[Jan 18-24 ‘21] The Biden edition
Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉
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Ok, let’s just be honest. This episode is more U.S. heavy than usual, obviously due to President Biden being sworn in. Lots of reactions, lots of hopes, lots of dreams. But also lots of action on his first day. Let’s see where this goes.
But don’t worry. There’s also plenty of non-US stuff this week. 🤗
‼️News you can’t miss
Here’s one scary/bad (🙀), good (😻), interesting (😼) and fossil (💩) news item.
🙀 50.000 lives would be spared every single year in EU if we stopped polluting our air with fossil fuels and other pollutants.
😻 Best news this week is that the U.S. Democracy managed to remove a deadly tumor. And Grist tries, perhaps a bit too soon, to make us all laugh at the ridiculous things that tumor said.
😼 Author, David Wallace-Wells known for the dark book about the future of “The Uninhabitable Earth”, wrote a great review of the climate crisis in 2020 in NYMag.
💩 Amy Westervelt kills the often-used argument by fossil fuel proponents that stopping fossil fuel production will kill jobs.
👩⚕️ Status: Climate & Science
Let’s look at how we’re doing this week!
[#lakeheatwaves] — Earlier on we have discussed the fact that ocean heatwaves are very likely to come back and perhaps even become permanent. A new study released indicates that the same will happen to lakes, expecting heatwaves to be 3-12 times longer and causing temperature increases of up to 1.7C.
[#globalwarming] — A new study published in Nature is the first study to examine the combined effect of greenhouse gas emissions (causing heating) and air pollution from aerosols (causing cooling) and it indicates that had we not polluted the air so much the total average temperature since the industrial era would have increased by up to 2C (instead of 1C as is the case today).
[#methane] — A new version of IEAs Methane Tracker report revealed that although the world’s methane emissions dropped by 10%, the report highlights that the worlds governments are nowhere near solving the problem with methane. The primary cause of the methane drop in 2020 was reduced methane leaks from oil and gas production due to COVID. A new report released alongside the Methane Tracker provides a political roadmap for politicians worldwide for how to tackle this problem.
[#wildfires] — It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere, so that means no more wildfires right? Well, no. Strong winds in California just started a bunch for wildfires around Santa Cruz. California’s fire “season” is really all-year round.
📰 The 7 Grand Challenges
Clean electricity is the one do-or-die challenge we must solve.
[#china] — China doubled it’s wind and solar capacity installed in 2020 compared to 2019. It installed 71GW of wind alone which is more than the entire world added in 2019 (60GW). However, despite the heavy renewables push, China still builds a lot of coal power plants.
[#finance] — The President of the European Investment Bank proclaimed last week that fossil gas is over in the EU. This comes as the bank laid out it’s annual results for 2020. The bank plan to completely drop support for fossil fuel projects by 2021. However, the banks roadmap still allow fossil gas plants to be installed as long as they pollute less than 250g per KWh. It should be pointed out that this will very likely still allow fossil gas pipelines as well as fossil fuel power plants to be built as long as the latter will be built with carbon capture and storage.
[#airpollution] — I’ve addressed air pollution many times in this newsletter highlighting how the health benefits alone would warrant stopping fossil fuel related emissions and now an EU-based study concludes similarly that reducing air pollution to WHO limits could prevent 50.000 deaths every year in Europe.
[#australia] — While bashing Australia for their non-existent climate targets is one thing (see later), it would appear that market forces in Australia are saying another thing. Unless I’m mistaken. Rooftop solar is driving high growth in renewable energy output in Australia. Still the actual production numbers are low, coal power output is 4x that of renewable energy in Australia.
🏘 Reduce impact of urban and rural areas
Lowering the impact of urban and rural areas.
[#ebike] — A look at e-bikes and in particular a new e-bike conversion kit that enable people to convert their existing bike into an e-bike. The hope of course is that this will lead more people to take the bike.
[#ev] — And related although a different mode of transport: A company has since 2012 converted old Volvo’s from ICE to EV. I think the idea is really interesting and could potentially speed up the process of converting all cars to EVs (and stop us from sending the used ICE cars to the developing world).
[#water] — A Forbes author looks at how home owners and builders must prepare to live with water scarcity and discusses solutions for newly built homes to help inhabitants conserve water taking average water usage down from 500L / day to 50L / day.
[#recycling] — Recently, I read an article (that I couldn’t find sadly) about how plastic recycling is another fossil fuel industry propaganda campaign to get us to buy more plastic. 🎧 How to Save a Planet this week dives into the topic of recycling.
🛁 Clean non-electrifiable activities
Some activities we do today can’t be electrified, these must be cleaned some other way.
[#hydrogen] — We start with a great short guide to how hydrogen-based aviation would work along with a quick overview of the current technologies that are under development.
[#plastic] — Earther highlights an important part that seems to be missing from Bidens climate plan: Plastic. Not only is plastic a fossil fuel product that for that reason alone must be eliminated but it also severely threatens our ecosystems.
🌳 Protect and grow nature
Nature is our ally, we must protect it and help it help us.
[#forest] — A new study published in Nature reveal that global forests absorb 2x the amount of carbon they emit every year. But also raises warnings regarding some forests who’s carbon sink ability are weakening such as the fact that we only have one rainforest left that remain a strong carbon sink.
