Climate Action Alliance of the Valley News Update: Week of Dec. 6

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

A new report details how to position climate change as a central organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy.  The Alliance for Automotive Innovation vowed to work with Biden to reduce vehicle emissions.  A letter from 42 major companies urged Biden to re-enter the U.S. into the Paris Climate Agreement and enact “ambitious” solutions to tackle climate change.  Biden’s promise to end U.S. fossil fuel subsidies could be hard to keep due to resistance from lawmakers in a narrowly divided Congress.  Biden will nonetheless have a wide array of tools to put the U.S. on a trajectory to decarbonizing its electricity sector by 2035.  David Roberts wrote: “The only thing Biden will have real control over is his administration and what it does. And his North Star, his organizing principle, should be doing as much good on as many fronts as fast as possible. Blitz.”  Biden named Brian Deese to head the National Economic Council, highlighting plans to use economic policy initiatives to drive climate policy.

UN Secretary General Guterres wants to put tackling climate change at the heart of the UN’s global mission.  Its 2021 central objective will be to build a global coalition around reducing emissions to net‑zero by 2050.  An analysis suggests the Paris Climate Agreement goals are getting “within reach.”  Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels.  Denmark’s government agreed to end all North Sea oil and gas exploration and extraction by 2050.  A recent report demonstrates how using energy-related stimulus investments to support clean energy could speed decarbonization in five key countries: U.S., UK, Brazil, Germany, and Australia.

The Bureau of Land Management announced an oil leasing sale for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 6.  The governors of Mississippi, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Arkansas said they would challenge any new federal policies mandating power sector emissions cuts.  EPA’s career scientists are more openly challenging the Trump administration’s rules and rollbacks; Andrew Wheeler is working to ensure his legacy.

The New York Times introduced the contenders for positions on Biden’s environment and energy team.  Dana Nuccitelli argued moving now to combat climate change is cheaper and better economically than postponing action.  FERC recently affirmed that states should make net‑metering policies; E&E News examined four states where net metering’s status quo is currently under review.  Recent changes to Virginia law concerning distributed solar are affecting the state’s power grid and solar industry, and its land use.  Virginia’s Coalfield Economic Development Authority created a $1Mn Renewable Energy Fund to attract businesses and train residents to find jobs in the expanding field.

Climate and Climate Science

2020 is on track to be the second hottest on record.  Millions of Australians are sweltering through a record‑shattering heat wave that has set off hundreds of wildfires.  Natural disasters have been rising in number since the 1960s with a sharp increase of 35% recorded since the 1990s.  Thanks mostly to a combination of human-caused climate change and urbanization, Washington, D.C. winters are rapidly warming.

A report presents climate change as a public health risk now, rather than a hazard for future generations.  It points to the immediate dangers of extreme heat, wildfires, and air pollution, making the case for rapidly shifting to a green economy as a way to improve public health.

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from warmer sands are weaker and slower, and more likely to be eaten by ghost crabs as they crawl towards the sea.  Europe’s breeding bird populations have shifted on average 0.62 mile north every year for the past three decades,

The amount of affordable housing in the U.S. vulnerable to coastal flooding is set to triple over the next 30 years.

Proper forest management can reduce both the number of devastating wildfires that rage every year and billions of tons of resulting CO2 emissions. Brazilian Amazon rainforest deforestation has surged to its highest level since 2008.

Energy

A UN Environment Program report found top producing nations could produce twice as much oil, gas, and coal by 2030 as would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C.  The world’s top energy companies slashed the value of their oil and gas assets by around $80Bn in recent months.  One result of oil and gas industry contraction may be more abandoned wells; in three states, nonprofits are beginning to plug them.  Bank of America joined other major U.S. banks, saying it won’t finance Arctic oil and gas exploration.

Most U.S. existing fossil fuel power plant capacity will reach the end of its typical lifespan by 2035, suggesting an electricity decarbonization deadline by then will cost less than expected.  Pollinator-friendly solar can boost crop yields, increase the recharging of groundwater, reduce soil erosion, increase solar panel efficiency during summer, and provide long‑term cost savings in operations and maintenance.

There are big questions around the “hydrogen economy”.  Looking at the extent to which it could help the world avoid dangerous climate change, one proposal is: use the natural gas pipeline network to carry hydrogen.  There are many unanswered engineering questions to resolve before that becomes a reality.

Solar-plus-storage is already competitive with open cycle gas turbines and could soon be more financially attractive than combined-cycle gas turbines in some markets.  The U.S. energy storage industry broke records in Q220, but in Q320 it beat that period’s performance by 240%.  The Virginia Mercury has an in‑depth analysis of the role of storage, including pumped hydro, in Virginia’s clean energy future.

Electric vehicle (EV) battery cell costs have fallen to $110/kilowatt hour on average, making EVs competitive with cars using internal combustion engines.  The debunked report casting doubt on EVs’ green credentials was actually written by the companies that commissioned it.  Newly constructed single-family homes and townhouses with garages in Boise, Idaho will be required to have high-voltage circuits to accommodate EV charging.  Carmakers have sold 500,000+ EVs in Europe during 2020. Volvo Trucks’ Pulaski County, VA plant will manufacture its new battery-powered Electric truck model.

Potpourri

Michael Svoboda presented twelve books—fiction and nonfiction—that address climate change, reassess the challenges, offer hope and guidance for action, and envision very different, climate-changed futures.  Bill McKibben’s column this week spotlighted “The U.S. Climate Fair Share”, by which we would contribute financially to greenhouse gas reductions of developing countries because of our large contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases.  The European Court of Human Rights told the governments of 33 industrialized countries to respond promptly to a climate lawsuit by six youth campaigners, giving it priority status because of the “importance and urgency of the issues raised.”  Some people are deciding not to have children because of fears their offspring would struggle through a climate apocalypse.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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