“One Earth” Book Donations

Kathleen Shaw of the Daily News-Record covered this project for the September 29, 2020, issue: CAAV Donating Books To Motivate Change  


CAAV Chair Jo Anne St. Clair at right with a Vine & Fig volunteer and one of the first recipients of a CAAV donated book to inspire young people of all backgrounds to become environmental leaders, on August 5, 2020. Photo by Cathy Strickler.

Black, indigenous and people of color take center stage in a new environmental project by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV). Cathy Strickler, founder of CAAV, has been intrigued by the potential impact of an award-winning book released in April 2020, for ages 12 and up, titled One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet by conservation biologist Anuradha Rao. By gifting copies of the book, she hopes that CAAV can reach young people who are choosing what their own path will be.

One Earth: People of Color Protecting our Planet … profiles Black, Indigenous and People of Color who live and work as environmental defenders. Through their individual stories, the book shows that the intersection of environment and ethnicity is an asset to achieving environmental goals. The twenty short biographies introduce readers to diverse activists from all around the world, who are of many ages and ethnicities. From saving ancient trees on the West Coast of Canada, to protecting the Irrawaddy dolphins of India, to uncovering racial inequalities in the food system in the United States, these environmental heroes are celebrated by author and biologist Anuradha Rao, who outlines how they went from being kids who cared about the environment to community leaders in their field. One Earth is full of environmental role models waiting to be found.”

The seed money for the project comes from donations to CAAV’s anti-pipeline campaign. That effort created a large metal sculpture, The Defenders, which was installed at multiple sites adjacent to the proposed path of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to amplify the voices defending lives, land, health, clean water and clean air from fossil fuel expansion. Jo Anne St. Clair, chair of CAAV and Karen Lee, who helped implement The Defenders’ project, agree with Cathy: “It is appropriate that seed money for future defenders comes from The Defenders’ campaign.”

Jo Anne and Cathy brought a dozen of these books to Vine & Fig in Harrisonburg’s north end on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, in support of New Community Project’s recently launched Rocktown Sprouts. Developed to teach local youth about nurturing land, water and their health through growing plants and composting organic discards, the One Earth books will find an attentive and receptive audience through this program.

Other copies of Anuradha Rao’s One Earth: People of Color Protecting our Planet will hopefully find good homes through local middle and high schools and/or other young people’s learning and service organizations.

Books purchased with the remainder of The Defenders funds were donated to Vine & Fig to distribute to educators and young people working to protect and enrich our community and world. Jo Anne presented two books to volunteers who have been tending the gardens and taking food to Waterman Elementary School and Our Community Place. She presented a third book to a JMU student organizer who will be working with Vine & Fig this fall.Cathy Strickler, August 5, 2020

– Karen Lee and Adrie Voors

Jo Anne gives Vine & Fig volunteers copies of One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet on August 5. Photo by Cathy Strickler.

BXE “FERC Into FREC” Campaign Video

BXE created this video “FERC into FREC”

Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) has been fighting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) corruption in many outspoken and creative ways for the last six years. In June 2020 they released this video explaining the need to transform FERC from a tool of the oil and gas industry into a regulatory body serving all members of the general public and our needs for clean water and air, and a stable climate.

Watch the video by clicking on the image above. You will find some local Shenandoah Valley anti-pipeline heroes in the mix!

“In a world where the impacts of fossil-fuel induced climate change are so clear, and so devastating, it’s absolutely necessary that FERC be replaced with an agency dedicated to an active and just transition off fossil fuels.” – Beyond Extreme Energy

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/31/2020

Politics and Policy

In The Guardian U.S., Oliver Milman wrote about “How the global climate fight could be lost if Trump is re-elected.”  The Democratic Party added new climate change provisions championed by progressives to its 2020 policy platform this week.  Some academics and environmental advocates see a flicker of hope that a new U.S. administration might help the U.S. and China again find common ground to address climate change.  Major green super PACs have collectively doubled their fundraising and more than doubled their spending in races since Donald Trump won the White House.  Seven Republican senators on Thursday sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging him to consider policies in future COVID-19 relief and recovery proposals that will bolster the clean energy sector.  Over the next 100 days, leading up to the election and the day after, when we are set to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, The Guardian U.S. will publish a series of stories about the many impacts of the climate crisis.

The EPA’s inspector general’s office said Monday it would investigate whether the reversal of Obama-era fuel efficiency standards violated government rules.  President Trump made two nominations to FERC on Monday, one Democrat and one Republican.  If confirmed, they will bring FERC’s board back into balance, with three Republicans and two Democrats.  President Trump announced Wednesday that export authorizations for liquefied natural gas will go through 2050 and signed four permits for pipeline and rail transport of fossil fuels.  New research has concluded that the social cost of carbon should start at about $100 to $200 per ton of CO2 pollution in 2020, increasing to nearly $600 by 2100, much higher than the range of $1 to $6 adopted by the Trump administration.  A federal court determined that the Trump administration’s interim social cost of methane carbon was less scientifically rigorous than the version it was replacing.  A trio of Republican U.S. senators applauded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for developing a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for advanced nuclear reactors.

At Bloomberg Green, Jillian Goodman interviewed Rhiana Gunn-Wright under the interesting title “Want to Fix the Climate Crisis?  Start Listening to Black People.”  On Thursday, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), introduced a companion bill in the Senate to the “Environmental Justice for All Act” introduced earlier this year in the House.  Daisy Simmons addressed the question “What is ‘climate justice’?”.  A meta-study, which reviewed almost 700 individual studies, revealed that environmental injustice is still rampant around the world.  At The Guardian, former associate administrator in EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice Mustafa Santiago Ali wrote about the impacts of environmental racism on people of color in the U.S.

A new report from Rewiring America estimates that the U.S. can create some 25 million jobs if it moves on from fossil fuels and electrifies the economy by 2035.  A new working paper from the World Resources Institute found that since 2005, 41 states and Washington, D.C., have increased their GDPs while reducing their carbon emissions.  Last week the EU announced its intent to have a carbon border adjustment mechanism in place by January 1st, 2023.  For those who would like to take a deep dive into the design of border adjustments, the Niskanen Center has released a white paper on the subject.  However, Arvind P. Ravikumar argued “Although reasonable at face value, unilateral carbon border adjustments merely represent the latest form of economic imperialism and are antithetical to the principles of equity enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”  At Carbon Brief, Claire Fyson, a climate policy analyst at Climate Analytics, addressed the important question of “Who should be responsible for removing CO2 from the atmosphere?”.  She argued that equity considerations — both internationally as well as intergenerationally — have a strong effect on which countries bear responsibility for CO2 removal. 

