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Climate Action Alliance of the Valley climate, energy news roundup: March 14

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

An environmental coalition urged the US to commit to slashing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50% by 2030.  A new analysis determined the US must slash such emissions by 57%-63% below 2005 levels by 2030 to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.  The EU and the US need to align to tackle climate change, John Kerry said.  The Pentagon announced creation of a working group to respond to Biden’s executive orders addressing the climate crisis.  Senate Democrats introduced the “Methane Emissions Reduction Act,” directing the Treasury to assess a fee on methane emissions and a bill to incentivize companies to weatherize the power grid.

The Senate confirmed Michael Regan as EPA administrator; a Senate committee voted 20-0 to advance the nomination of David Turk as deputy Energy secretary.  Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the US needs to sustainably boost domestic production of minerals used to make electric vehicles (EVs).  She also said the administration is aggressively pursuing transportation electrification in part to prevent China from cornering the $23Tn market in carbon-reducing technologies.  Proposals for a national clean electricity standard have become a central focus of climate change legislation in the new Congress, with support from both parties.  For most cars to be electric by 2050, EV sales must ramp up to 100% by 2035; new programs are needed to get gasoline and diesel vehicles off the road.  GM’s President said the government should extend investment tax credits for EV manufacturing and supply chains, and expand consumer incentives for EV purchases.

Twelve states sued the Biden administration for trying to establish a new GHGs’ value for the “social cost” to use in agency rulemaking.  A three‑member panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals found federal judges lacked the power to order a climate recovery plan, as petitioned by young people in Juliana v. United States.  Plaintiffs filed a motion in federal court to amend their suit.  In 2006’s trial against tobacco companies, Judge Gladys Kessler’s opinion said, “Over the course of more than 50 years, Defendants lied, misrepresented and deceived the American public.”  Will this also be written about oil companies?  100+ cities, counties, and states around the country have enacted ordinances restricting renewable energy projects.

Among the many goals in Biden’s climate change agenda, protecting 30% of US lands and ocean territories by 2030 is among the most ambitious and complex, and the most likely to face substantial political obstacles.  Controversy over a NV proposed lithium mine highlights a big challenge the Biden administration must address to transition the US economy to carbon-free energy sources: How to acquire the needed mineral resources without sacrificing biodiversity or the health of communities living near mining projects.  Florida Republican state legislators announced measures to save the state from rising seas; they don’t tackle the root cause of the problem.  17 House Democrats introduced legislation to provide $6Bn to the US Postal Service to buy additional electric delivery vehicles.  Ivy Main reviewed the 2021 Virginia GA’s accomplishments on climate and clean energy by.

Governments worldwide are failing to match their rhetoric with action in rescuing their economies from the COVID-19 pandemic, with only ~18% of funding considered green.  Climate Home News focused on nine countries missing their chance at a green recovery.  A nine-country coalition led by the Netherlands and Denmark called on the European Commission to decide on a phase-out date for the internal combustion engine, drawing a withering response from Germany.

Climate and Climate Science

If governments fail to limit global warming to 1.5°C above the pre-industrial era, areas in the tropical band on either side of the equator risk becoming a new environment that will hit “the limit of human adaptation.”  Humans have degraded or destroyed roughly two-thirds of the world’s original tropical rainforest cover, raising alarm that a key natural buffer against climate change is quickly vanishing.  The first-ever study to examine all gases that affect how the Amazon works — not just CO2 — suggests the forest is worsening climate change.

If emissions continue unchecked, Northern Hemisphere summers could last nearly six months by 2100, with significant impacts on agriculture, the environment, human health, and the timing of species’ activities like breeding, feeding, and migration.

A new study suggests—contrary to previous research—that climate change will not cause global drylands’ expansion.  The climate crisis is altering the flow of rivers worldwide, with increasing river flows in some regions, e.g. northern Europe, and decreasing river flows in others, e.g. southern Europe, southern Australia, and parts of southern Asia.

Downpours triggering flooding that destroyed homes and bridges in Hawaii and set off mass evacuations on multiple islands are an example of the more intense rainstorms occurring more frequently as the planet warms.  Because of land sinking from a number of factors, including groundwater pumping, coastal communities are experiencing an effective sea level rise four times worse than global sea level rise.

Energy

Millions of Americans face the specter of prolonged power outages under the current power grid.  Climate change will have “far-reaching” impacts on the electric grid that could cost billions of dollars.  Investor-owned utilities face a $500Bn capital investment gap to build out resilience efforts and effectively address risks from climate change.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management completed its environmental review for an 800 MW windfarm 12 nautical miles off Martha’s Vineyard’s coast, saying its preferred alternative would allow up to 84 turbines installed in 100 of 106 proposed blocks for the facility.  China built more new windfarm capacity in 2020 than the whole world combined in 2019.

Solar hydrogen production through a photoelectrochemical water-splitting reaction is an attractive alternative to water electrolysis for green hydrogen production because of its potential for higher conversion efficiency and lower cost.  Its adoption has been hampered by the difficulty of separating the hydrogen from the other gases.  The Japanese developed a membrane that may solve the problem.  A Japanese-Australian venture has begun producing hydrogen from brown coal in a pilot project to show that liquefied hydrogen can be produced commercially and exported safely.  If the project goes commercial, the CO2 that the process produces would be injected underground off the coast.

FedEx has promised carbon neutrality by 2040, pledging an initial investment of $2Bn to start electrifying its fleet of 180,000+ vehicles.  Full EVs are expected to account for more than 70% of Volkswagen’s total European vehicle sales by 2030, doubling its previous target.  Governments and automakers worldwide are making bold pledges to transition to electric-only vehicles; Japanese car companies and regulators are hedging their bets.  Honda plans to sell two all-electric SUVs in the US for the 2024 model year; it soon will offer hybrid gas-electric versions of its top-selling models.  LG Energy Solution will invest $4.5+Bn in its US battery production business by 2025 as automakers ramp up EV production.

A new study suggests changes in natural gas markets since the Mountain Valley Pipeline was conceived have undercut the economic case for it.  Analysts calculated that abandoned oil and gas wells cover more than 2Mn US acres; restoring this land could deliver billions of dollars in benefits for a fraction of the restoration cost.

Global banking giants and investment firms are continuing to bankroll a major driver of the climate crisis: food and farming corporations responsible for cutting down vast carbon-storing forests and producing GHG emissions.  “Food systems” caused 34% of all human-caused GHG emissions in 2015.

Potpourri

Amy Brady interviewed poet Kathryn Smith about her latest collection, Self‑Portrait with Cephalopod.  Jedediah Britton-Purdy reviewed Vaclav Smil’s new book Grand Transitions: How the Modern World Was Made.  2020 climate change coverage on corporate broadcast TV nightly news and Sunday shows plummeted by 53% compared to 2019.  The University of Virginia’s Religion, Race & Democracy Lab produced a publicly available video entitled “God $ Green: An Unholy Alliance”, addressing decades of what it calls “religious polarization, political propaganda, corporate deal-making, and environmental injustice based on systemic racism.”  Soleil Santana took a long look at the history of solar energy.  Fix recently launched a cli-fi writing contest; Grist interviewed the judges.  Learn about the innovations happening in places like Seattle-based solar start-up BlueDot Photonics.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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