Climate, energy news roundup: Week of Aug. 29
Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, a non-profit, grassroots group of volunteers in the Central Shenandoah Valley, produces The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News to inform legislators and the public.
An excerpt from a recent roundup follows; full roundup is here.
Politics and Policy
The number of Americans who feel passionately about climate change is rising sharply; the issue appears likely to play a more important role in this year’s election than ever before. Bill McKibben wrote about climate change: “We’re out of Presidential terms to waste.” David Roberts wrote about a second Trump term: “… the likely result will be irreversible changes to the climate that will degrade the quality of life of every subsequent generation of human beings, with millions of lives harmed or foreshortened.” Jeff Goodell echoed that sentiment: “You can have four more years of [President Donald] Trump, or you can have a habitable planet. But you can’t have both.” The BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of large U.S. labor unions and environmental groups, endorsed Biden for president. The Republican national convention mostly ignored the climate crisis, disturbing some conservatives who warned the party risks being left behind by voters.
Senate Democrats released a 200 page climate plan—a roadmap for what they’ll do if in the majority after 2020’s election. David Roberts interviewed committee chair Sen. Brian Schatz about it. The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer pointed out it “is not a draft bill, but a menu of potential policies that have wide support in the party and that could be combined in future legislation.” Three Grist writers presented three ways the plan diverges from other recent plans. Virtually all Trump EPA’s major electric utility‑sector and climate-related rules could be reversed if Biden wins the presidency. 87 House lawmakers asked the EPA to withdraw its latest rules rescinding standards for methane emissions in the oil/gas industry.
A Nature Climate Change study found 60%+ of 1,000+ European cities monitoring their performance are on track to meet their climate targets. An environmental and business coalition said Australia is “woefully unprepared” for the scale of climate change threats it faces and focuses too much on the cost of action rather than that of inaction.
In a major change in policy regarding rebuilding in flood zones, FEMA and HUD detailed new programs to pay for large-scale relocation nationwide. FEMA failed to comply with a 2012 congressional mandate to incorporate rising sea levels and otherwise account for climate change in its flood maps. Realtor.com became the first home-buying website to disclose a home’s flood risk and how climate change could increase it in coming decades. The New York Times (NYT) published an article, “How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering”, focusing on Richmond, VA.
Climate and Climate Science
Hurricane Laura tore through Louisiana, killing six people and flattening buildings across a wide swath of the state. Storm statistics showed Laura’s rapid intensification was a sign of climate change. The AP looked at the many factors, including climate change, affecting hurricane damage.
The Environmental Defense Fund examined the costs of climate-linked natural disasters; they have quadrupled since 1980. CBS News examined the West’s heat wave and wildfires, the derecho that tore through the nation’s middle, and the pace of this year’s hurricane season, concluding the unprecedented and concurrent extreme conditions resemble the chaotic climate future scientists have been warning about for decades.
28Tn metric tons of ice have disappeared from the surface of Earth since 1994; 46% in glaciers and ice sheets on the ground added to sea level rise. Climate‑change‑caused increased precipitation and ice melt have left Arctic waters less salty–ultimately impacting Atlantic Ocean circulation currents. Unlike the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Arctic Ocean gets warmer with depth. New measurements indicate warm water is moving closer to the surface, melting sea ice from below. A Nature Climate Change study indicated rising sea levels could push inland water tables higher, resulting in damage to infrastructure and increased severity of flooding.
California and Colorado wildfires show clear influences of global warming and evidence of how a warming and drying climate is increasing fire size and severity. The NYT noted the four key ingredients to the California wildfires, including climate change.
Carbon capture pioneer Climeworks is spearheading a new project to permanently remove 4,000 tons of CO2 directly from the air every year and store it deep beneath the ground in Icelandic basalt. Research in Nature Climate Change suggested technologies removing CO2 from the air could have huge implications for future food prices.
Wood Mackenzie predicts the 2020s will be the “decade of hydrogen.” Reuters reported the EU goal to boost use of green hydrogen will require finding billions in investment and persuading member states to give their backing. During Q220 earnings calls, several large North American utilities and power generator executives outlined plans to ramp up green hydrogen production and use in coming years as decarbonization increases. The tiny Western Australian town of Kalbarri hopes to become a hub of green hydrogen production and export.
A Duke Energy executive said the company could achieve a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 by using “technologies that largely exist today.” Powin Energy is delivering equipment and integration services to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative for what is thought to be the first grid‑scale battery storage system installed by a Virginia electric cooperative.
The Southeast U.S. lacks an integrated market for transmitting electricity across utility and state boundaries. Energy Innovation said changing that could save the region’s utilities and customers billions of dollars over the next two decades.
A Bill Gates nuclear energy venture said it hopes to build small advanced nuclear power stations storing electricity to supplement grids increasingly supplied by intermittent sources like solar and wind power.
There is a large demand for electric delivery vehicles, but, little supply yet. Amazon is buying 1,800 electric delivery vans from Mercedes‑Benz. Ford is building a new facility next to its Dearborn, MI truck plant, for producing electric F-150 pickup trucks. RMI and a collaborator prepared a report on where new large electric trucks should be deployed. A study commissioned by oil company Castrol showed that, to achieve global mass adoption, the average electric car will need to offer 31-minute charging, 291 miles range, and base price of $36,000.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is back in school after a gap year. Farmer‑turned-journalist Tom Philpott describes the Great Flood of 1861-62 that devastated the Central Valley of California, examining the likelihood of it happening again. A study at a Norwegian archipelago Smøla wind farm showed changing the color of a single blade on a turbine from white to black resulted in a 70% drop in bird deaths.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee