Climate, energy news roundup: May 9
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
Congressional Republicans plan to launch a counter pressure campaign against the country’s largest banks after several of them ruled out financial support for oil drilling projects in the Arctic even though the banks’ pledges may be largely symbolic. In Pennsylvania, Republican lawmakers called on Democratic Governor Tom Wolf to rescind his executive order including Pennsylvania in the multi‑state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He declined. A coalition of public interest, social justice, watchdog and environmental groups are joining forces to hold Duke Energy, the largest investor-owned U.S. electric utility, accountable for its policies.
Three authors of last winter’s “Production Gap Report” argued that to meet climate goals and avoid further market chaos, governments need to plan the decline of coal, oil, and gas production, with support for workers.
Economists: Spending coronavirus recovery money on climate-friendly “green” policy initiatives could help shift the world closer to a net-zero emissions pathway, and offer the best economic returns for government spending. In a letter to senators Thursday, the Treasury Department said it is considering ways to let solar, wind, and other alternative energy developers continue to qualify for tax incentives critical for paying for the building of wind turbines and solar panel arrays – even if construction is put on hold. Ten states and Washington, D.C. are asking FERC to postpone its approvals of any new fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas pipelines, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Geoff Dembicki laid out how former Vice President Joe Biden could become an unlikely climate savior. E&E News examined the climate records of five contenders for the Democratic VP nomination. Sociology professor Dana R. Fisher wrote: “New results from a survey conducted at the end of April show that the vast majority of climate activists will vote for Biden.” Young conservatives are working to persuade their Republican elders to put forward a climate agenda, without sacrificing traditional GOP principles like market competition and limited government. As the economy melts down because of the coronavirus, Republicans are testing a political response for this fall: saying Democratic climate policies would bring similar pain.
Climate and Climate Science
The vast majority of humanity has always lived in regions where the average annual temperatures are between 6°C (43°F) and 28°C (82°F), ideal for human health and food production. A study found that over the next 50 years, 1 to 3 billion people will live in extreme heat – defined as an average temperature of 29°C (84°F) or above. Mark Maslin discussed the article at The Conversation. An article in Science Advances reported that a comprehensive evaluation of weather station data showed that extreme humid heat overall has more than doubled in frequency since 1979.
New data from the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service indicated April 2020 tied April 2016 as the hottest April on record.
Taken together over the long term, seasonal allergies present one of the most robust examples of how global warming increases health risks. Allergies, already a major health burden, will become an even larger drain on the economy.
Climate change has influenced locations at which tropical cyclones occur. Since 1980, their number has risen in the North Atlantic and Central Pacific, while declining in the western Pacific and the South Indian Ocean. Sea-level is rising faster than previously believed and could exceed 3 feet by the end of the century unless global emissions are reduced.
One challenge of obtaining all electricity from wind and solar is providing for the seasonal shift—production is greater in summer and demand is greater in winter. Technology firm Wärtsilä proposed solving the problem by employing power-to-gas technologies, by which excess electricity, if converted into either hydrogen or methane, can be stored until needed. Green hydrogen’s advocates say its time has come. Australia’s government is setting aside $191 million to jumpstart hydrogen projects as the country aims to build the industry by 2030.
Three of the four biggest U.S. oil and gas producers posted multimillion to multibillion dollar losses in the first quarter of 2020. About half of Louisiana Oil and Gas Association members expect to file for bankruptcy because of the market collapse.
The coronavirus crisis is hurting businesses trying to move the country toward cleaner sources of energy. The 2.25 GW Navajo Generating Station shut down in November, leaving unemployment and underutilized electrical transmission infrastructure in its wake. Startup Navajo Power wants to build massive solar power plants while channeling the proceeds into electrification and economic development for Navajo communities.
Wind, solar, and hydroelectricity produced more electricity than coal for 40 straight days in the U.S. this year, topping the previous record of nine consecutive days. Dominion Virginia’s new integrated resource plan sets a goal of nearly 16 GW of solar, more than 5 GW of offshore wind, and 2.7 GW of energy storage over the next 15 years. Augusta County (VA) Public Schools will be receiving more solar energy thanks to Secure Futures Solar, which recently signed an agreement with City National Bank to provide an $8 million loan to finance the construction of solar projects in several schools.
The auto industry logic about electric vehicles (EVs): Transforming the worst gas guzzlers and CO2 emitters will save more energy than nominal gains for smaller cars that use relatively little gasoline, explaining why most new EVs are big SUVs and pickups. A new Wood Mackenzie report says, by 2030, there will be 8.6 million EV charging outlets installed in Europe, 9.8 million in China, and 10.8 million in North America.
MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel has a new interactive website entitled “Climate Science, Risk and Solutions: Climate Knowledge for Everyone”. Michael Svoboda presented more than 70 climate fiction films for stay-at-home viewing. Climate fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson had a wonderful essay on The New Yorker’s website last Friday. Bill McKibben encourages you to read it.
Joy Loving edited the latest Roundup prepared by Dr. Les Grady, a Rockingham County resident and Member of CAAV’s Steering Committee