Roundup of Climate and Energy News: March 8

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(© Sean K – stock.adobe.com)

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

At a hearing before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler defended President Trump’s proposed 26% cut to the agency’s fiscal 2021 budget.  Even though they were voluntary, stricter energy efficiency building codes were dropped from a major energy package making its way through the Senate because the National Association of Home Builders opposed it.  An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The EU Commission adopted a proposal for a European “climate law” that would commit the EU to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.  Politico described the five political battles that must be won to gain approval. The proposal also launched the process to enact a new tax on products from countries, such as the U.S., that aren’t working to reduce their CO2 emissions.

Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post presented “The four biggest differences between the Biden and Sanders climate plans” while MIT Technology Review had a more comprehensive comparison.

Florida, which is on the front lines of climate change impacts, is changing its stance on climate issues.  Farm organizations, which have historically resisted calls to accept the anthropogenic nature of climate change, have adopted a new phrase for use with their members, “climatic events”.

Climate and Climate Science

A study published in Nature suggests that trees in the Congo Basin of central Africa are losing their capacity to absorb CO2 and that the decline may have been underway for a decade.  These findings parallel similar findings in the Amazon, but trailing that decline by 10 to 20 years.  They suggest that by mid-century, the remaining uncut tropical forests in Africa, the Amazon, and Asia will release more CO2 than they take up.  A more detailed account of the study can be found here.  The world’s largest tropical peatlands could be destroyed if plans go ahead to drill for oil under the Congo basin.  Deforestation of lands occupied by isolated indigenous tribes in the Brazilian Amazon more than doubled between July 2018 and July 2019 to the highest rate in more than a decade, according to a new report.

The extreme fires that razed parts of Australia late last year were 30% more likely because of human-induced climate change, says an international group of climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution project who have analyzed the disaster.  Record sea-surface temperatures in much of the Great Barrier Reef region have intensified the risks that coral bleaching already underway could develop into another mass bleaching event.  It is likely that the high sea temperatures will linger into March.

Europe’s average temperature for December through February was 6.1°F above the 40-year average, breaking the previous record by more than 2°F.  In the U.S., temperatures were above average for every state but Alaska.

Energy

General Motors has introduced its new electric vehicle (EV) battery that allows extended range and will be cheaper to produce than today’s batteries.  The batteries use less cobalt, which makes them less expensive.  The world’s best-selling cargo van – Ford Transit – will debut an all-electric version for the U.S. and Canada for the 2022 model year.  The U.S. vehicle fleet hit a record for fuel efficiency in 2018 averaging 25.1 mpg in real-world driving as it rose 0.2 mpg, the EPA said.

The UK’s CO2 emissions fell by 2.9% in 2019 and nearly 30% over the last decade despite a growth in GDP, according to a new analysis by climate policy website Carbon Brief.

Robert Harding and Amanda Levin of NRDC examined the 2019 power sector data released last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to generate a state-by-state comparison of the move toward cleaner energy.  Dan Gearino at Inside Clean Energy summarized national trends from the EIA report about the surge in wind and solar energy.  More than 5% of all K-12 schools in the U.S. produce solar energy — double what it was just three years ago.

Officials in Monterey County California approved a massive clean-energy battery farm project spearheaded by Tesla and PG&E that officials say would be the largest of its kind in the world.

New York Magazine business writer Malcolm Harris attended a meeting of the Shell Scenarios team and wrote “These companies aren’t planning for a future without oil and gas, at least not anytime soon, but they want the public to think of them as part of a climate solution.  In reality, they’re a problem trying to avoid being solved.”  One thing the oil and gas industry is counting on in its business model is more plastics.

Potpourri

At Yale Climate Connections, Daisy Simmons presented trailers for seven climate-related films from the 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA.

Amy Brady interviewed Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Anne Charnock about her new novel, Bridge 108.

Patti Wetli contrasted our responses to climate change and to the coronavirus.

Naomi Seibt, a 19-year-old German YouTuber whom conservatives have dubbed the “anti-Greta,” expressed support last Friday for a Canadian alt-right commentator at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

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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