[Nov 30-Dec 6’20] 7 Grand Challenges
Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate 🎉
As I’m returning to the news focussed format I decided to do a small restructuring of the way I present the content. Before the newsletter was centered around the topics: Climate & Science, Technology, Startups, Investing, Major Carbon Emitters, Policy, Climate Justice, Books, Other and Podcasts. But I figured that these topics are somewhat arbitrary. The original idea was that people could then sort what interest them. However, the categories ended up becoming very mixed. And way too often I was in a dilemma of where to put things. For instance an article about a technology which the fossil fuel industry uses to destroy a country in South America. Where does that one go?
So instead I decided to organize the newsletter around 7 Grand Challenges of the climate crisis. These are:
Decarbonize electricity: Arguably one of the most key challenges that we must solve in order to solve the climate crisis.
Reduce impact of urban and rural: With a clean electricity grid we must reduce the impact of all human settled areas whether urban or rural. Broadly speaking this can happen via we either stop doing something (degrow, e.g. reduce meat consumption) or replace the technology with which we do something with a cleaner one (decouple, e.g. buy an EV as our next car).
Clean non-electrifiable activities: A large part of the answers to the challenge before is to electrify everything. However, some activities we do today can’t be electrified such as international shipping and cement production.
Protect and grow nature: Nature is our friend and ally and we must protect it. Mother Nature helps us by removing carbon from the air and we must increase it’s ability to do so.
Optimize food: In terms of impact, the food industry is second only to supplying electricity. Hence we must look at how we can optimize our food production.
Climate Justice: All climate solutions must be just and must apply to the developing world as well. This is a bit of a catch-all category for this topic as I’m still learning about this a lot.
Drawdown: Finally, we must remove excess carbon from the atmosphere until we get to 350ppm, how can we do that?
Each news item is tagged with a topic so it’s still possible to shop topics and to get a quick overview of what an item is about. In addition to the 7 grand challenges as a structure I’m going to do a news summary, a status update on the latest climate science and, as you have probably seen, a figure on Weekly Climate Numbers. I’m keeping the “Stories we follow” section but it has been renamed to Special Topics, for which I currently have two: U.S. Election and Major Carbon Emitters. The latter is probably going to stay here forever as I think it’s important to track what the companies who are the major roadblock to climate action are doing. Finally, podcasts have been merged into relevant challenges or other categories.
What do you think? Isn’t this a better way to help organize your own thinking about the news that I’m posting? Let me know in the comments below or on e-mail.
For those in a hurry.
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a fiery speech at Columbia University on the State of the Planet where he cited just about all the recent major climate science news such as the Production Gap report 2020 (out this week), the news that this year is on track to be the top-3 hottest ever and Brazils deforestation of the Amazon hit a 12-year high. To fill the gap that the cancelled COP26 has left, youth activists held their own Mock-COP26 and agreed on a treaty which was submitted to the real one. Finally, an interesting study has shown that replacing fossil fuel power plant in the US might be easier than thought as 73% of all fossil fuel power plants needs to retired before 2035 anyway.
👩⚕️ Status: Climate & Science
Let’s look at how we’re doing this week!
[#UN] — Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General held a fiery speech at the Columbia University on the State of the Planet. And his message was clear the “cycle of oil as the key engine of the world economy is finished”. If you’re lacking motivation for doing something about the climate crisis I would suggest to watch it yourself:
[#health] — A new report published in the highest regarded medical journal in the world Lancet cements the fact that a hotter planet already is posing fatal risks to many parts of the population due to everything from air pollution to heat. Let’s just stop burning the fossils, shouldn’t we?
[#nature] — The Great Barrier Reef is in critical condition. But it’s not just the Great Barrier Reef, 83 out of 252 of UNESCOs World Heritage Sites are threatened by the climate crisis.
[#temperature] — As indicated in the Weekly Climate Numbers figure (and by Antonio Guterres in this speech) this year is on track to become the top-3 hottest year on record.
🏆 The 7 Grand Challenges
Clean electricity is the one do-or-die challenge we must solve.
[#productiongap] — The -6% and 2% numbers in the introductory Weekly Climate Numbers were taken from the second report on the Production Gap, just released. The Production Gap report describes what the worlds governments and fossil fuel industry are planning for fossil fuel production vs what the science requires of fossil fuel production.
[#US] — The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) has released their 8th annual energy report which basically concludes that although the energy transition is moving in the right direction, slow and steady doesn’t win the race this time.
[#peakoil] — A very detailed article on Bloomberg looks at the evidence we have for having reached peak oil. It gathers evidence from a wide variety of sources and concludes that indeed it has. However, I think we have to be conscious of the fact that every time humanity has been in a crisis that has caused a drop in emissions we have returned with more fervor the year after (slide 9), as if the drop had never occurred. We’ll see if this time it’s different.
[#DK] — Denmark ends North Sea drilling and production by 2050. While clearly some sort of milestone as it’s the first time a country puts a deadline on shutting down production, I think Greta tweeted it best: “The real news here is that Denmark will apparently go on extracting fossil fuels for another 3 decades. To us children (and concerned old people, red.), this is not the "good news" that some people seem to think.” Add to that, that Denmark is currently the biggest oil producer in the EU. Yes you read that right.
[#energytransition] — A study has shown that replacing the U.S. fossil fuel power plants with renewable energy may be simpler than expected as many of the plants stands to be retired soon anyway. 73% of all fossil fuel power plants in the U.S. will reach end of life before 2035. I wonder what this looks like for other countries… 🤔 Anybody wanna help find out? Email me.
[#nuclear] — 🎧 Podcast: How to save a planet — Should we go nuclear? Ayana and Alex dives into the extremely heated nuclear debate and try to get to the bottom of this question as well as why the debate has become so heated.
🏘 Reduce impact of urban and rural areas
Lowering the impact of urban and rural areas via decoupling and/or degrowing.
[#transportation] — Japan joins the bandwagon of banning ICE cars from mid 2030s. A plan will be drafted before end of the year.
[#efficiency] — We can’t “efficiency” our way out of the crisis but it sure is an important way to cut emissions now. That is why it’s problematic when IEA in a new report raises a flag saying that energy efficiency improvements are far from an acceptable target for our current state in the crisis. Global energy efficiency only increased 0.9% this year.
[#industry] — Major polluters of the world has written an open letter wherein they ask politicians to only lightly regulate their pollution… 🙄 It’s literally the non-fossil-fuel-industry scum of the Earth that are on this list. Right from major fossil fuel supporting banks to Amazon.
[#repair] — A new report by the Right-to-repair campaign in the U.S. calculates that if the average U.S. citizen extended the lifetime of their cellphone with just one year, the carbon saving would be the same as taking 636.000 cars off the road. The problem is that repairing gadgets such as cellphones are difficult due to restrictive user agreements and proprietary tools.
🛁 Clean non-electrifiable activities
Some activities we do today can’t be electrified, these must be cleaned some other way.
[#shipping] — A Japanese company is hard at work developing novel technologies for cleaning the shipping industry. Everything from sails to green hydrogen.
🌳 Protect and grow nature
Nature is our ally, we must protect it and help it help us.
[#deforestation] — Brazils deforestation of the Amazon hits 12 year high under Bolsanaro. Deforestation rose 9.5% in 2020 from previous years, bringing it to a total area of ~11000 square km (approx the size of Zealand+Funen, Northern Ireland or Connecticut).
[#ecocide] — Relating to the previous news item, a group of international lawyers are working on making ecosystem destruction a punishable offense named ecocide. Here’s a TED talk about it by the new deceased founder of the initiative, Polly Higgins.
[#forests] — Forests communicate with each other using subterranean network of fungi. Yes you read that right. This detailed New York Times is memorably named “The Social Life of Forests” and describes what we know about this. Read “Reciprocity” in the book All We Can Save that I’ve been advocating so hard for for more info.
[#agrivoltaics] — Another look at how solar panels and farmland can actually go hand in hand. This is really exciting to me, because the big trade-off I saw before with solar was that we would have to sacrifice a lot of nature to use it, but this may just be the way forward.
🍽 Optimize food
Without the lower impact of food or drink the hero doesn’t work (modified old danish proverb).
