Climate and Energy News Roundup 6/3/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the second.  It’s longer than usual because there likely won’t be another Roundup until July.

Politics and Policy

This Associated Press (AP) story does an early analysis of the European Union elections just held and says one result was more seats for Germany’s Green Party which might mean a “boost [for] climate action in Europe”.  The Washington Post (WaPo) was more effusive, with this headline:  “European Greens surge as voters abandon old parties over climate”.

The New York Times reports that the current Administration is upping its attack on climate science by “seek[ing] to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests”.  A WaPo opinion writer says “The Trump administration takes climate denial to new heights”.

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “Democrats ramp up calls for live primary debate on climate change”.  Reporter Dino Grandoni notes that “The pressure for them to do talk about climate change is coming from both the bottom up and top down within the Democratic Party.”  He adds:  “But those pushing for a climate-centric debate have yet to convince one key group — the Democratic National Committee, which officially sets the terms of the party’s dozen primary debates.”  Energy 202 also reports that “the Trump administration has decided to describe fuel that oil and gas companies are selling abroad [as] ‘Molecules of U.S. freedom’ and ‘Freedom gas’”.  The Guardian also reported this storyEnergy 202 also interviewed all 2020 Democratic presidential candidates about climate and publishes “the most interesting answers here.

Conservative opinion writers Jon Anderson and Heather Reams declare in The Hill that “Trump should back renewable energy, it’s fiscally responsible”.  Bloomberg reports that “The Sierra Club and billionaire Charles Koch have found at least one thing to agree on: They hate OH’s plan to take away renewable power subsidies and give them to coal and nuclear plants.”  A young spokesperson for RepublicEn writes in “An Endangered Species” about challenges arising from being a conservative Republican who “believes in climate change” and wants to act on that belief.  Two representatives– a Democratic and a Republican—write in a Fortune article that “75 Executives Lobbied Congress for a National Carbon Price. We Listened”.  They stated: “We represent different parts of the country and stand on opposite sides of the aisle in Washington, but we agree that there is perhaps no issue as urgent for our nation—and our economy—as tackling climate change.”  They noted that “… an increasing number of both Democrats and Republicans agree on a key policy to address climate change: putting a price on carbon pollution.”  Eos reports that “Senator Rips Trump on Anniversary of Plan to Leave Climate Pact”.

A recent ExxonMobil shareholder meeting saw a debate about climate change arising from several shareholder proposals.  The AP reports that the CEO said the company is “’very focused on growing shareholder value’ while balancing it with ‘this risk of climate change and society’s aspirations for lower emissions’ of carbon’.”  The shareholder resolutions failed to pass.  Barron’s offers this story:  “Climate Risk Is Both Chronic and Acute. Here’s What That Means for Portfolio Managers.”

Potpourri

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) issues its latest report on efforts to clean up the Bay.  This Virginia Mercury article offers some details.  The Augusta Free Press has this article announcing that June 1 – 9 is Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week and highlighting several events.

ACTION ALERT:  CBF asks Virginians to weigh in on Phase III of Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint.  Especially if you live within the Bay’s watershed, you have a strong interest in this plan.  CBF’s website gives details on how to offer your opinion.  The deadline to offer comments is June 7.

Grist gives a list of 10 environment-related documentaries to watch.  PBS Newshour has a list of “5 novels about climate change to read now”, saying “As scientists, international organizations and frustrated citizens sound the alarm against inaction, a new crop of writers have sought to depict what a future world might look like if humans don’t do something.”

How important is our soil?  This Guardian item gives us some clues.  For example, did you know that “[f]or every 1% increase of carbon [in the soil], an acre of land can hold an additional 40,000 gallons of water”?  Or that one handful of soil contains “more organisms than people on earth”?  Or that “[t]he world grows 95% of its food in the uppermost layer of soil, making topsoil one of the most important components of our food system”?

This Roundup includes several items about resources “under our feet”—including soil and geothermal energy.  Here are 2 more.  Southwest VA Representative Morgan Griffin weighs in on the importance of, and threats, to U.S. ability to obtain rare earth metals given our current reliance on China for much of our supply.  From PRX’s Reveal Weekly, come 3 audio stories about several ways the melting glaciers, sea level rise, and thawing permafrost in the Arctic are threatening indigenous peoples and U.S. security.

VA’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) has a website that might prove of interest to those interested in energy.  It’s called Value Your Power and it includes some good information about solar power in its Energy 101 tab.  There is also a Facebook page that appears to be available to everybody.

The City of Harrisonburg and its Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC) are hosting an open house to showcase their Phase I Environmental Action Plan, according to the Augusta Free Press.  It will happen at the Atrium at City Hall on June 5 from 5 to 7 pm.

ANOTHER ACTION ALERT:  If you reside in Harrisonburg, you have a stake in this plan.  Here’s a link to the event page, which includes a link to a pdf version of the plan.  The public comment period ends June 20; you do not have to attend the open house to submit your comments.

Climate

What’s Happening?

Here’s a story about an endangered marsh bird that calls the LA wetlands home. “[T]he eastern black rail[‘s] habitat is shrinking because of development, pollution and global heating….  Soon [the] interior department will overhaul the rules for protecting species, with changes that could make it even harder to consider the current and long-term threats of global heating.”  PBS Newshour talks with some Louisiana residents about what they’re seeing and doing.

