Weekly roundup of climate, energy news
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
Laurence Tubiana, a former French diplomat instrumental in brokering the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, said that governments must not let the corona pandemic derail action on climate change. Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said governmental stimulus packages marked a critical moment for governments to “shape policies” in line with climate action. Democrats are pushing to add climate change provisions to any stimulus. Kathy Castor, chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, has announced that the Committee is postponing the release of the framework of its plan to tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Although CO2 emission rates have fallen as a result of the pandemic, analysts are concerned about what will happen because of stimulus packages as infection levels begin to drop. In the longer term, although the direct impact on health in many developing nations has so far been small, many are worried about how the global health and economic impacts of COVID-19 will influence the climate ambitions of developing countries. The COP26 climate summit planned for Glasgow in November may be delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak. A coalition of green groups has canceled three days of nationwide protests in April that were to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
The world’s largest investment banks have funneled more than $2.66tn into fossil fuels since the Paris agreement in 2015, new figures show, prompting warnings they are failing to respond to the climate crisis.
NRDC attorney Gillian Giannetti, a self-described “FERC nerd,” explained the legal issues behind the Atlantic Coast Pipeline case now before the U.S. Supreme Court. FERC approved a controversial natural gas pipeline and marine export terminal project at Coos Bay in Oregon. Unusual coalitions in Congress are interested in reforming the Natural Gas Act — a 1938 law that regulates interstate natural gas pipelines. For about 12 minutes in Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate, former Vice-President Biden and Senator Sanders addressed their climate change proposals. In The New York Times, Lisa Friedman wrote: “In interviews with two dozen activists and voters who consider the planet’s warming their top issue, almost all said they worried that Mr. Biden has not made the issue a sufficient priority or been specific enough about his plans.”
Climate and Climate Science
An article in the journal Geophysical Research Letters reported that Greenland lost an extraordinary 600 billion metric tons of ice by the end of the summer 2019, although some was recovered as winter set in because of new snowfall.
A new analysis, published in Nature Sustainability, looked at how protecting and replenishing soils – both in agricultural and natural landscapes – could combat global warming. It found that, if techniques to improve soil carbon were employed at the maximum assumed level worldwide, they could remove up to 5.5bn metric tons of CO2 each year, an amount just under the U.S.’s emissions. At Yale Climate Connections, Bruce Lieberman explored the pros and cons of planting trees to address climate change. According to satellite imagery from INPE, Brazil’s space agency, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon in January and February was 70% higher than during the same period in 2019.
Wildfires burned 890,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) last year in the mainland U.S., a sharp drop from the previous two years when wildfires burned an average of 3.6 million hectares (8.9 million acres), and the lowest burn area since 2004. The U.S. trend in 2019 does not change long-term patterns, experts said, and likely resulted from anomalies such as heavy precipitation that left forests and grasslands wetter than normal. A third of the U.S. is at risk of flooding this spring, according to the spring flood outlook by the National Weather Service.
In an article about coal at Vox, David Roberts wrote: “…in the U.S. and across the world, coal power is dying. By 2030, it will be uneconomic to run existing coal plants. That means all the dozens of coal plants on the drawing board today are doomed to become stranded assets.” Driven largely by a plunge in coal-fired power generation, German greenhouse gas emissions fell by 6.3% last year, the steepest reduction recorded since 2009. In The Netherlands the amount of electricity produced from coal fell from 27 billion kWh to 17 billion kWh last year.
The Inside Clean Energy newsletter had three interesting articles this week—one about the impact of COVID-19 on forecasts of U.S. solar installations this year; another about a large new solar project in Ohio; and the last about the decision to keep a nuclear power plant operational in Pennsylvania because that state joined RGGI. According to the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2019 Year-in-Review report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie, solar grew by 23% in 2019 from 2018 and accounted for 40% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S., its highest share ever and more than any other single source of electricity, with 13.3 GW installed. The SEIA president said their projection of 47% growth in 2020 will be ratcheted down in the coming weeks and months because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sponsored by Senator Angus King (I-ME), the “Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act of 2020” calls on Congress to allocate $150 million over the next five years to support research on “innovative” battery recycling approaches and to help establish of a national collection system for spent batteries.
According to UBS analysts, while lower oil prices could negatively impact EV sales in the U.S., that is not likely to happen in China and the EU because factors other than cost are driving the markets there. Another article reviews where we are in the evolution of the electric truck, both battery and fuel cell.
At The Guardian, John Vidal addressed the question: “Is our destruction of nature responsible for COVID-19?” Fritjof Capra and futurist Hazel Henderson penned an article entitled “Pandemics — Lessons Looking Back from 2050”. Zibby Owens reviewed the memoir by Greta Thunberg’s family, Our House Is on Fire, for the Washington Post.