Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/27/2020

Politics and Policy

The coronavirus stimulus bill that was passed by the Senate and House this week and signed by President Trump on Friday afternoon contained bad news for the wind and solar industries, but at least contained a little bit of good news in that the $3 billion to buy oil for the strategic reserve was eliminated.  While the virus has had a huge impact on the economy, slowing it greatly, one thing that it hasn’t impacted is the Trump administration’s timeline for rolling back environmental regulations, which many career scientists disagree with.  In addition, the administration will ease enforcement of environmental regulations covering polluting industries to help them cope with impacts from the coronavirus outbreak.  As emergency managers plan for the upcoming natural disaster season, they have another challenge: how to prevent disaster relief shelters from becoming breeding grounds for COVID-19.

While health is foremost in all of our minds, it is interesting to note that two of the amicus briefs filed in the children’s lawsuit were from two former Surgeons General and from leading experts in public health and medicine and organizations representing thousands of health professionals.

In a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota, the future of the Dakota Access pipeline has been thrown into question after a federal court on Wednesday struck down its permits and ordered a comprehensive environmental review.  On Thursday, California adopted a new emissions target for its electricity sector that would double the state’s clean energy capacity over the next decade and halt the development of new natural gas power plants.

Two lifelong conservative voters who work with Citizens’ Climate Lobby and RepublicEn had a message for GOP lawmakers: “Stop playing with small ball climate solutions.”

Climate and Climate Science

National Geographic’s special Earth Day 50th anniversary edition features a “verdant Earth” on the front cover and a “browner Earth” on the back cover, reflecting the uncertainty we face in our fight against climate change.  Inside the magazine, Emma Marris presents the optimistic view of the outcome of the battle, while Elizabeth Kolbert presents the pessimistic view.

A study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters revealed that Denman Glacier in East Antarctica has retreated about 3 miles over the last 22 years.  This suggests that the glaciers in East Antarctica may not be as stable as previously thought and pose an increased threat of sea level rise.  At the other end of the globe, meltwater from Greenland is pouring into the North Atlantic, impacting the Atlantic conveyer belt that carries warm water northward and cold water southward.  While a new study published in Science on Wednesday decreases the fear that the meltwater will stop the circulation entirely, it found that its strength dropped sharply before rebounding during periods of peak warming in three recent interglacials.  Such a drop would likely strongly impact the climate in Europe.

The Australian governmental agency responsible for the Great Barrier Reef has confirmed that the reef has suffered its third mass coral bleaching episode in five years.  Smoke from Australia’s bush fires killed hundreds of people and sent thousands to hospitals and emergency rooms, according to a new study published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia.  According to a new paper in the journal Current Biology, marine species are migrating towards the earth’s poles to escape rising ocean temperatures near the equator.

A study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that more than 500 million people are likely to be hit by heat stress above safe levels if global average temperatures rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, almost 800 million at 2°C of warming, and 1.2 billion at 3°C.  Project Drawdown released its “2020 Drawdown Review”, which examined the costs and savings associated with holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C.  Without even accounting for the savings associated with improved public health and avoided climate damages, keeping global temperature rises below 1.5°C would result in a global net economic savings of $145 trillion.

According to a new study in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, if the U.S. grain belt were to be hit by a severe four year drought, the effects would ripple out around the world, hitting hard those countries that depend on food imports.  At Inside Climate News, Georgina Gustin argued that climate change will force agriculture into new areas, which will mean more conversion of natural habitat into crop land, thereby increasing human/animal contact and the transfer of animal viruses like the novel coronavirus to humans.  At Yale Climate Connections, Kristen Pope provided a sampling of some of the climate-related threats to wildlife around the globe.


Carbon Brief has published a major update of its map of the world’s coal-fired power plants, based on the latest “Global Coal Plant Tracker” from Global Energy Monitor.  Also, according to the Monitor, coal-fired power plant development worldwide declined for the fourth year running in 2019.  Of course, China is the world’s largest user of electricity derived from coal.  Thus, whether the decline will continue depends largely on their 14th Five Year Plan, which covers the period 2021-2015.  A new paper in the Journal of Cleaner Production suggests that coal mining may be a bigger contributor to levels of atmospheric methane than the oil and gas industries, with emissions set to grow considerably in the coming years.

The world’s wind power capacity grew by 19% in 2019, after a year of record growth for offshore windfarms and a boom in onshore projects in the U.S. and China.  Because the offshore wind industry is in its infancy in the U.S., the interruptions associated with the coronavirus are hitting it at a critical time.  The question is, just how disruptive will they be? 

Companies are selecting Detroit as a perfect location for the design and assembly of electric commercial vehicles, like delivery vans and shuttle/school buses.  According to data from AutoForecast Solutions seen by Reuters, North American production of SUV models by GM and Ford will outpace production of traditional cars by more than eight to one in 2026, and 93% of those SUVs are expected to be gas-fueled.  A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability, found that electric vehicles produce less CO2 than gasoline-powered vehicles across the vast majority of the globe – contrary to the claims of some detractors, who have alleged that the CO2 emitted in the production of electricity and the manufacture of the vehicles outweighs the benefits.

Europe’s energy storage boom stalled last year due to a slowdown in large-scale schemes designed to store clean electricity from major renewable energy projects.  A recent report from IDTechEx observed that “While the stationary energy storage market is currently dominated by Li-ion batteries, redox flow batteries (RFBs) are slowly being adopted with an increasing number of projects all over the world.”  Rather than using batteries, another way to smooth out short-term variations in the supply-demand balance of electricity generation is to use flywheels, as explained in The Conversation.

Rosatom, a Russian state company, is financing and building nuclear power plants across the world, reaping for Moscow both profits and geopolitical influence that will last for decades.  The UK is trying to figure out the best way to make home heating “net-zero” CO2 emitting by 2050.  One way is to convert their natural gas distribution system from methane to H2The Guardian examined the various aspects of the question and it provides useful lessons for the U.S.

Potpourri Because of the coronavirus-caused shut-downs across the U.S., a coalition of youth-led organizations that had planned massive marches for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next month are now planning a three-day livestream event instead.  Bill McKibben argued in The New Yorker that lessons learned from fighting the coronavirus could help in the battle against climate change, as did Beth Gardiner at Yale Environment 360.  Several other people also wrote articles comparing the response to the coronavirus to the response to climate change, but I found the one by Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center to be most interesting.  Greta Thunberg announced on Tuesday that she and her father, Svante, had symptoms of COVID-19 and that while hers were mild, her father felt far worse and had a fever.  Stephen Rodrick had a very interesting profile of Thunberg in Rolling Stone that goes much more deeply than others have.  By the way, a drawing of Greta is on the cover of the print edition.  Publisher Jann Wenner devoted his editorial to “The Price of Greed.”  Amy Brady had two interviews with authors, one this week, and one last week that I missed.  This week she spoke with Bjorn Vassnes, author of Kingdom of Frost, which reveals how, in an age of climate change, a shrinking cryosphere could mean catastrophe for over a billion people.  Last week she interviewed Alex Irvine, author of Anthropocene Rag, a novel dealing with the relationship between climate change and artificial intelligence.

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.

Legislation Roundup 2020

We are providing a new space on our website that focuses on national, state, and local legislation that we want folks to know about. Our first presentation pertains to the recent VA General Assembly (GA) session. If you have questions about what you find here, please reach out to contactcaav [at]

This year’s GA considered a huge number of bills pertaining to the environment, climate change, energy, conservation, and utilities. The session has now ended and many bills await the Governor’s signature. Because the number of these bills is so large, and because of their potential to change the landscape in these important areas, CAAV is presenting a summary of 15 of what we believe are among the most significant. We are including how the Central Valley Legislators voted on them.

See the spreadsheet below; passed bills are in green and those that failed are in red. Use the sliders to access the entire spreadsheet. If you have a different state senator and/or delegate than those shown, you can use the listed link to locate a bill on Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS),, to find out how your representative voted. We have included a few bills that did not pass. We are also providing links to media coverage of several of the more notable bills, identified by subject.

The document below the spreadsheet provides details from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network about the VA Clean Economy Act, arguably one of the most complex bills passed.

Joy Loving for the CAAV Legislative and Elections Committee

Media Coverage


Electric Utility Regulations

Clean Energy


View the spreadsheet below in Google Sheets HERE.

