Weekly roundup of climate, energy news

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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 produce “The Weekly Roundup of Climate and Energy News”.  Here is an excerpt from a recent Roundup.  To read the full Roundup, visit the CAAV website.

Politics and Policy

Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) has suspended his campaign for the Democratic nominee for president ( Read or watch his speech ICYMI).  Some climate activists have said former Vice President Joe Biden will have to work hard and be bolder on climate change to fill the void left by Sanders’ departure.  The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication just had a paper published in the journal Energy Policy.  It explored and contrasted the reasons Republicans and Democrats support renewable energy.

At Yale Environment 360, Fred Pearce examined what might happen after the coronavirus pandemic:  Some policy experts think victory over the virus will generate an appreciation for what government, science, and business can do to tackle climate change; others believe the economic damage caused by the virus will set back climate efforts for years to come.

The Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era automotive fuel economy standards will face challenges in the courts.  Rebecca Beitsch of The Hill examined the many grounds on which it can be challenged.

Chile has committed to peaking its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, in an updated national plan presented virtually to the UN climate chief on Thursday.

Climate and Climate Science

A new study, published in the journal Nature, addressed the question of when the effects of climate change will begin to overwhelm ecosystems.  The results suggest that unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions would expose tropical ocean ecosystems to potentially catastrophic temperature rise by 2030 and tropical forests by 2050.  The average level of methane in the atmosphere increased last year by the highest amount in five years, according to preliminary data released by NOAA on Sunday.  Exxon Mobil is testing new equipment to reduce methane emissions at 1,000 sites in the Permian Basin of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

An article this week reported that the bleaching event at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was the most widespread outbreak ever witnessed.  Graham Readfearn of The Guardian spoke to Australian scientists about what could be done to save the reef.  Their replies caused him to write: “What seems clear is that without some human intervention, the magic of the world’s greatest coral reef system will be lost.”

The destruction of forests into fragmented patches is increasing the likelihood that viruses and other pathogens will jump from wild animals to humans, according to a paper published in the journal Landscape Ecology.

Some populations of robins are starting their northward migration about five days earlier per decade, in order to keep up with the rapid changes that global warming is bringing to their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska.  New research published in the journal Environmental Research Letters shows that their flights follow trails of melting snow.  Climate change is remaking the Himalayan region, pushing mountain dwellers in northern Nepal, home to the world’s highest peaks, to build new settlements at lower altitudes.

Energy

OPEC, Russia, and other countries reached a tentative agreement to temporarily cut oil production by 10 million barrels a day — about 23% of their production levels — in May and June.  A new forecast from DOE’s Energy Information Administration says that the U.S. is likely to become a net importer of crude oil and petroleum products later this year.  In a very strongly worded opinion piece in The Guardian, Bill McKibben called out those responsible for the start of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S.

Building a new nationwide transmission system to carry renewable energy from where it is generated to where it is needed will require government regulators at all levels to work together, as demonstrated by recent experiences.  Sooner or later, changes are coming to our electrical grids, depending upon how forward thinking our electric utilities are.  One concept is a “virtual power plant”, which is under trial in Basalt Vista, a new affordable housing project in the small town of Basalt, CO, just north of Aspen.  Daniel Oberhaus explained what it’s all about at Wired.  In South Australia, home batteries delivered significant revenues from their first six months of participation in a virtual power plant to help balance the grid.  Such grid balancing can also be achieved using the uninterruptable power supplies at data centers.

Dan Gearino’s “Inside Clean Energy” newsletter had two important items this week.  The first concerned a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court striking down a surcharge by the major electric utilities that inflated the bills of rooftop solar customers sufficiently to make the economics of installing solar panels questionable.  The second dealt with a report in Applied Energy about how industrial energy use could be made carbon free.

According to a new analysis by Carbon Tracker of 6,696 existing coal-fired power plants worldwide and 1,046 in the pipeline, 46% will be unprofitable this year, up from 41% in 2019.  Renewable energy represented nearly three-quarters of new electricity generation capacity built worldwide in 2019, an all-time record, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.  In addition, utility-scale renewables produced more power than coal in the U.S. for the first time on a quarterly basis in the first three months of 2020.  While the oil and gas sector is generally pessimistic about its outlook during and after the pandemic, the renewable energy sector is more optimistic, as described by Ivan Penn at The New York Times.  However, all is not good for clean energy at present, as indicated by E&E News’s examination of clean energy’s job crash.

Potpourri

Grist has set up “Climate 101” on its website to provide “hands-on activities, videos, and discussion questions” about climate change to help parents who are home-schooling their kids.  The Conversation presented five ways to teach children about climate change.  Guardian journalist Jonathan Watts joined a Greenpeace scientific expedition in Antarctica and wrote about his experiences.  The newspaper also presented photographs by the two winners of the Getty Images Climate Visuals grant competition.  Even though only one or two have the environment as their cause, we end on a positive note by focusing on the work of 12 amazing kids from around the world.

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

 


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