Climate and Climate Science

Scientists studying Arctic warming emphasized how swiftly changes are occurring throughout the region, with major portions warming at a rate of 1.8°F (1°C) per decade for 40 years, which constitutes an “abrupt climate change event.”  The Batagay megaslump in eastern Siberia is a time capsule containing snapshots of ancient climates and ecosystems.  Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting more rapidly, having multiple impacts on the region.

According to 35 years of flooding data, rains along the Brahmaputra River in Bangladesh are less predictable and the river is rising above dangerous levels far more frequently than it used to.  Already this year, torrential rains have submerged at least a quarter of the country, inundating nearly a million homes and affecting 4.7 million people.  A new paper in Nature found that “The climate is much more predictable than we previously thought,” but models don’t capture that predictability.

Scientists at DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a direct relationship between climate warming and carbon loss in a peatland ecosystem.  Peatlands hold more soil carbon than is stored in the world’s forests, so its degradation and release as CO2 and methane is of great concern.  Around 1,900 square miles of Amazonian rainforest have already burned this year.  A raging fire is threatening Argentina’s major wetland ecosystems.

A study, published in Science Reports, found that if we continue on our present path of greenhouse gas emissions, by the end of the century sea level rise will have caused $14.2 trillion in lost or damaged assets globally.  A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists says that extreme coastal flooding could pose a risk to 876 hazardous waste sites if there is even a low rate of sea level rise during the next 20 years.  A moderate sea level rise rate would put 918 sites at risk.

With the data now in for the first half of the year, Carbon Brief estimated that 2020 is most likely to be either the warmest or second warmest year on record.  On Tuesday, Washington, D.C., notched its 26th day hitting at least 90°F, topping the previous record for the most such days in a month.  Record high temperatures have been plaguing the Middle East, with the mercury soaring to extreme levels.  For example, Baghdad surged to its highest temperature ever recorded on Tuesday: 125.2°F (51.8°C).  In contrast, temperatures at Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, about midway between the mainland and the North Pole, hit a record high of 21.7°C (71.1°F) last Friday. 

Energy

John Muyskens and Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post analyzed how far we have to go to eliminate CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 2035, with excellent graphs for each state.  California households emit 33% less carbon than households in any other state, while households in two Sun Belt states consume less energy.

Scientists have discovered a new material that could capture more CO2 emissions from industrial sources than other materials, thereby helping natural gas-fired power plants and other industries meet increasingly stringent carbon emissions rules.  Viking Cold Solutions has developed a technology that allows large frozen-food warehouses to significantly reduce their energy costs through application of phase-change energy storage systems.

Shell and Dutch utility Eneco will build a super-hybrid offshore wind farm that will include a floating solar facility, short-duration battery storage, and green hydrogen production.  The Japan Wind Power Association said on Thursday it aims to expand the country’s offshore wind power installed capacity to 10 GW in 2030 and 30-45 GW in 2040.  A record 50.2% of Germany’s power consumption in January to June was met from renewable sources.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have projected that battery packs for electric vehicles (EVs) will cost less than $80 per kilowatt-hour by 2025, making the cost of an EV equal to or less than the cost of a comparable gasoline vehicle.  Panasonic plans to boost the energy density of its “2170” battery cells by 20% in five years and commercialize a cobalt-free version “in two to three years”.  Chinese electric carmaker Kandi announced that it is bringing its EVs to the U.S., making them the cheapest in America — starting at $12,999 after federal tax credit. 

Last year, U.S. coal production fell to the lowest level since 1978.  Cracks are starting to show in utility support for using natural gas as a bridge fuel to a low-carbon future.  NextEra Energy is closing its last coal-fired power plant and investing in a $65 million pilot in Florida that will use a 20 MW electrolyzer to produce 100% green hydrogen from solar power.

Dominion Energy and Duke Energy, still have not decided what to do about the land they gained control over for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.  Dominion Energy on Friday announced a reorganized executive leadership team, including a new CEO.

Potpourri

Climate scientist Michael Mann had an opinion piece in The Guardian in which he asserted that we need collective action and systemic change, which require that we vote.  MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel wrote a “dust jacket blurb” endorsing Michael Shellenberger’s controversial book, Apocalypse Never.  Now, in light of positive responses to the book from groups long opposed to efforts to address climate change, Emanuel felt compelled to write a “half essay/half book review.”  Two recent studies shed light on major news outlets’ long-term indulgence in climate skepticism and the recent impact of improved climate coverage in TV meteorology.  In an opinion piece in The Guardian, Environment editor Damian Carrington placed climate change deniers into four categories and explained why they should all be ignored.  Two new studies dug into the reasons why so many people resist accepting the facts on climate change and offered some insight into how to talk to them in a way that might be more compelling.  Kendra Pierre-Louis, a former climate reporter for The New York Times is gearing up to launch a podcast on climate change solutions produced by Gimlet Media.

Closing Thought

When I added this section to the Roundup, my intent was to provide something inspiring and uplifting at the end.  However, there was an article this week that is very important, but doesn’t necessarily meet those criteria, nor is it about climate change.  Rather, it is a cautionary tale about how science is becoming politicized in our current age.

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 7/24/2020

Politics and Policy

The Black Lives Matter movement is having an impact on the “big greens”, causing them to look deeply into their history and inclusivity, as well as their unconscious marginalization of minority employees.  When Alaska’s all-white Congressional delegation branded opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge as a form of racial discrimination last month, they were accused by Native organizers of fomenting a hypocritical and misleading narrative.  The Tesoro High Plains Pipeline was ordered shut down after 67 years of operation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs for trespassing on land owned by Native Americans.  The Three Percenters, a loosely organized group of far-right militants, appear to have established a significant presence in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield.

The Democratic National Committee released a draft of its 2020 policy platform on Wednesday; Dharna Noor discussed the parts related to climate change at Earther.  Even if Joe Biden wins in November and the Democrats manage to take the Senate, there will still be a giant hurdle facing a climate bill: the Senate filibuster.  Democratic lawmakers are privately talking about their strategies for undoing Trump’s environmental and public health rollbacks should they win in November.  Progressive Democrats led by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Friday introduced a bill to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, among other things.  Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is sponsoring a bill that would ensure health care coverage for coal workers who lose their jobs as the country shifts to cleaner forms of energy, as well as cover higher education costs for the coal miners and their families.  Climate scientist Allison Crimmins argued at Vox for the creation of a cabinet level Department of Climate.  A U.S. federal district court ruled that California’s coordination with Quebec in a cap and trade carbon emissions market is constitutional.  The Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and four others have been arrested in connection with an alleged $60 million bribery scheme involving a controversial law passed last year that bailed out two nuclear power plants while gutting subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

EU leaders reached a recovery deal on Tuesday that included devoting nearly €550 billion to green projects over the next seven years, although some were concerned about the lack of precise guidelines on how the money can be spent.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, discussed an issue that has concerned me for some time: “Legal strategies that have derailed pipelines can also be turned against clean energy projects urgently needed to combat climate change.”  Morgan Stanley is the first U.S.-based global bank to join the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, an international collaboration that aims to “standardize carbon accounting for the financial sector” by tracking how banks’ and investment firms’ assets are contributing to climate change.  A letter from pension funds and other investors representing almost $1 trillion in assets urged the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and other financial regulators to act on climate-change concerns to avoid economic disaster.  At the Independent, Louise Boyle reported on the proliferation of misinformation about climate change on Facebook.