Recently the U.S. has seen record flooding and many severe tornados.  Here’s a story from WaPo about flooding’s devastating effects on an IN farmer.  Esquire says “The Question Isn’t Whether We’re Approaching an Agricultural Disaster.  It’s How Often They’ll Happen.”  Thompson Reuters Foundation News reports on tornado aftermath in MO and flooding in OK.  Wired.com weighs in with “For the Midwest, Epic Flooding Is the Face of Climate Change”.  CNN explains why “the US has seen tornadoes, floods and extreme heat in the past few weeks”.  Huffpost addresses “What We Know (And Don’t) About Tornadoes And Climate Change”.  And Inside Climate News tackles the same question.  With the 2019 hurricane season now here, U.S. News provides stories from several coastal communities.  This collection is titled “Hurricane Season 2019: A Sense of Fear for Towns Already Hit”.

Perhaps counterintuitively, according to The Science Times, “Climate Change Causes Growth Spurt Among Old Trees”.  The PBS Newshour Weekend brings us a story titled “Centuries-old ships’ logs give insight into climate change”.  The National Academy of Sciences recently concluded that “ONE THING scientists are sure will happen as the world warms is that the seas will rise, putting millions of people at risk of land erosion, flooding and permanent displacement”.  WaPo’s Editorial Board ended an opinion piece with “President Trump and those in his administration ignore scientists’ increasingly dire warnings to the peril of their children, grandchildren and the rest of humanity.”  And a New York Times (NYT) opinion writer says “To Make Headway on Climate Change, Let’s Change the Subject” to, e.g., “the economic advantages of cleaning up … [states’] electric grids”.

Inside Climate News, reporting on a recent study, says “Global Warming Was Already Fueling Droughts in Early 1900s ….”  The study concludes that “[g]lobal warming has been fueling droughts since the early 20th Century, when soils started drying out at the same time across parts of North and Central America, Eurasia, Australia and the Mediterranean”.

Like whiskey?  From The Guardian comes “Scotch on the rocks: distilleries fear climate crisis will endanger whisky production”.

Here’s a somewhat hopeful story from The Guardian about “The butterfly effect: what one species’ miraculous comeback can teach us”.  The Guardian also has a story about the steep decline in the right whale population, linking it to warming oceans.

Who’s Doing What (or Should or Shouldn’t Be)?

Appalachian Voices (AV) has a feel-good story about VA’s southwest and plans for a collaborative grant-funded project to bring “solar to businesses, homes, schools and an abandoned mine.”  The latter would be the site of a data center.  AV is part of another new collaboration, reported in the last Roundup, called VERC (Virginia Energy Reform Coalition) and has this press release about the coalition.

You may remember Kendyl Crawford from her time at Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter.  She is now Director of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.  Energy News Network summarizes an interview that its reporter did with Kendyl titled “Climate leader works to shape ‘environmental awakening’ in Virginia”.  This non-partisan group is “dedicated to mobilizing a religious response to climate change through energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy”.

Another Virginian, long-time solar advocate Ruth Amundsen, has established a fund called Norfolk Solar, to “to bring the benefits of solar power to low-income communities”, according to the Virginian-Pilot.  The Pilot also reports that Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and the U.S. Navy partnered to produce a detailed report about steps needed to protect Navy bases from sea-level rise.  Not surprisingly, major infrastructure projects are identified.

A Grist reporter talks about how to talk to “climate deniers” in this story that leads with references to Bob Inglis, director of RepublicEn, a conservative VA-based non-profit that is pushing for market-based solutions to address climate change.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) says that, thanks to funding from Michael Bloomberg, it and University of Maryland’s Center for Global Sustainability will produce “a third Fulfilling America’s Pledge report”.  RMI also reports that “Cities in Red and Blue States Act for a Clean Energy Future”, citing efforts in Albuquerque, Boise, Missoula, Orlando, and Cleveland, noting that “Cities are at the frontlines of climate change ….”

The Roundup for May 12 – 25, 2019, reported that Atlanta GA committed to 100% renewable energy by 2035.  This NPR story shows that the city will face roadblocks from the utility that serves the city.  Why?  “… [Because] it turns out one thing Atlanta can’t do is choose where its energy comes from. As in many places, the utility — Georgia Power — makes that decision because it’s a monopoly. It’s also regulated by statewide elected officials who are all Republican, none of whom has emphasized climate change as a concern.”

The AP says “Anchorage [AK] adopts climate plan to reduce carbon emissions”.  KTOO News presents a story about southeast AK that begins “Alaska’s most recent plan to address climate change was removed from the state’s website back in December.  Meanwhile, some municipalities and tribal governments are moving ahead with their own ideas about how to respond to the growing problem.”  CBC reports that “Southeast Alaska [is] experiencing [its] first recorded extreme drought”.  Reuters says the U.S. Interior Department plans its “first oil lease sale in [the] Alaska Arctic refuge this year”.

From ABC News comes a report that “California approves power outages to prevent more wildfires”.  The Roundup for May 12 – 25 2019 included a story about the utilities’ requests to institute such outages in the face of wildfire threats and about a winery owner who installed solar and storage to insulate her business from the negative effects from loss of power.

MPR has a 4-minute audio clip about “Climate change risk showing up in real estate”. Curbed asks “Are waterfront hotels ready for climate change?”

Scientific American discusses “What Conservation Efforts Can Learn from Indigenous Communities”, saying that “nature on indigenous peoples’ lands is degrading less quickly than in other areas”.

E&E News says “’All eyes of the world are on Juliana’”.  That’s the court case filed by 21 youths, “arguing that the feds violated their constitutional right to a safe climate by approving oil and gas production and other development — despite knowing for years that extracting and burning fossil fuels contributes to rising global temperatures….  A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments at the Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday”.

Energy

Renewable Energy

News 3 TV in Tidewater reports that “Offshore wind could bring clean energy and jobs to Hampton Roads”.  “Old Dominion University and the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter hosted a town hall meeting” during which several experts “discussed the opportunities offshore wind could bring to Hampton Roads.”  Offshorewind.biz’s story announces that “Virginia DMME and Old Dominion Uni Sign Offshore Wind Deal”.  Writing in The Virginia Mercury, Ivy Main says “At long last, Dominion decides it’s game on for offshore wind”.  In contrast, Wired says “The Military Is Locked in a Power Struggle With Wind Farms”, and the New Bern (NC) Sun Journal reports that some NC legislators believe that a “‘No-windmill’ rule could help avoid base closures”.

Grist has a story about geothermal energy that suggests “The ticket to 100% renewable power is underneath our feet”.

Locally, the Augusta Free Press publishes this story about a Department of Energy award to Staunton’s Secure Futures.  “The team received national recognition for their solar barn-raising projects, completed in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).”  One of these projects happened at Harrisonburg’s Gift and Thrift.  NBC4 TV airs this story:  “Charlottesville Organizations and Community Members Ride Around Town for Rooftop Solar Tour”.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

The Miami Herald’s Editorial Board brings us this editorial about offshore drilling:  “Threat of offshore drilling in Florida still alive. Leaders should insist Trump kill it off”.

There continue to be tree sitters opposed to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).  The Roanoke Times reports on the MVP’s owners’ legal action against two of them.  The Virginia Mercury provides an update on legal actions that present hurdles to both the MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).

In the May 12 – 25 Roundup, we included this item:  Reuters reports that “U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal”.  The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that “Chief Justice John Roberts granted the request.”

Utilities

This story comes from the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union.  It’s about financial difficulties of the city’s “community-owned electric utility”, JEA, and may be a harbinger of dilemmas facing similarly-situated utilities.  Greentech Media (GTM) recently interviewed the “chief innovation and transformation officer at Jacksonville municipal utility JEA, on the next wave of disruptive technologies and concepts in the electricity business: “Disruption is the new normal.”  GTM’s reporter opened the article saying “JEA, the municipal utility in Jacksonville, Florida, has become a leader in the state’s residential energy storage landscape with the introduction of a rebate program and an updated net metering structure. It is considered as one of the most innovative municipal utilities in the country.” (Harrisonburg Electric Commission, HEC, is a municipal electric utility.)

Several VA media outlets reported on a recent VA SCC rejection of a Costco application to avoid Dominion’s rate increase and lower its electricity costs by aggregating its 27 stores’ electricity usage and shopping for a new energy supplier.  It joins other large retailers whom the SCC has denied.  The SCC took the position “that allowing Costco to shop for another power supplier would shift costs to residential and small-business customers of Dominion that don’t have the option under current Virginia law.” [from Richmond Times Dispatch]  Here are articles from the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Virginia Mercury, the Augusta Free Press, and Bacon’s Rebellion.  It seems that the SCC, in this and other rulings, is suggesting that Costco and others whose similar applications it rejected, try to persuade the VA General Assembly to change the law.

Energy News Network has an opinion piece by Patrick Flynn, the vice president of sustainability for Salesforce, asking “Virginia’s utilities, regulators, and lawmakers to prioritize clean energy in their policymaking and grid-planning activities.”  Mr. Flynn argues that “It’s time for Virginia to power a clean energy future”.  Bacon’s Rebellion highlights the “Rider E” case before the SCC in which Dominion asks for a rate increase to offset its expenses in its General Assembly mandated coal ash removal.

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Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/25/2019

Joy Loving is the author of the summer 2019 occasional Roundups, of which this is the first.

Politics and Policy

The Washington Post (WaPo) reports that “Half of Maryland’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030”.  A new mandate will go into effect without Governor Hogan’s approval, but he says he’s “committed to addressing climate change”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports “Republicans vote against bill containing their key climate priority: researching energy innovation”, saying the party-line vote in a House committee “illustrates how Republicans are still prioritizing getting funding for other Energy Department initiatives over bipartisan provisions on climate change.”

Blogger Steve Haner, writing in Bacon’s Rebellion, gives his take on Bob Inglis’ (https://www.republicen.org/) recent appearance at the National Regulatory Conference in Williamsburg.  After noting Mr. Inglis’ advocacy for a national carbon fee and dividend “tax”, Mr. Haner opines that “A carbon tax or greenhouse gas tax can work to lower emissions and alter consumer behavior, but it must be 1) nationwide, 2) economy-wide, not aimed at one sector and 3) structured to put pressure on the rest of the world.  A cap and trade system is a useful mechanism to get from A to B.  These economic processes work and their impact is more even across the board.  The downside is more limited than with many other approaches being advocated.”

Bloomberg reports that “Senate Republicans are readying a response to populist climate initiatives such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” with measures that they say adhere to their free-market principles and stand a better chance of becoming law.  The emerging proposals to fight climate change would avoid imposing dramatic cuts to carbon dioxide emissions. Instead, they seek to promote clean energy technology such as energy storage, renewable power and carbon-capture technologies. One measure would create an investment fund to pay for the research.”

WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that “The Energy 202: EPA blocks a dozen products containing pesticides thought harmful to bees”.  But The Guardian reports that the chemical industry wields power within EPA, at least when it comes to banning chemicals such as a degreaser called trichloroethylene (TCE).

