[Dec 7-13’20] The Emissions Gap
Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉
Another big report week. The numbers above are taken from the most important ones. And boy are the numbers clear.
2030/2043: These numbers are average case and should therefore be taken with a grain of salt in terms of precision, but I must admit I thought both temperature boundaries were way farther out into the future. 2030? That’s like 2.5 election cycles. Most politicians should care about that.
3% / -24%: I knew the richest were the bad guys (yes using the male pronoun here on purpose) but I didn’t know it was this bad. -24% vs +3%!
34.1Gt: Despite a 6.7% drop from 2019 that is still a tremendous amount of CO2. How much exactly? Imagine you had a container that could hold 1m3 of CO2. You would need 19 trillion of these to hold the CO2 under normal conditions (27C, 1atm). Let’s say you were to arrange these in a big 2D square (no stacking). How big an area would they occupy? 19million km2. An area where each side of the square is 4365km. That’s roughly 2x the size of China or a “little” bit more than all of Russia.
-0.01C: Don’t think for a second that the COVID emissions drop have bought us anything but an opportunity for all countries to recover in a green way. In this way 2020 can be the turning point for humanity and the climate crisis.
📸 Quick announcement: Some of you might already have seen it but just in case: I’m launching an Instagram account for The Weekly Climate. I want to collect all the Weekly Climate Numbers images in one place. I figured the historic development of these numbers images would be quite interesting to follow and also to document in an easy to understand way how much we know about our current predicament. To begin with I will mostly share the Weekly Climate Numbers images there, but I have more plans for the account. Go on give it a follow @weeklyclimate if you’re there. And of course, please by all means share the images anywhere you like 🤗. We’re also on LinkedIn.
‼️News you can’t miss
This week saw the release of two important reports: (1) The UN’s Emission Gap report for 2020 and (2) the Global Carbon Projects Carbon Budget for 2020. None of the reports are particularly happy reading. As Greta says, we’re still speeding as fast as we possibly be can in the wrong direction. But there’s hope. If countries chose to incorporate a green recovery plan into their COVID response and recovery plan then 2020 will mark the year where the world started taking the climate crisis serious. This week also marked the 5 year anniversary of the Paris Agreement and let’s just say there’s good and bad news surrounding that one too. Finally, a big U.S. offset company is being blamed for protecting trees that doesn’t really need protection and therefore selling useless offsets.
👩⚕️ Status: Climate & Science
Let’s look at how we’re doing this week!
[#anthropocene] — The amount of human-made stuff just outweighed all other lifeforms on the Earth. Yay go us! All other lifeforms are staying pretty constant, whereas human-made stuff is growing exponentially. This year we crossed the 1.1Tt (teratonnes) mark and which is the weight of all lifeforms on Earth. This number is actually pretty small when you compare it with the amount of CO2 we excrete every year (0.034Tt this year).
[#covid] — CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels are expected to drop roughly 6.7% this year. However, data from the end of the year suggests emissions are already rebounding and they are expected to do so already in 2021. The Global Carbon Project just released their annual landmark carbon budget report for 2020 which looks at this.
[#warming] — 2030 and 2043. The answer to the question when will we pass 1.5C and 2C of global warming respectively. And in case you’re wondering, yes, November was the hottest November ever recorded. Go humans yay, we’re number 1! We’re number 1!
📰 The 7 Grand Challenges
Clean electricity is the one do-or-die challenge we must solve.
[#solar] — Solar are becoming ubiquitous in developing countries as installed capacity exceeded 325GW in 2019. Foreign investment is said to be a driver also beating previous records with 32B$ in investments in 2019.
[#nuclear] — MIT has analyzed the rising costs of new nuclear plants and discovered that 70% of costs increases is due to soft costs such as ironically budgeting, engineering, purchasing, planning and scheduling.
[#ccs] — A new study has found that new fossil fuel power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) could be up to 6x more expensive than corresponding solar and wind power plants even including energy storage.
🏘 Reduce impact of urban and rural areas
Lowering the impact of urban and rural areas through decouple or degrowth.
[#energystorage] — Lots of battery news this week. First of all the EU proposes a new rule that would force battery makers to do a stricter due diligence when sourcing materials. This is very relevant as The Guardian this week portrays how lithium mining is already hurting ecosystems around the world. However, this should be looked at from the perspective of the utter ecological devastation that the fossil fuel industry has wrecked and are wrecking tomorrow on our planet, our ecosystems and our health. Yes mining will always be bad and we should do our outmost to limit it, but don’t think this is anything close to being worse than the fossil fuel industry. In more happy news, stealthy Quantumscape released performance data from their new batteries and it looks very promising. The solid-state lithium battery supports fast charging (80% in 15 minutes) and will extend range of EVs by 80%.
