Climate, energy news roundup: March 28
The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group of volunteers in the Central Shenandoah Valley. We work to educate legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis, including producing The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News. We provide here an excerpt from a recent Roundup in the hope that more people will become aware of, and will act on, the risks we all face.
Policy and Politics
The coronavirus stimulus bill passed by the Senate and House and signed by President Trump this week contained bad news for the wind and solar industries, but good news in that the $3 billion to buy oil for the strategic reserve was eliminated. While the virus has had a huge impact on the economy, slowing it greatly, one thing that it hasn’t impacted is the Trump administration’s timeline for rolling back environmental regulations, which many career scientists disagree with. In addition, the administration will ease enforcement of environmental regulations covering polluting industries to help them cope with impacts from the coronavirus outbreak.
In a huge victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota, the future of the Dakota Access pipeline has been thrown into question after a federal court on Wednesday struck down its permits and ordered a comprehensive environmental review. On Thursday, California adopted a new emissions target for its electricity sector that would double the state’s clean energy capacity over the next decade and halt the development of new natural gas power plants.
Two lifelong conservative voters who work with Citizens’ Climate Lobby and RepublicEn had a message for GOP lawmakers: “Stop playing with small ball climate solutions.”
Climate and Climate Science
National Geographic’s special Earth Day 50th anniversary edition features a “verdant Earth” on the front cover and a “browner Earth” on the back cover, reflecting the uncertainty we face in our fight against climate change. Inside the magazine, Emma Marris presents the optimistic view of the outcome of the battle, while Elizabeth Kolbert presents the pessimistic view.
Smoke from Australia’s bush fires killed hundreds of people and sent thousands to hospitals and emergency rooms, according to a new study published Monday in the Medical Journal of Australia.
A study in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that more than 500 million people are likely to be hit by heat stress above safe levels if global average temperatures rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial times, almost 800M at 2°C of warming, and 1.2B at 3°C. Project Drawdown released its “2020 Drawdown Review”, examining the costs and savings associated with holding the global temperature increase to 1.5°C. Without accounting for the savings associated with improved public health and avoided climate damages, keeping global temperature rises below 1.5°C would result in a global net economic savings of $145T.
At Inside Climate News, Georgina Gustin argued that climate change will force agriculture into new areas, which will mean more conversion of natural habitat into crop land, thereby increasing human/animal contact and the transfer of animal viruses like the novel coronavirus to humans.
Carbon Brief has published a major update of its map of the world’s coal‑fired power plants, based on the latest “Global Coal Plant Tracker” from Global Energy Monitor. According to the Monitor, coal-fired power plant development worldwide declined for the fourth year running in 2019. China is the world’s largest user of electricity derived from coal. Thus, whether the decline will continue depends largely on their 14th Five Year Plan, which covers the period 2021-2025.
The world’s wind power capacity grew by 19% in 2019, after a year of record growth for offshore windfarms and a boom in onshore projects in the U.S. and China. Because the offshore wind industry is in its infancy in the U.S., the interruptions associated with the coronavirus are hitting it at a critical time. The question is, just how disruptive will they be?
Companies are selecting Detroit as a perfect location for the design and assembly of electric commercial vehicles, like delivery vans and shuttle/school buses. A new study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, found that electric vehicles produce less CO2 than gasoline-powered vehicles across the vast majority of the globe – contrary to the claims of some detractors, who have alleged that the CO2 emitted in the production of electricity and the manufacture of the vehicles outweighs the benefits.
Europe’s energy storage boom stalled last year due to a slowdown in large‑scale schemes designed to store clean electricity from major renewable energy projects. A recent report from IDTechEx observed that “While the stationary energy storage market is currently dominated by Li-ion batteries, redox flow batteries (RFBs) are slowly being adopted with an increasing number of projects all over the world.” Rather than using batteries, another way to smooth out short-term variations in the supply‑demand balance of electricity generation is to use flywheels, as explained in The Conversation.
Rosatom, a Russian state company, is financing and building nuclear power plants across the world, reaping for Moscow both profits and geopolitical influence that will last for decades. The UK is trying to figure out the best way to make home heating “net-zero” CO2 emitting by 2050. One way is to convert their natural gas distribution system from methane to H2. The Guardian examined the various aspects of the question providing useful lessons for the U.S.
Because of the coronavirus-caused shut-downs across the U.S., a coalition of youth-led organizations that had planned massive marches for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day next month is now planning a three-day livestream event instead. Bill McKibben argued in The New Yorker that lessons learned from fighting the coronavirus could help in the battle against climate change, as did Beth Gardiner at Yale Environment 360, and Joseph Maikut of the Niskanen Center. Publisher Jann Wenner devoted his editorial to “The Price of Greed.” Amy Brady had an interview with author Bjorn Vassnes, author of Kingdom of Frost, which reveals how, in an age of climate change, a shrinking cryosphere could mean catastrophe for over a billion people. Last week she interviewed Alex Irvine, author of Anthropocene Rag, a novel dealing with the relationship between climate change and artificial intelligence.
Joy Loving edited the latest Roundup prepared by Les Grady, a Rockingham County resident and Member of CAAV’s Steering Committee.