The EPA on Wednesday proposed new regulations to reduce CO2 emissions from air travel, but the proposal would simply adopt 2017 emissions standards from the International Civil Aviation Organization, which most U.S. airlines already meet.  On Thursday EPA took action to bolster the struggling uranium mining industry that environmentalists warn risks contaminating the West’s limited water supplies.  Emails, recently made public in a lawsuit that 15 states brought against the EPA, suggest that the agency rescinded a reporting requirement on methane at the request of the president of the Western Energy Alliance just weeks after President Trump took office.  A new analysis published in the medical research journal BMJ found that 95% of the world’s dietary guidelines are incompatible with at least one of the goals set by international climate and public health agreements, and that 87% aren’t compatible with emissions pathways to limit global warming to below 2°C.

Climate and Climate Science

A very long review article was published this week in the journal Reviews of Geophysics.  The subject was climate sensitivity, i.e., the warming that would occur from a doubling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.  A major conclusion is that the likely range of sensitivity values has been decreased to 2.6–4.1°C.  (If you have read your allocation of free articles at the NYT, then you can read about the study here, here, or here, none of which is paywalled.)

ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine jointly investigated the question of “Where Will Everyone Go?” as climate conditions change to the point that they will no longer support agriculture and people are forced to move or starve.  Another article in the magazine examined the impacts of the 50-year, $50 billion Louisiana Coastal Master Plan on the people of Plaquemines Parish, illustrating the conflicting interests associated with adaptation to sea level rise.

Scientists have, for the first time, discovered an active leak of methane gas from the sea floor in Antarctica.  As reported in the journal Nature, researchers have found evidence of ice loss from Wilkes Basin in eastern Antarctica during a climate warming event 400,000 years ago, which suggests that parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet could be lost to modern warming trends.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that as the climate warms, birds are not only breeding earlier, but their breeding windows are also shrinking—some by as many as 4 to 5 days. This could lead to increased competition for food that might threaten many bird populations.  In addition, a new study in Nature Climate Change found that under a “business-as-usual” CO2 emissions scenario, most polar bear subpopulations would either be certain, or very likely, to experience declines in reproduction and cub survival by the end of the century.

Ice cover across the entire Arctic Ocean is currently at its lowest mid-July extent on record.  New research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans shows that maximum wave heights across the Arctic Ocean, which encompasses the Beaufort Sea, could be upward of six meters higher on average within this century, leading to even more erosion and flooding of indigenous villages.  Virginia coastal communities in 2019 saw two to five times more nuisance flooding than the national average.

Energy

Green energy, which includes wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy, generated 40% of EU electricity in the first half of 2020, compared to fossil fuels generating 34%.  Europe has a long history with hydroelectric power, but there are questions about its appropriate role in a carbon-free energy future.

A number of articles recently have touted hydrogen as a major component in the UK’s low carbon future.  Tom Baxter, a Senior Lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Aberdeen took issue with that assessment.  American industrial gas giant Air Products & Chemicals announced its intention to construct a massive green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia that would be powered by 4 GW of the country’s wind and solar energy and produce 650 tons of hydrogen per day.

Five wholesale electric power market executives agree that natural gas will continue to play an essential role on the electric power grid.  A $350 million natural gas project spanning much of eastern Virginia has been put on hold by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission, in part due to environmental justice concerns.

New York on Tuesday issued a request for proposals for up to 2.5 GW of offshore wind capacity.  The Georgia Public Service Commission agreed on Tuesday to let Georgia Power, the state’s largest electric utility, accept bids for a new 50 MW biomass generation plant.  There is a new organization called the Good Energy Collective that is making the progressive case for advanced nuclear power.  Four of its five board members are women, as are its cofounders.

According to a study published in the journal Applied Energy, energy storage displaces other capacity investments in three major ways: (i) reducing variable renewable investments; (ii) replacing thermal generators; and (iii) deferring transmission upgrades.

Potpourri

Bill McKibben fell off of his bicycle last week, breaking six ribs and a shoulder blade, as well as incurring a severely separated shoulder.  Nevertheless, he had some interesting comments about the significance of Joe Biden’s climate plan in his weekly New Yorker column.  This one came out a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it: Amy Brady presented five books about climate change at Literary Hub.  An art project being planned for Burning Man 2021 aims to help participants imagine what life might be like 100 years from now if CO2 emissions followed each of three different scenarios.  As part of its climate issue, The New York Times Magazine profiled teenage climate activist Jamie Margolin.  Greta Thunberg has been awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity and will donate the one-million-euro prize money through her foundation to different projects aimed at fighting the climate crisis.  At The Guardian, Jonathan Watts interviewed James Lovelock, best known as the father of Gaia Theory, on the eve of his 101st birthday.

Closing Thought

As the pandemic and extreme weather disrupt electricity supplies for many, alternative energy sources are coming to the fore in rural Kenya.

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 7/17/2020

Politics and Policy

Former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a proposal Tuesday to transform the nation’s energy industry, pledging to eliminate carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 and spend $2 trillion to turbocharge the clean energy economy.  In a speech Wednesday, President Trump displayed just how far apart he and Biden are ideologically on infrastructure and environmental matters.  As might be expected, the oil and gas lobby was not thrilled with several parts of Joe Biden’s new climate plan.  Author David Wallace-Wells interviewed Washington Governor Jay Inslee about Biden’s embrace of so many of Inslee’s ideas about tackling climate change.  Some of the world’s leading climate scientists have written to EU leaders demanding they act immediately to avoid the worst impacts of the unfolding climate and ecological emergency.  Their letter said that the response to COVID-19 has made it clear that “…the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, neither from the politicians, media, business nor finance.”

On Wednesday, the White House finalized its rollback of one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act.  Later that day a federal judge in California blocked the rollback of a rule requiring reduction of methane emissions from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands.  The administration has been systematically underestimating the damage caused by carbon pollution according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.  At Yale Environment 360, Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellow Jonathan Mingle wrote: “The demise or delay of several major oil and gas pipelines in recent weeks, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, demonstrate how the Trump administration’s zeal for fossil fuel projects and flaunting of environmental laws has backfired and handed key victories to environmentalists.”  A lower court last week ordered the temporary shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline, but an appeals court on Tuesday stalled that order.

