Climate Action of the Valley: Climate, energy news roundup for Nov. 15
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
President-elect Joe Biden is poised to embed climate change action across the federal government, expanding beyond environmental agencies. Climate 21 Project released a blueprint of how to accomplish that. Biden’s sprawling transition team has climate-minded officials. Early Biden climate change action will likely start with executive orders reversing Trump’s environmental policies. Dan Gearino offered four pragmatic non‑legislative clean energy actions Biden could take. Climate scientists and policy experts described what Biden’s victory will mean for U.S. and global climate action. Environmental groups know much hinges on the two undecided Georgia Senate seats. Young activists prepare to pressure the Biden administration to keep its word on climate change goals.
Greenhouse gas pollution damage unleashed by Trump’s environmental regulatory rollbacks may be one of his most profound legacies. His Administration quietly removed Michael Kuperberg as executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program that prepares the National Climate Assessment, replacing him with climate change denier David Legates of NOAA, to get as many authors as possible under contract before January 20, 2021. Desmog recently profiled Legates. Analysts anticipate a potential flurry of last-minute energy rollbacks, permitting decisions, and new rules possibly impinging on a Biden administration’s ability to implement its plans.
The Federal Reserve has sought membership on the Network for Greening the Financial System, hoping to join before spring. The Fed identified climate change as a financial stability risk. Leading scientists, academics, and campaigners have called on governments and businesses to go beyond “net zero” in efforts to tackle the escalating climate and ecological crisis. Living on Earth’s host Steve Curwood interviewed Republican climate champion Bob Inglis about how the parties might work together during a Biden presidency to achieve a clean energy economy. Harrisonburg VA’s city council passed a resolution to “pursue the goal of reaching 100% clean renewable energy within Harrisonburg’s electricity sector by 2035.”
Despite net‑zero pledges from China’s, Japan’s, and South Korea’s governments, the Asian Development and Asian Infrastructure Investment Banks are reluctant to commit to reducing fossil fuel financing. Jonathan Watts discussed five post-Trump obstacles to a global green recovery. Would labeling Brazil a “climate outlaw” influence its behavior for the better? G20 nations have committed over $230Bn COVID-19 recovery funds to support fossil-fuel dependent industries.
Climate and Climate Science
Tropical Storm Theta became the 29th named-storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, setting a new record, surpassing the 2005 count. Tropical Storm Iota formed in the eastern Caribbean, breaking Theta’s record, becoming the 30th this season, and threatening western Caribbean areas still reeling from Hurricane Eta. How does climate change affect storms? After hurricanes make landfall, climate change apparently causes them to weaken more slowly, remaining destructive longer.
As Earth warms, more people will die from heat; scientists are studying how people respond to excess heat hoping to lower the risk and reduce the toll.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) across about 1,000 waterbodies in West Virginia and Virginia. Montgomery County, VA, Circuit Judge Robert Turk issued a temporary injunction ordering three unidentified tree-sitters and 10 supporters to vacate MVP’s right-of-way. Harrisonburg, VA’s city council agreed to lease nine acres of city-owned land to the Virginia Municipal Electric Association allowing Dominion to build a PV solar array to produce electricity for the city. Several Bedford County, VA, residents encouraged county supervisors to move forward with solar ordinance reviews and research that may allow solar farms. In its Q220 earnings presentation, Dominion presented plans to increase its renewable energy generation nearly tenfold by 2035, from 2.9 to 28.3GW of solar, wind, storage, and hydro.
California is setting ambitious goals to phase out fossil fuel vehicles, using $20Mn in annual funding from the California Energy Commission to build hydrogen infrastructure. BP plans to take its first steps into the expanding green hydrogen market, alongside offshore wind developer Ørsted, by developing a hydrogen project at one of its refineries in Germany. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded ~$14Mn for Xcel Energy to build a hydrogen-energy production facility at a Minnesota nuclear power plant.
A prototype GE offshore wind turbine produced 312MWh of electricity in a 24-hour period, setting a new world record. South Korean firm Odin Energy hopes to carve out a new niche with a vertical-axis wind turbine tower designed for urban settings. There is a need for a more coordinated approach to the East Coast electric grid upgrades to handle electricity produced by offshore wind farms. One possible solution is to collocate them with highways and railroads. An International Energy Agency report anticipates a 1,123GW increase in wind and solar; these power sources will overtake gas capacity in 2023 and coal in 2024. Six Midwest utilities expect to spend over $15Bn over the next several years to install or buy ~4GW of solar generation, over 3.6GW of wind generation, and ~1GW of battery storage.
Ford Motor Co. will invest $100Mn in its Kansas City Assembly Plant, adding 150 jobs, to build the new electric E-Transit van. General Motors will hire 3,000 new employees largely focused on software development for electric vehicle research, development, and deployment. A new study said a typical northeast rural driver could save over $1,900 yearly by switching from a conventional gasoline car to a comparable electric vehicle.
The electric utility Arizona Public Service is offering a $169Mn deal to the Navaho Nation to help them cope with the repercussions from closure of coal-fired power plants employing many Native people. Almost half the companies in the thermal coal industry globally are expected to defy worldwide climate commitments by deepening their coal interests in the coming years. A New York Times opinion piece argued that, in planning to build 235 gas-fired power stations at a cost of $100Bn+, the U.S. electrical industry is like smokers planning to quit as soon as they finish that last cigarette carton.
The Dalai Lama, with German environmental journalist Franz Alt, has written a new book entitled Our Only Home: A Climate Appeal to the World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In reviewing Felicia Luna Lemus’ new memoir, Jason Heller wrote “Particulate Matter is a moving example of how to write about climate change, not didactically, but with the deep impact of both personal loss and literary elegance.” A survey of ~26,000 people in 25 countries revealed a significant disconnect between climate change beliefs and actions. Yale Climate Connections’ SueEllen Campbell provided links to articles examining what the term “net-zero emissions” means.
Activists wanting real progress on climate during the Biden administration need to learn how to press their case aggressively without alienating those with whom they must work to get things done. –Bill McKibben
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee