Climate, energy news roundup: Oct. 18

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Climate Action Alliance of the Valley produces The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News.

Excerpts from a recent Roundup follow; full Roundup is here.

Politics and Policy

The German government set an exit date for the coal industry with a plan to help coal communities survive, thereby providing beneficial lessons for the U.S.  President Trump’s executive order initiated formation of the “United States One Trillion Trees Interagency Council.”  Several conservative climate groups have attempted to wrench the issue of climate change from Democrats and shore up climate concern on the right, in part because of the Green New Deal’s impact; Americans are now nearly four times more likely to say they’re alarmed about the climate crisis than to be dismissive of it.  The Biden campaign answered Vox’s six key questions about his climate change plans; GreenTech Media asked clean‑energy experts and advocates what’s most likely to get done in the first 100 days of a Biden presidency.  Politico asserted that Biden and some Congressional Democrats want to use trade agreements to combat global warming, breaking from decades of U.S. trade policy that largely ignored climate change.

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, said late during her confirmation hearing that, while she has read up on the issue of climate change, she doesn’t have “firm views” on the subject.  Her efforts to “play it safe” created perhaps the most tangible backlash of her hearings.  FERC issued a proposed policy statement that it has the authority and willingness to consider potential grid operators’ requests to incorporate a carbon tax into their rate structures.

Research on adaptation to sea level rise in coastal communities showed shoreline armoring is more common in areas with low racial diversity and higher home values, household incomes, and population densities; measures based around home buyout programs correlate with high racial diversity and low home values, household incomes, and population densities.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac research showed housing markets are beginning to respond to damages from climate change-fueled floods, storms, and disasters.  Australian insurance regulators said pre‑emptive avoidance action is less costly than dealing with the aftermath of disasters exacerbated by the climate crisis.

The world could get on track to avert catastrophic climate change by investing 10% of the planned $12T in pandemic recovery packages to reducing dependence on fossil fuels.  JPMorgan Chase aims to support its clients in expanding investment in clean energy and work towards net zero‑emissions by 2050; HSBC will target net zero carbon emissions across its entire customer base.  China’s top climate researchers released a plan whereby it could meet the carbon neutrality goal by 2050.  Leading maritime nations’ proposal to curb the shipping industry’s carbon footprint falls far short of International Maritime Organization and Paris Agreement climate goals, shipping experts warned.

Climate and Climate Science

Research showed a holistic, global approach to healing ecosystems would be a big step in stopping the twin threats of extreme climate disruption and biodiversity loss.  Protecting intact peatlands and restoring degraded ones are crucial steps to countering climate change.

Recent Atlantic warming is “unparalleled” in the past three millennia.  With oceans absorbing over 90% of global warming, marine heatwaves are becoming hotter, larger, and longer lasting, with major ecological consequences.  Half the corals on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have died over the past 25 years.

Roughly 1/4 of the vast Brazilian Pantanal wetland, one of Earth’s most biodiverse places, burned in 2020 wildfires worsened by climate change.  Almost half the land belonging to Indigenous people was among that burned.  ProPublica’s climate maps project showed that, with climate change, California’s summer and fall fire seasons are growing longer and melding into each other, overlapping in time and space.  In northern Colorado, the Cameron Peak wildfire is officially the largest ever observed in the state.

Extreme weather events have increased dramatically in the past 20 years, taking a heavy human and economic toll worldwide, and are likely to wreak further havoc, the UN said.  The UN humanitarian chief warned that daunting problems in Africa’s Sahel region are worsening and the region “is very close to a tipping point,” with climate change among contributing factors.  The Arctic is unravelling faster than anyone could once have predicted.  A study showed only a few degrees of Arctic warming is enough to abruptly activate large-scale permafrost thawing, and greenhouse gas release at a massive scale.

2020 will likely be the hottest year when a La Niña event was present in the tropical Pacific Ocean.  In 2020 Phoenix temperatures reached at least 100°F for 144 of 288 days, surpassing 143 days in 1989.  Nearly half the continental U.S. is gripped by drought; conditions are expected to worsen this winter across much of the Southwest and South.

Energy

The world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest … electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries.  Updating its 2018 analysis, RMI found that in every city analyzed, a new all-electric, single-family home is less expensive than a new mixed‑fuel home relying on gas for cooking, space heating, and water heating.

America’s hydroelectric dam industry and several environmental groups agreed to work together to get more clean energy from hydropower while reducing the dams’ environmental harm.  Pumped storage could provide around-the-clock reliability for renewable energy projects, but is notoriously difficult to site.  Lithium-ion batteries now dominate energy storage at renewable energy installations; competitors such as other battery types and nonchemical approaches could be better for intermediate-term storage.  Hydrogen may be the answer for seasonal storage.

European EV sales are growing; the continent looks increasingly likely to outpace China in the near future.  Arrival, a UK-based EV startup backed by Hyundai and Kia that’s preparing to make UPS electric delivery trucks, is building a South Carolina factory to make as many as 1,000 battery‑powered buses yearly.

Satellite imagery showed that, so far this year, global methane hot spots have soared 32%; methane leaks in Algeria, Russia, and Turkmenistan have grown over 40%.  The warming associated with such leaks negates the benefits of shifting electricity production from coal-fired to gas-fired power plants.

Dominion Energy’s two turbine, 12 MW, $300 million, Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project successfully completed reliability testing and is ready to begin feeding electricity into Virginia’s power grid. Mitsubishi Corp. continues to explore the possibility of building an offshore Lake Erie wind project to deliver power for New York State.

Potpourri

The Atlantic is launching “Planet”, a new section devoted to climate change, and “The Weekly Planet”, a new newsletter.

Nearly 80% of adults in Virginia expressed interest in reading about how climate change is affecting their communities.

Emily Atkin interviewed Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson, editors of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis.

Guardian environment correspondent Fiona Harvey recalled successes of the environmental movement, arguing it can also win the fight against the climate crisis.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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