Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉
When you think about it humans are threatened by a changing climate i.e. nature. The ecosystem of the planet is changing and making it more and more uninhabitable for us. That could make you conclude that climate change is man against nature. That has been the prevailing assumption since the industrial revolution that man can just modify nature to our liking. It seems clear at this point that’s not true. Nature is forcing us to change, not the other way around. Still, it’s not a battle against Mother Nature. It’s very much the opposite. Mother Nature is our only ally in this fight. Because in reality, the climate crisis is man against man. Or more precisely humans against a few white mens interests. The sooner we realize this the better.
‼️News you can’t miss
Here’s one important scary/bad (🙀), good (😻), interesting (😼) and fossil (💩) news item.
🙀 The next major IPCC report goes to governments for acceptance without pointing fingers at the fossil fuel industry. Why?
😻 A new startup is offering a cheaper alternative than kerosene for lighting in non-electrified regions in Sub-Sarahan Africa: Solar powered battery packs run by women in the local community.
😼 A Danish journalist was harassed by Chinese authorities for looking into the explosion in the number of coal power plants being built in the country. (Unfortunately, article is only available in Danish, see below for more info).
💩 Total has decided not to renew it’s membership to the biggest US fossil fuel industry lobby citing disagreements over climate policy. Hey! This is not bad!
👩⚕️ Status: Climate & Science
Let’s look at how we’re doing this week!
[#forests] — A new study shows that trees may soon start to release more carbon than they absorb due to increased global warming. Trees have different temperatures at which point photosynthesis performs optimally. For many species that is around 18C. It is expected that in 15-25 years global temperatures will have increased so much that many forests around the world will be carbon source and not sink.
[#heat] — As you know from last week’s newsletter, 2020 was tied for the hottest year with 2016. New details have revealed that 2016 temperatures was increased a lot by the very strong so called El Nino weather phenomenon. Whereas 2020 was subjected to a strong La Nina weather phenomenon which actually had a cooling effect 😳. This NYT article looks at where the heat was felt the most.
[#ocean] — The global surface temperature may “just” be tied with 2016, but the oceans had their warmest year ever in recorded history in 2020.
[#extinction] — In a new report 17 scientists report that the future of climate disruption is in an even worse state than most scientists and perhaps more importantly, the general public understands. Warning, this one is quite doom and gloomy...
📰 The 7 Grand Challenges
Clean electricity is the one do-or-die challenge we must solve.
[#nonproliferation] — Cities are starting to consider the so called fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty which aims to give fossil fuels the same treatment as nuclear weapons. NYC held a hearing about it in December, Los Angeles is planning on signing it and Barcelona already signed a similar treaty.
[#developingworld] — This is a great example of just how complicated decarbonizing the electricity sector is. In Sub-Sarahan Africam, 500M people are without electricity. So the go to solution so far to light up a home has been using kerosene (a fossil fuel) lamps. A new startup called Jaza Energy has a better solution. They setup small huts with solar power on the roof, staff each with women from the local community and rent out small battery backs for people to power their household appliances charged by solar power. The company currently has 27 of these in Tanzania. Also see, Climate Justice section regarding Africa’s decarbonization plans.
🏘 Reduce impact of urban and rural areas
Lowering the impact of urban and rural areas.
[#energystorage] — Panasonic claims that in 2-3 years they will be able to provide cobalt-free batteries. This is great because not only will it mean cheaper batteries, but also due to the fact that much cobalt for batteries today are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo using child slavery.
[#trucks] — An optimistic look at what 2021 will bring for electric trucks: Everything from lots vendors launching their new models to increased political will. 2021 sure looks to be an exciting year on this front.
[#behaviour] — A poll of 22.000 EU citizens indicates that a majority of citizens plan to fly less and eat less meat to help solve the climate crisis. One would think that in the month of new years resolutions that the timing of that poll could risk being a tad misleading, but I remain optimistic on this one.
🌳 Protect and grow nature
Nature is our ally, we must protect it and help it help us.
[#colombia] — Last week I complained about how only 31 out 190 countries submitted updates to their NDCs. One of the countries that did submit was Colombia and they have taken a big leap in ambition. They have increased their 2030 carbon reduction target from 20% to 51% and plan to do so by utilizing their vast natural resources and agroforestry.
[#deforestation] — A new WWF report determines that an area of forest 2x the size of UK has been cut down in the last decade in the world’s deforestation hotspots. The research team analyzed (only) 24 deforestation hotspots and concluded that commercial agriculture is the leading cause of the deforestation.
[#seaweed] — An exciting project was just announced which matches floating solar power with seaweed farming. A prototype of the project will be build in the sea by the Netherlands in an existing seaweed farm.
🍽 Optimize food
Without the lower impact of food or drink the hero doesn’t work (modified old danish proverb).
[#seaweed] — Grist portrays the startup Trophic, which wants to use seaweed to serve the best meatless burger. The company looks into using a red algae with supposedly even taste a bit like bacon when cooked. Seaweed is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and it can therefore suck up a whole lot of CO2 in a relatively short time.
[#children] — A new study has found that climate change will have a profound negative impact on child malnourishment. Especially in the developing world. The study has found that the nourishment of children is closely linked to climate change.
⚖️ Climate Justice
Without justice there’s no future.
[#aid] — The 5th UN Climate Adaptation report was released and it says, you guessed it, that we’re acting to slowly to prevent climate breakdown, but also to adapt our societies to the worst climate impacts. This is especially going to be gigantic problem in the developing world and the developed part of the world is still heavily lacking in provided the aid needed for the developing world to adapt. The costs for the developing world to adapt is currently 100B$ every year, and is expected to grow up to 300B$ every year by the end of the decade if we don’t start stepping up.
