Climate, energy news roundup: Week of Oct. 11
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 New York Times (NYT) Editorial Board endorsed Joe Biden for president. Biden’s transition team may appoint a climate and energy “czar” to help direct sweeping changes across federal agencies if he wins. A Biden administration would take aim at the Trump administration’s many major environmental protection rollbacks. Undoing some of them could take years. During the only vice‑presidential debate, Mike Pence repeatedly falsely asserted that a Biden administration plans to ban fracking and adopt the Green New Deal. The Washington Post’s Dino Grandoni compared Biden’s climate plan to the Green New Deal, as did Vox’s David Roberts. The U.S. Supreme Court decided to consider a case to determine how much leeway appeals courts have in deciding the best venue for climate lawsuits brought by states and cities. NPR’s Jeff Brady examined how Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would likely impact climate action.
The Trump administration is behind schedule in calling for scientists to produce the Fifth National Climate Assessment. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia panel appeared divided on President Trump’s effort to repeal his predecessor’s regulations on planet-warming power sector emissions and replace them with far weaker controls. Marianne Lavelle summarized some of the arguments. A federal court struck down an Obama-era BLM regulation targeting methane leaks from drilling on public lands, arguing it went beyond BLM’s reach. A new study suggests people don’t want their freedom of choice threatened, preferring ‘upstream’ solutions targeting producers rather than consumers of carbon-intensive goods.
Explicit reference to net‑zero carbon emissions was vehemently opposed at the 2015 Paris Climate Talks; over 1/3 of global emissions are now covered by net-zero targets.
ProPublica investigative reporting revealed how Virginia’s legislature succumbed to intensive Dominion Energy lobbying, despite pledges to trim its power. Sierra Club and seven other environmental groups filed petitions asking the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay recently issued permits allowing the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) to burrow under streams and wetlands until the court can hear their challenge of the authorizations. Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors adopted the county’s first “Climate Action Plan”. A legal principle, strictly embraced by Virginia and curtailing local powers, is hampering cities’ progress on clean energy goals, according to an American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy report.
Climate and Climate Science
James Hansen and Michael Mann stressed to CBS News that the worst effects of climate change don’t have to happen, but humans’ near‑future actions will determine if they do. Emissions of nitrous oxide, a climate super-pollutant hundreds of times more potent than CO2, have increased by 30% since 1980.
As of October 7th, $16Bn weather/climate disasters have impacted the U.S., tying 2011 and 2017 annual records. Hurricane Delta was the latest in a recent flurry of rapidly intensifying Atlantic hurricanes that scientists blame largely on global warming. As of October 6th, northern California’s August Complex Fire had burned at least IMn acres; total burned area set a new record twice as large 2018’s.
This excellent Yale Climate Connections article summarizes recent research about West Antarctica’s Thwaites and Pine Island glaciers. This Reuters’ infographic and article interestingly and informatively explained permafrost and its possible impacts in a warming world.
Because of the climate crisis, much of the Amazon could be close to losing its distinct nature and switching from a closed‑canopy rainforest to an open savannah with far fewer trees. Total degraded Brazilian Amazon rainforest area — from selective logging, understory fire, destruction of forest edges, and fragmentation — is larger than the total deforested area.
JPMorgan Chase & Co will support its clients’ expanded clean energy investments and work towards net‑zero-emissions by 2050. Europe’s top oil companies remain unaligned with UN-backed targets to combat climate change, despite outlining ambitious plans to slash carbon emissions and pivot to renewable energy. U.S. oil firms are doubling down on efforts to extract oil and gas, while pursuing technologies to capture and store carbon emissions. Leaked documents revealed ExxonMobil’s growth strategy will increase its annual 2017-2025 carbon emissions by 17%. Ameren and Entergy pledged to cut CO2 emissions to nothing by 2050. The American public faces a potential bill of $280Bn for cleanup of 2.6Mn unplugged oil and gas wells (excluding an estimated 1.2Mn undocumented orphan wells).
Ford Motor Co., General Motors, and Volkswagen unveiled new electric cars, admitting electric models will in some ways be superior to internal combustion engine models. Toyota and Hino Trucks are developing their first Class 8 hydrogen fuel-cell electric truck for the North American market. Developing a lithium industry using California’s Salton Sea brine could help set up a multi-billion dollar domestic supply chain for electric vehicle batteries.
The U.S. needs a massive green hydrogen industry to decarbonize its electricity, transportation, and industrial sectors, plus major investments and policy changes, to enable growth to its full potential. Three Rocky Mountain Institute analysts examined the role hydrogen might play in powering gas turbines during low wind and solar production periods in a decarbonized economy.
Long-time energy and energy policy student Daniel Yergin wrote about Covid-19 impacts on “the sprint away from fossil fuels”. The Guardian’s Oliver Milman reviewed the status of carbon capture and utilization or storage. Wave power developers hope to shake off the technology’s “forever-round-the-corner” reputation with commercial-scale arrays possibly in the water next year. Linking floating solar panels with hydropower could generate 16%-40% of the world’s electricity, concluded National Renewable Energy Laboratory researchers.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy released its 2020 “Clean Energy Scorecard” for U.S. cities. The organization that develops model building codes adopted by most U.S. cities and states met this week, pitting officials trying to go greener against real estate developers and the natural gas industry; Virginia has a similar effort underway.
Terra Nostra, a 30-minute multimedia symphony about climate change is available on-line. Spencer Weart reviewed Anatol Lieven’s Climate Change and the Nation State: The Case for Nationalism in a Warming World. Elizabeth Kolbert published an excerpt from her afterward to a new compendium, The Fragile Earth: Writing from The New Yorker on Climate Change. In the first half of 2020, at least 8Mn people in the U.S. viewed Facebook advertisements denying the climate crisis reality or the need for action. An increasing number of psychologists believe the trauma that is a consequence of climate breakdown is also one of the biggest obstacles in the struggle to take action against rising greenhouse gas emissions. The Yale and George Mason Universities’ programs on climate change communication released a new report, “Climate Change in the Minds of U.S. News Audiences”. Rockefeller family members are leveraging their fortune and network of wealthy friends to pressure major U.S. banks to stop investing in fossil fuels.
Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee