Weekly roundup of climate, energy news: Sept. 6

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(© Sean K – stock.adobe.com)

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, 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.

Excerpts from a recent Roundup follow; full Roundup is here.

Politics and Policy

Seventy House Democrats stressed to the Commission on Presidential Debates that their constituents must hear from the candidates about their plans to tackle climate change. The green movement’s left flank released an open letter calling for a ban on all “fossil fuel executives, lobbyists, and representatives from any advisory or official position on [Biden’s] campaign, transition team, cabinet, and administration.”  Wood Mackenzie’s research director says, “If Biden’s bid fails, the U.S. will forfeit four more years in the fight against climate change.  This would dramatically reduce the possibility of eliminating carbon emissions from the region’s power grid before 2050.”

On EPA’s 50th anniversary, Administrator Wheeler accused Democrats of hurting the poor with policies aimed at fighting climate change, saying EPA would keep supporting development and deregulation if President Donald Trump is re-elected.  The Trump administration weakened a 2015 regulation that would have forced coal-fired power plants to treat their wastewater with more effective methods to prevent toxic metals from contaminating nearby lakes, rivers, and streams.  Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law counted 159 actions since Trump took office “to scale back or wholly eliminate climate mitigation and adaptation measures.”  For the second time a court struck down a Trump administration attempt to limit the penalties facing automakers who do not meet mileage standards.  Inside Climate News looked at Vice President Pence’s efforts to block climate action.

Several economists and scientists proposed five science questions to be asked at the presidential debates.  Accounting for the risk from rising sea level in the mortgage market is complicated, because the solution must consider equality and equity.  Insuring homes in areas subject to flooding and/or wildfires is increasingly difficult  because of conflicting needs of insurers and insureds.  In an RMI article about tackling industrial CO2 emissions, Ned Harvey wrote: “To limit global warming to 1.5°C we must engage the real economy and work directly with the leaders in the most carbon-intensive sectors in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

UN Climate Chief Patricia Espinosa expects about 80 of 197 signatories of the 2015 Paris Agreement to submit updated or more ambitious 2020 climate plans.  Six Portuguese young people filed a legal action with the European Court of Human Rights accusing 33 countries of violating their right to life by not doing their fair share to tackle the climate crisis.  To understand the risk to its investments, Norway’s $1.2Tn wealth fund will ask the companies in its portfolio emitting the most CO2 for more detailed climate-related data.

Climate and Climate Science

Last year, Earth’s land areas were 1.43°C warmer than the 20th century average; oceans were 0.77°C warmer.  Carbon Brief has an explanation.  Official climate data showed New Zealand had its warmest winter since records began 100+ years ago.  Excessive heat watches and warnings were in effect across parts of Arizona, Nevada and much of California Sep 4-7, and may need extending.

The World Meteorological Organization said Arctic temperatures are rising twice as fast as the global average and this summer will leave a “deep wound” there.

Glacier melting over the last three decades has led to: 50% increase in size of glacial lakes that form behind natural debris dams at the front of glaciers and left behind as glacier fronts retreat; and more lakes.  Both suggest greater numbers of glacial lake outburst floods will happen when those dams collapse.

Brazilian Amazon fires during August will likely be the worst in ten years, putting indigenous people at risk.  Argentinian Parana River delta wetlands are extremely dry, experiencing the worst wildfires in at least ten years.

Bob Berwyn looked at the ten-day period from August 16-25, which encompassed extraordinary climate events from the Death Valley heat record to hurricane Laura.

Energy

Solar and wind accounted for over two-thirds of new global power generation capacity additions in 2019.  Solar is now the fourth-largest source of power-generation capacity worldwide, having overtaken wind.  A new initiative will install up to 12 MW of solar power in Virginia’s historic coalfield region over the next three years.  To become carbon neutral by 2024, Duke University will partner with Pine Gate Renewables to build three new solar farms with a total capacity of 101 MW.  Offshore wind developer Ørsted is moving into developing solar farms and battery energy storage systems, seeking to diversify its renewable energy activities, particularly in the U.S.  The U.S. currently has seven offshore wind turbines, all on the East Coast.  Department of Interior has approved 16 projects with seven more proposals under review.  Companies making and installing offshore turbines see this as just the beginning.

A new study of 3,000 power companies found only a handful have been cutting their fossil fuel capacity.  Much of the new renewable capacity is being offset by new coal and gas capacity.  Another study said switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy was critical for mitigating against climate change, but the mining necessary to produce the infrastructure for that energy could exacerbate threats to biodiversity.

A unique pilot plant in Luleå, Sweden, is a first step in decarbonizing the steel industry, which today accounts for 7% of global man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Unilever will invest $1.2 billion to replace petrochemicals in its cleaning products with ingredients made from plants and marine sources, such as algae, by 2030.  The most comprehensive analysis so far of how much warming airplanes cause found that flying’s contribution to global warming nearly doubled between 2000 and 2018.

Technology provider Eos Energy Storage has struck agreements to deploy 1 GWh of novel aqueous zinc battery energy storage in Texas and 500 MWh in California.  During California’s recent electricity crisis, 30,000+ batteries located all over the state supplied as much power as a midsize natural gas power plant.

BMW Group is the latest global car maker to commit to setting a science‑based target allowing them to determine how much and how quickly they must reduce their GHG emissions.

Potpourri

C&EN magazine ran an article about environmental justice, providing some history of the movement and an update on activities in communities of color near petrochemical plants.  Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan spoke with Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson, editors of essays, poetry, and art by 41 women in the climate movement.  More businesses are taking steps to address their own roles in the climate crisis, offering solutions to help mitigate its impacts.

Compiled by Les Grady, CAAV Steering Committee


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