[#parisagreement] — On the 5th year anniversary of the Paris Agreement we look at 5 good things that has come out of it and 5 things that we’re still working on - ahem. One of the good things is that 54 cities are on track to meet the 1.5C goals.
[#amazon] — Ørsted and Amazon signs EUs largest renewable power purchase agreement as Amazon committed to purchase 250MW out of 900MW output from Ørsted Borkum offshore wind power plants. Hereby making Amazon the world’s largest industrial renewable energy backer. This should be taken with a pretty big grain of salt as an author over at Earther points out, pretty much everything else Amazon is doing is horrible for the planet. That list also shames 2020s biggest climate grifters: Amazon, Exxon, Coca cola, Elon Musk and Google. And here’s Heated’s list.
[#blockchain] — Steve Wozniak (the other Apple co-founder) launches new blockchain venture to enable easier funding for energy efficiency investments. The way I understand it is that the platform will solve the capex problem of energy efficiency investments by paying for the energy savings (and hereby cost savings) upfront.
🛁 Clean non-electrifiable activities
Some activities we do today can’t be electrified, these must be cleaned some other way.
[#plastic] — Coca Cola named worst plastic polluter for the third year in a row. Out of 55 sites surveyed, plastics from the company was found on 51 with a total count of 13834 pieces.
[#e-fuels] — Porsche-backed synthetic fuel factory being planned in Chile. The plant could be up and running as early as next year. The factory can produce 130.000 liters of e-fuel (fuel created using wind/solar to create hydrogen from water and then mixed with carbon dioxide).
[#aviation] — Small electric drones are increasingly replacing fossil fueled aircraft for a diverse range of tasks from photography to mapping and infrastructure monitoring to public safety.
🌳 Protect and grow nature
Nature is our ally, we must protect it and help it help us.
[#offsetgate] — The Natural Conservancy in the US is under fire for selling meaningless carbon offsets. The Conservancy is being blamed for selling carbon offsets for forests and land that doesn’t need protection. The problem is that offsets really only work if the land / forests would have been removed had the offset seller not been there. The Conservancy’s defense is that they’re following all existing standards, which probably highlight the main problem of the case: That these standards suck.
[#wildfires] — A sad look at the impact that California’s wildfires are having on the state’s most beloved trees: Joshua and big Redwoods. Here are 5 startups that are helping to fight utility caused wildfires: Anything from traditional although technically upgraded grid monitoring tools to remote sensing of utility equipment.
[#brazil] — And related: Brazil seeks to join the net-zero club in 2060. But as activists point out this is absolutely a useless statement as long as Bolsanaro keep on torching the Amazon.
[#arctic] — The Arctic is continuing it’s rapid change toward a completely different climate. In 30 years, the Arctic as we know it will be completely changed.
[#peat] — Peatbogs are under threat from a wide variety of sources. Agricultural expansions are one thing but another is climate change. When peat is exposed to the air it starts to decompose causing the large amounts of carbon it has sequestrated to be released.
🍽 Optimize food
Without the lower impact of food or drink the hero doesn’t work (modified old danish proverb).
[#snacks] — Planet FWD a climate friendly food startup, founded by pizza startup co-founder Julia Collins launches it’s first snack. The climate-friendly snack is carbon neutral, organic, kosher, plant-based, non-GMO and has no sugar added. So isn’t this just a vegan snack you might ask? Well, a key difference here is that the ingredients are sourced exclusively from farmers that uses regenerative agricultural practices.
[#biogas] — Here’s a debate about livestock industry’s foray into biogas. Fossil fuel companies and the livestock industry band together to harvest biogas from livestock manure “lagoons”. The only problem is that harvesting biogas in this way buys the two industries time where they can continue operate as usual while not really doing anything to reduce their emissions, according to this article.
[#labgrown] — Last week we revealed that chicken meat from the food startup Eat Just was approved for consumption in Singapore. This week a journalist returns to the startup to try it. And by her account it does really taste like chicken nugget — a 50$ chicken nugget that is. But the article goes deep and discusses the ethical impact of labgrown meat vs traditional grown meat. Highly recommended read.
⚖️ Climate Justice
Without justice there’s no future.
[#aid] — Rich countries are failing to help poor countries. One of the corner stones of the Paris Agreement 5 years ago was the pledge by rich countries to provide 100B$ in aid to poor countries. This appear to be failing and will be a main topic at COP26.
