Climate, energy news roundup: May 31

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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 UN announced that COP26 will be postponed until November 1-12, 2021.  The summit will happen in Glasgow.  The European Commission announced its green recovery; Damian Carrington (The Guardian) wrote: “It sets a high standard for other nations.”  Reuters provided its spending proposals.  Some were not excited about the plan, which relies heavily on borrowing.  Major European electricity groups issued a joint call urging the European Commission to prioritize renewable hydrogen in its pandemic recovery plan.  New research (Environmental Science and Policy) found that President Trump’s reelection would likely cause a significant delay in meeting global carbon emission reductions.

David Roberts (Vox) argued there is a broad alignment forming within the Democratic Party around a climate policy platform ambitious enough to address the problem and politically potent enough to unite various interest groups.  Subsequently Roberts said that if former Vice President Joe Biden embraces a bold climate policy he has a good chance of turning out the voters needed to win.  Two conservative clean energy advocates want Congress to “seize this opportunity to modernize the nation’s power system with investments that will pay dividends for the economy and the environment for generations.  ”Twenty-three states sued the Trump administration on Wednesday over its reversal of fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks.  States have challenged virtually every effort by the EPA and other agencies to walk back Obama-era rules, winning 80% of the cases so far.

Former Federal Reserve governor and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Sarah Bloom Raskin argued the Fed should not direct money to further entrench the carbon economy.  The U.S. Treasury Department released guidance offering onshore wind and solar projects more time to meet tax credit deadlines.  The oil and gas industry lost appeals in two major climate damages cases by California cities and counties.  The Bureau of Land Management abruptly postponed a scheduled auction of the right to drill for oil and gas on 45,000 acres in New Mexico scheduled for last week.

The Ohio Power Siting Board ruled the Icebreaker windfarm project in Lake Erie could move forward only if blades on its six turbines are turned off every night for eight months each year, a stipulation that “may well be fatal to the entire project.”  A federal appeals court on Thursday turned down the Trump administration’s request to revive a permit program for new oil and gas pipelines.

Climate and Climate Science

Humanity’s fingerprint on the climate is now unmistakable and will become increasingly evident over the coming decades, the UK Met Office confirmed after 30 years of study.  Climate scientists say planting a trillion trees as a climate change mitigation strategy is not that simple.  New research in the journal Science found that rising temperatures, deforestation, development, and climate-induced disasters are causing bigger trees to be lost at alarming rates, making the planet’s forests shorter and younger.

According to new research in Nature Climate Change, the deep ocean will be warming rapidly by 2050 even if dramatic reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions were to happen today.

Contrary to previous research, a new paper (Science Advances) concluded that marshes in the Mississippi River Delta have hit a tipping point and will likely drown this century due to sea level rise.

Research (The Lancet Planetary Health journal) revealed that over the past 11 years, the number of deaths attributed to excessive natural heat in Australia is at least 50 times greater than is recorded on death certificates there.

With the Siberian Arctic seeing record warm conditions in recent weeks and months, scientists monitoring wildfire trends are becoming more convinced that some of the blazes erupting in the Arctic this spring are actually left over from last summer, having survived by burning in dry underground peat formations.

Energy

Japanese scientists have designed a photocatalyst capable of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen gases with almost 100% efficiency when exposed to ultraviolet light.  Their work suggests it should be possible to design a photocatalyst capable of doing the same thing with visible light, thereby paving the way for much more efficient systems than electrolysis for producing hydrogen from sunlight.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on Thursday that in 2019 the U.S. consumed more energy from renewable sources like solar and wind than from coal.

Power companies have announced plans to close 13 coal-fired power plants this year, according to an E&E News review of federal data and companies’ closure plans.  Two others will be converted to natural gas.  Southern Company, which owns a number of utilities across the South, has joined other major utilities in setting a net-zero carbon target for 2050.

Botetourt County (VA) Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve the Apex Clean Energy request to amend its permit for the Rocky Forge Windfarm to allow the construction of fewer, taller wind turbines.  Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy announced the 2.64 GW Dominion Energy Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project will utilize its SG 14-222 DD turbine, with a capacity of 14 MW.  Siemens Gamesa said it is considering establishing the first global factory for that turbine in the U.S.  In Europe, as locations for wind energy fill up onshore and near-shore, companies are deploying floating turbines that can be sited in deep waters.  Offshore wind market leader Ørsted will work in and around Copenhagen to decarbonize transport on land, at sea, and in the air by producing hydrogen, from which other fuels can be generated.

Potpourri

John Schwartz defined “Cassandrafreude” in the second article of the NYT’s “Climate Fwd:” newsletter.  Heather Grady, Vice President, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, wrote: “…2020 can be a super year, not just for nature, but also for people.”  The latest Peter Sinclair video focused on the Florida Keys and whether the communities there can be saved.  Sinclair lives in Midland, MI, and wrote about last week’s dam breach there.  YouTube has taken down the controversial Michael Moore-produced documentary Planet of the Humans because of a copyright infringement claim by a British environmental photographer.  Vimeo has the film available for free.  Treat yourself to 4½ minutes of stunning photography about “The Beauty of Pollination.”

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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