Climate Action Alliance of the Valley news roundup: Week of Nov. 8
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 news agencies called the presidential election for Joe Biden; Juliet Eilperin and colleagues wrote he “will move to restore dozens of environmental safeguards President Trump abolished and launch the boldest climate change plan of any president in history.” The “green wave” that environmentalists had hoped for didn’t materialize. Bill McKibben considered what continued Republican control of the Senate will likely mean to the Biden’s ability to act on climate change, as did Jeff St. John. Corbin Hiar, E&E News, thinks lobbyists and insiders believe there may still be opportunities for corporations to shape climate policy. E&E News speculated on why voters in Arizona and Florida had different perspectives on climate change dangers, in their presidential choices. Climate XChange listed a number of wins for climate action in down-ballot races and initiatives.
The U.S. left the Paris Climate Agreement Nov 4, the only country to do so. The New York Times’ Lisa Friedman looked at “how it happened, what it means and what might happen next”; CEOs of the Rocky Mountain Institute and World Resources Institute reminded us that meeting the Paris Agreement goal will help countries to innovate and create new economic opportunities, and reduce impacts and associated costs of future climate‑related disasters. Michael Mann: “There’s still time to do what’s necessary to reduce carbon emissions so … we don’t cross that threshold into catastrophic climate change.” Chelsea Harvey catalogued increases in climate-related disasters and scientists’ understanding of climate change during the Trump administration.
President Trump replaced Neil Chatterjee, Republican FERC chairman, with James Danly, another Republican with a more conservative approach to federal energy policy—e.g., voting against opening up markets to distributed energy and dissenting on a wholesale market carbon pricing policy proposal. Chatterjee spoke to the Washington Post about the change; Forbes provided background.
Putin signed a decree ordering the Russian government to try to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement, stressing any action must be balanced with ensuring strong economic development. Russia has no plans to rein in its production of fossil fuels. To meet its goal of reducing economy-wide CO2 emissions to net-zero by 2050, Massachusetts must deal with the fact that roughly one‑third of its emissions come from fuels burned in buildings for heating, hot water, and cooking. Its Department of Public Utilities opened a new proceeding to start guiding utilities into a decarbonized future while protecting their customers. From Pope Francis to Greta Thunberg, there are growing calls to make “ecocide”—”killing the environment”—a recognized crime under international law.
Climate and Climate Science
Hurricane Eta made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 4 storm, one of only five Category 4 or 5 Atlantic hurricanes seen in November. It continued into Honduras as a tropical depression, dumping large amounts of rain. It’s expected to head toward Cuba as a tropical storm, but not re-intensify into a hurricane. Super Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines, with sustained winds of 195 mph and a central pressure of 884 mb, making it the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in world recorded history.
Brazilian space research agency INPE data showed that Amazon rainforest fires surged in October, with the number of blazes up 25% during the first 10 months of 2020, compared to 2019. New research revealed such fires continue to drive greenhouse gas emissions for up to two decades after burning out, driven by the slow death of trees. Research found the western U.S. area burned annually by high‑severity fires has increased eight-fold in the past 35 years.
Europe experienced its hottest October on record. Unusually severe heat also swept across the Arctic region, causing Arctic sea ice to reach its lowest level for October since 1979. A new study estimated that an average global temperature increase of 2°C would lead to release of ~230 billion metric tons of carbon from the world’s soil, an amount equivalent to over twice the U.S. emissions during the past 100 years.
The lead partner in the joint venture building the Mountain Valley Pipeline announced its cost increased from $3.7Bn to $5.8-$6Bn; completion date slipped to second half of 2021. French utility Engie pulled out of a major U.S. liquefied natural gas import deal after government concerns about its environmental implications.
Yale Environment 360 reviewed the global status of green hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel. Air Liquide Group released a list of seven ways hydrogen will contribute to the transition toward renewable energy. Toyota is focusing its hydrogen fuel cell development on marine applications; world‑wide, developers are testing use of hydrogen to power ships to cut emissions.
Wind energy will achieve record growth globally over the next five years, with ~348 GW of new onshore and offshore capacity expected by the end of 2024. The U.S. wind industry set a record in Q320, installing nearly 2 GW of new wind power capacity. Offshore wind advocates say a more coordinated approach to electric grid upgrades in New England could save money and minimize ecological disruption. To comply with the Virginia Clean Economy Act, Appalachian Power will acquire or contract for 210 MW of solar power and 200 MW of wind power over the next five years. Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality recently approved a permit for the “Rocky Forge Wind” windfarm–up to 22 turbines on a remote Botetourt County ridgeline.
Hampton Roads Transit’s six electric buses will be deployed on the Norfolk‑Virginia Beach route. Volvo Trucks will sell a complete range of electric, heavy-duty trucks in Europe beginning 2021. Daimler Truck AG and Volvo Trucks have a joint venture for developing, producing, and commercializing heavy-duty truck fuel cells. GM will bring its EVs to market faster than initially anticipated.
Dominion Energy Virginia will enter into six power purchase agreements and build three new solar facilities, for a total of 500 MW of new renewable energy. Union of Concerned Scientists’ James Gignac reviewed recycling opportunities for photovoltaic solar panels.
A Shell climate poll Twitter post backfired, with the oil company accused of gaslighting the public. Tim Flannery, author of The Climate Cure, has an essay about the need to communicate the gravity of the climate crisis to young people. Psychologists suggest we need to discuss climate change in less abstract terms to truly grasp the significance of the crisis. A scenario playing out in many American families: A sense of despair and outrage among young people over global warming is met with indifference and dismissal among some older relatives. Grist republished five Yale Program on Climate Change Communication maps highlighting some positive trends in public opinion on global warming.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee