The Weekly Climate
The Weekly Climate
[Dec 14-20’20] Offsetgate

[Dec 14-20’20] Offsetgate

Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉

References: [1] and [2].

Is there an #offsetgate underway? Last week I referred to an article by Bloomberg which pointed out that one of the largest nature conservancies in the US were cheating with its offsets. This week another company is caught by Bloomberg selling worthless offsets. The key thing about offsets is that in order for them to work the company selling them must prove that had it not been for them then the trees wouldn’t have been planted or protected. This is the problem for both of these cases. In the case from this week a farmer had planted trees on a piece of land and then Real Trees paid him offset money for those trees. But that is not how offsets work. Seeing as these trees were there regardless of the offset being there or not. It’s sad to see that companies are using the climate crisis to cheat in this way. And I hope that some of these stories will reach the attention of politicians such that we can get this malpractice stopped.

Also Merry Christmas 🎄🧑‍🎄! The climate crisis is not taking a break so unless there’s absolutely no news to bring next week you can still expect to get our weekly dose of climate news next Monday morning.

‼️News you can’t miss

The IEA releases its first Electricity Market report and it has some interesting numbers, some of which can be seen in the Weekly Climate Numbers. The UN Climate Ambition Summit was held last weekend and it led to number of companies upgrading their ambitions. A new UN report finds that 39% of all emissions are related to buildings. That’s close to 2x that of all modes of transportation. And the fossil fuel industry is caught in another ugly propaganda scandal (that nobody seems to care much about except those of us who are obsessed with seeing the industry die).

👩‍⚕️ Status: Climate & Science

Let’s look at how we’re doing this week!

[#coral] — It’s not all doom and gloom here in the climate section today. A new climate refuge for coral has been discovered off the coast of East Africa. The refuge is located in a rare ocean cool spot.

[#russia] — A detailed look by NYT at the opportunities that climate change will bring some countries in this case Russia. As the climate becomes hotter a larger area of the otherwise unfarmable Russia will become farmable. It is a fascinating deep dive into regions which feels very remote.

[#storm] — Storm season is not over as Fiji is expected to be hit by a category 4 tropical cyclone named Yasa. Yasa is currently a category 5 storm and is the 5th this year.

[#sealevelrise] — Thought that sea-level rise only came from the sea? Think again. Sea level rise are causing a rise in groundwater too, which potentially will lead to increased flooding.

📰 The 7 Grand Challenges

⚡️Decarbonize Electricity

Clean electricity is the one do-or-die challenge we must solve.

[#energystorage] — A detailed look at the state of battery storage globally. 1.2 TW of battery storage capacity is expected to be installed during the next decade. California is currently the global leader in deploying energy storage to balance intermittency of renewables, but other places are following suit. South Florida, London, Lithuania and Chile are close behind with major projects.

[#pakistan] — Pakistan surprises the world by committing to a coal exit. Although plants under construction will be completed, the commitment is a welcome addition to coal’s demise as the grid operator had forecast a coal expansion. 

[#renewable] — The largest renewable energy project in the world was just announced. A 30GW solar and wind project and it’s being built in coal heavy India!

[#zimbabwe] — Zimbabwe utility starts net metering which will enable consumers who generate their own power to feed power into the grid and get paid for it. This is done primarily to try and solve grid stability issues.

[#nuclear] — Danish startup Seaborg Technologies plan to start building floating nuclear power plants by 2022. Seaborg Technologies molten salt based Small Modular Reactor (SMR) can output 100MW and can be anchored off-coast for 24 years.

🏘 Reduce impact of urban and rural areas

Lowering the impact of urban and rural areas.

🎧[#buildings] — A new UN report shows that building related emissions sat a new record in 2019 with a whopping 39% of total emissions. For comparison all transportation are at 24% in 2019. Emissions from buildings are hugely dependent on a clean electricity grid especially as efficiency improvement in buildings globally have slowed in recent years. Also the episode of How to save a planet from last week about this exact topic is highly recommendable.

[#urban] — And related: A new study has shown how urban environments can worsen extreme weather events. The authors studied two extreme weather events and found that in one case it was the urban landscape that caused a 20% increase in a hailstorm.

[#waste] — These days it’s hard to go anywhere without stumbling across somebody’s discarded facemask. This must stop and recently the Zero Waste Movement is picking up steam among consumers and businesses.

[#automotive] — Pretty shockingly, Toyota’s CEO threatened the government of Japan that a too fast phase out of internal combustion engine cars will cause the auto industry’s business model to collapse. He wonders if politicians were aware of that 🙄.

🛁 Clean non-electrifiable activities

Some activities we do today can’t be electrified, these must be cleaned some other way.

[#aviation] — ZeroAvia, a US startup pursuing hydrogen-based flight, closed a 21M$ Series A round. Among the investors were Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures. Green hydrogen is expected to be one of several paths for aviation to go carbon neutral.

[#aviation] — An EU rule which says that if an airline doesn’t use at least 80% of it’s slots at airports then it might lose them to competitors is being put back into force. The rule is expected to cause so called “ghost flights”, i.e. flights with no passengers in them and therefore an increase in emissions as airlines would likely rather lose money on a flight than giving up marketshare in an airport to competitors.

[hydrogen] — Offshore wind and energy giants are looking to build “islanded” green hydrogen facilities, meaning that the green hydrogen production will be unable to draw power from the grid. This is a good thing, because a boom in hydrogen demand could cause an even bigger headache for grid operators. 

🌳 Protect and grow nature

Nature is our ally, we must protect it and help it help us.

[#offsetgate] — Another case of #offsetgate. Real Trees, another carbon offset seller, is taking credits for other people’s trees. Once again making the offset they’re selling useless because they’re getting paid for something that has already been done. (See last newsletter for the other one I mentioned last week).

[#rewilding] — A new report has found that the best way to plant new trees is for the trees to naturally regrow. This will lead to increased biodiversity, more resilient trees and higher carbon sequestration. 

[#ecocide] — A team of top international and environmental lawyers began this month to draft the legal definition of ecocide — i.e. the systematic destruction of ecosystems — with the goal having it included in the statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the coming years.

🍽 Optimize food

Without the lower impact of food or drink the hero doesn’t work (modified old danish proverb).

[#indigenous] — A PhD student is looking at how Hawaii’s indigenous people used to farm the land and has calculated that these techniques could be used at Hawaii today and would be able to cover 86% of the islands food needs. This is especially important since Hawaii today imports 80% of it’s food.

[#inequality] — Grist and former country signer turned regenerative agricultural expert, Liz Carlisle look at what 2021 will bring for food and she notes that one of the biggest barriers right now in the food ecosystem is racial and economic injustice that bars people from implementing things like regenerative agriculture in their communities.

[#deforestation] — Bloomberg provides a very detailed look at the beef industry’s effect on deforestation of the Amazon and more crucially goes deep into what the problems are. A highly recommendable read. It really shows how extremely complex some of these climate issues are. 

⚖️ Climate Justice

Without justice there’s no future.

[#inequality] — A study has found that there’s a direct link between gender inequality and a country’s inaction on climate. In other words improving gender equality (especially in developing countries) will lead to more climate resilience. 

[#kenya] — And related: Here’s detailed look at the issues that a female smallholder farmer runs into in Kenya due to gender inequality. Even though she takes better care of her land than her landlord (her father) she still can’t control the land and change to better practices. 

[#bangladesh] — Super cyclone Amphan which hit Bangladesh in May has forced many people in rural areas back into the cities as their houses and livelihoods have been destroyed by flooding. Over 50.000 is still displaced.

🎧 [#canceralley] — Biden-Harris first environmental racism challenge is expected to be a Taiwanese plastic giants 9.4B$ ‘ethane cracker’ project in Louisiana which is located in “Cancer Alley”. It is horrible to read what the communities in this area has been subjected to due to lawmakers who are not doing their job. And Trump of course. Related, this weeks “A matter of degrees” podcast dives deeper into black climate grief.

[#india] — NYT conducted a study last year of two childrens (one poor and one upper middle class) air pollution exposure in New Delhi. And it’s pretty shocking. Not even the richer child is living in an environment that I would ever even consider exposing my son to. Wow! 😢

⬇️ Drawdown

Removing carbon from the atmosphere one way or another.

[#nuclear] — The nuclear power industry see a big opportunity in our need for carbon capture. Nuclear is very suitable to drive these very power hungry direct air capture machines that we currently have.

📦 Other / catch-all

All the other stuff that I couldn’t fit into any of the other categories, than the other category.

[#eu] — 100 NGOs alert the European commisions to 10 areas of concern regarding new green financing rules in the EU. Among other rules it is proposed that fossil fuel powered ships, bioenergy and other polluting activities can constitute a sustainable investment

[#un] — The Climate Ambition Summit — a precursor to COP26 — was held virtually last weekend. Vox looks at the 5 year anniversary of the Paris agreement and what the countries committed to during the summit. So far most countries are strengthening their ambitions.

