Climate Action of the Valley weekly climate, energy news roundup: Week of May 16
The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News for the week ending May 16 follows. Forward the Roundup to anyone who might be interested. For an archive of prior posts, visit the CAAV website.
Politics and Policy
President Biden wants to retool and relaunch the Civilian Conservation Corps as the Civilian Climate Corps. Biden expressed optimism that a bipartisan compromise could be reached on infrastructure spending after his meeting with a handful of Republican senators. Several experts say a clean energy standard must be at the heart of any energy policy to survive a change of administrations. Biden’s proposal to wean the US electric grid from fossil fuels has run into a new band of enemies: left-wing climate and environmental justice activists who believe it isn’t ambitious enough. Another dilemma became evident as a result of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown: How to build a clean energy future while shoring up the present’s carbon-intensive infrastructure. EPA is rescinding a Trump-era rule to make it harder to regulate air pollution, including CO2. Biden has retained the Trump policy solar panels tariff. The US Federal Reserve asked lenders to start providing information on the measures they’re taking to mitigate climate change-related risks.
Florida Governor signed two bills to — among other things — set aside hundreds of millions of state dollars for flooding infrastructure projects. Virginia’s State Corporation Commission approved a set of proposals from the state’s two largest electric utilities on how they will meet the ambitious renewables targets set by the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act. California’s Energy Commission released a draft version of the next update to the state’s building code, a document favoring the use of electric heat over gas furnaces, saying heat pumps would be the preferred technology for new construction, though not mandated. Texas’s legislature is considering a bill imposing annual fees of $250-$400+ on drivers of EVs; Washington’s Governor vetoed the 2030 gas car ban because it was tied to an EV road-use fee.
Most government-adopted net-zero targets include both emissions reductions and negative emission components. A recent survey revealed that, for transparency, experts think the two should be targeted individually. A trio of British policy researchers laid out four actions entities can take to make their net-zero pledges credible. Elder statesmen Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Erskine B. Bowles called for adoption of a carbon tax.
An 800-city survey found about 43%, representing a combined population of 400Mn people, do not have a plan to adapt to the climate crisis. A Peking University Institute of Energy researcher said China is on track to reach peak coal consumption, coal-fired power capacity, and emissions from the power sector by 2025. The French Senate voted to weaken a constitutional commitment to fighting climate change and preserving biodiversity, preferring less binding wording. German Chancellor Merkel’s cabinet approved draft legislation for more ambitious CO2 reduction targets, including carbon neutrality by 2045. A report from CEWASTE, a two-year project EU‑funded, calls for mandatory recycling of critical raw materials present in circuit boards, magnets used in disc drives and EVs, EV batteries, and fluorescent lamps. Since March, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has been advancing a proposal before the International Maritime Organization to impose a $100/ton tax on all greenhouse gas emissions in the industry.
Climate and Climate Science
This article about NOAA’s new 30-year average temperature has great graphics. With a moderately strong La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, 2021 global temperatures are running decidedly cooler compared to recent years. James Hansen’s newsletter includes confirming data through April, showing a forecast for continued La Niña this year and suggesting continued cooler global temperatures. The long-term methane and CO2 emission rate trends are not encouraging. A new EPA report offered a snapshot of the extent to which the science around climate change grew more detailed and robust during Trump’s term, showing the nation has entered unprecedented territory in which climate effects are more visible, changing faster, and becoming more extreme, affecting both public health and the environment.
A large new modeling study investigated whether Arctic sea ice loss is causing the jet stream to become wavier, with negative results. New evidence from weather records suggests the jet stream has gotten slightly wavier since the 1950s, although the cause is still unknown. Last week’s Roundup included two articles about modeling studies with contradictory results on the fate of glaciers in a warmer world. Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell focused on the inclusion of MICI (Marine Ice Cliff Instability) in one study as the main explanation for the differences. Yale Climate Connections meteorologist Jeff Masters discussed possible reasons for the recent increase in the number of Atlantic-named tropical storms.
An area of forest the size of France has regrown around the world over the past 20 years, showing that regeneration in some places is paying off.
Of the 100 cities worldwide most vulnerable to environmental hazards, all but one are in Asia; 80% are in India or China. Southern Madagascar is in crisis with a million+ people facing acute food insecurity as the region suffers its worst drought in four decades. Some of the world’s biggest tea‑growing areas will be among the worst hit by extreme weather; their yields are likely to be vastly reduced in coming decades, if climate change continues at its current pace.
Interior and Agriculture Secretaries Haaland and Vilsack told reporters federal fire officials had warned them to prepare for an extremely active fire year; several types of drought are converging in the West. Improved agricultural practices and widespread irrigation may stave off another agricultural calamity in the Great Plains; scientists are now warning that two inescapable realities — rising temperatures and worsening drought — could spawn a modern-day Dust Bowl. New research indicates economic damages from European droughts could rise by 1/3 by 2100, even if warming is limited to 1.5°C and countries implement adaptation measures.
In 2020, the world’s renewable energy industry grew at its fastest pace since 1999, despite Covid-19‑caused disruption, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). IEA’s “renewable energy market update” forecast ~40% higher growth in 2021 than it expected a year ago, putting wind and solar on track to match global gas capacity by 2022. IEA expects renewables’ rapid growth to become the “new normal.” The Nature Conservancy is working with Sun Tribe Development to install up to 75MW of solar energy at several sites covering approximately 550 acres of deforested mine lands in the 253,000-acre Cumberland Forest property in Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A collaborative piece in The Guardian explored ways in which energy companies want to impose charges on people who produce their own power with rooftop solar arrays.
2020 coal shipments to the US electricity sector hit their lowest yearly level since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) began publishing such data in 2007. EIA predicted this summer will see a 12% decline in natural gas-based electricity generation, offset by a 21% rise in renewable generation and an 18% increase in coal-based generation.
The Biden administration approved the nation’s first major offshore wind farm, the Vineyard Wind project, located 14 miles off the Massachusetts coast, containing 84 turbines, and generating ~800 MW of electricity. The approval injected fresh optimism into the nation’s offshore wind industry.
Under DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory guidance, carbon capture technologies are improving, per an article in E&E News reprinted by Scientific American. A new Aurora Energy Research study revealed hydrogen is the key to decarbonizing hard-to-abate industrial sectors, such as steel.
BloombergNEF forecasts electric cars and vans will be cheaper to produce by 2027 than conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Hyundai Motor Group plans to invest $7.4Bn in the US by 2025 to produce EVs, upgrade production facilities, and further its investment in smart mobility solutions. Virginia’s Governor’s office announced it would make $20Mn of the state’s Volkswagen settlement funds available for school districts to electrify their bus fleets.
Film maker Neil Halloran has a new video examining uncertainty in climate science. EPA launched a new website of climate change indicators. A new study by Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes charted the trajectory of ExxonMobil’s climate messaging, finding the oil giant used “the subtle micro‑politics of language to downplay its role in the climate crisis.” Vanessa Nakate, the young Ugandan climate activist cropped out of a photo from the January World Economic Forum in Davos, used her new‑found fame to argue for the role of racial justice in the climate change movement. Facebook is “fueling climate misinformation” through its failure to come to grips with misleading content; a new report calls on companies to boycott the platform until significant action is taken. Artists worldwide are capturing their fears, worries, and hopes about climate change through their art. Paul Greenberg, author of The Climate Diet, provided his take on the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy. Faith Kearns’ new book, Getting to the Heart of Science Communication: A Guide to Effective Engagement, argues there’s no one “right” approach to talking about the climate crisis and other contentious scientific issues.
In an Anheuser-Busch‑sponsored article, Grist spotlighted EverGrain, a company developing nutrient-rich ingredients for all kinds of human-grade food products, using spent brewing grains as their feedstock.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee