Climate and Energy News Roundup Hiatus

Les Grady with the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and principal compiler of these weekly climate news posts is taking a break from this work until the fall. Please watch for these posts resuming in late August or early September.



Letter to Congressman Ben Cline

Sally L. Newkirk
Harrisonburg, VA

May 4, 2019

Congressman Ben Cline
10 Franklin Road SE Suite 510
Roanoke, VA 24011

Dear Congressman,

Thank you again for meeting with Bishop Dansby and myself at your Staunton office on April 29, 2019.

I know Bishop has written you a follow up letter, and I feel compelled to do the same.

I was shocked to hear your understanding of Climate Science.  By shocked, I mean the same reaction I have when I find out that some people still smoke cigarettes.  Hopefully you are aware that the tobacco industry denied the medical science that cigarettes cause cancer for over 50 years?  Of course, they didn’t have the science to back up their claims, so they hired a PR firm to spin the story.  That story was “the government is trying to take away your cigarettes”.  How many lives could have been saved but for industry choosing profit over the health and welfare American citizens?

It was the same story with the lead industry.  By the late 1900s both the lead industry and U. S. Government (USG) agencies knew that lead was poison, but they considered it “essential” to our economy and consumers.  So, they allowed its use in gasoline, pipes and paints.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of children have suffered (more than from polio, which we quickly acknowledged and mobilized our resources to eradicate it.)  Many continue to suffer from lead poisoning today (think:  Flint, Michigan).  The USG was complicit in this preventable tragedy, because of powerful lobbyists.  ‎

The same pattern of denial and obfuscation has happened because of actions by Big Carbon.  I recommend you read the book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes‎ and ‎Erik M. Conway.  The authors spell out very clearly just how effectively the oil industry hid the truth about the effect of greenhouse gases on our climate’s stability and raised doubts about the validity of the scientific consensus.

Fortunately, although it’s very late, there are many folks aware of the threats climate instability pose to all of us, including many in your party.  I urge you to check into efforts like those espoused by Bob Inglis of RepublicEn, Rev Mitch Hescox of Evangelical Environment Network, Evangelicals for Social Action, American Conservation Coalition, and Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy, to name but a few.  Their web addresses appear at the end of this message.  I hope you will come to agree that there are market solutions to addressing our carbon addiction and embrace efforts to use them.

One other point about the evidence supporting the impacts of excessive greenhouse gases.  Notwithstanding the current Administration’s preference to avoid the term “climate change” and even deny the problem, there is a vast chasm between the assessments of most life-long civil servants and scientists who work hard to protect this country’s interests and the relatively small number of those who dismiss the problem.  I am speaking of the employees like those in DOD, the National Weather Service, NASA, and even the EPA.  They all have made it clear that Global Warming is real, caused by human actions, and is a grave threat to this county and the world.

I would welcome the opportunity for another exchange of ideas with you in order to find some common ground on what to do about the huge risks that we all face.  I hope you can offer some good suggestions on possible actions that you can support.  Solutions are many, but of course we have to have people, in all levels of government, who are open to understanding the issues and figuring out ways to address them.  I would love to partner with you on ways to do this.  Thanks again for your time on the 29th.


Sally Newkirk

Suggested Resources

Evangelical Environment Network:
Evangelicals for Social Action:
American Conservation Coalition:
VA Conservatives for Clean Energy:

Climate and Energy News Roundup 5/4/2019

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

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/26/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/19/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/12/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Celebrating Earth Day with a Free Screening of The Red Turtle


In celebration of Earth Day on Monday, April 22nd, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and Court Square Theater are offering a FREE, community showing of the Academy-Award-nominated animated film The Red Turtle!

The Red Turtle
Monday, April 22 | 7PM
Court Square Theater
41-F Court Square, Harrisonburg
FREE! All welcome!

The Red Turtle‘s simple but stunning story about humankind’s struggle against nature will appeal to audiences young and old. The film is completely dialogue free, so members of the community who speak different languages can appreciate its universal message together!

At its simplest level, the film is about a man who is isolated on an island and battles a giant turtle. Looking at it symbolically, Dutch illustrator, animator and director Michaël Dudok de Wit says that the man represents humankind and the turtle represents nature. In recorded interviews he calls it “a love letter to nature.” He also intended the story as a statement about the power of nature and about humankind reconnecting with nature.

The 80-minute animation was a hit at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, critically acclaimed at its 2017 U.S. release, and later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Rotten Tomatoes, a leading review website, gave it 94% and called it “…a beautifully animated effort whose deceptively simple story boasts narrative layers as richly absorbing as its lovely visuals.”

The Red Turtle appeals to viewers young and old, English-speakers and non-English speakers, casual movie-goers and analytical movie-goers. De Wit successfully uses visual storytelling and the characters’ face and body language to convey emotion in place of dialogue. He describes The Red Turtle as kid-friendly, though there is animal death which reviewers suggest will be appropriate for children age 10 and up.

Early arrivers can enjoy FREE POPCORN thanks to support from the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club! (Limited supply of free small popcorn for the first 33 guests).

Come celebrate our connection to Earth with your community this Earth Day!

Check out the movie trailer HERE.

Learn more about The Red Turtle in this interview with the movie’s director Michaël Dudok de Wit HERE.

Bob Corso of WHSV-TV interviewed organizer Lynn Smith for 1 on 1 about the film and Earth day on April 22, 2019:


Click here or on the image above to find this 1 on 1 segment.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 4/5/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Champions of Us All

Daily News-Record, April 1, 2019

Open Forum: Irvin Peckham

I read Michael Meredith’s open forum, (“Tony Wilt A Champion for Business,” March 14) in which he promoted Tony Wilt’s 26th District voting record, calling him “a champion for business.” Certainly, our representatives should support local business owners; but they should also support other citizens, education, community infrastructure and environmental preservation. At times, these elements may seem in conflict with one another; how a candidate negotiates these conflicts influences how many of us will vote.

Like Wilt and Meredith, I am not a fan of big government; but I do support government that works in the interest of all citizens, protecting consumers against fraudulent business practices, prioritizing public education, supporting community development and protecting the environment.

Wilt says he supports a “balanced approach to environmental and water quality issues.” A “balanced” approach implies that he might tolerate some degree of water pollution and environmental destruction if government regulations would hamper business profits. To suggest that we should balance current benefits at the expense of environmental preservation takes one down the infamous slippery slope. At what point is environmental destruction less important than business profit? Are we not concerned about preserving our environment for our children? Or is it: After us, the storm?

Because concrete contributes to CO2 production, global warming and water run-off, it should go without saying that Wilt, the owner of a concrete company, has an interest in voting against bills protecting our environment. Although loosely related through energy consumption, Delegate Wilt’s adherence to a “balanced” approach might explain his recent votes restricting solar development in Virginia, siding with Dominion and Appalachian Power over organizations promoting renewable energy.

Wilt’s vote is one example of how he might resolve issues when different interests, including his own, are in conflict. I am equally concerned about his positions on public education, the minimum wage, and Medicaid expansion. Although I applaud his position on testing, his attempts to divert monies from public education will undermine local schools, accounting for his low rating of 50 percent from the Virginia Education Association.

In support of Wilt’s positions on the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion, Meredith says that a wage of $15 an hour is “ridiculously high,” a claim that makes me shiver, and that Medicaid expansion would increase health cost, a claim not supported by the Kaiser Foundation research and the experience of other states in spite of recent efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. But even if Medicaid expansion increases costs, I believe that in the interest of the whole community, such an expansion would be worth supporting.

Although I respect champions of small business, I am looking for a representative who will be champions of us all. Mr. Meredith suggests that these priorities are socialist; I see them as caring for others, including our children and their children.

Irvin Peckham lives in Harrisonburg.

Irvin serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

Climate and Energy News Roundup 3/29/2019

Politics and Policy

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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