[July 19-25 ‘21] 3.000.000.000.000$

Clouds are making climate change worse, yes EVs are better than ICE even on dirty grids, climate change is not happening faster than expected and finally, lobbyism vs our democracy.

  
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Welcome to this week’s edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉

References: [1], [2], [3], [4] and [5].


‼️News you can’t miss

Here’s one important scary/bad (🙀), good (😻), interesting (😼) and fossil (💩) news item.

🙀 New study reveals that clouds are definitely (97.5%) adding to global warming

😻 For the umptienth time EVs are not worse than ICE cars, even on a dirty grid.

😼 Is climate change happening faster than expected?

💩 A look at how the American Petroleum Institute manipulates global politicians.


👩‍⚕️ Status: Climate & Science

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

[#rain] — A new study concludes that floods such as the one we’ve seen all around the world last week, from town obliterating floods in Central Europe to subway flooding in China is likely to occur more often. These slow-moving storms could occur 14x more often in the future. 

[#clouds] — One big uncertainty in many climate models is how big an impact clouds will have and what the impact of clouds will be in a warming world. Now a new study confirms with 97.5% probability that the impact that climate change is bringing on clouds will be to amplify warming. This thus resolves a big issue in many climate models being used today and will allow scientists to more accurately model future climate (although not in a more positive way for us).

[#speed] — With the heavy concentration of climate disasters in the recent weeks one is set to wonder (as was the headline of my last newsletter) whether all these disasters are hitting us faster than expected. Grist teams up with a climate scientist to try and answer that question. The short answer: No disasters are not happening faster than expected, but the impacts of 2C looks like they may be worse than we thought.


📰 The 7 Grand Challenges

⚡️Decarbonize Electricity

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

[#germany] — According to a new report, Germany’s entire energy demand can be met by renewables in 10-15 years. Although possible the report makes it clear that Germany needs more ambitious targets to pull it off (and probably even more ambitious action following that).

[#energystorage] — Four year old startup Form Energy, claims to have solved one of the biggest problems with getting more renewables on the grid and that is long duration storage. It claims that it’s iron-air-based battery can discharge power over many days, which is exactly what is needed for utility scale energy storage systems (the batteries are too heavy for use in applications like cars). Not only that but it’s cheap. A regular lithium-ion battery cell costs around 50-80$ pr KWh stored. This new system battery 6$ pr KWh stored. It looks like a breakthrough, but it also frankly looks to good to be true. 

[#wildfire] — Equipment owned by the utility PG&E in California may have been linked to a wildfire that burned more than 16.000 hectares. The utility experienced an outage on a part of the system close to where the fire is believed to have started and an responding technician found some blown fuses and the base of a tree on fire.

[#copper] — Here’s a look at the energy transitions copper problem. Right now 60% of all copper mined goes into wind and solar, EVs and other related infrastructure. The problem with that is that we’re going to see lots more of those things and the fact that copper mining is not very good for the environment as it uses a lot of water and leaves toxic waste behind.

🏘 Reduce impact of urban and rural areas

Lowering the impact of urban and rural areas.

[#evmyth] — Yet another study kills the hard-to-kill myth that EVs on dirty grids are worse than ICE cars. The new study claims that even when taking batteries into account that the EVs in EU are around 66-69% cleaner, in the US 60-68% cleaner, in China (which uses more coal) 37-45% cleaner and India (which also has more coal) 19-34% cleaner. Let’s hope this study managed to drive the stake all the way through this time.

[#evadoption] — A new report by Ernst & Young predicts that electric cars are coming sooner than many people expect. In some countries like Norway 3 out of 4 carbuyers pick an EV (although that does include hybrids 🤐). According to the report Europe will lead the way with in 2028 where EV sales will surpass ICE cars, followed by China in 2033 and US bringing up the rear in 2036.

[#gender] — A Swedish study has looked at how much men and women emit with their money and concludes that men emit about 16% more than women (despite the amount of money studied is very similar). In the sense the study is quite stereotypical as it concludes that the primary sources of additional emissions for men are transportation and holidays. The two categories women emit more in is healthcare and home furnishing. (The study looked at single men and women).

🛁 Clean non-electrifiable activities

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

[#aviation] — United Airlines have bought 100 electric airplanes from Swedish startup Heart Aerospace. The startup’s ES-19 airplane will be able to fly 19 passengers 250 miles on a single charge and are expected to deliver them by the end of the decade.

[#fashion] — Recently, a new report was released which claims that renting clothes is worse than buying new primarily due to transportation and cleaning. But now a number of climate focussed fashion companies have published a counter study that argues that if renting companies address things likes transportation and cleaning then it will be cleaner, which most of the companies that joined the new study did. 

[#ac] — Here’s a book review of the book “After cooling: Freon, global warming and the terrible cost of comfort” which looks at the history of air conditioning how it first threatened us by using a gas that destroyed the ozone layer and how it’s now threatening us by using the most powerful greenhouse gases known.

🌳 Protect and grow nature

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

[#offsets] — In my recent deep dive on netzero targets I was quite critical about offsets and the way they work today and here’s one reason. The Bootleg fire in Oregon just burned 90.000 acres of carbon offsets. This means that companies or governments that bought these carbon offsets are now in the atmosphere, hence the companies / governments emitted, bought the offsets to “negate” the emissions and now negation ended up in the atmosphere anyway. 

[#pigs] — This looks like an attempt to divert focus from more important matters, but I assure you I’m only posting this because it’s an interesting fact. It turns out that the world’s feral pigs emit as much CO2 as 1.1 million cars every year because they dig up soil. Should we exterminate feral pigs? No we should exterminate fossil cars (disclaimer: Please note that I do not condone nor instill violence against fossil fuel based cars).

[#siberia] — Citizens of a city in Siberia was urged to stay indoors and close windows as deteriorating air quality due to wildfires made it unhealthy to breathe the air. Also Siberian wildfires have emitted an estimate 65Mt of CO2 with still 2 months left of the wildfire season.

[#forests] — A new NASA study find (as a study last week also measured) that tropical forests ability to absorb carbon dioxide is getting weaker and weaker. In other words, tropical forests around the world are not extracting as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they used to. In fact in some cases they’re emitting. These emissions from these forests offset 90% of all carbon that is being sequestered by other forests around the world.

🍽 Optimize food

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

[#fish] — More than 1billion people rely on fish as their single source of protein and according to a new study, climate change is threatening the nutrients available in fish. The study encompasses 800 species across 157 countries.

[#microbes] — Startup Pivot Bio just raised 430M$ in a series D to bring their micro-organisms to work in agriculture. The company has developed a micro-organism that produces nitrogen, which is the fertilizer that plants need to grow effectively. Spreading of fertilizer today has a lot of emissions associated with it because the nitrogen from the fertilizer leak into the atmosphere. With Pivot Bio’s microorganisms the nitrogen is produced where it’s consumed so to speak, which hopefully lowers the climate impact of fertilizer world wide.

⚖️ Climate Justice

Without justice there’s no future.

[#disadvantagedcommunities] — One of Biden’s first executive orders in office was to make sure that “disadvantaged communities” in the US would get equal benefits of clean energy, infrastructure, and so on. So now the big question becomes: What defines a “disadvantaged community”? We need everybody to help solve the climate crisis also the one’s who can’t afford the upgrades that we need to have to solve this problem.

[#famine] — The current famine in Madagascar affecting over 1.1M people is the first in history to be solely blamed on climate change. Madagascar is facing the worst drought in over four decades, which have caused food sources to almost completely disappear. Madagascar may be the first case of an actual climate change fueled famine, but all over the world food insecurity is increasing.

📦 Other / catch-all

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

[#bezos] — Bezos spaceflight got almost as much media coverage on a single day (212minutes) as climate change did in the entire 2020 (262minutes) measured across 3 major news channels in the US. (And yes I’m aware of the irony of me talking about Bezos space flight and thus adding to that statistics, but fortunately, I do also talk about climate 😅).


⭐️Special Topics

🎩 Global and local policy

We have a special interest in covering the major global and local policies regarding climate, whether good or bad.

[#ipcc] — Recently a couple of IPCC reports has been leaked to the press prior to publication. I used to view these as a good thing, because the IPCC has been known to frame their language according to what political powers wanted it to sound like, but this article by Inside Climate News paints a different picture, that these leaks might undermine the IPCCs work even more. Which obviously isn’t such a good thing.

[#germany] — Angelika Merkel reviews her climate credentials after 16 years as German Chancellor and concludes that although a lot has been done it is not enough to meet the Paris targets. She also defends the decision to shut down nuclear power plants, which is sad…

[#japan] — A new policy draft from Japan reveals that the country is boosting it’s renewable target for 2030. 36-38% of Japan’s power should be generated by renewables and 22% (which corresponds to no growth) from nuclear, bringing in the country’s total clean electricty to around 56%. The rest is mostly gas (41%) and coal (19%) (although weirdly when adding those numbers one get’s more than 100 🥴).

[#eu] — Here’s a very detailed post on how EUs Fit for 55 will help EU reach its climate goals. And it pretty much ignores the elephant in the room which is that EU wants to continue to burn biomass and use crop stealing biofuels. Still the authors argue that a big part of the policy proposals might be close to what’s needed for EU.

[#australia] — It appears that the Australian government has won enough support to keep the Great Barrier Reef off UNESCO’s “in danger” list until at least 2023. Sad.

[#france] — France passed its climate law last week and most critics say that while it does contain good things it appears to definitely fall short of most people’s hopes. A few selected highlights of the few good things it does contain: Landlords are now no longer allowed to rent out poorly insulated homes, single use food packaging made of plastic banned in 2025 and ban on fossil fuel ads to be imposed.

[#subsidies] — A new report reveals that G20 countries have supplied the fossil fuel industry with over 3T$ (that 3.000.000.000.000$) in direct subsidies since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. How about some real action at some point?

⛽️ 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.

[#lobbyism] — Here’s a detailed article on how the fossil fuel industry is using a US lobby group to block climate action. That group is infamous American Petroleum Institute (API). An example, when Shell published it’s annual report in April this year it claimed it was investing heavily into renewables. On the same day it released another report reporting on it’s political donations. 10M$ went to the API which have vowed to fight climate action on all fronts. So you see when Shell’s CEO is crying because he’s being forced to comply with a lawsuit (last week), then that’s a VERY good thing.

[#wildfire] — In case you need another reason to fear wildfires here’s one: A new study has confirmed that smoke from wildfires can increase the levels of toxic metals in the air. Everything from manganese to lead. 

[#shell] — To no big surprise Shell has confirmed that it will appeal the ruling that confirms that Shell must do more to reduce it’s carbon emissions. Their argument is that forcing one company to do it doesn’t make sense.

[#lobbyism] — If you’re looking for a cognitive dissonance, I’ll give you one right here. (1) Fossil fuel giants are pledging net zero targets to honor Paris agreement and (2) fossil fuel giants are ignoring IEAs net zero report by continuing to expand fossil fuel development despite the fact that IEAs net zero report says that doing so will make it impossible to reach the Paris targets. 

[#shareholderactivism] — Shareholder activist organisation Market Forces has accused Australian coal company, Asic of misleading investors, because the CEO has claimed in many interviews that coal will always be a part of the mix despite what many organisations including the IEA says.


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 👋