Click “Ctrl” (Control) and “+” to enlarge the print if needed for ease of viewing. Note that this may cause extra sliders to appear just outside the original, shorter ones which allow viewing of the complete spreadsheet.  You can use “Ctrl/-” to reset the size.

View this document on CCAN’s website HERE.


Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/20/2020

Politics and Policy

Of course, the main thing dominating the news this week is the new coronavirus and its impacts.  Laurence Tubiana, a former French diplomat who was instrumental in brokering the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, said that governments must not let the pandemic derail action on climate change.  Our government, as well as others, is working on stimulus packages to help reduce the financial fallout associated with the virus.  Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said such stimulus packages marked a critical moment for governments to “shape policies” in line with climate action.  One industry asking for money is the airline industry, raising the question of whether any assistance should be tied to conditions.  Democrats are voicing concern that the White House may pursue broad relief for the oil and gas industry in the stimulus package.  They are also pushing to add climate change provisions to any stimulus.  Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, has announced that the Committee is postponing the release of the framework of its plan to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions. 

Even though CO2 emission rates have fallen as a result of the pandemic, analysts are concerned about what will happen as a result of stimulus packages as infection levels begin to drop.  In the longer term, although the direct impact on health in many developing nations has so far been small, many are worried about how the global health and economic impacts of COVID-19 will influence the climate ambitions of developing countries.  The COP26 climate summit planned for Glasgow in November may have to be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.  A coalition of green groups has canceled three days of nationwide protests in April that were to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

A federal judge last week rejected an argument from the Trump administration that sought to invalidate California’s cap-and-trade program.  DOE said on Thursday it will buy up to 30 million barrels of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by the end of June as a first step in fulfilling President Trump’s directive to fill the reserve to help domestic crude producers.  The world’s largest investment banks have funneled more than $2.66tn into fossil fuels since the Paris agreement in 2015, new figures show, prompting warnings they are failing to respond to the climate crisis.  Unfortunately, shareholder efforts to influence companies’ approaches to issues related to climate change have suffered blows from both financial regulators and a federal judge in recent weeks.  The Interior Department has received over 230 nominations for oil and gas leases across southern Utah, some of which are within 0.5 miles of Canyonland N.P. and 1.5 miles of Arches N.P. 

In a conversation with Elizabeth McGowan, NRDC attorney Gillian Giannetti, a self-described “FERC nerd,” explained the legal issues behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.  On Thursday FERC approved a controversial natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal project at Coos Bay in Oregon.  Unusual coalitions in Congress are interested in reforming the Natural Gas Act — a 1938 law that regulates interstate natural gas pipelines.  The Heartland Institute is ousting its president, Frank Lasée, after being buffeted by financial turbulence that led to significant layoffs.  For about 12 minutes in Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate, former Vice-President Biden and Senator Sanders addressed their climate change proposals.  In The New York Times, Lisa Friedman wrote: “In interviews with two dozen activists and voters who consider the planet’s warming their top issue, almost all said they worried that Mr. Biden has not made the issue a sufficient priority or been specific enough about his plans.” 

Climate and Climate Science

The organizers of a climate research expedition in the frozen Arctic Ocean have canceled a series of research flights after the Norwegian government imposed travel restrictions as part of its efforts to fight the coronavirus.  An article that came out Wednesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reported that Greenland lost an extraordinary 600 billion metric tons of ice by the end of the summer last year, although some was recovered as winter set in because of new snowfall.  At Hakai Magazine, Erin McKittrick wrote about why acidification is a worse problem in the Beaufort Sea than in warmer water bodies.

Chlorofluorocarbon chemicals, which were once widely used as refrigerants and as components in foam insulation, are strong greenhouse gases.  Because they also destroy the ozone in the stratosphere, they were banned by the Montreal Protocol.  Nevertheless, according to a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, their emissions into the atmosphere from 2000 to 2020 were equivalent to 25 billion metric tons of CO2.

A new analysis, published in Nature Sustainability, looked at how protecting and replenishing soils – both in agricultural and natural landscapes – could combat global warming.  It found that if techniques to improve soil carbon were employed at the maximum assumed level worldwide, they could remove up to 5.5bn metric tons of CO2 each year, an amount just under the U.S.’s emissions.  As the planet grows warmer, the effects of heat stress on organisms trying to survive outside the temperature envelope within which they evolved is becoming increasingly evident.  At Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman explored the pros and cons of planting trees to address climate change.  According to satellite imagery from INPE, Brazil’s space agency, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon in January and February was 70% higher than during the same period in 2019. 

There is an interesting article in Rolling Stone about human climate migration that makes the important points that most will occur within a given country and that significant migration is already occurring.

Wildfires burned 890,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) last year in the mainland U.S., a sharp drop from the previous two years when wildfires burned an average of 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres), and the lowest burn area since 2004.  The U.S. trend in 2019 does not change long-term patterns, experts said, and likely resulted from anomalies such as heavy precipitation that left forests and grasslands wetter than normal.  As if COVID-19 weren’t enough, a third of the U.S. is at risk of flooding this spring, according to the spring flood outlook released by the National Weather Service on Thursday.


In an article about coal at Vox, David Roberts wrote: “…in the U.S. and across the world, coal power is dying.  By 2030, it will be uneconomic to run existing coal plants.  That means all the dozens of coal plants on the drawing board today are doomed to become stranded assets.”  Driven largely by a plunge in coal-fired power generation, German greenhouse gas emissions fell by 6.3% last year, the steepest reduction recorded since 2009.  In The Netherlands the amount of electricity produced from coal fell from 27 billion kWh to 17 billion kWh last year.

A group of gas grid operators, oil firms, and utilities is planning a green H2 pipeline to supply industrial customers in northwest Germany.

The Inside Clean Energy newsletter had three interesting articles this week.  One was about the impact of COVID-19 on forecasts of U.S. solar installations this year, another was about a large new solar project in Ohio, and the last about the decision to keep a nuclear power plant operational in Pennsylvania because that state joined RGGI.  The grass-roots backlash against large solar farms has become so widespread that the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a move to combat mounting negativity, last year developed and disseminated a manual that includes information on navigating community sensitivities.  According to the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2019 Year-in-Review report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie, solar grew by 23% in 2019 from 2018 and accounted for 40% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S., its highest share ever and more than any other single source of electricity, with 13.3 GW installed.  However, things likely won’t be as good this year because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The SEIA president said their projection of 47% growth in 2020 will be ratcheted down in the coming weeks and months.

Technology provider Lilac Solutions, which has a proprietary ion exchange technology, is partnering with resource developer Controlled Thermal Resources to open a pilot plant to extract lithium from geothermal brine run-off.  Sponsored by Senator Angus King (I-ME), the “Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act of 2020” calls on Congress to allocate $150 million over the next five years to support research on “innovative” battery recycling approaches and to help establish of a national collection system for spent batteries.

According to UBS analysts, while lower oil prices could negatively impact EV sales in the U.S., that is not likely to happen in China and the EU because factors other than cost are driving the markets there.  If you’re a truck fan, you might be interested in another article reviewing where we are in the evolution of the electric truck, both battery and fuel cell.


Ecologists working in Wollemi National Park in New South Wales, Australia, are using helicopters to airdrop carrots and sweet potatoes to wallabies, whose food supply was wiped out by the massive bushfires.  Peter Sinclair has another “This Is Not Cool” video at Yale Climate Connections.  This one shows how several climate scientists are handling the emotional and personal feelings associated with the potential adverse effects of climate change.  At The Guardian, John Vidal addressed the question: “Is our destruction of nature responsible for COVID-19?”.  One of Fritjof Capra’s books, The Web of Life (1996), had a profound effect on me.  Thus it was interesting to see that he and futurist Hazel Henderson had written an article together entitled “Pandemics — Lessons Looking Back from 2050”.  Zibby Owens reviewed the memoir by Greta Thunberg’s family, Our House Is on Fire, for the Washington Post

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 3/13/2020

Politics and Policy

The spread of coronavirus across the world is disrupting climate and biodiversity meetings ahead of two critical UN summits seeking to limit warming and to halt extinctions of plants and wildlife.  At Inside Climate News, Dan Gearino reviewed the climate lessons in the response to the coronavirus.  The Corps of Engineers has been given authority to provide funding to municipalities to buy out houses in flood-prone areas.  The catch is, if the municipality joins the program, it must use its eminent domain powers to force out people who won’t voluntarily sell and move.  The Senate on Thursday voted 52-40 to confirm James Danly as a Republican commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  A panel of economic experts appearing on Capitol Hill during a March 12 hearing convened by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis delivered a clear warning that continued inaction on climate will result in enormous economic and societal consequences.  Grist compared the comments Sanders and Biden have given about climate change during the debates while Reuters directly compared their plans.  Juliet Eilperin had an interesting piece in The Washington Post under the headline “Bernie Sanders’s climate record in congress: Lots of advocacy, no compromise.”