Official dietary advice across the world is harming both the environment and people’s health, according to scientists who have carried out the most comprehensive assessment of national dietary guidelines to date.  C40 Cities, a network of mayors committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, has released a report arguing that urban economies need to prioritize green investments in order to create a more resilient society that can withstand global shocks.  COVID-19 is having a climate impact as commuters reject mass transit and embrace their cars.  At the Virginia Mercury, Sarah Vogelsong examined the question of how a network of electric vehicle charging stations in Virginia should be developed and managed, by the regulated electric utilities or a competitive marketplace.  Two clean energy advocates, CAAV Steering Committee member Sally Newkirk and Virginia Sierra Club’s Seth Heald, are challenging incumbents in electric utility co-op board elections this summer. 

On Thursday, FERC unanimously rejected a petition from the New England Ratepayers Association to declare all state solar net-metering policies illegal.  Some states and cities have adopted carbon neutrality goals, requiring the phase out natural gas.  Using New England as a case study, Emily Pontecorvo examined the complex interrelated questions that must be addressed while doing so.  Results from a study published in Environmental and Resource Economics showed that countries with carbon prices on average had annual CO2 emissions growth rates that were about two percentage points lower than countries without a carbon price.  Biomass currently represents almost 60% of the EU’s “renewable energy”, more than solar and wind power combined.  This makes it important that the biomass burned to get that energy is appropriate, so the EU is working on stricter sustainability criteria for bioenergy.  Ironically, in the U.S., the EPA is expected to propose a new rule declaring that burning biomass from forests can be considered carbon neutral, thereby loosening the sustainability criteria.

Climate and Climate Science

Papers published in the journals Earth System Science Data and Environmental Research Letters by researchers with the Global Carbon Project reported that from the 2000-2006 period to 2017, methane emissions from fossil fuel production and use increased by nearly 15% to 108 million tons per year while emissions from agriculture increased by almost 11% to 227 million tons per year.

Both NASA and NOAA agree that the first half of 2020 was the second hottest on record, trailing the first half of 2016 by only 0.05°C.  They also estimated that 2020 has a 36% chance of becoming the hottest year on record and a 99.9% chance of being among the top five.  According to a new report from NOAA, the increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the U.S. since 2000 has been “extraordinary.”

Researchers with the World Weather Attribution project have determined that the prolonged January-to-June heat wave across the Siberian Arctic was made at least 600 times more likely by human-caused climate change.  On the subject of heat, science editor David Shukman wrote at the BBC about impacts of extreme heat on humans and the role of “wet bulb globe temperature” as a guideline to recognizing unsafe conditions.  The official weather observing station in Death Valley, CA reached 128°F on Sunday, the hottest temperature anywhere on Earth since 2017 and only 1°F behind what experts say is likely the hottest temperature ever recorded.

The impact of climate change on wildfires is complex.  At Carbon Brief, Daisy Dunne examined how wildfires around the world are changing, the influence of global warming on them, and how risks might multiply in the future.

According to a paper published in the journal Nature, grinding up basalt rock and spreading the resulting powder across agricultural fields can accelerate Earth’s natural rate of CO2 absorption by “enhanced rock weathering.”

Energy

The International Energy Agency has issued its latest “Clean Energy Innovation” report, which seeks to determine whether the tools available for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions are capable of doing so.  David Roberts did a good job of dissecting and summarizing the report at Vox.

In his “Inside Clean Energy” column this week, Dan Gearino covered several topics, two of which I found to be particularly interesting.  The lead article is about energy company PacifiCorp and their move toward more clean energy, an undertaking that requires them to satisfy regulators in a very diverse array of states.  The second article addressed the topic of what to do with solar panels when they reach the end of their useful life and referenced a paper that recently appeared in the journal Nature Energy

In 2019, California utilities implemented preventative blackouts as a way to eliminate the risk of grid equipment sparking fires.  Greentech Media examined the use of microgrids as an alternative strategy for reducing risk.  Also, a recent study by California’s three investor-owned utilities found that solar backed by four hours of storage can achieve nearly 100% reliability during the daytime.  Dutch scientists collaborated with the power company Liander to study the impacts of clouds on electricity production by solar panels and found that the highest power peaks occurred under partly cloudy conditions.  Rocky Mountain Institute issued a new report on reimagining grid resilience as we transform our electrical energy system.  And for a tutorial on changing energy markets, you might read this article by Gordon Feller.

Data on the greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, factories, cargo ships, controlled burns and every other human source on Earth could soon be part of the public domain, according to “ClimateTrace”, a consortium of technology companies and climate change nonprofits.  Recently, companies in the oil industry have announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  While the pledges sound impressive, many are misleading and misrepresent how much the oil giants are changing.  In fact, no company has committed to shrink its oil output this decade.

The continued availability of lithium is essential to the development of electric vehicles, electricity storage, and multiple other activities dependent on lithium-ion batteries.  Although most lithium is obtained by mining today, the oceans contain a vast amount of it, although at very low concentration.  Now scientists at Stanford University have devised a technique for extracting lithium from seawater, although it will require additional development before it can be applied.

Potpourri

Economist and Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz reviewed Bjorn Lomborg’s new book False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, concluding with “…Lomborg’s work would be downright dangerous were it to succeed in persuading anyone that there was merit in its arguments.”  MacArthur Fellow and National Academy of Sciences member Peter Gleick reviewed Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, stating “In short, what is new in here isn’t right, and what is right isn’t new.”  In July 2018, sustainability leadership professor Jem Bendell (Univ. of Cumbria, UK) self-published an article entitled “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” after its rejection by a sustainability policy journal.  The article has been downloaded more than 600,000 times and has significantly impacted the ideology and strategy of climate movement organizations like Extinction Rebellion (ER).  Now, three young scientist members of ER have reviewed the science and conclusions of “Deep Adaptation” and found them to be deeply flawed.  U.S. ranchers are upset with Burger King over a video it released touting the benefits of lemongrass as a dietary additive for reducing methane emissions from cattle.  David Kaiser, who steered the Rockefeller Family Fund into a pitched confrontation with Exxon Mobil, died on Wednesday at a family home on Mount Desert Island, ME.

Closing Thought

Catherine Coleman Flowers is a senior fellow of environmental justice and civic engagement at the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, a rural development manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, and the only Black woman to serve on the Biden task force on climate change.

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 7/10/2020

Thanks to Joy Loving for this week’s News Roundup. Les Grady is out-of-town.

Politics and Policy

The House of Representatives weighed in with its Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America. The “report outlines a plan to reach the target of net-zero economy-wide emissions by 2050”. A joint Biden‑Sanders Task Force included recommendations around the climate “emergency” but did not explicitly reference the Green New Deal or include a fracking ban.  “The recommendations set a number of specific near-term benchmarks that Democrats would promise to reach.”  Grist concluded “it’s clear that Sanders’ camp had a meaningful influence on the platform”. 

Gizmodo highlighted a suite of policy proposals from the Movement for Black Lives indicating that they and “Environmentalists Are Finding Common Ground”.  The American Climate Contract website profiles Republican Members of the House of Representatives who have endorsed this set of proposals, billed as “The right way forward on climate change”.  Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced the “’Clean Energy Virginia’ Initiative to Drive Investment in Renewable Energy, Support Jobs of the Future”.

Rocky Mountain Institute announced the launch of its Center for Climate‑Aligned Finance to “enable FIs [Financial Institutions] to actively help shape the transformation of carbon intensive sectors alongside their clients on the journey to net zero global emissions by 2050.” Forbes reported on Amazon’s launch of “a new $2 billion venture capital fund … that will invest in clean energy and other technologies to reduce the impact of climate change”.

The Wall Street Journal reported on a Trump Administration request to “a federal judge to reject a settlement between the Sierra Club and a Michigan utility over alleged clean-air violations, arguing that the deal improperly goes beyond what the federal government has approved.”

The Hill said “A total of 352 facilities, including fossil fuel companies, water treatment plants and schools, made use of the EPA’s relaxation of Clean Water Act requirements”, noting also “Environmentalists are raising alarms over the number of facilities that aren’t monitoring their pollution levels, saying the damage could last well beyond the Aug. 31 expiration date of the temporary policy.”  The Guardian noted that “Over 5,600 fossil fuel companies have taken at least $3bn in US Covid-19 aid”.

The Houston Chronicle reported on the Secretary of Energy’s assertion that “COVID-19 brought oil and gas down, but Trump is powering a comeback”.

Reuters offered details on increasingly creative and effective legal strategies being employed worldwide to combat, and demand accountability for, climate change.

Climate and Climate Science

The Narwahl offered an in-depth piece called “One key solution to the world’s climate woes? Canada’s natural landscapes”.  The Revelator described projects to identify areas that could become “Climate Refugia”—“Areas with natural buffers from the effects of climate change” that could “play a vital role in conservation efforts”.  The Guardian told us that, after National Trust restoration, a “well known piece of the British landscape that had become depleted of flora and fauna because of years of intensive farming is alive with wildflowers, butterflies and birds this summer.”  The National Trust spent 2½ years returning rich grassland to the top of the white cliffs of Dover.

Mongabay reported that “Over the past 10 years, the World Bank’s private investment arm has sunk more than $1.8 billion into major livestock and factory farming companies across the world.”  Mongabay noted: “Livestock production is associated with a litany of environmental and biosecurity risks, including the pollution of waterways, rainforest destruction, and the emergence of new diseases.”

According to a Grist article, “Seed preemption bills have passed in at least 29 states ….”  A 2018 hearing on one such bill, quietly introduced in the New Mexico legislature, brought out a large number of proponents (“agribusiness lobbyists [and] large farm organizations”) and opponents (“small-scale farmers, seedkeepers, and tribal members”).  Although that bill was tabled, the state’s 200-page 2019 budget contained a single line aimed to strip local governments of their power to regulate seeds; the Governor vetoed that line item.

The Guardian cited scientists’ strategy of assisted migration to help forests and trees survive climate change.  The method:  plant species like the loblolly pine farther north, into what is hoped to be conditions more like the ones they have historically had in their current locations.

National Geographic described the connection between the Horseshoe Crab and Covid-19 treatment research.  There are concerns that the harvesting of hundreds of thousands of these crabs “may imperil the crabs and the marine ecosystems that depend on them.”

The New York Times noted that countries prone to extreme flooding and mudslides are not necessarily well-equipped to ensure the safety of their older populations, especially those in nursing homes.  Reuters cited evidence that “From sexual violence in displacement camps to extra farm work and greater risk of illness, women shoulder a bigger burden from worsening extreme weather and other climate pressures pushing people to move for survival”.  Inside Climate News asked:  “With Climate Change Intensifying, Can At-Risk Minority Communities Rely on the Police to Keep Them Safe?”

Reminding us about the US Southwest’s lengthy drought, the New York Times said the warm spring caused rapid melting of snowpack, and less than full reservoirs now are leading to renewed concerns about megadrought.

The Guardian warned that the Navajo Nation and Arizona, “Hit hard by Covid-19, [face] heightened danger from smoke, flames and possible evacuations”.

Bloomberg echoed previous warnings that “Oppressive heat will blanket the U.S. from California to the Northeast through at least the middle of next week, driving up energy demand, stressing crops and probably setting new records.”  Florida NPR station WJCP provided an illuminating story:  “Warming Brings Muggier Weather to Jacksonville, Threatening Most Vulnerable”.

The Associated Press reported on the UN weather agency’s warning: “World could hit 1.5-degree warming threshold by 2024.”  The agency noted “the target set in Paris, of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), [is] ideally no more than 1.5 C, by the end of the century.”  NBC News also reported on the agency’s concerns.  The Guardian said “The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is approaching a level not seen in 15m years…, [adding] Last time CO2 was at similar level temperatures were 3C to 4C hotter and sea levels were 20 metres higher.”

Energy

The BIG news this week was the decision by Dominion Energy and Duke Energy to abandon the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project that would have run over 500 miles through parts of WV, VA, and NC.  Many, many articles appeared, providing history and background of the ACP; details of the associated transactions, including sale of Dominion’s natural pipeline and storage assets to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway; reactions of ACP opponents and proponents; and the implications for pipelines and utilities.  Here is a list of headlines, representing only a small part of the media items that appeared:

Richmond Times-Dispatch:  “Dominion cancels Atlantic Coast Pipeline, sells natural gas transmission business”

Fortune:  “Warren Buffett’s buy-on-fear strategy will be tested with his latest bet on fossil fuels”

The News and Advance:  “’We won the impossible fight’: Nelsonians react to news of Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s demise”

WDBJ7:  “Cancellation of Atlantic Coast Pipeline buoys opponents of another controversial project”

Utility Dive:  “Natural gas pipeline developers aim to differentiate from Atlantic Coast and avoid its fate”

Richmond Times-Dispatch:  “Dominion takes financial hit as company jettisons pipeline and gas transmission business”

Greentech Media: “As Fossil Fuel Pipelines Fall to Opposition, Utilities See Renewable Energy as Safe Bet.  Atlantic Coast and Dakota Access pipeline woes underscore trends pushing utilities toward clean power as a less risky business”

New York Times:  “The Next Energy Battle:  Renewables vs. Natural Gas”

Roanoke Times:  “Mountain Valley Pipeline’s ‘uphill climb’ gets a little easier”

The Virginia Mercury:  “With the Atlantic Coast Pipeline dead, it’s time to topple remaining fossil fuel monuments”

Bacon’s Rebellion:  “Brace Yourself for a Zero-Carbon Electric Grid”

The Wall Street Journal documented a debate raging about oil prices.  Noting the $0 per barrel price earlier in 2020, WSJ said “Investors and analysts are now trying to work out what the rest of the decade holds in store.”