[#data] — An interesting look at how data can help climate justice. And according to the article, Biden can’t do anything about climate justice without embracing data.
Removing carbon from the atmosphere one way or another.
[#activism] — Youth group “Worldward” pushes politicians and organizations further: We can’t stop at net zero pledges we need to drawdown carbon as well. Hereby mirroring Michael Mann and other prominent scientists who recently published a similar letter.
📦 Other / catch-all
All the other stuff that I couldn’t fit into any of the other categories, than the other category.
[#EU] — EU leaders reach consensus on a 55% target. The celebration of which has been attacked by just about all climate activists. Because remember that this is really just the EU cheating with numbers and the 55% is more like a 30% target if we go by IPCC standards.
[#EU] — And related: A new report has revealed that so far all EU emission cuts has only been possible because low and middle income households have reduced their emissions. While the richest’s emissions have grown 10%.
[#greta] — One person who has in some sense done more than the entire UN held her “State of the Planet” speech in front of a camera. And it’s very good.
🇺🇸 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.
[#arctic] — Trump is still gunning for the Arctic, but activists is making it hard for him. So far they’ve managed to get all major banks in the U.S. to reject funding any fossil fuel companies that takes advantage of the leases.
[#plastic] — 550 environmental groups rally around a call for Biden to act on plastic pollution in 2021. The groups have produced an 8-point plan for how Biden can act on it.
[#airpollution] — And finally, Trump does what he can to kill off all U.S. citizens with air pollution. First of all, new rules allows companies to base pollution restrictions on cost instead of human health and secondly, he refuses to raise air pollution standards from fine particulate matter hereby literally sentencing 1000s of people to die.
⛽️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.
[#emissiongap] — Arguably the most important news item this week is the release of the 2020 version of the Emission Gap report. In short, COVID’s ~6.7% decrease in emissions is short-lived. A fast rebound is expected and the COVID drop is expected to result in only 0.01C drop by 2050. But there’s also hope, COVID has provided an opportunity for countries to pick a green recovery from the financial crisis caused by COVID. That could be the inflection point that makes the climate crisis solvable. Short review video follows.
[#exxon] — Exxon cancels carbon capture and storage projects. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We knew Exxon were not going to help us anyway and (1) just confirms that and (2) makes the relationship between big fossil and carbon capture less muddled. In addition, it’s clear that Exxon is slipping. It sure looks like it’s on the wrong side of the battle. Will it survive? Sure hope not.
[#greentrolling] — Heated looks at the short history of Greentrolling — a new harassment technique — led by the formidable Mary Annaïse Hegglar where the idea is to make big fossils obvious propaganda and shocking tactics the main headline on #climatetwitter for the day by trolling them.
[#divest] — New York State’s 226B$ pension fund to divest from fossil fuels in the next 5 years and other polluting companies by 2040. They’re joined by the biggest investor in the UK: The Legal and General Asset Management holding 9T$. And in case you’re wondering it took activists 8 years to get NY state to divest.
[#PRfirms] — PR firms are under increasing pressure to stop working with fossil fuel companies. And seriously, it’s appalling that some of these companies choose to sell their soul to produce such obvious propaganda for a dieing and struggling industry. Seriously, read some of the examples. And if you thought this is just happening in the U.S. Think again. Dutch Shell is behind one particular disgusting one.
[#banks] — Just like PR firms, banks are being dragged down with the fossil fuel industry if they don’t start distancing themselves from this industry. The Rain Forest Action Network have looked at which banks are financing a particular hated part of a tar sands pipeline.
[#lawyers] — Just like PR firms and banks, lawyers are also playing a big role in keeping this horrific industry alive. Just like industries has to report their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, The founder of good PR firm Futerra, suggests that lawyers, PR firms and others should report their “Scope X” emissions, which is their emissions that their firms is indirectly responsible for due to their work with the fossil fuel industry.
[#divest] — Malaysian bank, CIMB, becomes first emerging markets bank to plan an exit from coal. This is particular important, because coal may be dying in the developed part of the world, but that’s not necessarily the case in the developing part of the world.
[#bp] — “Better Petroleum” is full steam ahead on their Middle East expansion despite their lofty green plans.
[#gasstove] — An finally, an item related to my big push against gas stoves a few weeks back. A new study by Rocky Mountain Institute reveal that pollutants from gas stoves would make them illegal to light outside (in the U.S. as the U.S. doesn’t regulate indoor pollution).
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.
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See you all next week 👋