WaPo says “States aren’t waiting for the Trump administration on environmental protections”, citing examples from “More than a dozen states [that] are moving to strengthen environmental protections to combat a range of issues from climate change to water pollution, opening a widening rift between stringent state policies and the Trump administration’s deregulatory agenda.”  The states include HI, NY, CA, MI, NJ, CO, NM, and OR.  The story quotes a MI water treatment manager as testifying to a U.S. House committee that “It is difficult to communicate to your customers that New Jersey or Minnesota or Vermont has evaluated the risk to their residents differently, and that one state places a lower value on protection of public health than another….”

Despite what seems to be increasing media coverage about the effects of climate instability, at least one 2020 Presidential candidate, running on a “climate platform” is finding many Americans aren’t that interested.  WaPo describes Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s experience this way:  “Inslee’s long quest to transform nature-loving sentiment into climate change legislation has been akin to a grim march through the desert. The man who wants to be America’s first climate change president has seen firsthand the difficulties of putting in place policies to slow the warming of the globe.”

Here are several stories that, together, are sort of in the “Can You Believe It?” Department.  They’re all about VA’s largest utility, Dominion Energy.  Bacon’s Rebellion brings us two with these headlines:  “Dominion Energy Joins Consortium Demanding Climate Change Legislation” and “Dominion Announces Support for Carbon Tax”.  And Ivy Main, in her Power for the People VA blog, brings us the third:  “Dominion keeps trying to pull the wool over our eyes”.  The consortium is the CEO Climate Dialogue.  The Washington Examiner has a story about business support for the carbon tax, noting that “Oil giants BP and Shell pledge $1M each to Republican-backed carbon tax”, adding that “BP and Shell join industry competitors ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil, which previously donated to Americans for Carbon Dividends.”  This group is “led by former Republican Secretaries of State James Baker III and George Shultz [and] is promoting a carbon tax plan that would return the revenue to taxpayers.”  RTO Insider talks about the newly formed Virginia group (VA Energy Reform Coalition) that is pushing for a deregulated electricity market in VA because it believes Dominion Energy’s and Appalachian Power’s dominance is not good for all stakeholders.  “The Virginia Energy Reform Coalition (VERC) features policy experts from across the ideological spectrum united against what it considers wasteful infrastructure spending funded by ever‑increasing electricity rates.”

Potpourri

In a Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost, Jim Bacon describes how Sweet Briar College has found a market‑based business opportunity in niche “Artisanal Agriculture” playing “into two mega‑trends: the increasing number of women farmers and the growing vitality of artisinal [sic] agriculture.”

According to The Guardian, toxic water is a legacy of a military base in CO and Colorado Springs businesses are suing the military.

“Dominion needs to ramp up efficiency programs to hit mandate, advocates say” is the headline in a recent article from Energy News Network.  “Watchdogs fear the first phase of Dominion Energy’s kilowatt-saving measures indicate that Virginia’s largest utility will fall far short of the $870 million it’s required to spend on energy efficiency over the next decade.”

Climate

What’s Happening?

A phys.org reports that “Global temperature change attributable to external factors, confirms new study”.

The Guardian reporter Khushbu Shah in Mexico Beach, Florida describes the huge challenges that town faces many months after Hurricane Michael struck.  WaPo reports that, finally, Puerto Rico and some other states—including FL–hard-hit from “natural disasters”–might get some federal funding, IF both houses of Congress approve a bipartisan, negotiated deal and the President signs the bill.  There was a last minute hitch this week during the House’s consideration of a bill that the Senate had passed.  This CNN report describes what happened.

The Guardian reports that “‘Extraordinary thinning’ of ice sheets revealed deep inside Antarctica”, referring to “New research show[ing] affected areas are losing ice five times faster than in the 1990s, with more than 100m of thickness gone in some places”.

The Guardian provides a poignant description (“‘This is a wake-up call’: the villagers who could be Britain’s first climate refugees”) of how a Wales village, facing inundation from sea level rise, is coping with what’s coming for them (and other villages, cities, towns, and countries around the world).

Who’s Doing What (or Should or Shouldn’t Be)?

The Guardian announces its new “decision to alter its style guide to better convey the environmental crises unfolding around the world [and reports that this action]  has prompted some other media outlets to reconsider the terms they use in their own coverage.”

The BBC describes the latest global school climate strike:  “School students around the world have gone on strike to demand action on climate change.”

An April 2019 McKinsey and Company article describes what utilities could be doing, given the high cost of extreme weather events (see examples in What’s Happening).

The New York Times (NYT) Climate Forward describes “One Thing You Can Do: Drive Smarter”.

It also tells us how our discarded toothbrushes are spoiling “paradise.”

Writing for Sierra Club, Heather Smith reports that the scientists who wrote the “summary report released by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)” “Did More Than Tell Us We Were Doomed”.  She says they also “gave us a road map out”.  Lewis Page, also writing for Sierra Club, describes an Extinction Rebellion activist-led event in San Francisco (“Climate Activists Are Rebelling. Are Politicians Finally Listening?”).  And Sierra Club’s Jonathan Hahn talks about Nathaniel Rich’s book Losing Earth in “Why We Didn’t Act on Climate When We Had the Chance”.

Grist reporters Lisa Hymas and Ted MacDonald remind us “The royal baby is cute and all, but hello, the planet is on fire”.

Texas landowners face challenges if they want to protect their property from coal ash detritus and pipelines, according to these items in Grist and Yale Environment 360.  Two stories suggest some Houston TX residents would like to see the city expand its current oil and gas focus.  Grist offers and opinion piece, “Houston teen: Why my oil-soaked city could be ground zero for a greener future”.  And the Midland Reporter-Telegram (mrt) publishes an op-ed by “Charles McConnell, a longtime energy executive and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy … [and] executive director of the Center for Carbon Management in Energy at the University of Houston.”  The author explains “How to make Houston the sustainable energy capital of the world”.

