Climate Action Alliance of the Valley: Climate, energy news for week of Oct. 25

Climate Action Alliance of the ValleyClimate 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

During their last debate, President Trump and Joe Biden laid out starkly different visions on whether the U.S. needs to transition away from fossil fuels to address climate change.  Conservatives pummeled Biden for his position, accusing him of being callous with the economy in his proposals.  A Market Watch article asserted the U.S. will transition to a clean-energy mix regardless of who wins the White House, although the pace of change will depend on the election’s outcome.  The Independent asked climate scientists, policy experts, and environmentalists for their takeaways from the debate’s climate change portion.  A The New York Times and Siena College national poll of likely voters found 66% support Biden’s $2tn climate plan; 26% oppose it. The question haunting climate activists is whether a Biden win will be different from President Obama’s first victory.  Automakers are gearing up for tough new vehicle emissions rules and policies favoring electric vehicles.

GreenTech Media interviewed Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) about areas of agreement and disagreement among legislators on energy reform.  Kate Aronoff explored the role that conservative West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) might play in enacting energy and climate legislation should the Democrats take over the Senate.  A new Brookings Institution report assessed the U.S.’s largest cities’ greenhouse gas reduction pledges and commitments, tracked the emissions savings that could result from them, and evaluated whether the cities are meeting their goals.  Virginia Governor Northam pledged to power the state’s electric grid with 30% renewable energy by 2030.  Climate change isn’t Biden’s sole environmental concern.  His platform calls for setting aside 30% of U.S. lands and water for conservation by 2030.

A Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry diatribe against U.S. climate policies blamed Trump’s “negative stance” and “retrogression on climate change” for undermining progress on the Paris climate accord.  EU environment ministers were set to agree to make legally binding the bloc’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2050; the agriculture lobby and agriculturally dominant countries are potential obstacles.  EU agriculture ministers agreed to set aside part of the farming policy budget for environmental protection programs.  Yale Environment 360 published a retrospective about Poland and coal in the same week the country’s largest power company announced it wants to become 100% renewable by 2050.  The French government forced a domestic company to delay signing a potential $7bn deal with a U.S. liquefied natural gas company over concerns that its U.S. shale gas was too dirty.  Cambridge Econometrics researchers modelled a ‘green recovery’ plan against a ‘return-to-normal’ plan across the UK, Germany, Poland, U.S., India, and globally; it concluded a green recovery strategy’s impact would be “consistently larger” than one delivered through a standard stimulus package.

Harvard Law School’s Jody Freeman examined the impact of a Justice Amy Coney Barrett on environmental and climate law.  Three years after research finding “a discrepancy between what ExxonMobil’s scientists and executives discussed about climate change privately and in academic circles and what it presented to the general public,” Exxon’s vice president Vijay Swarup published a comment in the same journal to rebut the research.  After public outcry over its delay of a key step in the progress of NASA’s National Climate Assessment—soliciting authors to work on the project—NASA restarted the process, publishing a Federal Register notice seeking authors.

Climate and Climate Science

A Washington Post multimedia article explained climate change’s contribution to the North Complex September fire that wiped out Berry Creek, CA.  Northern California faces days of ‘critical’ fire risk as strong, dry winds will keep fire danger high this week and next.  The Cameron Peak Fire near Rocky Mountain National Park became the largest wildfire in Colorado history; the East Troublesome Fire forced the park’s closure.  An NPR analysis found most wildfire-prone states, excluding California and Oregon, have no requirements for disclosing fire risk to someone who buys or rents a home.

Great Plains Dust storms have become more common and more intense in the past 20 years, because of croplands expansion and more frequent droughts there.  New Republic wrote about the impacts of the extreme drought occurring in Canyon de Chelly, in the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona.

Foreign Affairs published climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer’s essay on dangers of multiple, simultaneous disasters.

Hurricane Epsilon rapidly intensified, unexpectedly becoming a Category 3, claiming two records as it cruised northwest over the open Atlantic.  For the first time since records began, Siberian Laptev Sea surface waters—main nursery of Arctic sea ice—have yet to start freezing.

Energy

An aggressive push towards 100% renewable energy would save Americans as much as $321bn in energy costs, also slashing planet-heating emissions.  Renewable energy corporate buyers will drive development of 44-72 GW of new U.S. wind and solar projects by 2030.  Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Cinnamon Energy Systems described his experience converting his home to all-electric.

Inside Climate News reviewed concerns about NuScale Power’s small modular nuclear reactors, approved for construction in Idaho.  As global warming climbs and water consumption increases, nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants reliant on freshwater for cooling may not be able to perform at their peak capacity or forced to shut down temporarily.

Vox’s David Roberts described geothermal energy basics, explaining why its time may have come.  Greentech Media’s Jason Deign explained the concepts and applications of “virtual power plants” and floating wind turbines.

Extra costs of manufacturing battery electric cars versus their internal combustion engine equivalents will diminish to $1,900/car by 2022, disappearing completely by 2024.  Dan Gearino’s column was devoted to EVs, prompted in part by GM’s introducing the new electric Hummer.  RMI explained why the U.S. should assert EV leadership.

Potpourri

Michael Svoboda reviewed Kim Stanley Robinson’s new novel, The Ministry of the Future.  SueEllen Campbell’s readings shed some light on the question of growth versus de-growth as climate crisis solutions.  Philip K. Verleger reviewed Daniel Yergin’s new book, The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of NationsThe New Yorker’s Lizzie Widdicombe interviewed former Renaissance scholar Genevieve Guenther about how the media should talk about climate change.  Grist’s Kate Yoder looked at the growing field of climate-fiction, paraphrasing social scientist Matthew Schneider-Mayerson: “In the near future … any story that doesn’t touch on climate change might as well be considered either historical fiction or other-worldly fantasy.”

Closing Thought

Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, titled “Fratelli Tutti” (“We are all brothers and sisters”), contains ten ideas about caring for our common home and the importance of rethinking the ways we connect with each other.  The Pope also produced a TED talk making the point in much sharper terms.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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