Many oil and gas companies have declared bankruptcy because of the decline in prices, and that trend is likely to continue even with the recent rebound to $40/barrel.  Colorado Newsline talks about the environmental repercussions of abandoned oil and gas wells as companies declare bankruptcy. BP and Shell announced  “they plan to lower the official value of their assets by several billion dollars due to declining oil and gas prices”.  This may mean they will leave those assets in the ground for now.

Several environmental groups joined forces to sue West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection over inadequate funding for coal mine site reclamation. The groups believe the agency failed “to adhere to federal reporting requirements for a coal mine reclamation fund”.

The Barents Observer described fears of northern Finland’s Sámi families … in Tarvantovaara wilderness area … [that] the world’s hunger for metals to ramp up the green economy will destroy their indigenous way of life”.  This remote region has a reindeer population important to this peoples’ way of life and is also home to “nickel, copper, vanadium and cobalt, all being minerals highly demanded in the production of electric vehicle batteries”.

The Washington Post described a Lake Erie clean energy project that has some folks crying “fowl”.  The headline asserts the project “faces stiff head winds because of warblers and waterfowl”.  The paper also reported that “Spreading rock dust on farmland could pull enough carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to remove about half of the amount of that greenhouse gas currently produced by Europe.”

The Daily Climate cautioned: “Beyond the “silver lining” of emissions reductions: Clean energy takes a COVID-19 hit” and “With job loss and stifled development in the renewable energy sector, economists, politicians, and advocates say policy action is necessary to stay on track.”

The Indy Star reported solar developers are planting, interspersed with the solar panels, varieties of flowers that are beneficial to pollinators, hoping to help bee survival.

Potpourri

Check out this blogpost from The Plastocene by Christopher James Preston, environmental philosopher, about “Wizards, Prophets, and Profits…. (on the Way to Clean Energy)”.

Time presented a thoughtful piece addressing “Why the Larger Climate Movement Is Finally Embracing the Fight Against Environmental Racism”.

Rolling Stone brought us reflections on the Dakota Access Pipeline court decision by Adam Killsalive, based on his experiences as a young man from the Standing Rock Reservation.

Writing in the New York Times, Farhad Manjoo exclaimed “I’ve Seen a Future Without Cars, and It’s Amazing”.  He asked “Why do American cities waste so much space on cars?”

Grist told us about memes surfacing on the Internet signaling what folks jokingly say are ways the pandemic is helping Nature to heal.

The Southern Environmental Law Center linked us to a “Broken Ground” podcast that “takes listeners to two Southern coastal cities among the most threatened by rising tides: Norfolk, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina.”

Joy Loving for Les Grady
CAAV Steering Committee

George Hirschmann

GeorgeHirschmannGeorge Hirschmann (I) is retired from working at WHSV television station as their Chief Meteorologist. He is running for reelection to the Harrisonburg City Council after first being elected in 2016. According to a WHSV news report, “if re-elected, he will continue to focus on elderly and homeless needs in the city and the needs of teachers and schools,” among other goals. Find more about Mr. Hirschmann on his City Council webpage.

See his response to CAAV’s Questionnaire below the list of questions:

1) Do you support the 50×25 campaign?

2) How would you implement the 3 goals of the 50×25 campaign?

3) What would you do to increase or facilitate the adoption of renewable energies or solar in City and School buildings?

4) How would you prioritize city and state resources for addressing environmental justice concerns, specifically energy efficiency for low income housing?

5) What do you think about recycling?

6) Is there anything Harrisonburg can do to reduce transportation emissions, the largest sector of climate change emissions in VA and the United States?

I believe in science and the fact that humans have an effect on the environment. As your Councilman I support recycling, the efforts the Harrisonburg Electric Commission is making for solar, and I support improving connectivity within the city for waking and bicycle use. We must continue to clean Blacks Run and the Shenandoah River. I believe we should continue working with JMU and innovators at the University to combat pollution and Climate Change. Rain barrels have popped up across the city which has helped with saving water and sustainable gardening. 

During my four years on council I am proud of my Independent record and ability to work with all groups in the city to make Harrisonburg a more inclusive community with equity for all. Please visit my website for more information and contact me directly. Please remember social distancing and to wear a mask to protect our vulnerable community members. 

It is an honor to serve you and the people of Harrisonburg,

Councilman George Hirschmann 

Kathleen Kelley

KathleenKelleyKathleen Kelley (R) is a medical doctor practicing integrative and alternative medicine who is running for Harrisonburg City Council. According to an article in the Daily News-Record, she would like to help “make the city ‘crisis-proof'” by expanding business and education opportunities in the city, among other goals. Find out more about her campaign at the Kelley4Council website and Facebook page.

CAAV has made multiple attempts to receive responses to the questionnaire from Kathleen Kelley in hopes of discovering and sharing her opinions on these issues. As of the start of voting on September 18, she has declined to answer the questionnaire.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 7/3/2020

Special Event: Chautauqua Institution

The theme at the Chautauqua Institution this week was climate change.  Because of COVID-19 all of the lectures and other activities were moved online, instead of in-person.  If you go to https://assembly.chq.org/ you can start a 90-day free trial, which provides plenty of time to see what happened this week, as well as what will be going on this summer.  Once you are in, go to the Assembly and then scroll down to “Weekly Themes” where Climate Change will be the first one.  Click on it to go to the video library.  The main lectures are “Government, Economics, and the Climate”; “The Ocean and the Climate”; “How to Reduce Greenhouse Gases” (which was super); and “The State of Global Environmental Action.”  There are lots of other videos from the week to explore.  Enjoy the Chautauqua experience virtually.

Politics and Policy

Carbon Brief has updated its tracker of government “green stimulus” measures launched in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  Preliminary findings from a study by 14 research groups showed that as of 1 July, more public money commitments in response to COVID-19 went to fossil fuels than to cleaner energies in the U.S. and several others.  The 36 countries that sit on the council of the International Civil Aviation Organization agreed to postpone the date airlines have to start paying for carbon credits to offset a portion of their climate impact. 