A Fairfax County church is on track to be the first Virginia property to tap into the PACE (property-assessed clean energy) program to finance upgrades to its aging HVAC system.  Martinsville City Council approved the concept of a new solar energy facility on the former Lynwood Golf Club site.  The city would have a power purchase agreement it.  David Roberts dissected the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) at Vox, while Walton Shepard, the Virginia Policy Director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy Program, had a blog post about the shortcomings of the act as passed by the General Assembly and what Governor Ralph Northam can do to fix it.  A federal judge has sided with the developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in their dispute with the Board of Supervisors of Nelson County, VA, over the permitting powers of local governments.

The Senate energy package stalled on Monday in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee over an amendment that would limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons — potent greenhouse gases.  The authors of the amendment also have a bill under consideration by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  There were two interesting articles this week about deniers of main-stream climate science.  One dealt with their activities to counteract the influence of conservative clean energy groups, led most prominently by ClearPath and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.  The other involved a joint investigation by non-profit newsroom Correctiv and current affairs TV show, Frontal21, into the activities of the Heartland Institute to weaken climate policies in Germany.  Speaking of Heartland, it has launched a website of contrarian climate science called “Climate at a Glance”, which includes brief explanations of key climate science and policy issues, many of which are either misleading or inaccurate.  Whether Heartland can keep it up is in question, however, since it laid off more than half of its staff last week amid financial difficulties.

Damian Carrington, The Guardian’s environment editor, had an excellent opinion essay about “deadlines” for saving the world from climate change.  James Slevin, president of the Utility Workers Union of America, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a climate warrior, have joined forces to argue for a carbon tax, the first time that an energy-sector union has announced support for such a fee.  Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order to further the state’s emission reduction goals Tuesday after state GOP lawmakers blocked legislation by staging their second walkout in less than a year.  In selecting Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to serve as his next chief of staff, President Trump is bringing into the White House a Republican lawmaker who has raised concerns about climate change and expressed a desire to do something about it, although it would be a stretch to call him a climate champion.

Climate and Climate Science

The World Meteorological Organization released its annual state of the climate report for 2019, stating that the planet is “way off track” in dealing with climate change.  Greenland and Antarctica are melting six times faster than in the 1990s, according to the most complete analysis to date by the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise.  The melt rate is tracking the worst-case climate warming scenario set out by the IPCC.

A new paper in Environmental Research Letters has warned that if Earth warms by 1.5°C, 500 million people would be subjected to heat and humidity in excess of safe levels each year, increasing to 800 million at 2°C of warming. 

Air pollution, which is caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, kills more people each year in the U.S. than auto accidents and homicides combined and costs the American economy up to $1 trillion per year.  Thus, curbing fossil fuel use will have immediate and significant impacts, as well as mitigate climate change.

Many seabirds in the UK are struggling in the face of food shortages and storms brought on by climate change, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee has warned.  Climate change is spurring some bear populations across the world to change their hibernation patterns.  A big question regarding the recent locust swarms in East Africa is whether they have been caused or influenced by climate change.  Daisy Dunne had a detailed Q&A about that question at Carbon Brief.  One way that climate change could have influenced the locust swarms is by altering the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).  Research reported in the journal Nature suggested that IOD events have become more frequent in recent decades.

A new study published Tuesday in Nature Communications examined the mechanics of tipping points in 40 separate ecosystems.  Drawing on pre-existing studies and modeling, the authors suggest that the collapse of large vulnerable ecosystems, such as rainforests and coral reefs, may take only a few decades once triggered.


The biggest energy news this week was the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, pushing oil prices down.  In combination with the coronavirus expansion into Europe and the U.S., this has impacted energy and other markets.  Charlie Bloch and colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute wrote about how this affects the global transition to a clean energy economy.  In addition, the International Energy Agency has stated that while the coronavirus health crisis may lead to a slump in global carbon emissions this year, the outbreak poses a threat to long-term climate action by undermining investment in clean energy.

Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Southern Company are not making investments consistent with their clean energy goals, according to a report released Monday from Synapse Energy Economics.  A study from Carbon Tracker found that in all major markets it costs less to generate power from installing new wind or solar farms than new coal plants.  Furthermore, it could be cheaper to generate electricity by building new renewable facilities than to run existing coal-fired power stations in all markets by 2030.  About 95% of nearly 21 GW of energy resources currently proposed for the New England region are grid-scale wind, solar, and battery projects, according to the Independent System Operator of New England.

Switzerland-based UBS Bank has ended support for offshore drilling in the Arctic and will also end funding for oil sands and coal projects.  At Yale Environment 360, Fred Pearce wrote: “Coal is declining sharply, as financiers and insurance companies abandon the industry in the face of shrinking demand, pressure from climate campaigners, and competition from cleaner fuels.  After years of its predicted demise, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel may finally be on the way out.”  Newly released figures from the Energy Information Administration show that coal-fired power plants in the U.S. had a capacity factor of 47.5% in 2019, the first time it’s been below 50% in decades.  Global CO2 emissions from the power sector fell by 2% last year because of reduced coal usage in Europe and the U.S. according to a study by independent climate think tank Ember.

The Australian government, in concert with Global wind and solar energy firms, Engie and Neoen, is starting a project to blend green H2 into the natural gas distribution system.  Current electrolyzers for generating green H2 by splitting water require specialized metals and contain expensive catalysts.  Research is moving forward to reduce costs, but additional development is required before a new generation of electrolyzers can be applied at scale.  A 10MW hydrogen production plant powered from renewable energy has just opened in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.  It is thought to be the world’s largest to date.  A Utah power plant, currently powered by coal, will first be transitioned to natural gas, and by 2025, the turbines “will be commercially guaranteed” to use a mix of 30% H2 and 70% gas.

According to the latest quarterly U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, produced by the national Energy Storage Association and analysis firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, annual storage deployments in the U.S. are predicted to increase from 523 MW recorded in 2019 to 7.3 GW by 2025.  Isle au Haut, an island seven miles off the coast of Maine, is going to a solar-powered microgrid with interesting innovations in energy storage.


At Yale Climate Connections, regular contributor SueEllen Campbell has compiled stories about the Australian bushfires that focus on the emotional and cultural impacts.  In the same vein, Australian science communicator Joe Duggan one again reached out to (mostly Australian) climate scientists, asking them to tell him about how they were feeling about their work and the state of the climate.  Thirty-eight percent of Democratic college students rate climate as their top issue.  Michael Svoboda reported on the increased media coverage for climate change in 2019 and its possible impact on public perception.

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 3/6/2020

Politics and Policy

At a hearing Thursday before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler defended President Trump’s proposed 26% cut to the agency’s fiscal 2021 budget.  Even though they were voluntary, stricter energy efficiency building codes were just dropped from a major energy package making its way through the Senate because the National Association of Home Builders opposed it.  Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) proposed an amendment to that bill to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbons, which are strong greenhouse gases.  The White House raised objections.  An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The EU Commission adopted a proposal for a European “climate law” that would commit the EU to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.  The regulation requires approval from parliament and member states.  Politico described the five political battles that must be won to gain that approval.  A group of activist youth called the proposal “surrender” and a dozen member countries called for the EU to draw up a climate target for 2030 “as soon as possible.”  The proposal also launched the process to enact a new tax on products from countries, such as the U.S., that aren’t working to reduce their CO2 emissions.

Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post presented “The four biggest differences between the Biden and Sanders climate plans” while MIT Technology Review had a more comprehensive comparison.  Attorneys for 21 youth climate activists are petitioning for a ruling from all 11 judges of the 9th Circuit after two judges on a three-judge panel ruled they cannot sue the federal government for failure to act on climate change.

