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Climate Action Alliance of the Valley News Roundup: It’s back!

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

Biden added over six climate staffers to his White House team, drawing from the ranks of green groups, environmental justice advocates, and former Democratic administration officials.  Here’s background on several of them.  Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Jr., now at Colorado State University, provided a comprehensive analysis of Biden’s proposals to attack the climate crisis.  Marianne Lavelle wrote of the opportunities the Senate’s 50-50 split provides on climate legislation.  One outcome will be elevation of West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairmanship, influencing what can be accomplished on climate.

The EPA unveiled a climate rule to effectively prohibit future regulation of greenhouse gases from any stationary source other than power plants.  The Trump administration agreed to an auto industry request to delay the start of dramatically higher penalties for companies failing to meet fuel efficiency requirements.  The American Petroleum Institute head said the oil and gas industry is prepared to fight back against policies Biden promised as a candidate.

The Green New Deal Network is organizing a sweeping network to mobilize around climate change, racial justice, and environmental justice; it will invest in partner organizations in 20 key states to mobilize grassroots power to pressure elected officials to support the groups’ goals.  Climate activists are reflecting on what climate advocacy will look like in the future.  The organization overseeing building energy code updates is taking steps to sideline thousands of public sector members from voting on future updates. Critics charge this move would give outsized influence to building industry groups, making it more difficult to incorporate stricter efficiency requirements into future model energy codes.  MIT researchers concluded the US can fully decarbonize its power sector by using existing technologies and tackling decarbonization through a federal policy framework to significantly lower costs.  New York Gov. Cuomo announced the largest-ever US state award of offshore wind contracts as part of a broader plan to scale up renewable power over the next decade.

China said it will promote large-scale carbon capture projects and track methane emissions from coal, oil, and gas extraction.  Poland does not expect to accelerate its timetable for closing its coal mines by 2049, despite tougher EU climate targets agreed to in December.  The UN Environment Program’s fifth Adaptation Gap Report warned that, while the vast majority of nations have bolstered plans for adapting to the effects of global warming, there remains a large funding gap for developing countries.  In updated climate plans submitted to the UN, poor and island states—with negligible total CO2 emissions—called on rich nations to provide more funding to help them recover from climate-related disasters including storms, flooding, and drought.

Climate and Climate Science

Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2020 tied 2016 as hottest year on record.  A notable difference between the years: 2016 experienced a strong El Niño, whereas the second half of 2020 experienced La Niña conditions.  NASA agreed; NOAA, Berkeley Earth, and Britain’s Met Office said 2020 fell shy by a mere 0.02-0.04°F.  Jeff Masters compiled lists of various 2020 records; Zeke Hausfather provided a comprehensive look at a broad array of climate data.  Research found the world’s oceans contain more heat than at any time in recorded history.

Increased precipitation partially from climate change caused an additional $2.5Bn/year in US flood damage; a new study pointed out the effect of changing weather on natural disasters’ costs.  Another study found that, if temperatures continue to rise, terrestrial ecosystems will approach a “temperature tipping point”, beyond which they could release more CO2 than they take up.

In Frontiers in Conservation Science, 17 scientists warned people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises.  The Colorado River Basin is transitioning to a more arid climate, challenging longstanding practices of water sharing there.  A WWF study examined 24 “deforestation fronts” across 29 Latin American, Asian, and African countries, finding 166,000 square miles of forest and habitat were destroyed 2004‑2017.

A Nature Scientific Reports study found the young of egg-laying sharks emerge into the world small, exhausted, and undernourished when incubated at elevated ocean temperatures.  Environmental Research Letters research suggested the negative impacts of climate change on child malnourishment could outweigh the positive effects of economic development in low- and middle-income countries.

Energy

Grid Strategies pointed out that FERC Order 2003 may stymie attempts to decarbonize the US electricity system because of lack of transmission to carry wind and solar power from where it’s most cheaply generated to where it’s most needed.  Connecticut energy officials concluded that eliminating CO2 emissions from their electricity supply by 2040 is feasible and affordable, but will require changes by grid operator ISO New England.

The US Energy Information Administration projected wind and solar will provide 70% of new power plant capacity built this year; natural gas will account for 16%.  UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and Virginia’s Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy launched an online information dashboard to help track Virginia’s progress toward its clean energy goals.

United Airlines will become part of a joint venture designed to finance and deploy a large-scale direct air capture plant using Carbon Engineering technology.  Energy Monitor’s Sonja van Renssen examined whether CO2 removal will be necessary to meet temperature goals and reviewed the role of direct air capture in doing so. Bloomberg Green’s Kate Mackenzie argued too many companies are counting on carbon capture to reach net zero emissions.

South Korea’s SK Group announced a $1.5Bn investment in American hydrogen fuel cell maker Plug Power, to provide hydrogen fuel cell systems, electrolyzers, and fueling stations in South Korea and other Asian countries.  Siemens Gamesa and Siemens Energy are developing a commercial offshore wind turbine integrating hydrogen production via electrolysis into the turbine, marking a breakthrough for the mass production of green hydrogen.

General Motors is launching a new subsidiary to deliver “an ecosystem” of products and services to speed up shipping and delivery, including an all‑electric delivery van, for which Fed-Ex has placed a large order.

Potpourri

Carbon Brief assessed the scientific papers related to climate change most featured in the media.  Book reviewer Amy Brady called Felicia Luna Lemus’s Particulate Matter “…a slim, exquisitely crafted memoir about living in California during 2020’s record-setting wildfire season….”  Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ben Deacon produced a photo-essay about the Arctic, changes occurring there as a result of Earth’s warming, and those studying them.  National Geographic explored what might be done to reduce the impacts of flying on the climate.  Read this article if you have been frustrated in your attempts to buy an EV or plug-in hybrid in Virginia.

Closing Thought

Katharine Hayhoe, and five fellow climate scientists who are also mothers, teamed with Potential Energy to launch Science Moms, a $10Mn campaign to educate and empower mothers to act on climate change.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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