Weekly roundup of climate, energy news: Sept. 27
Climate Action Alliance of the Valley produces The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News. Excerpts from a recent Roundup follow; full Roundup is here.
Politics and Policy
President Xi Jinping pledged China would reach its peak greenhouse gas emissions ahead of its 2030 goal and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Steven Lee Myers analyzed what it means; research consortium Carbon Action Tracker determined that the pledge could curb global warming by 0.2‑0.3°C this century. CAT also said a U.S. leadership change, combined with China’s new pledge and a European “green recovery”, could get the world two-thirds of the way to meeting its climate goals. Morgan Stanley, AT&T, and Walmart made fresh commitments, adopting more aggressive timetables for reducing emissions; GE announced it will no longer build new coal-fired power plants. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order aiming to make Michigan’s economy carbon‑neutral by 2050.
Over 60 deep-pocketed donors asked Joe Biden to commit to a new coal/ oil/ natural gas development moratorium — and to select advisers “free from fossil fuel influence.” Biden won 350 Action’s endorsement; two former EPA Republican heads backed him. Public Policy Polling asked voters in eight battleground states which candidate’s views on climate aligned more with their own; 55% chose Biden, 28% Trump, and 15% neither. Some young conservatives see Trump’s climate change position as a problem. Nearly half of Americans think addressing climate change will help the economy; 29% believe climate policy will harm it. Seven in ten voters support government action to address climate change, with three‑quarters wanting the U.S. to generate all its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind within 15 years. Democratic lawmakers asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to include climate change in the debates. Bill McKibben and Thomas Friedman offered opinions about our Presidential election choice.
Asked whether he believes human-caused carbon emissions are fueling hotter temperatures, DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette said: “No one knows that.” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said there is “scientific debate” on whether climate change exacerbates hurricanes and other natural disasters. Trump’s pick for NOAA’s new chief scientist is a meteorologist who frequently criticizes “climate alarmists”.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died September 18, helped establish critical precedent empowering the EPA to address greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. Her death may eventually result in a reassessment. If President Trump replaces her, he may stymie climate action for generations to come; a second term could save some of his biggest environmental rollbacks. The Congressional Budget Office projected U.S. GDP will be 1% smaller in 2050 because of climate change than it would have been otherwise.
Climate and Climate Science
Frequency of “dry-hot extremes” (years with concurrent drought and heatwaves) across the contiguous U.S. from 1896-2017 has increased substantially in the past decades, expanding spatially at an alarming rate. Two dozen climate experts, asked about 2020’s cascading climate impacts, concluded the most sobering message is the world hasn’t seen the worst of it. A NYT team provided a retrospective analysis of 2020’s West Coast fire season. An extensive scientific review of the literature found an “unequivocal and pervasive” role for global warming in boosting fire conditions in the U.S. West Coast and other world‑wide locations.
From 1990 to 2015, the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population emitted more than twice as much CO2 as the poorer fifty percent. European farm livestock produce more greenhouse gases yearly than all the EU’s cars and vans, Greenpeace says.
New research suggests that, even if the Paris agreement goals are met, Antarctic ice sheet melting will cause sea level to rise about eight feet. The melting is likely to take place over a long period, beyond 2100, but is almost certain to be irreversible. Melting Arctic ice destabilizes the weather from the north, and warming tropics move northward from the south, pressing the mid‑latitudes, historically humanity’s climate sweet spots.
Bob Henson explained why the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has spun out of control. Tornadoes are increasingly occurring in the Southeast, where they are twice as deadly as U.S tornadoes elsewhere. Climate change is making severe marine heat waves much more likely.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order adopting a goal for all new passenger vehicle sales in California to be zero-emission by 2035. The L.A. Times said: “Goodbye and good riddance.” Energy analysts noted it would change the nature of the load on the grid, but “not in an earth‑shaking way”. The Trump administration called the plan anti-consumer.
South Carolina solar power advocates and a utility reached a compromise that may offer a blueprint for other states trying to resolve the net metering debate. Frederick County, VA’s Board of Supervisors approved unanimously a conditional-use permit for a $100 million solar power facility, clearing the way for developing the facility on approximately 1,160 rural acres.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk outlined changes to the company’s lithium-ion battery design. When fully employed they will extend range by 54% and decrease per kilowatt-hour (kWh) pack price by 56%. NYT’s Jack Ewing described the race to dominate the battery market and get electric cars on price-parity with gasoline ones. Six electric utilities pledged to bring the largest U.S. interstate electric vehicle charging network to the Midwest within two years.
Hyundai announced plans to sell hydrogen fuel cell-powered trucks in the U.S. by 2022. Daimler revealed its new design for a long haul hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck with customer trials starting 2023. Ballard Power Systems announced its work on a new Audi hydrogen fuel cell stack technology with Audi. This Washington Post article answers questions about hydrogen as a fuel.
BP and other European oil companies are investing billions in renewable energy; Exxon and Chevron are committed to fossil fuels. The world is on course to sail past the recognized “safe” level of 2°C of warming to as much as 3°C, according to the latest Wood Mackenzie “Energy Transition Outlook”. The International Energy Agency said governments and major polluters must take urgent action to develop technologies to capture and store carbon emissions or it will be “virtually impossible” for the world to meet its climate targets. Southern Company intends to try to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while still keeping natural gas as a central part of its business, to generate electricity and to sell to customers.
Columbia Journalism Review: “Some major U.S. media coverage of the [climate] crisis is finally getting better.”
David Roberts talk with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, authors of Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal.
SueEllen Campbell covered several recent articles about the importance of “sliding baselines.”
Young people rallied worldwide to demand urgent action to halt climate change.
Katharine Hayhoe: Giving people a sense of agency for fighting climate change means giving people hope.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee