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Climate Action Alliance of the Valley weekly climate, energy news roundup: April 17

Climate Action Alliance of the ValleyThe Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News for the week ending April 17 follows. Please forward the Roundup to anyone you think might be interested.  For an archive of prior posts, visit the CAAV website.

Politics and Policy

Biden proposed $14Bn for initiatives to fight climate change in his 2022 budget.  300+ businesses and investors called on his administration to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.  A new series of briefs by RMI provides insights into how to get there.  An international energy company executives’ panel said the move to renewable energy is unstoppable, although investments in nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, energy storage, and transmission will be required.  Environmentalists are debating how carbon offsets should fit into the goal of reaching “net-zero” emissions by 2050.  The Washington Post editorial board called on Biden to seek a carbon tax.  Executives from oil companies, utilities, and some of the world’s biggest companies met virtually with senators and staff to push a carbon-fee-and-dividend proposal; many environmental groups remain skeptical of the regulatory trade-offs involved.  375 state and local elected officials signed a letter calling for an outright ban on new federal permits for fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure.  In an essay examining our future, Jeff Goodell wrote: “Fossil fuels are emblematic of a culture, a way of life, a political hierarchy, and an empire of wealth that will not go quietly into the night.”  The Interior Department has become the first big battlefield in the brewing fight over Biden’s climate change agenda.  The Washington State legislature has passed a bill setting a target for all model-year-2030 passenger vehicles to be electric.

The Senate confirmed Brenda Mallory to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  Top Senate Democrats signaled they may have no choice but to bypass Republicans to advance Biden’s infrastructure package.  Two senators introduced a bipartisan bill to provide billions of dollars to plug oil and gas wells, thereby providing jobs and cutting methane emissions.  A coalition of US manufacturers and environmental organizations is calling on the government to quickly phase out the worst climate super‑polluting chemicals used in air conditioners, refrigerators, etc.  Lobbyists in the energy and advocacy sectors are giving attention to legislative proposals to establish clean electricity standards.

JPMorgan Chase will commit $2.5+Tn over the next decade toward long‑term solutions to tackle climate change and contribute to sustainable development.  The Ohio River Valley Institute and ReImagine Appalachia released new reports detailing how Appalachian communities can create over 30,000 new jobs by reclaiming and remediating abandoned coal mines and oil and gas wells.  Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) and house colleagues plan to introduce the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, to eliminate biases in our financial system impeding efforts to significantly address climate change.

The Biden administration is nearing agreements with Japan, South Korea, and Canada to bolster carbon emission reduction targets ahead of the Earth Day summit; similar deals with China, India, and Brazil remain elusive.  Climate envoy Kerry met in Shanghai with his Chinese counterpart to press Beijing on reducing its carbon emissions; in Beijing’s view, the US has much ground to recover after walking away from the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA).  Biden’s plan to give $1.2Bn to the Green Climate Fund is “not enough” to make up for missed US payments, campaigners have said.  A majority of residents of European cities support a Europe-wide phase-out of internal combustion engine car sales from 2030 to reduce planet-warming emissions.  French MPs voted to suspend domestic airline flights on routes that can be travelled by direct train in under 2.5 hours.  Canada’s opposition Conservative Party dropped its resistance to carbon pricing and adopted a fee on emissions and fuels as part of its own climate plan.  A carbon price that starts low and rises steadily could help Asian countries reach their targets under the PCA over the next decade, said the International Monetary Fund.  ~40% of “committed emissions” from coal plants built or proposed in Asia since 2015 could be attributed to the Western banks that financed them — with most of the remainder coming from Chinese banks.

Climate and Climate Science

The Climate Council of Australia’s assertion that the global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C by the 2030s was challenged by others in the scientific community.  NPR’s Rebecca Hersher explained why the atmosphere will continue to heat Earth, even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow.  Researchers found that melting land-based Northern Hemisphere ice, which increased global sea levels, was linked to retreat of the Southern Hemisphere’s Antarctic ice sheet.

Over one-third of 2020 claims payments made by the National Flood Insurance Program were for properties located outside areas that FEMA considers at the highest risk of flooding.  Polling and analysis released last week by real estate site Redfin found that a surprisingly high number of Americans weighed climate risks into their decisions about whether or not to move.  The wealthiest 10% of people worldwide accounted for nearly half the growth in CO2 emissions associated with consumption habits from 1990 to 2015 — with the richest 5% responsible for more than a third.

