Climate, energy news roundup: Aug. 22

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Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, a non-profit, grassroots group of volunteers in the Central Shenandoah Valley, produces The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News to inform legislators and the public. An excerpt from a recent Roundup follows; full Roundup is here.

Politics and Policy

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Joe Biden’s climate plan is “perfect for the moment.”  Right-wing media pushed three lies about Biden’s plan.  The Democratic National Committee dropped from its platform language calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks, dismaying climate activists.  E&E News summarized six major differences between the 2016 and 2020 versions of the Democratic climate change platform.

Axios’ Amy Harder wrote: “Joe Biden is unlikely to pursue a carbon tax if he wins…, according to several people familiar with his campaign’s thinking.”  Cornell economics professor Robert H. Frank thinks a properly formulated tax could spur behavioral contagion, leading to wide-spread adoption of climate friendly practices.  The “near-term to net zero” approach that researchers at three U.S. institutions investigated–described by Vox’s David Roberts—might provide a way to price CO2 emission impacts.

Greta Thunberg said the world has wasted the time since her first solo school strike for the climate by failing to take necessary action on the crisis.  University of Michigan Law School Professor David M. Uhlmann wrote: “If the fate of American democracy is on the ballot in November, so too is the future of the planet.”  Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wrote that whether the world emerges from the pandemic “in a stronger or weaker position to tackle the climate crisis” rests largely in China’s hands.

Legal experts say EPA’s rationale for its decision to stop directly regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas sector may contain fatal flaws that could cause the new standards to stumble in court.  The Atlantic and Investigate West reporting showed the Department of Energy buried a U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory report showing how modernizing the nation’s electrical grid could reduce CO2 emissions and save consumers money. California finalized a legal settlement with Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo binding them to comply with its stringent state-level fuel efficiency standards.

Climate and Climate Science

The Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center weather station in Death Valley, CA, measured 129.9°F August 16, possibly the hottest reliably recorded temperature in world history.  A Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found that without cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, major U.S. cities could see between 13 and 30 times more exposure to extreme heat by 2100 than at the beginning of this century.

This week, California fought extreme heat and at least 92 wildfires spanning more than 200,000 acres; its governor declared a state of emergency.  James Temple wrote at MIT Technology Review that climate change was almost certainly fueling those fires.  There were at least 77 large complexes of wildfires burning in 15 states across the U.S. as of August 18.

Floods on China’s Yangtze River forced authorities to evacuate over 100,000 people and threatened a 1,200‑year-old world heritage site.  Climate experts warn China will face more frequent severe floods as global temperatures rise, increasing the number of intense rainstorms there.

After two years when Greenland summer ice melt was minimal, 2019 shattered all records with 586Bn tons of ice melting—more than 140Tn gallons of water, enough to cover California to a depth of over four feet.  A new study showed New Zealand’s Southern Alps glaciers have lost more ice mass since pre-industrial times than remains today.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s latest annual survey revealed the Great Barrier Reef was showing only modest recovery in coral cover before it was hammered by its third mass bleaching event in five years.  Warming water temperatures and higher salt levels indicate human‑caused climate change is starting to impact the health of more than half the world’s oceans.

Energy

California’s clean energy policies are not to blame for rolling blackouts during a scorching heat wave this month; more work is needed to integrate large amounts of wind and solar energy, the state’s energy agencies said.  Some are trying to politicize the blackouts, although the situation is more complex than their narrative.  Dan Gearino discussed how demand response could be used to reduce or avoid blackouts.

Occidental Petroleum Corp’s venture capital arm has formed a company to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it underground to use to enhance oil recovery in the Texas Permian Basin.  A group led by Rice University’s Baker Institute is working on a blueprint for a nationwide program to pay for carbon storage in soil via preservation and restoration of native grasslands.

Lithium iron phosphate will become increasingly popular for stationary energy storage applications, overtaking lithium-manganese-cobalt-oxide within a decade, Wood Mackenzie forecast.  Key Capture Energy will build three large-scale batteries, one 100 MW and two 50 MW, for the Texas grid using lithium iron phosphate technology. Three University of Texas researchers developed a new cathode for small-scale lithium ion batteries that eliminates cobalt.

Reuters fact-checked the American Petroleum Institute advertising campaign claims—aimed at convincing consumers natural gas (i.e., methane) is a “clean” fuel.  The Guardian reported on a nationwide blitz by gas companies and their allies to beat back climate action they consider an existential threat.

Volkswagen announced that production of its ID.4 compact SUV—with a range of up to 311 miles—has begun at its Zwickau, Germany plant.  The SUV will make its world premiere in September; U.S. production will begin in 2022 in Chattanooga, Tenn.  Electric trucks have the potential to displace enough oil to make a “significant dent” in transportation sector CO2 emissions.  James Morris’ analysis in Forbes of the factors hindering EV sales agrees with similar articles about the U.S. market.

Potpourri

At Yale Climate Connections, Sara Peach answered kids’ questions about climate and climate change; Michael Svoboda listed 13 climate change‑related reports released this year.

Climate change historian Spencer Weart reviewed Mark Lynas’s new book, Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency, stating:  The motto for 21st century climate science might be “It’s happening faster than we expected.”

Amy Brady interviewed John Freeman, editor of Tales of Two Planets and Australian author Charlotte McConaghy about her novel Migrations.

Anthony Leiserowitz and Edward Maibach were 2020 winners of the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication.

Peter Sinclair has a new six minute video about the state of the fossil fuel industry.

How to Save a Planet”—a new Spotify podcast series hosted by Alex Blumberg and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson—focuses on how ordinary people can stop the decline of the planet without feeling terrified.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee

 


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