[#fossilfuel] — A new study in Nature warns that Africa could be locked into a decades of increased greenhouse gas emissions as the African countries commit to expanding their energy infrastructure with dirty energy sources in the noble quest of providing their citizens with power.
Removing carbon from the atmosphere one way or another.
[#fossilfuel] — A study in Nature examines the preposterous idea that we keep on burning fossil fuels as we’re doing today but just scrub a butt-load of CO2 out of the atmosphere every year. Conclusion: An incredibly inefficient way to solve the climate crisis. As expected. But a more interesting realization I had from this study is that renewables is not a very good match for Direct Air Capture (DAC), because these machines would need to run full speed 24/7 for 100s of year so unless they’re backed up by humongous battery installations which are charged by even bigger renewable energy plants then the DAC plants won’t be as effective.
[#ccs] — A new report highlights (once again) that the world’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects needs to expand very rapidly to play any role in the climate crisis. The total capacity of CCS projects is just 39Mt CO2, which is just 0.1% of our total emissions. And, not suprisingly for those of us who have followed CCS developments, the majority of that is used for so called Enhanced Oil Recovery, i.e. to dig up more fossil fuels.
[#gravel] — A startup called Blue Planet Systems is developing a technology that will turn CO2 into gravel. This sounds like an amazing idea. But unfortunately, Chevron just invested in their series C hereby tying the company undeniably together with the fossil fuel industry. This is a perfect example of why drawdown is so damn hard. And why the VCs of the world must step the fuck up and take these deals away from the fossil fuel industry.
📦 Other / catch-all
All the other stuff that I couldn’t fit into any of the other categories, than the other category.
[#wildfire] — In a recent (~3monts old) episode of 🎧 How to save a planet, Alex and Ayana looked at one major reason why so many houses continues to burn in wildfires: The fact that more and more people chose rebuild in wildfire prone areas. For some areas of California, this now no longer seems to be the case. Which in order to reduce wildfires is a good thing.
[#lobbying] — As the next major IPCC report goes to governments for review critics say that it heavily downplays the role fossil fuel lobbying has in the crisis. See Michael Mann’s book later in this newsletter.
[#policy] — “We have been abusing our planet as if we had a spare one. If we compare the history of the Earth with a calendar year, we have used 1/3 of it’s resources in 0.2 seconds” quote UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez. The main result of the One Planet Summit 2021 held last week as that 50 countries commit to protect 30% of Earths land and oceans. Greta Thunberg is not impressed.
🇺🇸 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.
[#legislation] — The Trump administration makes a last ditch effort to hinder climate action by introducing rules that would prevent any future carbon emission regulation to happen at oil refineries. However, the Biden-Harris administration is expected to be able to roll this back easily.
[#climatedenial] — Two Trump officials published a bunch of fake climate “science” that claimed that climate change isn’t real. They have now been reassigned. Whereto? Well NOAA of course: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
[#arctic] — Heated reports on Trump and the fossil fuel industry’s big loss regarding the drilling leases for the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, which completely failed last week. See last week’s newsletter for another article about this.
[#owls] — Trump has decided to open up a habitat of the Northern Spotted Owl (which is a threatened species of owl) for timber harvesting. As an avid amateur wildlife photographer (and just as a non-insane human being) I got to say: Stay the fuck away from the owls man! 🦉
⛽️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.
[#china] — I usually wouldn’t bring non-english speaking news but this is a Danish investigate report about the fact that China doesn’t like to show the world that it is building a shit-ton of coal power plants. A Danish journalist was harassed by Chinese authorities for reporting on new coal power plants being built in remote areas of China and for what reason? To keep the Chinese economy rolling.
[#biomass] — In the EU we love biomass. Because, as you know, when you burn a tree it’s the only thing in the world that doesn’t emit CO2 when burned. Oops the latter part is a lie. EU politicians should stop lying to themselves that burning biomass is acceptable. This article looks into the deforestation and habitat loss happening in Estonia due to EUs hunger for wood to burn.
[#investing] — The “traditional” energy industry has been the worst performing part of the stock market even before 2020. 2020 gave it a good push over the edge as 2020 saw banks starting to back out of financing further exploration and operations of fossil fuel companies. Great - let’s hope it stays this way.
[#blackrock] — More climate hypocrisy from the world’s biggest investor, BlackRock. One year after they announced a pledge to divest from fossil fuel shares the investor still holds on to 85B$ worth of companies. Why? Because their policy contain a loophole that allows it to hold shares of companies that makes less than 25% of their revenue from fossil fuels hereby allowing it to hold on to some of the largest coal mining and other polluting companies.
[#democracy] — A scathing article in the New Republic attacks the fossil fuel industry for (once again) being massively hypocritical in the way they work. It’s a good thing that fossil fuel companies appear to reconsider who they support after the capitol riots two weeks ago, but as they condemn the actions of the candidates whom they helped instate, they heavily support anti-democratic actions in the rest of the world.
[#france] — 4 NGOs are suing the French state for failing to act on the climate crisis. The lawsuit was filed after 2million people signed the petition to sue the French state. The defense from the French state so far has been that since France is not responsible for all global emissions it cannot be held accountable for inaction on climate change.
[#climatewars] — Prominent climate scientist Michael Mann’s new book was just released titled “The New Climate War” it talks about how the fossil fuel industry is effectively waging a war against humanity and the planet as well as how we can win that war. I just started reading it myself and plan to publish a review at some point.
[#lobbyism] — And we finish off with possibly the most interesting news this week which is that Total has decided to not renew it’s membership to the largest US fossil fuel industry lobby group. The reason is disagreements regarding climate policies. This. Is. Actually. Great. ?
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 👋