Summer monsoon rainfall in India could increase by 5% for every 1°C increase in global temperatures, putting millions at greater risk of flooding and crop failure.  As Uganda’s mountain ice caps melt, ethnic groups are losing the traditional belief systems that have sustained them for thousands of years.  In western Canada and the US Upper Midwest, continuing drought has farmers extremely concerned as they approach planting time.  When the black spruce forests that recently burned in interior Alaska began regrowing, aspen and birch trees were mixed in with the spruce and were becoming the dominant species.

California, NASA, satellite company Planet, and others — with billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s backing — will launch their first two satellites in 2023 as part of a $100Mn effort to pinpoint large emissions of methane from individual sources like power plants and oil refineries.

New Community Project’s Climate Farm aims to be an agricultural research center for carbon farming methods suitable to Rockingham County, VA.  In California, incorporating agricultural wastes and by-products into cows’ diets is a key component in the dairy industry’s efforts to cut its greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy

A new kind of power plant using an Allam cycle natural gas turbine, which doesn’t add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, will be built in the US, potentially providing a way for utilities to keep burning natural gas without contributing to global warming.  Another new idea for using natural gas is a fuel cell that can be added to a fossil fuel power plant to capture the CO2 from it while producing additional electricity.

China must shut down nearly 600 of its coal-fired power plants in the next 10 years, replacing them with renewable electricity generation, to meet its goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060.  China hopes to build eight nuclear power plants each year between 2021 and 2025.

Canary Media has started a new series of articles by David Roberts, beginning with why lithium-ion batteries are so important and how they work.  Next was an article on long-duration storage.  Korean battery companies SK Innovation and LG Chem reached an agreement to allow the former to continue developing its $2.6Bn lithium-ion battery factory in Georgia.  Ultium Cells, a joint venture between LG Chem and GM, picked a Tennessee site for its second EV battery plant.  Hyundai’s upcoming Ioniq 5 electric vehicle (EV) will feature bidirectional charging, allowing its owner to use the vehicle’s battery to power just about anything that can plug into a wall.  QuantumScape is working to produce a semi-solid-state battery that is denser, safer, and faster-charging than today’s lithium-ion batteries; Volkswagen is planning to use it in its new EVs.  Lithium-ion battery recycling specialist Li-Cycle will build its third facility in Arizona.

Gas network operators from 11 countries have joined the European hydrogen backbone initiative, bringing the total network to almost 25,000 miles connecting 21 countries, offering a “technically and economically plausible” way of building a pure hydrogen network.  Canada has launched a Hydrogen Strategy Steering Committee.  China’s commissioned its largest solar-power-based hydrogen production and energy storage project put it into operation in Ningxia Province.  In Washington State, the Douglas County Public Utility District is making a $20Mn investment in an electrolysis system to produce green hydrogen using the excess electricity produced by their Wells Dam hydroelectric facility.

Researchers at GridLab, Energy Innovation, and the University of California, Berkeley released a report outlining the challenges and rewards of having all new cars and trucks sold in the US be powered by electricity by 2035.  DOE unveiled a $100Mn funding opportunity, dubbed SuperTruck 3, to enlist truck makers, battery and drivetrain manufacturers, and technology developers in putting electric and fuel-cell-powered trucks to real-world tests over the next four years.

Potpourri

The latest art world craze is digital collectibles known as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, which have a huge carbon footprint.  Energy News Network’s Elizabeth McGowan interviewed Liza Myers Borches, president and CEO of Carter Myers Automotive, about EVs in Virginia.  The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication announced the second cohort of their Public Voices Fellows on the Climate Crisis.  John Topping, whose work to warn the world of the risks of climate change stretched back to the 1980s and who helped spur the international effort to limit warming, died on March 9.  Google Earth launched a time-lapse feature letting users wind back the clock and see how the world has changed over several decades.  Maeve Brennan wrote about the health co-benefits of fighting climate change.  Scientific American agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start using the term “climate emergency” in its coverage of climate change.  The whitest-ever paint reflects 98% of sunlight as well as radiating infrared heat through the atmosphere into space.

Closing Thoughts

Sustainability scientist Kimberly Nicholas, author of Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World, said: “… we are not going to be able to save all the things we love.”  Instead, we have to “swim through that ocean of grief … and recognize that we still have time to act, and salvage many of the things we care about.”  Staff writer David Montgomery had an extended piece in The Washington Post Magazine entitled: “The Search for Environmental Hope.”

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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