Climate, energy news roundup: April 26

earth weather

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The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group of volunteers in the Central Shenandoah Valley. We produce “The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News” to inform legislators and the public. Here is an excerpt from a recent Roundup. To read the full Roundup, visit the CAAV website.

Politics and Policy

On Wednesday, activists and scientists worldwide marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a message of warning: When this health crisis passes, world leaders must rebuild the global economy on a healthier, more sustainable track.  The New York Times celebrated the 50th anniversary by highlighting ten big environmental victories and ten big failures.  Rolling Stone interviewed and profiled Denis Hayes, the person who organized the first Earth Day.  Scientific American illustrated how the environment has changed in the past 50 years.

At Politico, Michael Grunwald argued that the climate movement’s recent strategy of deemphasizing personal responsibility while placing the blame on large corporations is a mistake.  While nature-based solutions for stopping climate change are not sufficient, Amanda Paulson argued that they can be an important component when done properly.  New York Times reporter Richard Schiffman visited Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and learned that global warming may be far more dangerous than the pandemic.

Senators from both parties are pressing the Fed for details about how climate risk will be considered, but from opposite perspectives.  President Trump promised to bail out U.S. oil companies hard hit by a recent historic dive in crude oil prices taking futures into negative values.  An alternative, put forth by Oil Change International and the Democracy Collaborative, would be a public takeover of the fossil‑fuel industry, which could then implement a managed phase-out of oil, gas, and coal extraction to keep global warming under 1.5°C.  Despite the dire outlook, the American oil and gas sector has plowed ahead at full speed with fossil fuel infrastructure development.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended a nationwide program used to approve oil and gas pipelines, power lines, and other utility work, spurred by a court ruling that threw out a blanket permit system the Corps had been using.

Denis Hayes wrote an op-ed in The Seattle Times about the importance of this year’s presidential election.  In Politico, Ryan Heath and coauthors wrote: “If this year’s once-in-a-generation level of public spending isn’t used to change how infrastructure is built, how industry works, and how cars and planes run, green lobbyists say governments will lose their final chance to meet the 2015 global climate target that 195 governments signed up for.”  At Vox, David Roberts argued that coronavirus stimulus money will be wasted on fossil fuels.

Climate and Climate Science

There is a 75% chance 2020 will set the record for the warmest year since instrument records began in 1880, NOAA is projecting, beating out 2016 for the distinction.  Carbon Brief provided a more detailed analysis.  New research, published on-line in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the Arctic Ocean will likely be ice-free in summer by 2050 even if measures are taken to keep warming below 2°C.

Satellite data show regions of the Amazon with severe decreases in soil moisture and groundwater, meaning this year will likely be drier than 2019, making the forest more prone to wildfires.

According to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, as global temperatures continue to rise, farmers in the western U.S. who rely on snowmelt to water their crops could be among the hardest hit agricultural communities.

The World Resources Institute found that 147 million people will experience floods from rivers and coasts annually by the end of the decade, compared with 72 million people 10 years ago.  Damages to urban property will increase from $174bn to $712bn per year.  A new report warns that the NC needs to brace for a future of wetter and more intense hurricanes, plus other climate disruptions.  Another impact for coastal communities is increased risk of salt water incursion into their water supplies.

Energy

A new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology looked at almost 600,000 operator reports on methane leaks from both fracking and conventional oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania from 2014-2018 and found that methane emissions were at least 15% higher than previously thought.

Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, a pilot project comprising two 6-MW turbines developed by Siemens Gamesa in Esbjerg, Denmark, is expected to be online by the end of this year to power 3,000 homes.  Wind generated more electricity nationally than coal on three separate days over the past six weeks, according to an E&E News review of federal data.

While the grid benefits of distributed solar generation are well known for large utilities, less is known about the impacts for rural cooperatives, which tend to serve smaller populations spread out across a large area.  A researcher at the University of Minnesota is studying the issue.

The New England Ratepayers Association filed a petition with FERC asking it to assert control over all state net-metering programs, a move that could lay the groundwork for challenges to the solar net metering policies now in place in 41 states.  The second article of Dan Gearino’s “Inside Clean Energy” newsletter is about FERC affirming its December ruling that states are distorting competition in the PJM Interconnection grid region by passing laws that subsidize power plants that don’t emit CO2.

A recent article in Nature Climate Change found that the benefits of phasing out coal electricity generation outweigh the economic costs, thereby making coal phase-out a “no-regret” policy option.  Sweden has become the third European country to complete its phase out of coal power.

What is thought to be the world’s largest ‘single-stack’ green hydrogen electrolyzer, a 10MW project in Fukushima, Japan, began operations on schedule last month.  One problem with powering cars with hydrogen is the extremely high pressure required to hold enough hydrogen to drive for a reasonable distance.  Now, researchers have developed a highly porous new material, described as a metal-organic framework, which is capable of holding large quantities of hydrogen at much lower pressure.

Potpourri

Michael Moore is executive producer of a “refreshingly contrarian eco‑documentary from environmentalist Jeff Gibbs,” which has been uploaded for free online viewing on YouTube.  Michael Svoboda provided a compilation of twelve books for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, on the topics of clean air, clean water, and wildlife protection.  The editors of the Books and Climate Desks at The New York Times have put together a list of books for “The Year You Finally Read a Book About Climate Change.”

Closing Thought

You’ve heard of Greta Thunberg, but what about Maddie Graham?

Joy Loving edited the latest Roundup prepared by Les Grady, a Rockingham County resident and Member of CAAV’s Steering Committee


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