Dallas TX’s municipal government wants to save money through a shift to renewable energy, according to this item in PVTECH.  The “… $472.6 million deal with electricity firm TXU Energy will see the Texan city slash energy costs by almost US$80 million over 10 years, compared to existing arrangements.”

According to this Atlanta Business Chronicle article, “Athens, Ga., commits to 100% clean energy by 2035”.

Miami Today reports that “Solar power plants may sit atop Miami-Dade County lakes”.  The article noted that “a December report from the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) showing significant potential for the technology, including the possibility that floating solar plants covering just 27% of stateside water bodies identified as suitable[,] could produce almost 10% of current national power generation.”  And CBS Local Channel 4 in Miami tells us that “South Miami Wants [t]o Be Powered By [t]he Sun”.  The item opens with these lines:  “The mayor of South Miami says he wants to see the city powered primarily by the sun.  As part of a recent resolution passed unanimously by the council, officials want to transition to running the city on 100 percent renewable energy in the next 20 years.  It’s the first city in Miami-Dade to make this type of commitment.”  WBBH/WZVN NBC2 TV in the Miami-Dade area accompanied local Representative Francis Clooney, 35 of his constituents, and marine scientists on a trip to observe first-hand the effects of climate change and sea level rise, visiting nearby Keewaydin Island.  The article’s reporter concludes:  “About six months ago, we confirmed that a number of Southwest Florida leaders from Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties were talking about forming a regional collaboration that would focus on climate-related challenges and solutions.  Since then, we’ve learned that one formal meeting has taken place, and those discussions are ongoing.  The regional approach isn’t a new idea.  Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties have a compact to address climate-related challenges and solutions together.”

WaPo’s Energy 202 provides a story about CA winery owner and resident of an area who survived a large wildfire and “realized the danger frequent wildfires could pose to the electricity that powers her daily life.”  She decided to be proactive by installing her own solar panels for use when the electric utility turned off electricity in areas potentially affected by wildfires.  This woman “is just one of several residents whose concern about California utilities’ plans to impose blackouts has led them to install solar panels and battery systems to keep power on during an outage.”

The Virginian Pilot reports that “Scientists hope tiles that look like Disneyland’s castle can jumpstart native oyster reefs” in several Tidewater VA waters.

Energy

Renewable Energy

A Saluda VA farmer writes in The Virginia Gazette about his decision to install solar panels.  In Augusta County, the Board of Supervisors vetoed a solar farm in Stuarts Draft, according to the Staunton News Leader, saying it’s out of compliance with the Comprehensive Plan.  The same paper also reports that another solar developer plans to propose another solar farm in a different part of the county.

Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) published a blogpost from World Resources Institute, making the case that “In the United States, the falling cost of renewable energy means the economic case for investing in renewables is stronger than ever before” and “Across the country, from South Carolina to Nevada, states are taking new measures to harness wind and solar power. Since January, more than 10 state legislatures have enacted policies that encourage new renewable energy development.”

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that “Solar power gets cheaper, more popular in Georgia”, according to “Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols” during a visit in TN.

NPR Radio station WFAE 90.7 in NC reports that “Duke Starts Work On Mountain Solar And Battery Projects”.

Talk Business & Politics (TB&P) says an Arkansas county ”is racing to become the first county in the Natural State to install a solar energy system to power all of its local operations”– “Phillips County ready to ‘go solar’ with new $1 million project”.

The Times-News reports that Spartanburg County SC Supervisors believe the growth in small solar farms has been a boon for economic development in the county.

KRISTV in the Corpus Christi TX area notes that “Solar panels [have] become a more viable option for homes and businesses”.

In the Is-Biomass-Really-Renewable-Energy? Department, the Jackson Free Press gives a story about activist efforts to “Warn [a]gainst ‘World’s Largest Pellet Mill’ in Mississippi”.

The U.S. has many places where the wind blows so often and so powerfully that wind power has become more prevalent in places such as IN and TX.  But, not everybody wants the huge power line infrastructure that’s needed to move the wind-generated electrons from wind farms to urban areas.  This is the message of a story from the Houston Chronicle.

Fossil Fuels and Pipelines

Reuters reports that “U.S. asks Supreme Court for more time on Atlantic Coast natgas pipe appeal”.  The reporter said that “Some analysts think Dominion could cancel the pipeline if the Supreme Court does not hear the case because the project’s costs have ballooned due to legal and regulatory delays.”

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph tells yet another tale of a tree-sitter pipeline protester in “Grandmother tries to obstruct MVP by taking residence in tree”.

We all remember, with horror, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its environmental, political, economic, and legal aftermath that continues even now.  The Associated Press (AP) brings us up to date on another Gulf spill, this one a 14-year long one.  Maybe we can think this is “good news”.

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/4/2019

Thanks to Joy Loving for compiling this week’s climate news!

Politics and Policy

This Washington Post’s Energy 202 item says “Fossil fuel ban on public lands becomes issue in 2020 Democratic race”.  Axios reports that 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Jay Inslee has offered his energy plan.  Grist says “Beto’s first major 2020 policy proposal is a $5 trillion climate plan”, referring to Beto O’Rourke, another 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate.

A Love’s Travel Stop executive writes in an op-ed for Energy News Network that a bill under consideration in South Carolina would enable more businesses to install solar.  He argues:  “outdated policies and bureaucratic red tape make going solar nearly impossible.  In the most expensive energy state in the nation, that is unacceptable. If a lower-cost energy option exists, businesses deserve the freedom to choose it.”

Despite the development of soon-to-be-finalized regulations authorizing VA to partner with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states, Gov. Northam has declined to veto budget amendments that would prohibit spending money to implement the program.  These articles from the Augusta Free Press (AFP) (“Virginia carbon reduction plan could be on hold”), the Virginia Mercury (VM) (“Northam won’t veto GOP budget language that could cripple carbon-capping plan”), and the Washington Post (WaPo) (“Northam retains GOP language in budget to keep Va. out of carbon-reduction plan”) report on the Governor’s explanatory statement detailing his actions on the state budget.

The Governor said “The Department of Environmental Quality recently finalized a regulation to reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel fired power plants by 30 percent over the next decade. While the General Assembly has restricted the Commonwealth from participating in RGGI, I am directing the Department of Environmental Quality to identify ways to implement the regulation and achieve our pollution reduction goals.” (AFP)  However, the governor “did not offer an explanation for failing to exercise the veto, which proponents of the rule to cap and cut carbon emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants had repeatedly urged” (VM). “Northam lamented the situation …, calling the carbon-cap restriction a ‘disappointing and out-of-touch’ provision. But his advisers apparently believed he lacked the legal authority to veto that language (WaPo).”

Legislation to establish a price on carbon and have carbon-emitters pay toward the cost of the environmental result—e.g. fee and dividend, cap and trade—is pending in Congress.  The Transportation and Climate Initiative of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States (TCI) recently offered a video, “Cap and Invest 101”, to present implications from a transportation perspective.  Not everyone favors a carbon fee and dividend approach, including some climate activists, as this WaPo Energy 202 item discusses.  On the other hand, the Houston Chronicle posts this opinion piece:  “Charge a carbon fee. Let the market fix climate change.”  And Bloomberg weighs in with “GOP Tiptoes Toward Climate Plans as Ocasio-Cortez Turns Up Heat”.

There’s lots of talk, pro and con, about the “Green New Deal” (GND).  Grist hosted an April 16 webinar on the subject; you can listen here.  The New York Times (NYT) offers an opinion piece by Rocky Mountain Institute’s Amory Lovins and Rushad R. Nanavatty, making the case for a market-driven GND.  WaPo’s Energy 202 reports that some climate activists believe NY Governor Andrew Cuomo’s GND isn’t “green” enough.  And Northwest Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz opines in nwfdailynews.com that the “Green Real Deal” (GRD) is the way to address climate change.  GRD is an alternative to GND, as covered here, here and here.

You may know that the City of Harrisonburg is in the process of developing an environmental (or sustainability) action plan.  It should be available for public comment sometime this month.  Meanwhile, the San Antonio TX Business Journal reports that local businesses there have thrown support behind that city’s climate plan.  And, according to this piece by Nashville Public Radio, Nashville, TN’s Metro Council is considering legislation to require 100% of its energy needs be met by renewable energy (RE), at least 10 percent of which is solar, by 2041.  Elsewhere in TN, wdef.com reports that “Mayor Berke says Chattanooga accepting Green Light Challenge”.  The Mayor wants his city to be eco-friendly with a new solar array for its waste treatment plant.  The Guardian reports that Amsterdam plans to “ban petrol and diesel cars and motorbikes by 2030” and diesel vehicles over 15 years old by 2020.  Not everyone agrees that this is doable, but Madrid, Rome, and the Danish government are considering similar actions.

The current Administration is no fan of the term (or likely results of) “climate change”.  As one of the eight Arctic Circle nations, the U. S. representative “pushed to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy”.  This WaPo article provides some details and points out that this initial position of the U.S. might be softening.  Interestingly, WaPo also reports that a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report “tells communities to brace for climate change impacts”.

On May 2nd, the U. S. House of Representatives passed HR 9, the Climate Action Now Act, put forward to keep the U. S. in the Paris Climate Agreement.  Read about it here.  Representative Ben Cline, who serves the 6th VA District, voted against this bill, according to GovTrak.us.  (In his weekly perspectives email to constituents, Mr. Cline described another vote this way: “The week concluded with my signing another discharge petition, which would force a vote on the Green New Deal. This misguided legislation would hurt the U.S. Economy, Virginia agriculture, and put our farmers and ranchers out of business…. I believe it is time for Democrats to put their beliefs on the record with a vote on the Green New Deal and when it fails, hopefully we can meet and work on true solutions with an all of the above energy policy for the United States.”)  The Verge reports “House Democrats vote to protect Paris climate agreement But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says it ‘will go nowhere’”.  WaPo’s Energy 202 gives its take in “Here’s why Democrats pushed to pass a climate bill that isn’t going anywhere”.

This week’s RepublicEnClimate Week in Review” offers several items highlighting efforts by the “Eco Right”—in Congress and elsewhere—to acknowledge and act on climate change.  Of note was this:  “Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick joined New York’s Rep. Elise Stefanik and Florida’s Rep. Vern Buchanan to vote for the Climate Action Now Act, which seeks to block the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.”  Somewhat differing accounts of two other RepublicEn items appear in the NYT and Grist.  The NYT reports on Wyoming’s Republican Senator John Barrasso proposed legislation promoting nuclear energy.  Noting that the Senator “… has spent years blocking climate change legislation”, the reporter says Senator Barrasso “added a twist: a desire to tackle global warming.”  Grist tells us about Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson under this headline:  “It’s my party, and I’ll fight climate change if I want to”.

Potpourri

Writing in The Guardian, Robert Macfarlane discusses the intriguingly named “Anthropocene unburials”.  In this essay, he “travels ‘Underland’” to help us recognize and understand that what lies beneath our feet, all around the earth, can teach us a lot about our world’s history.  He also points out that, as some of what’s been buried for millennia rises to the surface, one other result is even more greenhouse emissions.

The local public radio station, WMRA, has produced a report on climate actions in the Valley.  Some CAAV members were interviewed and photographs used for the piece.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation provides “What You Need to Know about Virginia’s Clean Water Blueprint” here.  There are some interesting examples of benefits flowing from this Blueprint, including one in Waynesboro.

We’re starting to learn about the negative impacts on the environment of our plastics addiction.  These two articles in The Guardian give some details:  “If we care about plastic waste, why won’t we stop drinking bottled water?” and “’Biodegradable’ plastic bags survive three years in soil and sea”.

The media has received its share of criticism for insufficient reporting about climate change and its effects.  The Guardian reports on its discussions with climate change experts on how to improve.  It also has an opinion piece by Liv Grant, who worked on David Attenborough’s recent BBC documentary, “Climate Change: The Facts”.  Ms. Grant explains how shaken she is by “climate anxiety” from what she learned during its making.  This Grist item may help us understand why, despite dire warnings and terrible climate-change weather disasters, we don’t also react well to that “C-C” term—it’s because our brains don’t register it.

Climate

This piece about Canada in The Guardian focuses on the need for urgent action on climate “preparedness” because of extreme flooding there.

The NYT Magazine of April 9, 2019 is a “Climate” issue.  One story, “The Next Reckoning:  Capitalism and Climate Change”, discusses the important role of capitalism in the effort to curb greenhouse gases and find alternatives to fossil fuels.  The NYT Food Section gives us this advice:  “Your Questions About Food and Climate Change, Answered.  How to shop, cook and eat in a warming world.”  And this NYT piece offers some ideas about “How Does Your Love of Wine Contribute to Climate Change?” and suggestions for what you can do about it.

This fascinating NYT article by Lee Robbins tells us:  “Studying the historical data stored in centuries-old trees is a burgeoning field, with labs around the world learning more about historical patterns of weather and climate and the effects on humans”.

Grist presents an article about our endangered marine life as documented in a Nature study just published.  Things are worse than we thought in our oceans.

Energy

The Guardian has this article about floating solar panels designed by Dutch engineers.  An example of the kinds of innovation we’ll need to see in the marketplace going forward?

This week’s Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) update notes that, after relative calm in activities around the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), some storms may be coming.  The Roanoke Times reports that there may be new questions involving pipeline impacts on an endangered species.  Not all actions are about VA’s proposed pipelines.  This Associated Press (AP) story describes efforts by PA landowner, represented by a VA-based legal group, to receive compensation for an eminent domain seizure.

More than one person has said that the kilowatt saved, or not used, is as important, if not more so, than the kilowatt generated by renewable energy (RE).  This Bacon’s Rebellion blogpost by Chelsea Harnish of The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council (VAEEC) makes a case that, in fulfilling requirements for new energy efficiency (EE) programs by the Grid Transformation and Security Act of 2018, “Utility-sponsored programs can benefit Virginians in a variety of ways throughout the Commonwealth.”  The AFP reported that the State Corporation Commission (SCC) formally approved six residential and five non-residential EE programs and that VAEEC, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, formally intervened in the SCC process for handling utilities’ applications for the EE programs.

Remember the BP Gulf oil drilling fiasco?  Well, the current Administration apparently does.  And it’s decided to loosen regulations put in place after that happened, according to this Chron.com item and Darryl Fears’s piece in WaPo’s Climate and Environment.  This piece in the AFP suggests that the “Offshore drilling safety protections rollback by Trump administration heightens risk of oil disaster.”  The Administration has decided to scale back on its plans for seismic mapping in the Atlantic to search for oil drilling sites.  Nonetheless, WaPo Energy 202 suggests this approach might have negative consequences for Republicans at the polls.

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/26/2019

Politics and Policy

Saying, “The United States made a promise to meet the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement – and if the federal government won’t hold up our end of the deal, then the American people must,” Michael Bloomberg contributed $5.5 million to the UN climate negotiations budget.  In a freedom of information request filed late Monday, Sierra Club requested that EPA turn over any documents that support Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s assertion that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”  A number of Democratic 2020 presidential candidates have begun calling for an end to leasing parcels of Western land to coal miners and oil and natural gas drillers.  On Monday, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Tom Carper (D-DE) announced the formation of the Environmental Justice Caucus in the Senate.  Leaders of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus are considering adding criteria to ensure new recruits are green enough to join.  Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) have introduced a cap-and-dividend proposal that would combine market-based mechanisms and government oversight with the goal of drastically reducing carbon output over the next 20 years.

The administration is pausing its controversial plans to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic.  In an unusual, but not unprecedented, critique within the Department of Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service pointed out several aspects of climate change that were minimal or absent in the Bureau of Land Management’s draft environmental impact statement on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  More than 1,300 lawsuits related to climate change, many targeting governments or corporations, have been filed around the world since the 1980s, with a surge in recent years.

Ecological economist Julie Steinberger argued at Medium.com that “on climate change, the scientific community (by and large) has been criminally negligent when it comes to observing — and especially learning from — its own track record.”  And at The Guardian, columnist George Monbiot wrote “Like coal, capitalism has brought many benefits.  But, like coal, it now causes more harm than good.”  Earlier in April, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce unveiled its “American Energy: Cleaner, Stronger” agenda in response to their recognition of the need to address climate change.  Clean energy policy analyst Joel Stronberg critiqued the Chamber agenda within the context of the Trump administration’s energy policies.

In town halls hosted by CNN, five Democratic presidential candidates laid out their positions on climate change.  Young voters care about stopping climate change, even if it slows economic growth, according to a new poll from the Harvard University Institute of Politics.  The poll found that they are divided, however, on how the problem should be addressed.  In a paper released last Friday, scientists called for a “Global Deal for Nature” with a unified objective: protect ecosystems to combat climate change and combat climate change to protect ecosystems.  Denis Hayes, the principal national organizer of the first Earth Day (in April 1970), said on Monday that the 50th anniversary next year will be “the largest, most diverse action in human history.”  He also predicted that “2020 will be for climate what 1970 was for other environmental issues.”  However, the American Geophysical Union published two papers in separate journals this week that showed that drastic actions are required.  A paper in Geophysical Research Letters found that the world’s largest emitters (U.S., EU, and China) can reduce the frequency of future temperature extremes by strongly increasing their emissions cuts.  Nevertheless, a paper in Earth’s Future reported that even if the major emitters greatly increased their emission reductions, the rest of the world would have to drastically cut theirs to hold warming to 2°C.

Potpourri

Last week I included a link to an interview with international lawyer Polly Higgins who fought for recognition of ecocide.  Sadly, she has died at age 50.  The Nation and Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) have teamed up to sponsor a conference next Tuesday aimed at reframing the way journalists cover climate change.  In preparation, Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope published an article entitled “The media are complacent while the world burns.”  The on-line version of The Nation has an article about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the African-American town of Union Hill, as well as an interview with Bill McKibben.  In London, Extinction Rebellion held a “pause ceremony” at Hyde Park Corner, implying that while they were suspending their protests for now, they would be back.  Although it is a week old, I’m including this article by climate scientist Myles Allen because I think it’s message is particularly important.  Also, Bill McKibben had an interesting essay abstracted from his new book.  Yale Climate Connections (YCC) interviewed author and activist Jeff Biggers about his Climate Narrative Project and “Ecopolis” theatre shows, while Amy Brady interviewed Kristin George Bagdanov about her new book of climate change poetry.  Sara Peach addressed the question of how to prepare children for climate change at YCC.

Climate

According to Carbon Brief’s “State of the Climate” report for the first quarter of 2019, global surface temperatures are on track to be either the second or third warmest since records began in the mid-1800s, behind only 2016 and possibly 2017.  Furthermore, if we stay on the current trajectory of at least 3°C of warming by the end of the century, melting permafrost will increase the global climate-driven impacts by $70 trillion between now and 2300, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported that over the course of decades, global warming caused robust and substantial declines in economic output in hotter, poorer countries — and increases in many cooler, wealthier countries — relative to a world without anthropogenic warming.

The Washington Post mapped America’s “wicked weather and deadly disasters” over the past several years.  It also found that in a typical year, taxpayer spending on the federal disaster relief fund was almost 10 times higher than it was three decades ago, even after adjusting for inflation.

According to one estimate, if current warming trends hold, the climate this century will change 10 times faster than many tree species can move.  In response, foresters around the U.S. have launched ambitious experiments to test how people can help forests adapt.  A study published in Nature on Wednesday, found that sea creatures are dying at twice the rate of land animals, in part because cold-blooded marine species have a higher sensitivity to warming and many are already living at the edge of their species’ heat tolerance.  Heat-induced bleaching is just the latest in a long series of insults to the Florida coral reef, which have brought its growth to a standstill and left it vulnerable to erosion and rising seas.  As a result, it is not simply dying; it appears to be vanishing.  More than 8.9 million acres of pristine rainforest were cut down in 2018, according to data from the Global Forest Watch network.

A study published in the journal Science indicated oceans have become stormier over the past 30 years, with increases in both wind speed and wave height.

A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimated that Greenland’s glaciers went from dumping about 51 billion tons of ice into the ocean between 1980 to 1990, to 286 billion tons between 2010 and 2018.

Energy

In the Business Section of Sunday’s Washington Post, Steven Mufson profiled three companies that hope to make a business out of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

The Green Advocacy Project commissioned a poll about energy choices that goes more deeply into the public’s attitudes than most polls have done.  The results are quite interesting.

Boston Consulting Group estimated that the rise of electric vehicles (EVs) could create $3 billion to $10 billion of new value for the average utility if it takes appropriate actions.  Of course, that will only happen if people buy EVs.  E&E News posited that social norms and a lack of information on financial benefits have hampered EV adoption in the U.S.  Nevertheless, Ford has made a $500 million investment in EV maker Rivian.  IT giant Cisco is leading a consortium to create a real-world test environment for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies, bringing fleet owners together and connecting as many as 200 EVs through the use of 10kW, bidirectional chargers.

A group of researchers from Japan, France, Germany, Norway, and the UK just published a paper in Nature Climate Change that assesses how the leakage rate of methane influences the benefit of switching power plants from coal to natural gas.  More than half of the world’s new oil and gas pipelines are located in North America, with a boom in U.S. oil and gas drilling set to deliver a major blow to efforts to slow climate change, a new report from Global Energy Monitor has found.

This month, Massachusetts approved the contracts for Vineyard Wind, clearing the way for it to become the second offshore wind farm in the U.S.  From Appalachia in the U.S. to Queensland in Australia and Chernobyl in Ukraine, solar and wind farms are being developed or built in places not normally associated with clean energy, and in some regions long resistant to it.

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/19/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

Potpourri

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/12/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

Potpourri

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/5/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

Potpourri

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/29/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

Potpourri

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/22/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

Potpourri

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

Climate

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

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

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

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

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

Energy

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

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

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

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

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

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