Climate Action Alliance of the Valley climate, energy news roundup: Dec. 13
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
Several GOP lawmakers have rallied behind planting a trillion trees. The Trump administration finalized new cost-benefit requirements, instructing EPA to weigh all economic costs of curbing an air pollutant but disregard many resulting incidental benefits, such as avoided illnesses and deaths. Almost 48 House Republicans warned the Federal Reserve against proceeding with climate risk regulations for the financial system. Republican climate champion Bob Inglis said there are Republican Representatives and Senators with whom Biden can work.
Biden’s climate czar John Kerry wants to strengthen the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA). Washington Post’s Paul Bledsoe presented five myths about the PCA; Science’s Warren Cornwall examined if it is working. Many countries will miss a deadline to submit updated climate action plans by 2020). Australian, Brazilian, and South African leaders did not meet a PCA mandate to present their climate plans at a virtual summit marking the PCA’s fifth anniversary. In a video before the meeting, Greta Thunberg said: “We are still speeding in the wrong direction.” EU leaders reached a deal on a more ambitious target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, going from a 40% to 55% cut from 1990 levels. Brazil announced it will aim for carbon neutrality by 2060, sparking anger among campaigners who say the pledge is meaningless and a deliberate distraction from its Amazon rainforest destruction. By the time net-zero emissions are achieved, the amount of atmospheric CO2 will be too high for a sustainable climate; groups are beginning to focus on climate restoration.
Tom Vilsack, Obama Agriculture Department Secretary, will reprise that role during the Biden administration, with the goal of having the department assume a bigger role in fighting climate change. New York State’s pension fund will drop many fossil fuel stocks in the next five years and sell shares in other companies contributing to global warming by 2040. Since 2016, banks have extended more than $1.6Tn in loans and underwriting services to fossil-fuel companies planning and developing oil, gas, and coal projects. Thousands of rural Californians lost homeowners’ insurance in recent years because of rising wildfire claims, forcing them to seek alternative coverage two-three times more expensive; their rates are about to increase.
The Senate struggles through negotiations on the American Energy Innovation Act, hoping to pass it this year. Many U.S. states are on track to miss their targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The Transportation and Climate Initiative, a regional cap-and-invest effort to reduce car and truck emissions, has support from ~70% of member states’ voters, including Virginians. Virginia’s Clean Economy Act will equate to a 26% reduction in economy‑wide CO2 emissions by 2050, leaving Virginia far from cuts required to stave off the worst effects of climate change. A more ambitious policy package, implementing climate policies across transportation, buildings, industrial, land, and agricultural sectors, could put Virginia on a 1.5°C pathway and generate massive economic benefits. Here is an article on agrivoltaics especially for the members of the Board of Supervisors and residents of Rockingham County, VA, who are concerned about solar farms displacing agriculture.
Climate and Climate Science
Last month was the hottest November, as the relentlessly warming climate proved too much for possible effects of La Niña‑caused cooler tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures. Australia’s hottest spring, with temperatures 2°+C above average, would have been “virtually impossible” without human‑caused climate change. An Arctic News post discussed climate zone migration and resulting impact of Earth’s warming. The Atlantic hurricane season ended last week; Bloomberg Green recapped it with informative graphics. In 2020, three states (Alaska, Hawaii, and North Dakota) weren’t part of billion dollar weather disasters.
Carbon Brief summarized the new UN emissions gap report detailing how the world remains woefully off target in its quest to slow global warming. Carbon Brief’s Zeke Hausfather projected the world will likely exceed 1.5°C warming ~2030-2032 without rapidly reduced emissions. A Nature Climate Change study found reducing global emissions in line with PCA goals would clearly impact global temperatures within two decades.
The 2020 Arctic Report Card points to more extreme trends, with far‑reaching implications for people living far outside the region, including in the Lower 48 states. 2020’s vast wildfires in far northeastern Russia were linked to broader changes in the warming Arctic. A “new Arctic normal”?
2020 California wildfires threatened giant sequoias, Joshua trees, and coast al redwoods like never before. Wildfires alter soil makeup, so it’s less likely to absorb rainwater, especially during downpours, and more prone to mudslides. Satellite data from hundreds of California wildfires showed human-caused blazes spread faster and kill more trees than those lightning ignited.
Warming temperatures and human actions, like draining bogs and converting them for agriculture, threaten to turn the world’s peatlands from carbon reservoirs to carbon sources.
Plummeting prices of renewable electricity sources have made low‑carbon power “cost-competitive” to fossil fuels at a greater speed than once thought possible. The Rhodium Group estimates industry will overtake transportation as the largest source of U.S. emissions in the mid‑2020s.
Royal Dutch Shell has experienced departures of several clean energy executives amid a split over how far and fast the company should shift towards greener fuels. Exxon Mobil is at a crossroads as demand for oil and gas falls and world leaders and businesses pledge to fight climate change. The amount of natural gas released or burned at oil-and-gas wells reached a 2019 record high due to Texas and North Dakota growth.
UK firm Gridserve’s first “Electric Forecourt” launch provided a bricks‑and‑mortar view of future EV battery charging. Experts agree EVs can support a more reliable, resilient, and affordable grid. Policymakers are scrambling to secure critical minerals to develop cleaner energy. The Guardian provided a “long read” about the impact of lithium exploration, mining, and processing.
Seven companies launched a coalition to deploy 25GW of renewables‑based hydrogen production capacity by 2026, while halving the cost. Snam and Linde struck a deal for European green hydrogen projects development. Eni and Enel partnered to install two pilot-scale electrolyzers near two Eni refineries and use renewable energy to produce the hydrogen. Recent media stories touting hydrogen as a climate solution and clean form of energy can be linked in part to FTI Consulting — an oil and gas industry public relations firm.
Two documentaries on Amazon Prime and Netflix raise questions about our food system, from different perspectives, with different priorities. Reviewer Maddie Oatman wrote: “They make for a useful pair, with Gather showing what’s hiding in the white spaces of Kiss the Ground.” SueEllen Campbell provided recent articles on good holiday eats. A Chinese teenager is trying to draw attention to the dangers human development poses to the world. Amy Brady interviewed Cynan Jones about his powerful story, Stillicide, set in a climate‑changed future where water has been commodified. Grist provided 21 predictions for 2021.
“Opportunity” through clean energy initiatives may be key to bridging the divide and getting more engagement for climate action.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee