Climate, energy news roundup: June 30
The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), 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. Here is an excerpt from a recent Roundup; full Roundup is on the CAAV website.
Politics and Policy
Rocky Mountain Institute warned government’s spending on climate-related disaster recovery is a “rapidly rising fiscal threat”. Vox’s David Roberts examined the latest Pew Research Center poll of public opinion on climate change and clean energy. Following a quiet decision by Facebook, the CO2 Coalition and other groups that attack consensus climate science can share content that climate scientists have labeled misleading because Facebook will consider it “opinion” and immune to fact-checking.
A tug of war between preserving living-wage, unionized coal jobs and addressing climate change is playing out across the country at every level of government, pitting environmental and clean energy interests against unions and fossil fuel companies.
The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to adopt a new Advanced Clean Trucks regulation requiring a transition away from diesel engines to less polluting electric motors powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells, beginning with the 2024 model year. Nevada will be the latest state to adopt California’s low-and zero-emission vehicle rules following similar announcements by Washington (March) and Minnesota and New Mexico (September). Over the past five years, more U.S. cities have started setting and acting upon renewable energy goals by signing deals moving their own municipal operations away from fossil-fueled electricity and toward renewable energy.
A Stacey Abrams think tank report by the Southern Economic Advancement Project offers a road map for the South to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Environment America unveiled an effort to establish, in 10 states, residential solar mandates similar to California’s 2020 requirement.
A UC Berkeley Energy Institute working paper found that, when controlling for year, income, household size, and city of residence, Black renters paid $273 more per year for energy than white renters between 2010 and 2017; Black homeowners paid $408 more. A national coalition to address the challenges of the working poor released a sweeping legislative platform, including proposals addressing mass incarceration, health care, wealth inequality, and climate change.
A “green bank” is a nonprofit institution that uses public money to help businesses invest in solar panels, wind farms, and energy-efficient building retrofits. Although several states have developed state-level green banks, there is renewed interest in establishing a national one to help stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Climate and Climate Science
90% of the U.S. public is in favor of planting trees to fight climate change; two new studies published this week show how misplaced hopes for tree‑planting have been. Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell examined those studies and reviewed the history of the tree planting idea. A Nature Geosciences study explored the consequences of 80,000+ land purchases by private companies from 2000 to 2018 across 15 South American, sub‑Saharan African, and Southeast Asian countries, finding they accelerated tropical deforestation.
Rising temperatures put the world’s food supplies at risk, with decreasing yields in key staple crops. Somaliland is drying out faster now than at any time during the past 2,000 years. Pastoral life has failed, forcing hundreds of thousands of people off the land into makeshift camps.
Droughts across the Wyoming mountains and plains can cut the spring growing season from four months to two, drying up nutrient-rich green grasses and shrubs when they are needed most by migrating mule deer.
Research suggests using aerosols to reflect sunlight and cool the planet could weaken storm tracks in the temperate latitudes in both hemispheres, thereby reducing the severity of winter storms but also stagnating summer weather systems, possibly leading to more intense heat waves, air pollution increases, and ocean circulation changes.
Amazon.com will launch a $2Bn venture capital fund focusing on technology investments to reduce the impact of climate change and support sustainable development. David Iaconangelo at E&E News addressed whether this will help clean energy.
Satellites are increasingly popular for detecting methane leaks from pipelines and other natural gas infrastructure; they are finding significant leaks all over the world.
Ford Motor Co. announced a new goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050. A paper in Joule provided a comprehensive estimate of fuel costs during the 15-year life of an EV compared to a gasoline model car, with specifics for each state. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) pledged $100 million to fund development of an industry-ready, heavy-duty, hydrogen-powered, fuel-cell truck. A Brattle Group report established there could be from 10 to 35 million EVs on the road by 2030, and the U.S. electric power sector would need to invest between $75-125Bn to be able to serve 20 million.
The U.S.’s three separate power grids largely operate independently and exchange very little power, thereby preventing numerous efficiencies. The Macro Grid Initiative was launched to expand and upgrade the nation’s transmission network. With fewer fossil generators and more renewables in the UK generation mix, the grid is under strain. More than 100 large wind farms are now providing grid services to balance out the variable nature of renewables.
China has nearly 250 GW of coal-fired power plants under development, more than the entire coal power capacity of the U.S., casting doubt on China’s commitments to cutting fossil fuel use. Oil and gas giants, mining interests, and coal-fired power plants have all received financial and regulatory relief as governments around the world enact pandemic recovery plans.
A new WIREs Climate Change paper explained the actors and factors behind online misinformation and why social networks are such fertile ground for spreading misinformation about climate change. The coronavirus pandemic and climate change are both collective action problems; some Americans have trouble accepting the actions required to deal with them. Yale Climate Connections provided links to articles about the common ground shared by activists for a livable climate, racial justice, climate justice, and environmental justice. Michael Svoboda brought together twelve books for our armchair travel this summer. A James Madison University team earned first-place honors in the “project development” category the 2020 DOE Collegiate Wind Competition.