[#labgrown] — You’ve heard about lab-grown meat but lab-grown trees? Isn’t that just the same as planting a tree in the lab? Well no. A group of researchers at MIT are experimenting with techniques to produce wood fiber artificially. This is done in order to ease the environmental toll of logging to produce various wood based products.
⚖️ Climate Justice
Without justice there’s no future.
[#aid] — A new study has found that rich countries over-reported their spending on climate adaptation donations to developing countries. For instance, the World Bank counted financial support to Nepal to rebuild from an earthquake as climate adaptation. This puts things in perspective as developed countries climate adaptation investments in developing countries are already 70B$ short every year.
[#australia] — Two Australian coal power plants have been accused of manipulating energy markets to increase their own profit. 46.000 Australians have joined a class-action lawsuit against the coal power plants.
[#lowincome] — The rapidly falling prices of rooftop solar has enabled more middle-class income households to add solar to their roof. However, low-income households are still left out despite the price-drops. A study published in Nature looks at policies and business models that might allow more low-income households to get access to rooftop solar.
[#mining] — OECD will investigate three mining giants (Glencore, BHP and Anglo American) for serious human rights violations in relation to the Cerrejon open-pit coal mine located in the La Guajira region in Colombia. The mine has been operating for 30 years and have long been accused of human rights violation, severe environmental degradation and forced evictions of mainly people from the indigenous Wayuu tribe.
Removing carbon from the atmosphere one way or another.
[#elonmusk] — Elon Musk said in a tweet last week that he will donate 100M$ to find the best carbon capture technology. I’m personally a bit “meh” on this one as we kind of already know the solution to this: https://www.naturalclimate.solutions. And so far the math for existing engineered carbon capture solutions doesn’t really make much sense. Still I guess it can’t hurt with more research in this area.
📦 Other / catch-all
All the other stuff that I couldn’t fit into any of the other categories, than the other category.
[#individuals] — The Green New Deal has been on everybody’s lips since 2019 (and earlier). Here Grist goes into detail about what individuals can do to support the Green New Deal. Although it focussed on the US version, the tips provided should apply to the EU Green Deal as well.
[#lies] — Grist tries, perhaps a bit too soon, to make us all laugh that ridiculous phase of the U.S Presidency headed by Trump, by drawing 10 of his biggest lies about the climate crisis. They’re really funny 😂. But then again, not really. Think about the fact that we live in a world where lies such as these are actually uttered by the most powerful politicians in the world! 😳
[#2020] — David Wallace-Wells, author of The Uninhabitable Earth, provides a detailed look at what we achieved in 2020 on the climate change front. It’s a long but highly interesting read too long to make any meaningful summary of here.
🇺🇸 U.S. Presidential Election
With Biden sworn in last week this concludes our focus on the U.S. Presidential Election. PHEW! Instead we launch a new Special Topic called Global and Local Policy, which will cover, you guessed it, major global and local policy developments.
⛽️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.
[#shutdown] — Just prior to Biden taking office two major fossil fuel projects were dealt big blows: One fossil gas terminal that would have exported fossil gas to Asia and a fossil gas to methanol project.
[#hypocrisy] — More corporate climate hypocrisy. Heated tears into the companies that are saying they can’t do anything about their support of climate deniers, but clearly can do plenty to stop supporting politicians who supported the Capitol invasion a couple of weeks ago.
[#china] — Last week, I referred to a story in Danish media about how China is saying that it pushes for a green energy transition while it’s building a lot of coal power plants in remote areas of the country. Here’s an English story capturing the same problem, although without the harassment of the Danish journalist.
[#jobs] — Amy Westervelt shatters the often used argument by fossil fuel proponents that ditching fossil fuels will kill jobs. In this article she dives deep into the rubbish of the arguments and puts a compelling case that a renewable energy push will create more jobs than the fossil fuel sector is doing.
🎩 Global and local policy
We have a special interest in covering the major global and local policies regarding climate, whether good or bad.
[#US] — On his first day in the office Biden cancelled two of the most damaging fossil fuel projects in the US: The Keystone XL pipeline shipping dirty Canadian tar sands oil to the gulf coast and drilling the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Read Inside Climate News analysis of what that means for the energy transition (and DesmogBlog also weighs in). Everyone working for climate action holds their breath and hope that this really does signal a change in political climate action.
[#US] — While Biden can kill fossil fuel infrastructure projects, he can’t necessarily rollback all the environmental protections that Trump revoked very fast. Some expect that rules imposed by Trump could be in effect most of Biden’s first term.
[#US] — Heated draws an interesting line between the Republicans who spread disinformation about the Biden victory and the Republicans who publicly denies climate change.
[#US] — A U.S. Court has killed Trump’s attempted rollback of Obama-era policies for regulating coal power plants. The policy would have given coal power plants some crutches during it’s death spiral, but these crutches have now been removed.
[#EU] — The mood among EU politicians is that obviously everyone is happy to see President Biden sworn in, but it’s also obvious that the U.S. has a ton of internal problems that is threatening with taking much of Bidens attention away from essential topics such as climate change. EU has made it clear that it will not wait for the U.S. to catch up.
[#australia] — The Australian government is wellknown for dragging it’s feet when it comes to climate change. Most recently the government proclaimed a “gas-led recovery” from COVID, which is obviously a terrible idea. Already Australia is having a very high carbon footprint per capita due their many coal power plants. It is hoped that Australia will be forced to change course with strong climate action from Biden.
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 👋