Climate, energy news roundup: Sept. 20

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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

In California, President Trump was briefed on the raging wildfires; he declined to acknowledge the role climate change likely played in fueling the flames, greatly concerning some members of his party and reaffirming a profound misunderstanding—or  denial—of how greenhouse gases affect the Earth’s atmosphere.  Trump’s denial prompted Joe Biden to call him a “climate arsonist”.  Scientific American endorsed Biden.  The Rhodium Group estimated the Trump administration’s rollback of climate‑related regulations, if allowed to stand, will result in an additional 1.8Bn metric tons of atmospheric greenhouse gases by 2035.  Several business and environmental groups want Congress to pass the American Energy Innovation Act to modernize the nation’s energy laws.  House Democrats introduced the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act, paralleling a similar Senate bill and allowing the two bodies to conference.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU should set a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, the minimum effort needed to put the EU on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050.  The International Monetary Fund endorsed an EU proposal to impose carbon levies on imports, if the countries from which the imports originate do not adopt a minimum carbon price.  China is considering carbon neutrality as part of its long‑term climate plan.

Vox’s David Roberts concluded five basic reforms are needed to develop an innovation system capable of supplying the technologies required to decarbonize the U.S. by midcentury.  The conclusion of the latest Energy Transitions Commission report is a net-zero carbon global economy is technically and economically possible by midcentury.  Environmental and tribal groups sued the EPA over its rollback of two rules meant to limit the amount of methane emitted by the oil and gas sector.  EPA bowed to White House pressure during interagency review of the rules by reducing the frequency of measurements.  A court has temporarily halted the rollback, although the pause was procedural, saying nothing about the rules’ merits.

E&E News summarized six energy-related lawsuits likely to be decided soon.  Mountain Valley Pipeline opponents submitted 43,000 signatures urging FERC not to grant more time to complete the pipeline.  FERC has passed a long-awaited order to open up the country’s wholesale energy markets to distributed energy resources like rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries, and electric vehicles.  The Business Roundtable endorsed a “market-based mechanism” as part of a plan to sharply curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate and Climate Science

The U.S. West is still burning, spreading haze across the country, but so are many other places in the world.  Rising global temperatures and worsening droughts mean the world has entered a new era of megafires for which traditional firefighting methods are inadequate.  This year’s California fires burned enough forest through mid-September to put about 90 million metric tons of CO2 into the air.  Robinson Meyers explained how the “vapor pressure deficit”— difference between amount of water vapor in the air and amount of water vapor the air can possibly hold—is a major driver of the fires’ intensity.  Slow-moving hurricane Sally blasted onto the U.S. Gulf Coast, unleashing massive floodwaters and powerful winds from the Florida Panhandle to Mobile, AL.  Several new Atlantic storms are brewing.

ProPublica published interactive maps illustrating how several environmental factors will likely change in the future under two emissions scenarios—leading to migrations within the U.S.  ProPublica will present a September 29 webinar on the subject.  The New York Times presented a graphical analysis of climate risks across the U.S.

A comprehensive study of the complex climate impact of aviation emissions reaffirmed contrail clouds produce more warming than the CO2 emitted.

Antarctica’s Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers are breaking free from restraints that have hemmed them in, increasing the threat of large-scale sea-level rise.  An enormous chunk of Greenland’s ice cap broke off.

NOAA said the northern hemisphere’s June-July-August were 2.11°F above the 20th-century average, setting a new record for hottest summer.  The Arctic region is moving into a new climate regime, with the rate of change depending on future CO2 emissions.  Such changes are already impacting Alaska fisheries.

Energy

In The Economist special issue about “The new energy order,” the introductory editorial (available free by logging on) provided an overview of the most important issues. BP’s “Energy Outlook 2020” revealed global oil demand will not regain 2019 levels and demand could soon fall rapidly in the face of stronger climate action.

Over the past three years, some big U.S. electric utilities have committed to weaning themselves off carbon-emitting generation by 2050.  Jeff St. John examined the five largest (by market capitalization) that have set net-zero targets so far.  Julian Spector looked at five that haven’t.  Google pledged it will run its entire business on carbon-free energy 24/7/365 by 2030.  Facebook expects to eliminate or offset all of its own emissions this year, while completely decarbonizing its supply chain by 2030.

Scottish Power’s project to use green hydrogen to run buses, ferries, and trains is part of a pioneering partnership to develop the UK’s nascent hydrogen economy.  Frontier Energy and 10 partners announced launch of three-year projects to show green hydrogen can be a cost-effective fuel for multiple end-use applications.

America’s air would become cleaner and its citizens more healthy if the country accelerated its transition to electric cars.  Ford announced plans for a new plant to build the electric and plug-in hybrid versions of its bestselling F-150 pickup.  The Dearborn, MI plant will also assemble batteries.  U.S. bus maker Blue Bird says its electric school buses sell so well, it will increase production capacity to 1,000 units/year.

Plans to build the nation’s first freshwater wind farm in Lake Erie northeast of Cleveland took a major step forward; state regulators reversed their decision to limit the nighttime operation of the proposed wind turbines.

Potpourri

In an interactive Q&A, Carbon Brief explored how greenhouse gas emissions from meat, dairy, and other diets compare, and whether changes to producing and transporting meat could help reduce its climate impact.  The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw reviewed I Am Greta, a documentary following Greta Thunberg from her first Friday school strikes in Stockholm to her 2019 UN speech in New York City.  The Daily Climate’s Peter Dykstra compiled a list of some late 20th Century classic books and authors that helped define the environmental movement.

Closing Thought

Ambitious and expanded climate action by U.S. states, cities, and businesses can reduce emissions up to 37% by 2030.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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