Under its new governor, Florida, which is on the front lines of climate change impacts and is still controlled by Republicans, is changing its stance on climate issues.  The question is, can they get President Trump to change his mind?  A study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that flood disclosure laws can help communities avoid flood damage by making floodplain development less lucrative.  At The Progressive, Laurie Mazur envisioned how infrastructure could be reconfigured to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.  Farm organizations, which have historically resisted calls to accept the anthropogenic nature of climate change, have adopted a new phrase for use with their members, “climatic events,” which can mean anything between weather and climate change.

Climate and Climate Science

A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature suggests that trees in the Congo Basin of central Africa are losing their capacity to absorb CO2 and that the decline may have been underway for a decade.  These findings parallel similar findings in the Amazon, but trailing that decline by 10 to 20 years.  They suggest that by mid-century, the remaining uncut tropical forests in Africa, the Amazon, and Asia will release more CO2 than they take up.  A more detailed account of the study can be found here.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin.  In addition, deforestation of lands occupied by isolated indigenous tribes in the Brazilian Amazon more than doubled between July 2018 and July 2019 to the highest rate in more than a decade, according to a new report released on Tuesday.  Climate Home News published an account of one family’s decision to burn the trees on their land in the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve in Western Brazil and start raising cattle.  Torrential rains deluged the coast of Sao Paulo state in Brazil early Tuesday, causing massive mud slides.

The extreme fires that razed parts of Australia late last year were 30% more likely because of human-induced climate change, says an international group of climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution project who have analyzed the disaster.  Record sea-surface temperatures in much of the Great Barrier Reef region have intensified the risks that coral bleaching already underway could develop into another mass bleaching event.  It is likely that the high sea temperatures will linger into March.

The journal Scientific Reports has retracted a paper claiming that climate change is due to solar cycles rather than human activity.  A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that adding iron to Earth’s oceans is not likely to result in the increased removal of CO2 from the atmosphere due to greater growth of phytoplankton.  

Europe’s average temperature for December through February was 6.1°F above the 40-year average, breaking the previous record by more than 2°F.  In the U.S., temperatures were above average for every state but Alaska.  Many parts of the world are likely to experience above-average temperatures over the next few months, even without an El Niño effect, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.  New data from the USA National Phenology Network showed that in parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and northern Florida, spring arrived more than three weeks earlier than average, and earlier than at any point in the last 39 years.

According to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, uncurbed climate change could cause half of the world’s sandy beaches to vanish by the end of the century.  An article in Science examined the role of climate change in weather “blocking” by the jet stream.  According to a January paper in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the amount of warming associated with contrails from commercial airline flights could be reduced significantly by slightly changing their altitude.


General Motors has introduced its new electric vehicle (EV) battery that allows extended range and will be cheaper to produce than today’s batteries.  The new battery cells are soft, flat pouches, which allows the battery pack to have a greater variety of shapes.  In addition, the batteries use less cobalt, which makes them less expensive.  The world’s best-selling cargo van – Ford Transit – will debut an all-electric version for the U.S. and Canada for the 2022 model year.  Buyers of plug-in hybrid cars should be aware that the gasoline engine may turn on while in EV mode when certain energy-intensive operations are performed.  The U.S. vehicle fleet hit a record for fuel efficiency in 2018 averaging 25.1 mpg in real-world driving as it rose 0.2 mpg, the EPA said.

The UK’s CO2 emissions fell by 2.9% in 2019 and nearly 30% over the last decade despite a growth in GDP, according to a new analysis by climate policy website Carbon Brief.

Robert Harding and Amanda Levin of NRDC examined the 2019 power sector data released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to generate a state-by-state comparison of the move toward cleaner energy.  Dan Gearino at Inside Clean Energy summarized national trends from the EIA report about the surge in wind and solar energy.  More than 5% of all K-12 schools in the U.S. produce solar energy — double what it was just three years ago.  Greentech Media predicted that more than $200 billion in capital expenditures for offshore wind will be spent between 2020 and 2025.

In a new twist on pumped storage, a California developer wants to move water back and forth between two abandoned open pit mines as a way of storing solar energy.  Others aren’t sold on the idea.  Officials in Monterey County California approved a massive clean-energy battery farm project spearheaded by Tesla and PG&E that officials say would be the largest of its kind in the world.  A huge green hydrogen plant will be constructed in the northern Netherlands as a part of a Royal Dutch Shell partnership with Dutch gas company Gasunie.  The green hydrogen plant will be powered by a new offshore wind farm near Groningen province.

New York Magazine business writer Malcolm Harris attended a meeting of the Shell Scenarios team and wrote “These companies aren’t planning for a future without oil and gas, at least not anytime soon, but they want the public to think of them as part of a climate solution.  In reality, they’re a problem trying to avoid being solved.”  One thing the oil and gas industry is counting on in its business model is more plastics.


At Yale Climate Connections, Daisy Simmons presented trailers for seven climate-related films from the 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA.  Amy Brady interviewed Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Anne Charnock about her new novel, Bridge 108.  To observe Women’s History Month, Yale Climate Connections presented a selection of new and recent books on how women’s lives will be affected by climate change and how women are changing the politics and prospects for action.  Speaking of women and climate science, David Suzuki presented an interesting bit of history about Eunice Newton Foote and her contribution to the field.  Patti Wetli contrasted our responses to climate change and to the coronavirus.  Naomi Seibt, a 19-year-old German YouTuber whom conservatives have dubbed the “anti-Greta,” expressed support last Friday for a Canadian alt-right commentator at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

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 2/28/2020

Politics and Policy

A poll, conducted by Climate Nexus, the Yale University Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that climate change is the second-most important issue for Democratic voters in 26 states, behind only health care.  Umair Irfan of Vox evaluated presidential contender Mike Bloomberg’s record and plans on climate change.  On Thursday, the top two senators on the U.S. Senate energy committee unveiled a bipartisan energy legislation package, called the American Energy Innovation Act, that would support renewable energy, efficiency measures, and nuclear power.  The Trump administration announced on Wednesday that it will resume coal leasing on public lands.  On the other hand, a federal judge in Idaho ruled Thursday that a Trump administration policy limiting public input on oil and gas leasing decisions was “arbitrary and capricious,” overturning the 2018 directive and voiding nearly 1 million acres of leases out West as a result.  Climate change could become a “catastrophic” threat to global security, as people lose their livelihoods, fall ill, and battle over scarce water and food, a host of U.S. security, military, and intelligence experts warned in a report by the Center of Climate and Security.  A new paper in the journal Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development reported that almost 60% of Americans support making fossil fuel companies pay for a portion of the damages to local communities caused by global warming. 

In a yet-to-be-released report, Climate Works Australia has found that the country can achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 with known technologies, provided the electricity market is 100% renewables by 2035 and other benchmarks are achieved.  The EU plans to impose costs on imports from other countries based on the carbon emissions associated with those imports in order to protect EU industries from competitors in countries with less stringent climate policies.  Incoming UN special envoy on climate action, Mark Carney, has told banks and investors that every private finance decision must take into account climate change and how to decarbonize the world economy to net zero.  The world’s financial services sector risks losses of up to $1 trillion if it fails to respond quickly to climate change and is hit by policy shifts such as the introduction of a carbon tax, a new report by consultants Oliver Wyman shows.  EU countries need to invest to prepare their transport infrastructure for the impacts of climate change or face hundreds of millions of dollars in repair costs, a U.N. regional commission said in a new report.

Virginia lawmakers have given final approval to a measure that will make the state a full participant in the Regional Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Initiative (RGGI), a multistate carbon cap-and-trade program.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times (NYT), Justin Gillis brought us up to date on the status of the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which is patterned after RGGI and involves the same states, but with a focus on lowering GHG emissions from transportation rather than electricity.  Under legislation that passed through both houses of the Virginia General assembly, state agencies cannot grant leases or easements for any pipelines or other infrastructure for oil and gas produced offshore under a permit or lease from the federal government.  The oil and gas industry substantially rewards U.S. legislators with campaign donations when they oppose environmental protections, according to a new analysis of congressional votes and political contributions published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  Writing in Scientific American, the authors of a recent study in Nature exploring fossil-fuel subsidies argue that the funding of them must end.

