Climate Action Alliance of the Valley: Climate, energy news roundup for July 19
The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), a non-profit, grassroots group of volunteers in the Central Shenandoah Valley, produces “The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News” to inform legislators and the public. Here is an excerpt from a recent Roundup; full Roundup is on the CAAV website.
Politics and Policy
Joe Biden unveiled a proposal to transform the nation’s energy industry, pledging to eliminate carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 and spend $2 trillion to turbocharge the clean energy economy. President Trump displayed how far apart he and Biden are ideologically on infrastructure and environmental matters. The oil and gas lobby was not thrilled with several parts of Joe Biden’s new climate plan. Some leading climate scientists have written to EU leaders demanding they act immediately to avoid the worst impacts of the unfolding climate and ecological emergency.
The White House finalized its rollback of one of the nation’s bedrock environmental laws, the National Environmental Policy Act. A federal judge in California blocked the rollback of a rule requiring reduction of methane emissions from oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands. The administration has systematically underestimated damage caused by carbon pollution, according to the Government Accountability Office. A lower court ordered the temporary shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline; an appeals court stalled that order.
Official dietary advice worldwide is harming both the environment and people’s health, according to scientists who performed the most comprehensive assessment of national dietary guidelines to date. C40 Cities, a network of mayors committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, argued that urban economies need to prioritize green investments to create a more resilient society that can withstand global shocks. The Virginia Mercury’s Sarah Vogelsong examined the question of how a network of Virginia electric vehicle charging stations should be developed and managed by the regulated electric utilities or a competitive marketplace. Two clean energy advocates, CAAV Steering Committee member Sally Newkirk and Virginia Sierra Club’s Seth Heald, are challenging incumbents in electric utility co-op board elections this summer.
FERC unanimously rejected a petition from the New England Ratepayers Association to declare all state solar net-metering policies illegal. Some states and cities have adopted carbon neutrality goals, requiring a natural gas phase out. Emily Pontecorvo examined the complex interrelated questions that must be addressed while doing so. Results from an Environmental and Resource Economics study showed that countries with carbon prices had on average annual CO2 emissions growth rates about 2% lower than countries without a carbon price. Biomass currently represents almost 60% of the EU’s “renewable energy”, more than solar and wind power combined. The EU is working on stricter sustainability criteria for bioenergy. The U.S. EPA is expected to propose a new rule declaring that burning biomass from forests can be considered carbon neutral, thereby loosening the sustainability criteria.
Climate and Climate Science
Recent papers by Global Carbon Project researchers reported that from the 2000-2006 period to 2017, methane emissions from fossil fuel production and use increased by nearly 15% to 108M tons annually, while emissions from agriculture increased by almost 11% to 227M tons yearly.
NASA and NOAA agree that 2020’s first half was the second hottest on record, trailing 2016’s first half by 0.05°C. They also estimated that 2020 has a 36% chance of becoming the hottest year on record and a 99.9% chance of being among the top five. A new report from NOAA says the increase in high-tide flooding along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts since 2000 has been “extraordinary.”
World Weather Attribution project researchers determined the prolonged January-to-June heat wave across the Siberian Arctic was made at least 600 times more likely by human-caused climate change. The official weather observing station in Death Valley, CA reached 128°F on Sunday, the hottest temperature anywhere on Earth since 2017, only 1°F behind what experts say is likely the hottest temperature ever recorded.
Carbon Brief’s Daisy Dunne examined how wildfires around the world are changing, the influence of global warming on them, and how future risks might multiply.
A paper in Nature said grinding up basalt rock and spreading the resulting powder across agricultural fields can accelerate Earth’s natural rate of CO2 absorption by “enhanced rock weathering.”
The International Energy Agency issued its latest “Clean Energy Innovation” report, which seeks to determine whether the tools available for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions are capable of doing so. Vox’s David Roberts dissected and summarized the report.
In his “Inside Clean Energy” column, Dan Gearino covered two particularly interesting topics: 1) Lead article about energy company PacifiCorp’s move toward more clean energy, an undertaking requiring them to satisfy regulators in a diverse array of states. And 2) another article addressing what to do with solar panels at the end of their useful life, referencing a recent paper in Nature Energy.
In 2019, California utilities implemented preventative blackouts as a way to eliminate the risk of grid equipment’s sparking fires. Greentech Media examined the use of microgrids as an alternative strategy for reducing risk. California’s three investor-owned utilities reported that solar backed by four hours of storage can achieve nearly 100% reliability during the daytime. Dutch scientists collaborated with the power company Liander to study the impacts of clouds on electricity production by solar panels, finding the highest power peaks occurred under partly cloudy conditions. Rocky Mountain Institute issued a new report on reimagining grid resilience as we transform our electrical energy system.
Oil industry companies announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Many pledges are misleading and misrepresent how much the oil giants are changing. No company has committed to shrink its oil output this decade.
Lithium’s continued availability is essential to developing electric vehicles, electricity storage, and multiple other activities dependent on lithium-ion batteries. Most lithium is obtained by mining today; the oceans contain a vast amount of it, but at very low concentration. Stanford University scientists devised a technique for extracting lithium from seawater; it will require additional development before it can be applied.
Joseph Stiglitz reviewed Bjorn Lomborg’s new book False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, concluding “…Lomborg’s work would be downright dangerous were it to succeed in persuading anyone that there was merit in its arguments.”
Peter Gleick reviewed Michael Shellenberger’s Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, stating “In short, what is new in here isn’t right, and what is right isn’t new.”
A self-published July 2018 article, “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy”, has been downloaded over 600,000 times and significantly impacted the ideology and strategy of climate movement organizations like Extinction Rebellion (ER). Three young scientist ER members reviewed the science and conclusions of “Deep Adaptation”, finding them deeply flawed.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee