Roundup of Climate and Energy News: March 15

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The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is a non-profit, grassroots group of volunteers in the Central Shenandoah Valley.  We actively work to educate our legislators and the public about the implications of the Earth’s worsening climate crisis.  One way we do this is by producing “The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News”.  We are providing an excerpt from a recent Roundup in the hopes that more people will become aware of, and will want to act on, the risks we all face.  For an archive of prior posts, visit the CAAV website.

Politics and Policy

The spread of coronavirus across the world is disrupting climate and biodiversity meetings ahead of two critical UN summits seeking to limit warming and to halt extinctions of plants and wildlife.  At Inside Climate News, Dan Gearino reviewed the climate lessons in the response to the coronavirus.

A panel of economic experts appearing on Capitol Hill during a March 12 hearing convened by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis delivered a clear warning that continued inaction on climate will result in enormous economic and societal consequences.  There were two interesting articles this week about deniers of main-stream climate science.  One dealt with their activities to counteract the influence of conservative clean energy groups, led most prominently by ClearPath and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.  The other involved a joint investigation by non-profit newsroom Correctiv and current affairs TV show, Frontal21, into the activities of the Heartland Institute to weaken climate policies in Germany.

Damian Carrington, The Guardian’s environment editor, had an opinion essay about “deadlines” for saving the world from climate change.  James Slevin, president of the Utility Workers Union of America, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have joined forces to argue for a carbon tax, the first time that an energy-sector union has announced support for such a fee.

Grist compared the comments Sanders and Biden have given about climate change during the debates while Reuters directly compared their plans.  Juliet Eilperin had an interesting piece in The Washington Post under the headline “Bernie Sanders’s climate record in congress: Lots of advocacy, no compromise.”

A Fairfax County church is on track to be the first Virginia property to tap into the PACE (property-assessed clean energy) program to finance upgrades to its aging HVAC system.  Martinsville City Council approved the concept of a new solar energy facility on the former Lynwood Golf Club site.

David Roberts dissected the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) at Vox, while Walton Shepard, the Virginia Policy Director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Energy Program, had a blog post about the shortcomings of the act as passed by the General Assembly and what Governor Northam can do to fix it.

Climate and Climate Science

The World Meteorological Organization released its annual state of the climate report for 2019, stating that the planet is “way off track” in dealing with climate change.  Greenland and Antarctica are melting six times faster than in the 1990s.  The melt rate is tracking the worst-case climate warming scenario set out by the IPCC.

A new paper in Environmental Research Letters has warned that if Earth warms by 1.5°C, 500 million people would be subjected to heat and humidity in excess of safe levels each year, increasing to 800 million at 2°C of warming.

A new study published Tuesday in Nature Communications examined the mechanics of tipping points in 40 separate ecosystems.  Drawing on pre‑existing studies and modeling, the authors suggest that the collapse of large vulnerable ecosystems, such as rainforests and coral reefs, may take only a few decades once triggered.

Air pollution, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels, kills more people each year in the U.S. than auto accidents and homicides combined and costs the American economy up to $1 trillion per year.  Curbing fossil fuel use will have immediate and significant impacts, as well as mitigate climate change.

Energy

The biggest energy news this week was the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, pushing oil prices down.  In combination with the coronavirus expansion into Europe and the U.S., this has impacted energy and other markets.  Charlie Bloch and colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute wrote about how this affects the global transition to a clean energy economy.

Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Southern Company are not making investments consistent with their clean energy goals, according to a report released Monday from Synapse Energy Economics.  A study from Carbon Tracker found that in all major markets it costs less to generate power from installing new wind or solar farms than new coal plants.  It could be cheaper to generate electricity by building new renewable facilities than to run existing coal-fired power stations in all markets by 2030.

Switzerland-based UBS Bank has ended support for offshore drilling in the Arctic and will also end funding for oil sands and coal projects.  At Yale Environment 360, Fred Pearce wrote: “Coal is declining sharply, as financiers and insurance companies abandon the industry in the face of shrinking demand, pressure from climate campaigners, and competition from cleaner fuels.  After years of its predicted demise, the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel may finally be on the way out.”

The Australian government, in concert with Global wind and solar energy firms, Engie and Neoen, is starting a project to blend green H2 into the natural gas distribution system.  Research is moving forward to reduce costs, but additional development is required before a new generation of electrolyzers (used to generate green H2) can be applied at scale.  A 10MW hydrogen production plant powered from renewable energy—thought to be the world’s largest to date—has just opened in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.  A Utah power plant, currently powered by coal, will be transitioned to natural gas, and by 2025, the turbines “will be commercially guaranteed” to use a mix of 30% H2 and 70% gas.

According to the latest quarterly U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, produced by the national Energy Storage Association and analysis firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, annual storage deployments in the U.S. are predicted to increase from 523 MW recorded in 2019 to 7.3 GW by 2025.

Potpourri

Thirty-eight percent of Democratic college students rate climate as their top issue.  Michael Svoboda reported on the increased media coverage for climate change in 2019 and its possible impact on public perception.

Joy Loving edited this Roundup, which was prepared by Les Grady, a Rockingham County resident and Member of CAAV’s Steering Committee.


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