In an opinion piece for the NYT, Australian physician Lisa Pryor wrote: “The question I have been asking myself is, what does it matter that I accept the science of climate change if I continue to live my life as if climate change were a hoax?  Who cares how many people accept the data if we are still consuming, traveling, investing, eating, dressing, voting and planning for the future as if global warming were imaginary?”  Similarly, the Los Angeles Times took both President Trump and the oil companies to task over their “fig-leaf solutions” for the climate crisis.  So how can you tell whether a proposal is likely to be effective?  Ensia asked experts and came up with three criteria that are good starting places for separating legitimate climate plans from false and hollow claims.  JPMorgan Chase, the world’s largest financier of fossil fuels, has warned clients that the climate crisis threatens the survival of humanity and that the planet is on an unsustainable trajectory, according to a leaked report obtained by The Guardian.  And, at Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben had an article entitled “How JPMorgan Chase Became the Doomsday Bank.” 

Climate and Climate Science

According to new research published Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the world’s major wind-driven ocean currents are moving toward the poles, potentially depriving important coastal fishing waters of nutrients and raising the risk of sea level rise, extreme storms, and heatwaves for some adjacent land areas.  Climate change could add around $100 billion, or more than 20%, to the annual global cost of extreme weather events by 2040, Cambridge University said on Wednesday.

In a paper published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, nearly two dozen Arctic experts described how over the last three years, Alaska’s northwestern coast has experienced a series of unusual climate-related changes.  Grist had an interesting article about paralytic shellfish poisoning, caused by saxitoxin produced by the algae Alexandrium catenella, which appears to be increasing in frequency as Alaskan waters warm, putting indigenous people in danger.  In 2014-2016 unusual warming of the northern Pacific, referred to as “the Blob” led to widespread die-offs of sea birds, whales, and other sea mammals.  Now, scientists are concerned there may be a repeat of the phenomenon this summer.

The Great Barrier Reef is still at risk of a widespread outbreak of coral bleaching despite a cyclone to the far west helping to temporarily cool stressed corals.  Climate scientists have concluded that the recent bushfires in Australia were more catastrophic than any simulation of our changing climate predicted.

If you would like to hone your debate skills, Jeff Berardelli, a meteorologist with CBS news, has prepared an excellent piece entitled “10 common myths about climate change – and what science really says.”

In an essay at Yale Climate Connections, Kristen Pope summarized the findings of two studies involving penguins, one in Global Change Biology about emperor penguins and one in PNAS about chinstrap and gentoo penguins.  Emperor penguins are expected to fare far less well than the other two as the climate warms.


Last week, Dominion Energy notified PJM, the regional electric grid operator from which Virginia gets its energy, that it plans to deactivate its two coal-fired units at the Chesterfield Power Station and Birchwood Power Partners announced plans to close its King George facility.  The closures will take more than 1.2 GW of coal-fired energy offline.  The Virginia State Corporation Commission has approved three battery-storage pilot projects proposed by Dominion Energy.

If you are interested in buying an electric vehicle (EV), you might have a hard time finding one.  E&E News investigated why.  The Los Angeles Department of Transportation will add 155 electric buses to the city’s fleet over the next two years, officials said Thursday.  A looming problem for battery-powered EVs is that cobalt, which is essential in the production of today’s lithium-ion batteries, is in limited supply.

Foresight Climate and Energy provided an in-depth analysis of H2 as an energy carrier.  The UK is about to experiment with a H2 fuel cell train.  Anglo American, ENGIE, and Williams Advanced Engineering are working together to create the world’s largest H2-powered mining truck capable of performing just as well, if not better, than its diesel-powered counterparts. 

Recently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon, Princeton, and Stanford Universities released a comprehensive study on the environmental, social, and economic impacts of industrial fracking on the Appalachian Basin.  Their findings were summarized in Eos, a publication of the American Geophysical Union, a professional society.

For years the U.S. military has blocked the installation of off-shore wind turbines on the coast of California.  Although much remains to be worked out, it appears that a deal will be reached to allow them off the central part of the state.  Because of the water depth, they are likely to be the nation’s first floating turbines.


Bill McKibben had a lengthy essay, “A Very Hot Year,” in The New York Review of Books.  A new book by Michael T. Klare, entitled All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change looks at climate change from the perspective of people in the military.  Alex Ward interviewed the author for Vox.  Perhaps you’ve been offered the opportunity to buy carbon offsets along with your airplane ticket to help reduce the climate impact of your flight.  Vox had an article explaining them.  Carbon Brief had a fact-check on the carbon footprint of streaming video on Netflix.  Seems as if some recent “news” was off-the-mark.  There is a list of all the cli-fi books that Amy Brady has reviewed at  At Chicago Review of Books, Amy Brady interviewed author Anne Charnock about Bridge 108, which “reveals how large, systemic problems like economic stratification and climate change are tightly entwined.”  The Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk spent two days with the globally bestselling botanist, author, and filmmaker Diana Beresford-Kroeger.  Their conversation was so rich it merited five parts, ranging “from plant medicine to climate change to healing the planet and the human heart.”  Greta Thunberg’s mother, Malena Ernman, had an edited extract in The Guardian from the family’s new book Our House Is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis, which focuses on Greta’s “transformation from bullied teenager to climate icon.”

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.

Clean Energy For All

Daily News-Record, February 28, 2020
Open Forum: Tom Benevento

Clean Energy For All

Silvio reached out to shake my hand as he untied his donkey. I could feel years of hard work on his weathered fingers. He is one of thousands of farmers eking out a living in this remote mountain region of the Dominican Republic where I assist reforestation efforts. After a short greeting, Silvio motioned to follow him to his field. The crunching sound of dry leaves under feet was a sure sign of extended drought in this tropical zone. Across the ravine he pointed to his corn, the basic staple for his family. It was 2 feet tall and shriveled dead. We sat in a moment of silence. He then carefully pulled out a mango from his tattered backpack to share and said, “ Over the last six weeks, the only thing I have to feed my children are mangoes from abandoned trees.”

It struck me hard, more than the facts of science. A warming planet is real, and targets vulnerable people like Silvio first and worst. I had a sinking feeling knowing that my lifestyle, along with millions like me, is causing climate warming around the world. And that is why, today, I am part of the Harrisonburg 50 by 25 Clean Energy for All campaign to help our city transition quickly to renewable energy and greater levels of energy efficiency. It’s compelling. It helps solve several problems at once — reducing greenhouse gases, reducing energy costs for low- income households, and increasing jobs and well- being.

Despite that unsettling feeling I experienced in the DR, I now know that we have solutions and we can join with others. Already, 1 in 4 people in the U. S. live in places transitioning to 100% clean energy.

Here’s how the 50 by 25 campaign works. First, we empower our City Council to require our electric utility to provide 50% solar and wind energy into our electric grid by 2025. This alone provides big carbon reductions, and parallels the governor’s commitment for Virginia state agencies. Second, we urge council to commit to a 25% increase in energy efficiency by 2025 for public schools and government buildings. Roanoke is already doing this, saving the city nearly $ 1 million a year in energy costs. Third, we request City Council to create incentives for weatherization and energy efficiency for residents and commercial operations. Successful state programs like VEEP, On- Bill Recovery Loans, and C- PACE benefit low- income households, renters, and businesses.

In addition, we can help each other take steps, like eating less meat, riding a bicycle or walking when possible, growing gardens, and installing solar.

The benefits from this would be tremendous. Our youth will look at us with pride knowing we did something for their future. And, farmers like Silvio and his family will have enough to eat.

So Harrisonburg, let’s join the movement. Voice your support for the 50 by 25 campaign and create a better future for all.

Tom Benevento lives in Harrisonburg.

Copyright © 2020 Daily News-Record 2/28/2020

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/21/2020

Politics and Policy

When it comes to coping with and preparing for the impacts of sea level rise, Miami and Miami Beach get most of the press.  As a consequence, we tend to overlook the many other coastal cities faced with similar problems.  The Washington Post addressed this by publishing an article about Boston that made clear just how complicated the issue is.  In an opinion piece in the same newspaper, New Orleans architects and planners Steven Bingler and Martin C. Pedersen argue that one option that must be considered for coastal cities is retreat.  President Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget would slash funding for the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers, eliminating all $38 million for research to help wildlife and humans “adapt to a changing climate.”  Mandy Gunasekara, who urged President Trump to exit the Paris climate agreement as the EPA’s top air-policy adviser, is poised to return to the agency as its next chief of staff.

Democratic presidential candidates discussed climate change for about 15 minutes during the Wednesday night debate in Las Vegas.  Marianne Lavelle of Inside Climate News summarized what the candidates had to say.  Also on Wednesday, the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund ranked Michael Bloomberg and Amy Klobuchar last among the candidates on their plans to address climate change, giving each a score of 1 out of 10.  Vox published a list of five things to know about how Bernie Sanders plans to deal with the climate crisis as president.  Rather than focusing on curtailing fossil fuel use, as the Democrats do, Republican lawmakers want to continue their use, but employ carbon capture and storage technology.  The plan was immediately condemned by the powerful Club for Growth PAC and elicited grumbles from a handful of Republican lawmakers.  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Monday that he plans to spend $10 billion of his own fortune to help fight climate change.  A new study from the Pew Research Center found that the partisan divide over climate change is the largest it has ever been.

Sarah Vogelsong provided a list of “Ten Things to Know about the [Virginia] Clean Economy Act.”  If state Senators act on either of two bills from the House, Virginians would be allowed to buy 100% renewable energy from competitive service suppliers — no matter what programs their utilities offer.  On his blog, James A. Bacon examined a report from Rocky Mountain Institute assessing Dominion’s plans to become net-zero by 2050.  In a move to protect its ski slopes and growing economy, Utah has created a long-term plan to address the climate crisis.  Writing in The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer asserted that in the past few years, the American Petroleum Institute and its allies have begun working at the local level, fighting against climate-friendly policies in at least 16 different states.

A study published in the journal Nature Energy cautioned that the negative impacts associated with climate change are insufficiently accounted for in financial markets, raising the possibility of a severe recession in response to serious climate problems.  A commission, convened by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the journal Lancet, found that every country in the world is failing to shield children’s health and their futures from intensifying ecological degradation and climate change.  The Fifth National Climate Assessment is scheduled for release in 2022, about halfway through President Trump’s potential second term.  Planning for the report is already underway, with a project leader expected to be chosen within a few months.  The White House stands to have an influential role in the report’s construction through the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Climate and Climate Science

According to NOAA scientists, January 2020 recorded the highest global average temperature for January in 141 years of record keeping.  In a stirring photo-essay for The New York Times, Damien Cave wrote of “The End of Australia as We Know It.”  At National Geographic, Madeline Stone explained how climate change may have caused the locust plague in East Africa.  She also described the various factors and events that may have led to record or near-record temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula,.

A new study, published in the journal Nature, concluded that “natural” emissions of fossil methane are lower than had been thought.  Assuming that estimates of total fossil methane emissions are correct, this suggests that emissions of fossil methane from coal, oil, and gas operations are larger than previously thought.  Some take issue with that assumption.  A second study, published in Science, found that “minimal” methane was emitted from permafrost and geologic seepage as Earth was emerging from the last ice age.

In a 2016 book, naturalist E. O. Wilson proposed that half of Earth be set aside for natural systems.  Now many people, both scientists and non-scientists, are working to bring that idea to fruition.  Two scientific studies of the number of insects splattered by cars have revealed a huge decline in abundance at European sites in two decades.  Scientists and conservationists have warned that if high ocean temperatures in the region do not drop in the next two weeks, the Great Barrier Reef could experience its third major coral bleaching incident in five years.  In addition, climate change could destroy nearly all remaining coral reefs by the end of the century, according to research released Monday at the AGU Ocean Sciences Meeting 2020 in San Diego.

In an article in the journal Science, two USGS researchers wrote “The Colorado River Basin loses progressively more water to evaporation, as its sunlight-reflecting snow mantle disappears.”  As a result, the annual-mean discharge has been decreasing by 9.3% per °C of warming.  Because of heavy rains, major flooding occurred in central Mississippi and southern Tennessee.  In addition, Storm Dennis caused widespread flooding across England, Wales and Scotland.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is the current that carries warm water north and cold water south, maintaining the mild climate in the UK and northern Europe.  While there have been some studies that suggest the AMOC is slowing, exactly what is happening is unclear.  Wired presented a summary of the research efforts underway to better understand the AMOC.


At Yale Environment 360, journalist Lois Parshley explored the question of whether small modular nuclear reactors have a place in the power mix of the future.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly evaluate how to develop, build and operate small modular nuclear reactors, which TVA is considering building near ORNL.  In the wake of the shutdown of many of its nuclear energy plants, Japan is implementing a 4-D energy transition, creating a distributed, decarbonized, decentralized, and digitized grid.

Tensions are high in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways and demonstrating on streets and highways.  The CBC provided background on the controversy.  In the U.S., FERC delayed a vote on a similar proposed natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal in Oregon.  In California, utilities argue that ramping up the production of renewable natural gas and blending it with normal natural gas in pipelines can reduce GHGs faster and cheaper than electrifying buildings.  David Roberts examined this argument at Vox.

New reports from the Brattle Group and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with the ClimateWorks Foundation examined the feasibility and costs of meeting the climate goals of the six New England states and California, respectively.  E&E News characterized it as a “steep path.” 

Delta Air Lines said on Friday that it will invest $1 billion over the next decade in initiatives that would limit the impact of global air travel, which accounts for roughly 2% of global CO2 emissions, on the environment.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday announced a goal for biofuels to make up 30% of U.S. transportation fuels by 2050.

Power-generating capacity from renewable energy — including solar, wind and utility-scale hydropower — has doubled in the U.S. since 2010, according to a new report from BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.  As we move into a new decade, the question is whether the growing U.S. energy storage industry will be able to maintain its current path of rapid growth.  Ricardo F. Rodriguez of Navigant Research argued that all signs suggest that it will.


In a YouTube video, MIT students perform “Heal! — A Battle Poem for the Climate and Its Defenders.”  On a related note, students are stepping up the pressure on universities to pull investments from fossil fuel industries.  Peter Sinclair has released another video, this one about BlackRock’s warning to the investment community of the risks associated with climate change.  Jenny Offill has a new cli-fi book entitled Weather.  Offill tells the story in a series of discrete units that Vox describes as working like Zen koans.  The Guardian published an edited excerpt from The Future We Choose, a new book by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, the architects of the Paris Climate Accords.  New to the cli-fi genre?  Then you might benefit from an introduction written by Jennifer Hijazi for E&E News.  Michael Svoboda has compiled a list of books about hope in a time of climate change.  Greta Thunberg has set up a foundation “to promote ecological and social sustainability.”  In The New York Times Magazine, Charles Homans, the politics editor, wrote about the dashcam video recorded by a fire truck belonging to the Dunmore Rural Fire Brigade in Australia.  He called it the “video that finally tells the truth about climate change.”  At The New Yorker, Amanda Petrusich wrote about efforts to reduce the carbon footprints of live concerts and music festivals.  The Guardian has revealed that according to a yet-to-be published study at Brown University, “a quarter of all tweets about climate on an average day are produced by bots.”

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 2/14/2020

Joy Loving prepared this week’s edition.

Politics and Policy

Notwithstanding the Trump Administration’s actions to promote continued reliance on fossil fuels, there are many leaders, including in the President’s party, who favor putting a price on carbon.  The Washington Post reports: “The fastest way to cut carbon emissions is a ‘fee’ and a dividend, top leaders say”.  The Houston Chronicle documents that “Climate bills sweep Washington, as GOP and Democrats compete on approach”.  Reuters says “A group aiming to spur climate change legislation that would tax carbon emissions stepped up efforts by issuing a blueprint on Thursday after previewing it with a group of bipartisan U.S. senators earlier this week….  The Climate Leadership Council’s plan aims to halve carbon emissions by 2035 from 2005 levels with a tax starting at $40 per ton. While that would make products like gasoline more expensive, the plan would return dividends to families of about $2,000 in the first year.”  Politico warns that “Kevin McCarthy faces uneasy right flank over climate push, [noting] Some Republicans are wary of the minority leader’s narrow proposals.”

In Australia, the country’s massive bush fires haven’t dissuaded its leaders from their coal-friendly policies, as the Washington Post notes in this article:  “Record fires and dead coral reefs aren’t dulling Australia’s lust for coal”.  The fondness for coal continues in the U.S. also, as noted in this Inside Climate News item:  “Trump May Approve Strip Mining on Tennessee’s Protected Cumberland Plateau”.  Also, The Hill reports that “Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette on Friday announced a $64 million dollar initiative to fund research and development for coal, giving an assist to an industry that appears to be on the decline.”