Prominent environmentalists and Democratic activists said Facebook is “allowing the spread of climate misinformation to flourish, unchecked” and urged the company’s external oversight board to intervene.  At her blog, climate reporter Emily Atkin described the actions of the natural gas industry when trying to defeat the all-electric housing plan of the town of San Luis Obsipo, CA.  The group claiming status as a ratepayer advocacy group in its attempt to get FERC to override state net-metering rules has finally revealed the identity of one of its members.

On Thursday, Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency, said in a statement that “The message is very clear: in the absence of much faster clean energy innovation, achieving net-zero goals in 2050 will be all but impossible.”  House Democrats’ “Climate Crisis Action Plan” lays out a blueprint for moving the U.S. toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  At Vox, David Roberts discussed its twelve policy “pillars”.  House Democrats passed a $1.5 trillion green infrastructure plan that would increase funding to repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges while setting aside funds for broadband, schools, and hospitals.  In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “Naturally this nonsense is not going anywhere in the Senate.”  In an essay in The Guardian, Columbia University professor and Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz argued for investing in the green economy.  Ireland’s new coalition government has set an ambitious goal to deliver steep greenhouse gas emission cuts every year to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.  The collapse of oil and gas prices has had a major negative impact on countries that depend on the industry for a large percent of their income, providing a preview of what can happen as the world moves away from fossil fuels.  In The Atlantic, the former U.S. Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs argued that the international community must be prepared to manage the fallout from such change in those countries.

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has issued a new series of maps that compare the views of Democrats and Republicans on several aspects of climate change.  In a commentary for the Orlando Sentinel, the president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship argued that conservatives should follow the example set by President Reagan, who, when faced with the destruction of the ozone layer, listened to the scientists, weighed all the facts, and chose to act.  Top House Republicans are backing a climate policy framework, the “American Climate Contract”, outlined by the American Conservation Coalition, a conservative youth climate group.

Climate and Climate Science

Recently, I’ve provided links to articles noting that many of the newest climate models project higher future warming than older models.  A frequently offered explanation lies in how they incorporate clouds.  Now, CBS News Meteorologist and Climate Specialist Jeff Berardelli has examined clouds and why they are so complex at Yale Climate Connections.  At Carbon Brief, climate scientist Zeke Hausfather has provided an explanation of how the rise and fall of atmospheric CO2 levels influenced the ice ages.

Climate change will make it much harder for tropical plants around the world to germinate, with temperatures becoming too hot for the seeds of 20% of them by the year 2070.  Also, a new study in the journal Science found that with medium-level climate change, by the end of the century the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes will be too hot for about 40% of the world’s fish species when in their spawning or embryonic life stages.

Miami just experienced its hottest week on record, rounding out its warmest first half of the year ever observed.  Two out of every three days this year have featured a broken record of some sort somewhere in South Florida.  Also, a potentially historic heat wave is expected to hit more than two-thirds of the continental U.S. in the first several weeks of July.  The Northeast U.S. is the fastest warming region among the contiguous 48 states.  An examination of temperature reconstructions during the Holocene Epoch (the last 12,000 years) revealed that Earth started cooling about 6,500 years ago, but all of it has been erased by the warming since 1850.

An exhaustive report released Monday by the First Street Foundation shows that nationally, there are at least 6 million households that are unaware they’re living in homes that have a 1% chance of flooding each year.  Furthermore, the chance is increasing each year due to climate change.

Scientists said on Monday that the South Pole is one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth, with surface air temperatures rising since the 1990s at a rate that is three times faster than the global average.

Energy

At Inside Climate News, Dan Gearino took issue with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette’s op-ed about coal in the Harrisburg, PA, Patriot-News.  Two more utilities, in Arizona and Colorado, are moving to accelerate closure of coal plants and replace them with renewable energy backed by batteries, joining a broader push in both states to shift to more cost-effective clean energy.

During the first half of this year, solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric generation together produced 55.8% of Germany’s electricity.  German lawmakers have finalized plans for the country’s long-awaited phase-out of coal as an energy source, which will make them the first major economy to phase out both coal and nuclear energy.  Battery manufacturer Varta will receive $338 million of German government funding to develop large format lithium-ion cells.

Utilities that are transitioning away from coal are starting to view the creation of a natural gas “bridge” to renewable energy as an unnecessary step.  The assumed useful life of utility-scale solar projects now averages 32.5 years, up from 21.5 years in 2007, thereby helping lower the levelized cost of energy from them.  More than 500 residential energy storage batteries will be aggregated into a virtual power plant by utility Portland (Oregon) General Electric.

The UK business secretary gave the green light on Wednesday evening to the 1.8 GW Norfolk Vanguard windfarm project, which will be more than 40 miles off the Bacton coast of England.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., Dominion Energy and its partner Ørsted have completed installation of the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot located 30 miles off Virginia Beach.

Norwegian oil firm Equinor plans to build a plant in Britain to produce hydrogen from natural gas in combination with carbon capture and storage, so-called blue hydrogen.  With the EU set to announce its long-term hydrogen strategy in mid-July, one question has emerged at the heart of the debate: Should blue hydrogen be excluded from the plans?  China has developed its latest draft of the regulations that will govern the storage and transportation of hydrogen for powering vehicles.  The Economist published a very clear-eyed evaluation of the potential role of hydrogen in a carbon-free economy.

Potpourri

In her “Climate Curious” column at the Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan addressed the link between climate change and racial justice.  The Economist has a new series of “The world if” articles, focusing on climate change.  Each of the eight pieces is fiction, but “grounded in historical fact and real science”.  In a video at Inside Climate News, author James Edward Mills addresses the idea that access to nature and outdoor recreation are critical, underappreciated environmental justice issues.  Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau’s film 2040 has been called the “most upbeat documentary about climate change” in several years.  It is available for pay-for-view streaming until the end of July.

Closing Thought

How two nuns helped Southern Co. wake up to climate change.

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 6/26/2020

Politics and Policy

In an opinion essay in The New York Times, Paul Bodnar and Tamara Grbusic of the Rocky Mountain Institute warned that the government’s spending on climate-related disaster recovery is a “rapidly rising fiscal threat”.  Also in the Times, John Schwartz examined the question of whether the Supreme Court ruling on gay and transgender rights will strengthen the argument for using the Clean Air Act to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.  In an interesting article at Vox, David Roberts examined the latest poll of public opinion on climate change and clean energy by the Pew Research Center.  Because of a quiet decision by Facebook, the CO2 Coalition and other groups that attack consensus climate science can share content that climate scientists have labeled as misleading because Facebook will consider it “opinion” and therefore immune to fact-checking.  A tug of war between preserving living-wage, unionized coal jobs and addressing climate change is playing out across the country at every level of government, pitting environmental and clean energy interests against unions and fossil fuel companies.    

