Climate Action Alliance of the Valley climate, energy news roundup: July 26

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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

The Black Lives Matter movement is affecting the “big greens”, causing them to look deeply into their history and inclusivity and their unconscious marginalization of minority employees.  When Alaska’s all-white Congressional delegation branded opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Arctic Wildlife National Refuge as a form of racial discrimination, Native organizers accused them of fomenting a hypocritical, misleading narrative.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs ordered the Tesoro High Plains Pipeline shut down after 67 years of operation for trespassing on Native American land.  The Three Percenters, a loosely organized group of far-right militants, appear to have a significant presence in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield.

The Democratic National Committee released a draft of its 2020 policy platform that included parts related to climate change.  Even if Joe Biden wins in November and the Democrats take the Senate, the Senate filibuster will remain a giant hurdle facing any climate bill.  Democratic lawmakers are privately talking about strategies for undoing Trump’s environmental and public health rollbacks should they win in November.  Progressive Democrats introduced a bill to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, among other things.  Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is sponsoring a bill (i) to ensure health care coverage for coal workers who lose their jobs as the country shifts to cleaner forms of energy; (ii) cover higher education costs for miners and their families.  Climate scientist Allison Crimmins argued for creation of a cabinet level Department of Climate.

EU leaders reached a recovery deal devoting nearly €550 billion to green projects over the next seven years.  In an opinion piece, Jason Bordoff discussed this issue: “Legal strategies that have derailed pipelines can also be turned against clean energy projects urgently needed to combat climate change.”  Morgan Stanley is the first U.S.-based global bank to join an international collaboration to “standardize carbon accounting for the financial sector” by tracking how banks’ and investment firms’ assets contribute to climate change.  A letter from pension funds and other investors representing almost $1 trillion in assets urged the Federal Reserve, the SEC, and other financial regulators to act on climate-change concerns to avoid economic disaster.  Louise Boyle reported on the proliferation of misinformation about climate change on Facebook.

The EPA proposed new regulations to reduce CO2 emissions from air travel; the proposal would adopt 2017 emissions standards from the International Civil Aviation Organization, which most U.S. airlines already meet.  A new analysis in the medical research journal BMJ found: (i) 95% of the world’s dietary guidelines are incompatible with at least one of the goals set by international climate and public health agreements; (ii) 87% aren’t compatible with emissions pathways to limit global warming to below 2°C.

Climate and Climate Science

A Reviews of Geophysics article discussed climate sensitivity—the warming that would occur from a doubling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.  A major conclusion is that the likely range of sensitivity values has been decreased to 2.6–4.1°C.  (If you have read your allocation of free articles at the NYT, read about the study here, here, or here; none is paywalled.)

ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine jointly investigated the question of “Where Will Everyone Go?” as climate conditions change to the point they will no longer support agriculture and people are forced to move or starve.

Scientists discovered an active leak of methane gas from the sea floor in Antarctica.  Researchers found evidence of ice loss from Wilkes Basin in eastern Antarctica during a climate warming event 400,000 years ago, suggesting parts of the East Antarctic ice sheet could be lost to modern warming trends.

A new study suggests that as the climate warms, birds are breeding earlier and their breeding windows are shrinking—some by as many as 4 to 5 days—possibly leading to increased competition for food that might threaten many bird populations.

Ice cover across the entire Arctic Ocean is currently at its lowest mid-July extent on record.  New research shows that maximum wave heights across the Arctic Ocean (encompassing the Beaufort Sea) could be upward of six meters higher on average within this century, leading to more erosion and flooding of indigenous villages.  Virginia coastal communities in 2019 saw two to five times more nuisance flooding than the national average.

Energy

Green energy—wind, solar, hydro, and bioenergy—generated 40% of EU electricity in the first half of 2020, compared to fossil fuels generating 34%.  Europe has a long history with hydroelectric power, but questions exist about its appropriate role in a carbon-free energy future.

A number of articles recently have touted hydrogen as a major component in the UK’s low carbon future.  Tom Baxter took issue with that assessment.  American industrial gas giant Air Products & Chemicals announced its intention to construct a massive green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia to be powered by 4 GW of the country’s wind and solar energy and produce 650 tons of hydrogen daily.

Five wholesale electric power market executives agree:  natural gas will continue to play an essential role on the electric power grid.  A $350 million natural gas project spanning much of eastern Virginia has been put on hold by Virginia’s State Corporation Commission, in part due to environmental justice concerns.

New York issued a request for proposals for up to 2.5 GW of offshore wind capacity.  The Georgia Public Service Commission agreed to let Georgia Power accept bids for a new 50 MW biomass generation plant.  A new organization, the Good Energy Collective, is making the progressive case for advanced nuclear power.

A study found that energy storage displaces other capacity investments in three major ways: (i) reducing variable renewable investments; (ii) replacing thermal generators; and (iii) deferring transmission upgrades.

Potpourri

Despite severe injuries from a bicycle accident, Bill McKibben had some interesting comments about the significance of Joe Biden’s climate plan in his weekly New Yorker column.

An art project planned for Burning Man 2021 aims to help participants imagine what life might be like 100 years from now if CO2 emissions followed each of three different scenarios.

The New York Times Magazine climate issue profiled teenage climate activist Jamie Margolin.

Greta Thunberg was awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity and will donate the one-million-euro prize money to different projects fighting the climate crisis.

Jonathan Watts interviewed James Lovelock, best known as the father of Gaia Theory, on the eve of his 101st birthday.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee

         
 

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