The Administration’s budget proposal includes significant cuts in the science, health, and environmental arenas, including elimination of 50 Environmental Protection Agency programs. Inside Climate News asks “Is Trump’s USDA Ready to Address Climate Change? There are Hopeful Signs.  Though critics are dubious, in a new 5-year plan the agency addresses weather disasters that have battered American farms and specifically mentions climate change.”  These critics say “[t]he plan … pushes an agenda that fails to fundamentally change an agricultural system that degrades soil health, continues to emit greenhouse gases at a growing rate, and relies heavily on fossil fuels, chemicals and synthetic fertilizers.”  Inside Climate News also suggests that “Drilling, Mining Boom Possible But Unlikely Under Trump’s Final Plan for Southern Utah Lands.  The biggest climate impact will be on the lands’ capacity to reduce carbon emissions and provide carbon sinks.”

Vox reporter David Roberts says “The next president can force the financial sector to take climate change seriously”.  He notes that thanks to Dodd‑Frank legislation, Congressional authorization isn’t needed because of the financial industry’s extreme vulnerability to climate change.  Also, Axios has several stories about pro-climate actions by some members of the President’s party.

The Church of England “voted overwhelmingly to target net zero emissions for its operations by 2030, strengthening the original proposal to reach that target by 2045.” (Fortune article)  The New York Post says “Voters claim they want a leader who’ll actually do something about climate change”.  Mother Jones says “poll numbers don’t lie”: “Trump’s Biggest Vulnerability Is His Climate Change Denial”.  Inside Climate NewsAn Obscure Issue Four Years Ago, Climate Emerged as a Top Concern in New Hampshire

Climate and Climate Science

Jennifer Rankin, of The Guardian, reports on maps of Europe projecting the massive scale of “possible forest fires, floods, droughts and deluges that Europe could face by the end of the century.” describes a Centre for research on Energy and Clean Air report that concludes “Air pollution costs $2.9 trillion a year…, [or] $8 billion a day, or roughly 3.3 percent of the entire world’s economic output.”

Inside Climate News reports that “Billions of Acres of Cropland Lie Within a New Frontier. So Do 100 Years of Carbon Emissions….  As the climate warms in the decades ahead, billions of acres, most of them in the northern hemisphere, will become suitable for agriculture and could, if plowed, emit a massive, planet-altering amount of greenhouse gases.”

On February 6 “Antarctica [Was] Warmer than Los Angeles” at 64.9 degrees.  Amazingly and on February 14 “Temperature in Antarctica soars to near 70 degrees, appearing to topple continental record set days earlier”.

Augusta Free Press reports that some VA Tech scientists are working “with the New Zealand government-owned research entity Scion [to] understand … the dynamics of water and nutrients in forest systems.”  These systems are “a crucial resource for fresh water around the world.”  The Washington Post Magazine’s story, The Green Miles, details how “Kentucky was devastated for decades by mountaintop removal. Now scientists have figured out a way to undo the damage — one tree at a time.”  Ohio Valley Resource reports that “Heavy rainfall events have already increased by 20 percent since the early 20th century in eastern Kentucky, and climate scientists believe that the region is likely to see more extreme rainfall in the future.”

As if its bushfire woes haven’t been terrible enough, Sydney Australia is facing a severe flooding threat, according to this Sydney Morning Herald item and this one from the BBC.  Drinking water can be contaminated from the wildfires, notes Inside Climate News.

A recent survey of 1000 South Florida residents whose properties were at some risk from flooding tried to assess the residents’ understanding of those risks.  The survey wanted to test the effectiveness of tailored messages – visual, local and dramatic – … that will get the public’s attention … and are intended to help people understand risk as it relates to them, and perhaps, change their behavior.  The messages were First Street Foundation “maps that represent what flooding in the future might look like.  The results?  “Those who saw the maps were no more likely to believe that climate change exists, that climate change increases the severity of storms or that sea level is rising and related to climate change.  Even more dramatically, exposure to the scientific map did not influence beliefs that their own homes were susceptible to flooding or that sea level rise would reduce local property values.”  CNBC says Scientists are using Twitter to measure the impact of climate change.  “Minor and recurring floods — also known as nuisance flooding — may be more frequent than official figures would suggest, according to a new study published by Nature Communications.” 


“The Trump Administration is allowing, even encouraging, drilling on public lands. Resulting emissions will severely “undermine global climate policy.” (The Guardian article)  “The Trump administration has offered oil companies a chunk of the American west and the Gulf of Mexico that’s four times the size of California – an expansive drilling plan that threatens to entrench the industry at the expense of other outdoor jobs, while locking in enough emissions to undermine global climate policy.” (The Guardian article)  A piece in The Hill echoed this activity.

The 2020 General Assembly (GA) session has seen a deluge of clean energy legislation.  As the GA begins the second half, Ivy Main provides a comprehensive summary of what’s being proposed and where the various bills stand.  The Daily Energy Insider offers its description of one of the major bills, the Virginia Clean Economy Act.  Blog posters on Bacon’s Rebellion offer their takes on the many aspects of this bill in Omnibus, Omnibus II, and Omnibus III.  The Associated Press also weighs in.

Another area before the GA this session relates to the large utilities’ regulated monopoly status and what implications there are for their customers to seek renewable energy-sourced power from other energy providers.  The Virginia Mercury’s Sarah Vogelsong describes what’s happened so far on two legislative proposals addressing the current restrictions, and exemptions, in the VA code.

Remember BP and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?  According to the Washington Post, this week brought some bad news about the latter and (maybe) some good, or too-good-to-be-true news about the former.  Axios suggests that “BP’s climate move could mean new pressure on Exxon and Chevron”.  Bloomberg Green suggests “BP Sets Bold Agenda for Big Oil With Plan to Eliminate CO2”.  The Guardian notes that “BP, Shell, Chevron and Exxon have made almost $2tn in profits in the past three decades as their exploitation of oil, gas and coal reserves has driven the planet to the brink of climate breakdown….”

Bloomberg Green reports that “Energy Markets Need Winter, and Climate Change Is Taking It Away.  The warmest January on record is making life difficult for oil and gas traders.”  Axios agrees:  “There’s more oil and gas than ever — and the industry is tanking.”  Why?  Because “The industry’s stocks are in the toilet, and climate change is fast becoming a mainstream investor worry. These problems overlap and neither is going away anytime soon — if ever.”  The PBS Newshour reports that “The International Energy Agency expects demand for oil to fall in the first quarter as a result of the virus outbreak that emanated in China. Any fall would represent the first quarterly decline in a decade.”  Perhaps this reality in part explains this ProPublica item, “How Louisiana Lawmakers Stop Residents’ Efforts to Fight Big Oil and Gas”.  The headline describes Louisiana as a “Polluter’s Paradise”.  Energy News Network reports on a similar effort to silence protesters in Ohio.  In Louisiana, meanwhile, The Times-Picayune reports that “Louisiana high school students study coastal restoration amid climate change.”

This Reuters article on International Energy Agency report says:  “Global CO2 emissions from power generation flatten out … after two years of increase.  Why? “The growth of renewable energy and fuel switching from coal to natural gas led to lower emissions from advanced economies. Milder weather in several countries and slower economic growth in some emerging markets also contributed….” The Washington Times also reports on this story.

NC Policy Watch says Lumberton NC may soon be home to another wood pellet plant, describing the town as an “area already home to multiple pollution sources”.  These include solid waste and toxic waste landfills and brownfield and coal ash sites, among others.  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the delivery service company UPS is working to increase its use of electric trucks and self-driving vans. Indigenous peoples are vigorously protesting a planned Canadian pipeline project, halting rail traffic across the country, according to this National Public Radio story.  

Mother Jones heralds “The Biggest Municipal Solar Farm in the US Is Coming to…Cincinnati?”


Virginia recently destroyed a habitat used by thousands of migratory birds as part of an infrastructure project for the Hampton Roads Tunnel.  The state initially cited recent Trump Administration policy changes that lessened protections for migratory birds.  The Augusta Free Press reports that “Virginia releases plan to address loss of habitat for birds on South Island”.  “Virginia is a world class outdoor recreation destination, and the birds using the Atlantic Flyway that stop along our shores are a big reason why,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Protecting wildlife resources is challenging under the best of circumstances and it becomes even harder when federal partners weaken longstanding policies.”

A recent Washington Post article on parenting describes “How climate experts think about raising children who will inherit a planet in crisis”. 

Yale Environment 360 brings us the story of “How Native Tribes Are Taking the Lead on Planning for Climate Change”.  The Walrus says clothing from alpaca wool is more sustainable than that from sheep.  Max Aung pens this essay in Environmental Health NewsSource of pride and pollution: Balancing energy needs and community health.  Canadian Broadcasting Company explains “How produce stickers contribute to climate change”.   Ozy has this story about a plan in Europe to combat climate change using plastic.  Huh?  It’s about building a plastic-to-fuel technology market. Ozy also educates us about “How Solar Roads Could Make Transport Cleaner”.  Ensia enlightens us about how African farmers are working to reverse the long-time degradation of soils by planting trees—“farmer managed natural regeneration”.  Bloomberg Green sounds this alarm:  “Climate Change Is Coming for Your Oreos”.  Wha’?  Why?  Because “Drenched fields across the U.S. make wheat a scarcer commodity.”

Climate and Energy News Roundup 2/7/2020

Politics and Policy

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump never mentioned climate change, whereas in the Iowa caucus the topic seemed to be foremost in voters’ minds.  The Interior Department finalized plans on Thursday to permit drilling, mining, and grazing in areas of southern Utah that had once been protected as parts of Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.  According to Democrats on the House Science Committee, the Trump administration is withholding nearly a billion dollars appropriated for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which it has unsuccessfully tried to cut.

A key provision in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is that every five years all countries will set stricter goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  Although February 9 is the deadline for submitting new goals ahead of this fall’s COP26 meeting, only two countries have done so.  The remaining carbon budget to limit warming to 1.5°C is extremely small, equivalent to around eight years of current emissions.  Consequently, according to Carbon Brief, overall CO2 emissions must fall to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030, to stay below 1.5°C, which will require emissions from coal-fired power plants to drop by around 80%.  A strongly worded open letter signed by almost 300 climate experts was sent to Australian prime minister Scott Morrison urging him to take action against climate change.

Like most environmental economists, Gernot Wagner is in favor of carbon taxes as a way to lower the use of fossil fuels.  However, he argues that carbon taxes alone are insufficient; they need to be coupled with appropriate policies, such as subsidizing alternative energy.  A report by Future Earth has found that five emergencies facing humans – climate change, extreme weather, species loss, water scarcity, and food production – are all interlinked, whereas governments are trying to solve them individually.  To be successful, they must be addressed in concert.  At Vox, David Roberts had an interesting and thought-provoking essay about the role of climate scientists in the policy debate for addressing those issues.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wants federally owned utilities to build massive amounts of wind and solar to compete with private generators, but critics say that would complicate an already tricky transition to clean energy.  Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Andy Levin (D-MI) on Thursday outlined a bill that seeks to establish a nationwide electric vehicle charging network within five years.  Virginia Democratic lawmakers on Thursday night unveiled the details of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a 75-page plan to get Virginia to zero carbon by 2050. 

Climate and Climate Science

A recent paper in the journal Nature Climate Change added another factor to be considered when trying to explain Arctic amplification – chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).  Even though they were phased out in 1989, some still persist in the atmosphere where they act as strong greenhouse gases.  Modeling studies suggest that they may be responsible for a large part of the rapid warming in the Arctic.  South American glaciers are rapidly melting, which poses a severe threat to those dependent on them for drinking, irrigation, and hydroelectric power.  Another study has documented the flow of warm ocean water beneath the ice tongue of a large glacier, accelerating its melting.

According to a new report from Climate Central, snowfall totals are dwindling during the shoulder seasons across much of the South, the Plains and the interior Mid-Atlantic regions.  A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that biodiversity hotspots, which have given species a safe haven from changing climates in the past, will come under threat from continued climate change.  Bumblebee populations in North America and Europe have plummeted as a result of extreme temperatures, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.  A citizens’ science project in the UK has found that all but one of the 50 spring events tracked last year were early, amid warmer winter temperatures.

A new study in Science Advances found that ocean circulation, driven by increased wind speed, has increased since the 1990s.  Such an increase was anticipated, but was not expected to happen to this degree until the end of the century.  Numerous impacts are associated with the change.  The rate of sea-level rise along a large part of the U.S. coastline is continuing to accelerate, according to a new report from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  Warming waters and loss of sea ice north of Japan are having adverse effects on seals, phytoplankton, fish, and other sea life.

Europe just concluded its warmest January on record, edging out previous record holder January 2007 by 0.36°F.  It was also Earth’s warmest January on record, essentially tying with January 2016.  Antarctica logged its hottest temperature on record, with an Argentinian research station thermometer reading 18.3°C (64.9°F), beating the previous record by 0.8°C (1.4°F).  Hurricane Petra swept across Switzerland on Monday night and Tuesday morning, with winds around 100 mph, the highest recorded since records were started in 1981.

A study published in Nature Geoscience has concluded that climate models considering only gradual permafrost thaw, and not also abrupt thaw, are substantially underestimating carbon emissions from thawing permafrost.  At Wired, Matt Simon described the landscapes susceptible to abrupt thaw.  I recently put in a link about the current generation of climate models giving higher values of climate sensitivity.  Fred Pearce has a good (but long) analysis of why that is happening.


Greenhouse gas emissions from the European Union’s electricity sector fell 12% last year, the sharpest drop since at least 1990, due to reduced coal-fired generation.  In contrast, Japan plans to build as many as 22 new coal-fired power plants at 17 different sites in the next five years.  Last week I put in links to a commentary in Nature by Zeke Hausfather and Glen Peters about the RCP8.5 scenario for possible future emissions and Michael Mann’s reaction.  On Saturday, Bob Berwyn of Inside Climate News gave some of the background about this issue.

A Canadian startup is about to begin testing an idea that could provide an abundant source of carbon-free hydrogen from underground oil fields, providing the clean energy source at lower prices than available today.  At Yale Climate Connections, Will McCarthy addressed the pros and cons of enhanced geothermal energy systems.

Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief updated a fact-check article he wrote on May 13, 2019 about lifecycle carbon emissions from electric vehicles.  One conclusion is that emissions from a Nissan Leaf EV in the UK in 2019 were about one-third of the average conventional car.  On Tuesday, startup Rivian provided an update on the all-electric delivery van that it is building for Amazon, with delivery to begin in 2021.  A new lithium battery recycling facility is operable at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester, NY.

Because of the UK’s progress in adding renewable energy to its electrical grid they have moved their target date for closing all coal-fired power plants from 2025 to 2024.  Furthermore, they are moving the ban on selling new gasoline, diesel, or hybrid cars in the UK from 2040 to 2035 at the latest.  Consumers will only be able to buy electric or hydrogen cars, once the ban comes into effect.

The movement to all-electric buildings is moving much faster than anyone anticipated, although there has been some pushback.  Solar system prices dropped 90% over the last nine years, but the decline was tempered by American trade tariffs, leaving U.S. prices 45% above those in Europe and Australia, according to new research from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. 


In The Guardian, Bill McKibben called out Canada’s government over their plans to expand tar sands mining.  Bloomberg’s Ben Steverman sat down with billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham, who is devoting almost his entire fortune to the fight against climate change, to discuss how the climate race is rapidly altering the world’s economic and investing future.  Harvard University faculty voted 179 to 20 to call on the school’s endowment managers to divest from fossil fuel companies, while Georgetown University’s president announced that the school will make no new investments in fossil fuels and will start withdrawing funds already invested in them.  Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch are making 12 short films to draw attention to the catastrophic damage being caused by human-induced global warming.  National Geographic presented the beautiful, but disturbing, photographs of methane gas bubbles from under Alaskan ice by a Japanese-born photographer living in Fairbanks.  At Yale Climate Connections, Samantha Harrington addressed the issue of how climate change affects mental health.  In a must-read article for anyone with children or grandchildren, author Jason Plautz wrote “…parents are left to walk a tightrope between being honest and being comforting, between empowering their kids and weighing them down with the responsibility of saving the world.”

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.