[#2020] — NYT, Independent and CarbonTracker look at the year 2020 in climate. A year of many climate disasters both natural, political and fossil. And took a deep dive in the former. Grist notes that 2020 marked the year when climate podcasts went mainstream.

🎧 [#climatetech] — The Interchange podcast looks at the business of saving the planet, how companies have performed this year and what is to be expected for the future.

⭐️Special Topics

🇺🇸 U.S. Presidential Election

We have a special interest in covering the U.S. Election as Bidens actions may or may not give the world hope in a world that’s starved for it.

In these days Biden is picking his climate team. Two names are already decided and they’re looking good! This article paints a portrait of the two female climate chiefs. Who will lead EPA was picked later in the week and this article paints a portrat of him. Finally, Department of Interior (the department managing all public land) will be headed by the first Native American. It sure looks promising.

A group of NGOs urges Biden to not only build back better, but build back fossil free and has compiled a list of actions he can perform to do just that among other things ending subsidies to fossil fuels, The campaign is called #buildbackfossilfree.

⛽️Major Carbon Emitters

We have a special interest in covering the moving of the major carbon emitters as these are the key roadblock to climate action.

The fossil fuel industry is making so many disturbing things these days that I decided to extend this section once again. I hope you agree that many of these items are important and are being given surprisingly little big media time compared to how big of a deal they are for the climate crisis.

[#propaganda] — Another case of vile fossil fuel industry propaganda fueled by “clever” PR companies. In this instance the gas industry conjured up a fake website full of women who “loves fossil gas”! The only problem is that these women aren’t real and that the gas companies used images of real women without their permission in the campaign. Fuckers. Seriously. Who in their right minds can support fossil gas? Apparently many PR and ad agencies and this must be stopped.

[#fossilgas] — And some quick news from the fossil gas fuckers:

[#exxon] — After mounting pressure from investors, Exxon released their plan to reduce emissions by 2025. Except the plan doesn’t reduce emissions by 2025. Or any other time for that matter. It uses clever language to trick everyone into believing that reducing emissions of their products is what they will do. Similar to what BP tried to do earlier this year. Instead Exxons plan focussed on emissions intensity, i.e. the emissions related to producing fossil fuels. Not emissions related to burning the fossil fuels themselves. In fact, Exxon wants to increase their fossil fuel production by 2025 and now of course brands itself as a friend of climate change in what is probably the biggest and most ridiculous attempt at greenwashing ever. Thank you Exxon and thank you Heated for diving deep into their plan.

[#jpmorgan] — Promising news from the worlds biggest fossil fuel supporter JPMorgan. Lee Raymond, the former Exxon CEO, steps down from JPMorgans board after activists have put increasing pressure on the bank to remove him due to Lee’s extensive and damning anti-climate track record

[#coal] — China is fighting the worlds biggest coal exporter, Australia. China has now officially stopped importing any coal from Australia. Yay, take stupid government of Australia.

[#airpollution] — In a landmark case the UK attributes its first death directly to air pollution. Even though 7.5 million people are dying every year from air pollution related illness this is the first time that air pollution has been ruled as the direct cause of this 9-year old girls death. It is hoped that this landmark case can lead to stricter regulation.

[#lawsuit] — Drilled goes deep in the Netherlands vs Shell case where if the people wins Shell will be forced to move away from fossil fuel production because their practices knowingly violate the Paris agreement.

[#ashspill] — A detailed investigation looking into the so called Kingston coal ash spill. In short, a tailing pond filled with coal ash (what’s left after burning coal in a coal power plant) burst and emptied into river Emory. Coal ash is extremely dirty and environmental hazardous only this one even more so as it carried even larger levels of radiation (similar to that of Chernobyl) as well as 3x more mercury. To put the Kingston coal ash spill into perspective: It released 5x as much toxic material as the Deep Water Horizon disaster in 2010. 

[#greentrolling] — And we end on a lighter note. Please take a look at these delightful “Greentrolling” memes brought to you by the readers and listeners of the wonderful Hot Take. They’re really very funny.

Act on fossil fuel industry

That’s it for this week folks! Remember if you’re feeling down, angry or sad from some of the news in this newsletter one cure is to act. And one way you can always act that also happens to be one of the most powerful things you can do is to talk about it. That also works if what you just read made you hopeful or happy btw.

If you enjoyed this newsletter don’t forget to share it with your friends, coworkers or other people you think could benefit from getting it. If you got directed here by a friend or another link on the Internet don’t forget to subscribe!

See you all next week 👋


The Weekly Climate
The Weekly Climate
Your weekly digest of the most important news for the climate crisis