Climate, energy news roundup: May 24

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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.  Read the full Roundup at the CAAV website.

Politics and Policy

The Economist explained how “the [coronavirus] pandemic … reveals the size of the challenge ahead and … creates a unique chance to enact government policies … steer[ing] the economy away from carbon at a lower financial, social and political cost than might otherwise have been the case.”  The European Commission released a proposed biodiversity strategy whereby at least 30% of EU land and seas will be protected by 2030 to halt the decline of plant and animal species and restore carbon sinks to address climate change.  Australia’s government released a new plan to tackle climate change, targeting the use of gas, hydrogen, batteries, and carbon capture, while avoiding the contentious issue of setting a carbon price.  A cross-society collection of groups have banded together to warn that Australia’s prosperity depends on eradicating greenhouse gas emissions.

The Trump administration is reducing royalty payments and suspending leases for oil companies drilling on federal lands, while also imposing retroactive rent on wind and solar generators.  Clean energy companies and advocates are blasting Democrats for neglecting to give the industry any help in the House pandemic relief bills, even as the sector reports hundreds of thousands of job losses.  During last week’s “LEAD on Climate 2020”, organized by the nonprofit Ceres and supported by other sustainability-focused business groups, executives from 333 companies met with 51 Representatives and 37 Senators from both parties in a virtual lobby day.  The Trump administration reportedly ignored warnings from EPA career staff that its new auto fuel economy rule has serious flaws.  Fuel‑economy improvements in U.S. “light-duty” vehicles have saved 17 Gt of CO2 since 1975, according to a new study in the journal Energy Policy.

Americans’ positions on climate change have remained largely unshaken by the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis; a new national survey showed acceptance of global warming’s reality at record highs in some categories.  Joe Biden would rescind President Trump’s permit allowing the Keystone XL oil pipeline to cross the border into the U.S., a move that would effectively kill the controversial project.

Climate and Climate Science

Rising ocean temperatures will alter the distribution and life cycles of Antarctic krill in the coming decades.

A new study found that the odds of major tropical cyclones around the world — Category 3, 4 and 5 storms — are increasing because of human-caused global warming.  The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will be unusually active, according to a seasonal outlook from NOAA.

A new study found that as long as global warming is limited to 2°C, tropical rainforests will be able to soak up “high levels” of CO2, provided they are left intact.  If temperature increases exceed 2°C, the ability of the forests to store CO2 will decline rapidly.

The combination of drought and heat waves causing the U.S dust bowl in the 1930s—occurring then with a frequency of once every 100 years—is now likely to occur once every 40 years, or 2.5 times more often.  The occurrence will become even more likely as global average temperatures rise.

Rising sea levels over the past 120 years are a result of man-made climate change and not variations in the Earth’s orbit, a study found.

Energy

Scientists reported that daily emissions of CO2 dropped by as much as 17% globally in early April as the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Their study also projects that total emissions for 2020 will probably fall between 4 and 7% compared with last year.  New data from the International Energy Agency reaffirms earlier forecasts of lower wind and solar installations globally in 2020 due to coronavirus impacts.  Grist queried five experts on the future of renewable energy in the U.S. in a time of COVID-19.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the U.S. has lost 594,300 clean energy jobs, according to a report issued last week by BW Research Partnership.  Of that total, 70% of the losses were in energy efficiency.  While the pandemic is causing a short-term drop in CO2 emissions, the economic impacts of the pandemic are likely to cause delays in or cancelations of capital projects planned to meet long-term CO2-reduction goals.

Siemens Gamesa launched the largest wind turbine ever publicly announced, a 14 MW model with a 222-meter rotor diameter meant for offshore wind farms.  To reduce emissions by 70% from 1990s levels by 2030, Denmark plans to build two “energy islands” totaling 4 GW of offshore wind capacity.  Greentech Media reporter brought us up to date on Dominion’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project.  North Carolina has taken the first step toward establishing an offshore wind industry by issuing a request for proposals to analyze the state’s ports and manufacturing supply chain for their potential suitability.

The switch from coal to gas has driven down U.S. electricity emissions over the last decade. But not in Virginia, where a massive build-out of natural gas power plants has negated CO2 reductions associated with coal retirements.  Guest columnists in the Virginia Mercury made the case for electrifying Virginia by replacing the use of gas for home heating, cooking, and water heating.

A zinc-air hybrid flow battery can store multiple days’ worth of energy, doesn’t degrade, can’t explode, and is up to five times cheaper than lithium‑ion, according to its developer, Zinc8, which is preparing to pilot the technology in New York State.  A new study showed that used electric vehicle batteries could have a useful and profitable second life as backup storage for grid-scale solar photovoltaic installations, where they could perform for more than a decade in this less demanding role.

As forests in the Western U.S. experience rising numbers of fires and disease outbreaks related to climate change, some experts argue that using dead and diseased trees to produce biomass energy will help to restore forests.

Automakers and analysts believe the pandemic will accelerate the move away from automobiles with gas-powered engines, with many more countries switching to electric vehicles around 2023-24.

Potpourri

In his New Yorker column this week, Bill McKibben provided links to an introductory video and a simulation model that lets one experiment to see the effects different policy options have on future global average temperatures.  Kendra Pierre-Louis compiled a list with excerpts of “The Hot Ten Climate Songs.”  The Tyee interviewed director Liz Marshall about her new documentary Meat the Future, the subject of which she describes as the “genesis phase of something that could change the world.”

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


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