research centers are, however, experimenting with electric powered planes for short commutes and with non-fossil fuel sources such as algae for longer flights. That is still in the more distant future, forcing us to recognize that, at present, we may need to limit and find alternatives to air travel when possible (The National Geographic, October 2021: 38-83).

Various Climate Actions

Ahead of the global environment summit in Glasgow in November, Pope Francis, of the Roman Catholic church, Patriarch Bartholomew, of the Orthodox church, and Archbishop Justin Welby, of the global Anglican communion, issued an unprecedented joint declaration urging world leaders to work together to address our climate crisis. The statement urged all people – “whatever their beliefs or worldview” – to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor. Today, we are paying the price [of the climate emergency] … Tomorrow could be worse.” It concludes: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

Dominion Energy is currently undergoing a rate review, marking the first time since 2015 that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) will fully review and potentially adjust what Dominion customers pay for electricity.Dominion is requesting a significant authorized profit increase from 9.2% to 10.8%, which could raise energy bills if approved.

CALL TO ACTION: Sign on to this petition by Clean Virginia asking the SCC to deny Dominion’s request for a profit increase. The SCC rejected a similar request in 2019, estimating it would cost Virginians $1.4 billion in additional charges. 

Most people naturally think of planting trees as a way to mitigate climate change. This overlooks the ecological benefits of native grasslands, which are also superstars of ecosystem services. Grasslands expert Elizabeth Borer, at the University of Minnesota, explains that natural grasses have enormous root systems (often far larger than the plant you see above ground) which hold the soil together and help prevent erosion. Such grasslands hold more than a third of the world’s land-based carbon while providing a rich habitat for wildlife.

In contrast, most lawns are resource-intensive monocultures doused with water and pesticides and mowed by carbon spewing gasoline powered lawnmowers. There are as many as 50 million acres of lawn across the US—an area roughly the size of Nebraska. An easy climate actionthat can have a significant impact is changing how we care for our lawns:

  • We can learn how to maintain a healthy lawn without using lots of water, synthetic fertilizers, and herbicides.
  • Planting white clover as part of our grass mix makes our lawns more diverse and supportive of insects such as native bees.  
  • We can convert some of our lawn to low maintenance native plant and edible landscaping borders in our bid to “bring nature home.”
  • And you may want to trade in your old gas-powered lawnmower for a more ecological and much quieter electric lawnmower. 

Reflection

Environmentalist and Episcopalian priest, Ragan Sutterfield says that climate change is a symptom of a larger underlying disease. Borrowing a concept from family therapy, “the climate crisis is the identified patient of our planetary dysfunction.” He concludes, “In our concern, we should recognize the systematic pathology of industrial civilization that has brought us to a crisis with the climate. We need reconciliation with the whole, not just a solution for the identified patient” (The Christian Century, Sept. 22, 2021: 29).

Earl Zimmerman
CAAV Steering Committee