Climate, energy news roundup: May 3

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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 Trump administration expanded the Main Street Lending Program to help oil and gas companies struggling from a collapse in prices from Covid‑19 and overproduction.  The administration is sitting on about $43 billion in low-interest loans for clean energy projects.  U.S. fossil fuel companies have taken at least $50 million in taxpayer money they probably won’t have to pay back, according to a review by the investigative research group “Documented” and The Guardian.

A House Oversight and Reform Committee probe found that in 99.4% of more than a thousand cases over the past 20 years, FERC gave natural gas pipeline companies eminent domain.

Rocky Mountain Institute CEO Jules Kortenhorst argued that the coronavirus pandemic is giving us a preview of the kind of disruptions climate change will bring to the energy transition.  Germany has shown how renewable energy can replace fossil fuels in a way that draws wide public buy-in.  Its steps and missteps on this journey provide critical lessons for other countries seeking to transform their energy sectors.  The Dutch government has announced measures including huge cuts to coal use, garden greening, and limits on livestock herds as part of its plan to lower emissions to comply with a supreme court ruling.

The American Conservation Coalition, a conservative environmental group, released its answer to the Green New Deal—the American Climate Contract.  The U.S. could save more than $1 trillion over the long term by removing roughly 1 million homes from flood-prone areas and relocating residents to higher ground.  According to one Louisiana resident, people live in disaster-prone areas because “That’s home….”  The Australian Consumer Action Law Center chief executive said there was a risk home insurance could become unaffordable in the wake of last bushfire season, leaving many uninsured or under-insured.

Climate and Climate Science

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, gave a 60% chance that 2020 will set the record for the warmest year, while the UK’s Met Office estimated a 50% likelihood.

Minnesota is one of the fastest warming states in the U.S., with many counties having warmed more than 2°C since the late 19th century.  Brady Dennis and colleagues from The Washington Post examined the changes that have occurred and what they portend for the future.

Recent research indicates many ecosystems are shifting to being net producers of CO2, with dire ramifications for the climate.  Carbon cycle feedbacks, such as the uptake and release of CO2 by forests, are very important in determining the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.  In the past, such feedbacks resulted in a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.   A study published in Science found that forests are in big trouble if global warming continues at the present pace because most trees alive today will be unable to survive in the future climate.  There is growing awareness that large-scale tropical deforestation, as in the Amazon, not only brings disastrous consequences for the climate, but releases new diseases like COVID-19 by enabling infections to pass from wild animals to human beings.

Energy

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says the world’s CO2 emissions are expected to fall by 8% this year as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down much of the global economy, a drop six times greater than that during the 2008 financial crisis.

Duke Energy said it plans to achieve the goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by phasing out its use of coal while increasing its use of renewable energy.  Britain went without coal-fired power generation for its longest stretch since the Industrial Revolution, breaking the existing record of 18 consecutive days and still climbing at 20 days and 21 hours when the article was written.

Solar and onshore wind power are the cheapest new sources of electricity for at least two-thirds of the world’s population, according to a report by BloombergNEF.  An Australian Energy Market Operator study revealed the country already has the technical capacity to safely run a power grid in which 75% of the electricity comes from wind and solar.

Denmark’s Ørsted, the world’s top offshore wind developer, has said its U.S. offshore wind projects totaling nearly 3 GW may face delays due to the coronavirus crisis and slowed permitting.  New York’s Public Service Commission approved plans for an offshore wind solicitation of at least 1 GW, possibly 2.5 GW, but the state agency in charge of the solicitation says it won’t press ahead with it this summer.  The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project remains on schedule.

The Environmental Defense Fund surveyed more than 300 sites in the Permian Basin and found that roughly 1 in 10 methane flares was unlit or malfunctioning, allowing the strong greenhouse gas to escape directly to the atmosphere.  Conspicuously absent from the broader European Green Deal agenda are provisions to tackle the leakage of methane, a potent climate pollutant with rising emissions.

Potpourri

An unforeseen pairing of catastrophes, climate change and COVID-19, will inform how Generation Z navigates the world as adults, and what sort of future they create.  Over the past few years, Kim Cobb, a Georgia Tech professor of paleoclimate, has shifted her focus from climate science to solutions and adaptation.  At Yale Climate Connections, Sara Peach addressed the question of what individuals can realistically do about climate change.  Dan Gearino has debunked Michael Moore’s “Planet of the Humans,” which has provoked a furious reaction from scientists and climate activists.    “Survivor Generations 2165 … [is] An Original Radio Drama by the Climate Stew Players.”

A survey from George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication found that Millennial or younger adults (aged 18-38) were more likely than Gen. X (aged 39-54) or Baby Boomer and older (aged 55+) adults to support and/or identify with climate activists who urge elected officials to take action to reduce global warming, among other things.

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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