Climate, energy news roundup: May 18
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. Read the full Roundup at the CAAV website.
Politics and Policy
Former Vice-President Joe Biden has named Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry co-chairs of his climate task force. A group of former climate policy staffers for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is pushing his comprehensive climate plan with both congressional Democrats and Biden. Climate Power 2020, a joint effort of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club, will focus on bringing the Democrat’s climate message to swing states.
“C3 Solutions” seeks to unleash clean energy innovation. In a guest post at Carbon Brief, the author writes: “[E]ach shift in target framing has opened the door to new hopes of future technological solutions… These promises both respond to, and enable, continued delays in mitigation, yet rarely deliver in practice. We call them ‘technologies of prevarication’.” Another researcher calls the hope in future technologies “technological optimism”, with the same outcome – delay in action.
The House coronavirus relief bill doesn’t block aid to oil producers or provide aid for renewable energy. A coalition of oil producing states has asked for stimulus funds to hire laid‑off energy workers to plug abandoned wells. FERC rejected a several states’ request to pause approvals for new energy infrastructure projects such as natural gas pipelines. EPA will propose changes to its decades-old methodology for measuring costs and benefits in Clean Air Act rulemakings, which could stymie efforts by future administrations to combat climate change.
Chief executives and other representatives from more than 330 businesses are calling on federal lawmakers to build a better economy following COVID‑19 by including resilient climate solutions. Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund portfolio excludes several of the world’s biggest commodities firms for their use and production of coal. Five years ago, the $1.1 billion Rockefeller Brothers Fund divested from fossil fuels. The fund has outpaced financial benchmarks, defying predictions of money managers.
Climate and Climate Science
Daisy Dunne at Carbon Brief prepared a Q&A around whether climate change and biodiversity disturbance could influence the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans. A Nature Communications study warns that mosquitos carrying diseases such as dengue, Zika, and yellow fever would likely colonize parts of southern Europe by 2030.
A pulse of unusually warm air is surging toward the North Pole, paving the way for the Arctic ice melt season to begin—particularly concerning this year because a landslide in a Prince William Sound fjord near Anchorage could be triggered by an earthquake, prolonged heavy rain, or a heat wave, thereby causing a massive tsunami.
New research from DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory suggests that by 2050 roughly one-third of the U.S. population could feel the impacts of one or more extreme weather events annually. During the first decade of this century, the Upper Missouri River Basin was the driest it’s been in 1,200 years because of rising temperatures linked to climate change that reduced the amount of snowfall in the Rocky Mountains in Montana and North Dakota.
A new report from the World Resources Institute says while regenerative agriculture can improve soil health and yield some valuable environmental benefits, it is unlikely to achieve large-scale emissions reductions.
The U.S. is on track to produce more electricity this year from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, though overall demand is expected to drop. The Department of Interior approved the $1 billion Nevada Gemini Solar Project, which will mix 690 MW of solar PV with a 380 MW/1,400 MWh battery storage component. The U.S. clean energy sector has lost 17% of its work force, or nearly 600,000 jobs, because of stay-at-home orders. While the pandemic has put some new projects on hold, the underlying strengths of renewables remain strong.
BMW plans are to invest more than $32 billion into research and development for hydrogen fuel-cell technology. Jack Ewing wrote of what is coming for the auto industry under the headline “The Pandemic Will Permanently Change the Auto Industry”.
Scientists working with the Environmental Defense Fund found that Pennsylvania’s shale gas industry leaked seven times more methane in 2017 than the state reported. They also found that the conventional natural gas industry leaked a larger amount of methane, despite producing a mere 2% of the state’s gas.
Demand for cobalt—an important component in lithium-ion batteries—will increase, raising concerns about the way it is mined and processed. Tesla is expected to announce a new battery relying on low‑cobalt and cobalt-free chemistries, and the use of chemical additives, materials, and coatings to reduce internal stress, enabling it to store more energy for longer periods. These innovations are expected to allow Teslas to sell profitably at the same or lower prices than gasoline vehicles.
Virginia news: Utility regulators prepare to reopen a popular program that allowed local governments, school systems, and churches to get their energy from non-utility solar developers. Botetourt County’s Planning Commission endorsed a plan for the proposed wind turbines atop North Mountain to be increased in height from 550 ft to a maximum 680 ft, thereby allowing a decreased number of turbines. A federal judge declined to lift his temporary ban on a permitting process for the crossing of streams and wetlands by oil and natural gas pipelines, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Two social scientists posit that to challenge misguided beliefs about science, you might try satire. Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook have a new publication, “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook”. Ron Charles reviewed Lydia Millet’s cli-fi novel A Children’s Bible. Michael Svoboda collected twelve books on climate activism. Science News staff reviewed several climate change books published this year. Chris Mooney interviewed Shahzeen Attari, associate professor in Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, who studies the way people perceive their personal energy use and the decisions they make in their daily lives.
Joy Loving edited the latest Roundup prepared by Dr. Les Grady, a Rockingham County resident and Member of CAAV’s Steering Committee.