Climate, environmental news roundup: June 21

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The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV), 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. Here is an excerpt from a recent Roundup; full Roundup is on the CAAV website.

Politics and Policy

University of Oxford researchers surveyed 80,000 people in 40 countries to learn what they think about climate change.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) launched its Sustainable Recovery Plan in a “World Energy Outlook Special Report,” laying out a series of measures it says would ensure 2019 was the “definitive peak” for global emissions.  This interactive tracker shows what the world is doing to promote a “green recovery” from the coronavirus economic slowdown.

An opinion piece outlined a U.S. strategy to meet the triple challenges of the slow demise of the post-World War II international order; America’s massive inequality, poor public health, and economic insecurity; and climate change.  House Democrats unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan including $70B for clean energy projects.  180 Democratic lawmakers wrote House leadership seeking congressional action to help the “decimated” clean energy sector.  The Democratic National Committee’s climate change council irked party leadership by publishing policy recommendations beyond Joe Biden’s plan.

Mississippi’s legislature passed a bill placing new penalties on protests against fossil fuel infrastructure, the 13th state to do so in the past three years; the governor is expected to sign the legislation.  Efforts to undermine climate change science in the federal government, once orchestrated largely by President Trump’s political appointees, are now increasingly driven by midlevel managers.

Examples of the increasing awareness of environmental justice issues:  The National Black Environmental Justice Network is relaunching.  Robert Bullard, often called the father of environmental justice, said he is more hopeful about the future of environmental justice than ever.  But, people of color are suffering disproportionately from pollution, callous government, and climate change.

Climate and Climate Science

The U.S. is heading into a potentially blistering summer, with hotter than normal temperatures expected across almost the entire country into September.  This raises the question of how cities will cope with the dangerous combination of high temperatures, COVID-19, and high unemployment.  Wildfires are raging across parts of the desert Southwest and California, where scant rainfall, sweltering temperatures and wind are combining to create ideal conditions for rapid fire spread.

Sea ice in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea has decreased by an area twice the size of Spain in the last five years, with implications for the marine ecosystem.  Around the world, glaciers are melting; climatologists and chemists are collecting and storing ice core samples for future analysis.

In the coming decades, the Arctic Ocean will absorb significantly more CO2 than has been predicted by climate models.  The increased rate of ocean acidification, combined with other rapidly changing chemical conditions, could ultimately disrupt the entire Arctic food chain.

Americans are growing increasingly concerned about health risks linked to global warming.  Pregnant women in the U.S. exposed to high temperatures or air pollution are more likely to have premature, underweight or stillborn children; African-American mothers and babies are harmed at a much higher rate than the population at large.  Columbia Journalism Investigations and the Center for Public Integrity investigated the CDC’s “Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative” to determine what they have done to help localities prepare for and respond to the impacts of increasing temperatures on citizens’ health.  Rolling Stone reported on their investigation.

Energy

BP 69th edition of its annual “Statistical Review of World Energy” revealed that renewables were the largest source of new energy in 2019, with record highs for oil and gas consumption, and CO2 emissions.  Wind and solar gains, combined with a coal output fall, meant low-carbon electricity generation matched coal-fired generation for the first time.  The IEA warned the world’s 2021 oil demand could climb at its fastest rate in the history of the market, possibly reaching pre-crisis levels within years, unless new green policies are adopted.  Global CO2 emissions have rebounded very quickly as countries have opened up their economies after the novel coronavirus shutdowns.

BBC’s “Future Planet” examined a number of techniques Iceland used to remove CO2 from their industrial processes, many spurred by their unusual geology.  Without major new subsidies from the American public, technologies for capturing heat-trapping CO2 from coal- and natural gas‑fired power plants will remain uneconomical.

New Jersey has plans to develop a port and staging area to construct wind turbines for installations along the Eastern Seaboard.  The goal is for New Jersey to be the focal point for the off-shore wind industry in the mid‑Atlantic region.  Dominion Energy’s vice president of generation construction said Norfolk, VA hopes to fill that role.  3-D printing may one day be used to build the anchors for U.S. offshore wind farms with floating turbines.

The Supreme Court removed one hurdle for developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP); the natural gas project remains in legal limbo as a host of other obstacles remain.  Dominion Energy asked FERC for two more years to complete the ACP, which the company now expects to enter service in early 2022.  Reuters catalogued a litany of horror stories about methane leaking from abandoned oil and gas wells.  Dominion Energy is investing in systems to capture methane and other gases from the digestion of manure on dairy farms, clean it, and use the resulting green methane in natural gas systems.

Green-energy investing will account for 25% of all 2021 energy spending and, for the first time, surpass spending on traditional fuel sources.  U.S. Hydrogen prices are headed downward and could be as affordable as gasoline within the next five years.  Decarbonizing hydrogen will take time, thought, and investment, but Europe’s industry says it is committed.

Potpourri

New Peter Sinclair “This Is Not Cool” video at Yale Climate Connections is about the flooding events occurring around the country recently as a result of increased rainfall intensity.

High school students from Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood were among the grand-prize winners in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge for their episode about climate change and environmental racism.

New documentary exploring the future of hydrogen fuel cells:  “At War with the Dinosaurs”.

Climate Central has made “Climate Stripes”—created by climate scientist Ed Hawkins using annual temperature anomalies—available for all 50 states and many cities.

Bill McKibben’s column from The New Yorker provides a ray of hope as well as a shot in the arm from his interview with Jane Fonda about her weekly series of civil-disobedience actions, Fire Drill Fridays.

Joy Loving edited the latest Roundup prepared by Dr. Les Grady, a Rockingham County resident and Member of CAAV’s Steering Committee


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