[#labmeat] — Singapore approves the first no-kill lab-grown meat for sale for the first time. The lab-grown chicken meat is grown in a bio-reactor by the U.S company Eat Just who already have a line of plant-based egg and vegan mayonnaise available.
[#dairy] — Cows are heavily impacted by a warming world as well. Dairy cows in the blistering heat in the U.S. produced much less milk. One farm lost as much as 2250$ per day in lost production, plus the farmer had to spend an additional 1500$ in electricity hereby not only decreasing the amount of milk produced per methane leaking cow but also increasing pollution due to higher electricity use.
⚖️ Climate Justice
Without justice there’s no future.
[#health] — Pollution monitoring in the US has failed on numerous occasions. 10 major pollution events at refineries were not measured despite increased hospitalizations due to increased air pollution. In addition, people living close to these refineries have been found to have an elevated risk of getting cancer and alzheimers.
[#lawsuit] — Friends of the Earth Netherlands are taking Shell to court for willfully having increased its fossil fuel production despite the fact that it knew that it was harming humanity.
[#cop26] — As reported in earlier newsletters, the “real” COP26 has been postponed for a year due to COVID but that’s not stopping youth activists for holding their own. The climate can’t wait for a pandemic. The Mock-COP26 ended up in a list of policy demands. Here are the treaty and an accompanying letter to world leaders.
Removing carbon from the atmosphere one way or another.
[#solutions] — Forbes posted a good blogpost that provides an overview of carbon negative solutions, what they are and why they are needed.
📦 Other / catch-all
All the other stuff that I couldn’t fit into any of the other categories, than the other category.
[#people] — Here are Forbes list of 30 under 30 in Energy. It’s really encouraging to see so many startups, but really discouraging to see a fracking startup on the list 😰. Come on Forbes! Get with the times!
[#UK] — A climate pledge war might be starting as the UK just pledged to outdo all other major economies on climate action.
[#EU] — A new report by McKinsey shows how the EU can achieve net-zero emissions by net-zero costs. If you ignore that EU is fidgeting with the math regarding the 55% then this is looks really promising and probably one of the bigger news items this week.
🇺🇸 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.
Just as the EU Biden picks a BlackRock (the worlds largest investor in fossil fuels) exec in this case to lead the National Economic Council. This created quite a stir with the Sunrise Movement organizing a protest.
Here’s a profile on Bidens climate contenders.
Trump is really busy getting those Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling permits sold. Good news is that all U.S. banks has publicly declared that they won’t grant any loans related to drilling the Arctic, which hopefully means that nobody is gonna go after the permits.
⛽️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.
[#propaganda] — One of my favorite climate reporters Amy Westervelt tweeted about this old pamphlet from 1998 that Exxon in a time where their own scientists had clearly demonstrated the relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming. Just read the first couple of pages it’s really disturbing. But what’s more disturbing is this cartoon aimed at kids made by the American Petroleum Institute in which the kids learn that oil and competition is what makes America great. Furthermore, my other favorite climate reporter, Emily Atkin published an interview with the person who has been taking out climate denial ads in Washington Post. It’s really disturbing too.
[#propaganda] — Aston Martin shadely pushes anti-EV report as you do.
[#investing] — On the good side of the news: The oilfield services industry is bleeding. Oilfield service purchases are going down from 700B$ to 450B$ and industry expert says the industry might never recover.
[#accountability] — A new report has calculated the share of the climate change fueled disasters that each country should pay based on the country’s share of the problem.
[#EU] — Taxpayers in the EU are paying for climate crimes and next week the European Central Bank (ECB) is voting to approve additional emergency COVID funding where large parts will go to some of the largest polluters in EU: Shell, Total, Fortum/Uniper and Eni. In the link above you can act on this by sending a message to the person responsible at ECB.
[#lawsuit] — 🎧 Podcast: Drilled — S5Ep9 The Judge. Corruption charges against the Ecuadorian judge and the American judge appear.
That’s it for this week folks! I’m psyched to learn what you think of the new way of structuring the content, please let me know in the comments below or on e-mail.
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 👋