The state of Minnesota sued ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, and three Koch Industries entities on Wednesday over climate change, claiming they knew about the impacts fossil fuels would have on the environment and misled the public.  On Thursday, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine sued ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron, asserting that they have engaged in a multimillion-dollar campaign over decades to deceive District consumers about the effects of fossil fuels on climate change.  

On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to adopt a new Advanced Clean Trucks regulation that requires everything from small delivery vans to 18-wheelers to transition away from diesel engines to less polluting electric motors powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, beginning with the 2024 model year.  Nevada will be the latest state to adopt California’s low-and zero-emission vehicle rules following similar announcements by Washington in March and Minnesota and New Mexico in September.  President Trump’s Interior Department has approved about half as many wind and solar energy projects on federal lands as the Obama administration had at the same point in its first term, according to a report published on Thursday by the Center for American Progress.  Over the past five years, more U.S. cities have started setting and acting upon renewable energy goals by signing deals that move their own municipal operations away from fossil-fueled electricity and toward renewable energy.    

Joe Biden further consolidated the support of mainstream environmentalists by scoring the endorsement of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Action Fund on Wednesday.  A report released Tuesday by a think tank founded by Stacey Abrams, the Southern Economic Advancement Project, offers a road map for the South to catch up to the rest of the country in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Also on Tuesday, Environment America unveiled an effort to establish residential solar mandates, similar to the requirement that went into effect this year in California, in 10 states across the country.  A working paper from the University of California, Berkeley’s Energy Institute at Haas found that, when controlling for year, income, household size, and city of residence, Black renters paid $273 more per year for energy than white renters between 2010 and 2017; Black homeowners paid $408 more.  A national coalition to address the challenges of the working poor released a sweeping legislative platform in a three-hour virtual rally last Saturday, including proposals to address mass incarceration, health care, wealth inequality, and climate change.  A “green bank” is a nonprofit institution that uses public money to help businesses invest in solar panels, wind farms, and energy-efficient building retrofits.  Although several states have developed state-level green banks, there is renewed interest in establishing a national one to help stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Climate and Climate Science

The thermometer hit 38°C (100.4°F) in the Russian Arctic town of Verkhoyansk on Saturday, a likely record.  Such warming has several impacts, as discussed by Matt Simon at Wired

Although 90% of the U.S. public is in favor of planting trees to fight climate change, two new studies published this week show how misplaced hopes for tree-planting have been.  Jeff Goodell examined those studies and reviewed the history of the tree planting idea at Rolling Stone.  A study published in Nature Geosciences, explored the consequences of more than 80,000 land purchases by private companies made from 2000 to 2018 across 15 countries in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, finding that they accelerated tropical deforestation.

With rising temperatures, the world’s food supplies are at risk, with decreasing yields in key staple crops.  Researchers and innovators are looking at more resilient crops and farm animals — from heat-resistant wheat, to drought-resistant rice, to Naked Neck chickens that stay cooler.  Somaliland is drying out faster now than at any time during the past 2,000 years.  As a result, pastoral life has failed, forcing hundreds of thousands of people off the land and into makeshift camps for Internally Displaced People.

According to research published in the journal Global Change Biology, droughts across the mountains and plains of Wyoming can cut the spring growing season from four months to two.  That dries up nutrient-rich green grasses and shrubs, just when they are needed most by migrating mule deer to replenish body fat after the winter and to rear their young.

Research published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that the use of aerosols to reflect sunlight and cool the planet could weaken storm tracks in the temperate latitudes in both hemispheres, thereby reducing the severity of winter storms but also stagnating weather systems in the summer, which could lead to more intense heat waves, increases in air pollution, and changes in ocean circulation.

Energy

Amazon.com said on Tuesday that it will launch a $2 billion venture capital fund that will focus on technology investments to reduce the impact of climate change and support sustainable development.  David Iaconangelo at E&E News addressed the question of whether this will really help clean energy.  Amazon also said that activities tied to its businesses emitted 51.17 million metric tons of CO2 last year, the equivalent of 13 coal-fired power plants running for a year.  That’s up 15% from 2018, when 44.4 million metric tons were emitted.

Satellites are becoming increasingly popular for detecting methane leaks from pipelines and other natural gas infrastructure, and they are finding significant leaks all over the world.  British power company Drax is partnering with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to test solvents developed by MHI for their ability to capture CO2 from the flue gas from power plants burning biomass.

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. announced a new goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.  A paper in the journal Joule provided a comprehensive estimate of fuel costs during the 15-year life of an EV compared to a gasoline model car, with specifics for each state.  The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has pledged $100 million in funding for the development of an industry-ready, heavy-duty, hydrogen-powered, fuel-cell truck.  Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a new direct borohydride fuel cell that achieves an operating voltage twice that of hydrogen fuel cells, thereby widening the number of possibilities that could be powered by fuel cells.  A new report released by The Brattle Group this week established that there could be anywhere from 10 to 35 million EVs on the road by 2030, and the U.S. electric power sector would need to invest between $75-125 billion to be able to serve 20 million.

The U.S.’s three separate power grids largely operate independently and exchange very little power, thereby preventing all sorts of efficiencies.  Last week, an effort was launched to address that: the Macro Grid Initiative, which seeks to expand and upgrade the nation’s transmission network.  With fewer and fewer fossil generators left in the UK generation mix, and with more and more renewables, the grid is under strain.  But more than 100 large wind farms are now providing grid services to balance out the variable nature of renewables.

China has nearly 250 GW of coal-fired power plants now under development, more than the entire coal power capacity of the U.S., a new study said on Thursday, casting doubt on China’s commitments to cutting fossil fuel use.  Oil and gas giants, mining interests, and coal-fired power plants have all received financial and regulatory relief as governments around the world enact pandemic recovery plans.  These moves threaten to create a dirty, high-carbon legacy that long outlasts the current crisis.

Potpourri

The authors of a new paper published in WIREs Climate Change explained the actors and factors behind online misinformation and why social networks are such fertile ground for misinformation about climate change to spread.  The coronavirus pandemic and climate change are both collective action problems; unfortunately, some Americans have trouble accepting the actions required to deal with such problems.  At Yale Climate Connections, SueEllen Campbell provided links to a number of articles about the common ground shared by activists for a livable climate, racial justice, climate justice, and environmental justice.  At the same site, Michael Svoboda brought together twelve books for our armchair travel this summer.  At Burning Worlds, Amy Brady interviewed poet Susan Barba about her new book, Geode.  A team from James Madison University earned first-place honors in the “project development” category at this year’s DOE’s Collegiate Wind Competition.

Closing Thought

This week, listen to a 17 minute conversation between Vicki Robin and Bill McKibben.

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.