The Weekly Climate #10: Oct 12-18 2020
Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate! 🎉
I recently started reading a book by philospher Toby Ord called The Precipice. So far it’s a highly interesting read about humanity’s existential risks and how to think about them. It deals with all kinds of existential risks we face from natural ones such as asteroid impacts to manmade ones such as climate change. And late one night as I was pondering asteroid impacts versus climate change I came up with an interesting thought experiment. Play along if you want.
So let’s say that the astronomers currently monitoring the skies for asteroids discovers that there’s a Dinosaur-killing big one headed straight for the Earth and that it will hit in 30 years. First of all, the first thing that will happen is likely that the governments of the world will convene to figure out what to do about this threat (kind of like the UNs IPCC in some way). They come up with a plan: The US will develop ion beam technology to try and deflect the asteroid and the EU will develop nuclear rockets to push it away. All developed countries pitches in and we go do.
But now a new player emerges. It turns out that there’s a cult called “The Fossils” in all countries that has infiltrated all layers of the society who uses propaganda, ads on Facebook, commercials on TV and airtime on all conservative news channels to talk about that the asteroid is really a spaceship from outer space that has come to visit us and bring us honey and cake (I have honestly lost track about what the fossil fuel industry is promising these days). And that we must welcome it in order to not anger this highly advanced alien race.
How will the world react to this cult? Will it embrace it? Will it be shrugged off? Will it be banned? Will the leaders be put in prison?
I hope that the world will shrug it off and then arrest the leaders of the cult for threatening humanity. But it’s literally the opposite we’re doing right now. All over the world politicians of the world are licking the ass of fossil fuel execs to get some more of that sweet money and votes. If that happened for this cult, wouldn’t we as the people revolt big time? I sure hope so or else we really are all ‘cowori’. (See Climate Justice section to figure out what that means).
Hurray! It’s the 10th issue of The Weekly Climate!
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🏃♂️💨The quick overview
For those in a hurry here we go:
Climate & Science: Regrow forests in stead of reforesting, Atlantic is the hottest in 2900 years and climate change has already killed 1.23 million people and cost 3 trillion $ since 2000.
Technology: New study shows rewilding to be important for mitigating climate crisis and a detailed look at pumped hydro.
Startups: We look at two automotive startups: Lucid Motors and Proterra.
Investing: Two new asset managers totalling 25T$ puts pressure on their portfolio to decarbonize and what can the average stockholder do to hold companies accountable.
Major Carbon Emitters: Recycling plastic is a con perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry, fossil gas is as worse as coal, and Exxon must die.
Politics: Fossil fuel industry is left out of EUs recovery fund and a look at Austin.
Climate Justice: Letter from a Waorani woman, more climate lawsuits and Canada’s last iceshelf breaks off.
Other: IEAs Annual World Energy Outlook report is out and a look at environmental victories.
🐢The long overview
For those who want to dive deeper, brace yourselves, the long overview is coming.
🕵️♂️Stories we follow
U.S. Presidential Election. The U.S. is a major emitter and are run by a climate sceptic and fossil fuel friendly… person. We need a change. And after Joe Biden was elected as the democratic candidate that change has to be him. Hence we keep a close watch on his climate aspirations. An essay published in Nature goes into detail about how Trump has damaged science with his climate, covid-denying jerkery. And for sure, there used to be such a thing as scientific facts. What Trump has done is showing the world that everyone’s opinions are just as important as people who have studied a field for years. And THAT may never recover. It’s so deeply inclined in SoMe. NYT also published a Field Guide to the Election and Climate Change. But this is pretty simple, whatever you do, whatever you believe in just don’t vote for Trump. Oh and Trump’s new judge Amy Barett got to show her true colors as an anti-abortionist climate-denier: Great!
Disclaimer about the next story about BP: I should make it absolutely clear that me bringing BP at the top of this newsletter is by no means an endorsement. In fact I believe this to be yet another fossil fuel industry scam. But if it turns out not be then BP will be a model for other fossil fuel industry companies to follow, which is why it is important. And if it turns out to be scam, well then it will be used front and center once again as an example of the fossil fuel industries many lies. It’s therefore a win-win to bring it front and center here.
Better Petroleum (BPs) climate aspirations. BP has announced that it will slash oil production by 40%. If history teaches us anything it is that this will be just another load of bullcrap just like Beyond Petroleum were 20 years ago. But we will see. By putting the story up top here we aim to track it carefully. BP is still eerily silent in the press these days but a few stories did make it through, such as they just started second phase of gas operations in Oman as well as a post in Forbes critiquing BPs energy outlook and strategy. This one might not be as much aimed at BP, but it sure is interesting to see how fossil fuel fans think. How they can collectively agree that humankind must want to put more CO2 into the air despite surmounting evidence to the contrary.
And another brief comeback for story we used to follow:
California power outages amidst the heat waves. (Get an overview) California has experienced a series of rolling blackouts Aug 16 through 18 as a result of high power demand and a few mishaps. What we know is that power demand was high, but not higher than usual, when solar started to drop and a fossil gas power plant went unexpectedly offline. The blackouts in August are really being used to show how Demand Respond and now Flexiwatts might have been able to save the day. This article goes into detail about the many types of Demand Response. Also PG&E is under investigation for having started one fire in California as some of their equipment was seized and they decided to shut off power to 159.000 customers in California as fire risk returns.
👩🔬Climate & Science
A new study published in Nature and on Global Forest Watch shows that letting forests naturally regrow instead of planting new ones might increase carbon sequestration up to as much as 8.9Gt of CO2 every year.
If anyone doubts that climate change is here take a look at these numbers. A new study by the UN finds that since year 2000 over 7000 climate related natural disasters have happened impacting over 4.2 billion people, killing 1.23 million people and costing almost 3 trillion $.
The IPCC finds that the Atlantic ocean is at it’s hottest in 2900 years. Ocean temperature is also one of the primary culprits of coral dieing. In fact in the past 25 years more than half of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has died.
And we finish off this section on a lighter albeit temporary note. The first half of 2020 saw a drop of 8.8% in CO2 emissions compared to the same time last year. COVID is likely responsible for a vast majority of it.
A new study published in Nature adds to the hope that rewilding can play a huge role in mitigating the climate crisis as well as prevent species extinction.
As we add more renewables to the grid, we need more energy storage. One type of energy storage that almost everyone likes is pumped hydro. This article dives deep (pun intended) and asks among other things asks where are the suitable sites?
Human waste to energy project launches in Australia. The 17M AU$ plant produces electricity and biochar.
Now that Nikola imploded, we should look at the other new car startup Lucid Motors. This Cleantechnica piece does just that.
And another automotive startup, Proterra, who produces electric busses and batteries secures 200M$ in funding.
If you want more startup news I can highly recommend Climate Tech VC newsletter.
Two large asset managers (one managing 5T$ and another 20T$) urges their portfolio to decarbonize or they will divest.
And if you don’t have trillions under management but then this post on Vox goes into detail about what the average Joline Stockholder can do to put pressure on the companies who’s stock she owns.
If you want more investing news I can highly recommend the Bloomberg Green newsletter.
⛽️Major Carbon Emitters
Recycling plastic is largely a con perpetrated by — guess who — the fossil fuel industry (who produces new plastic). As it turns out, almost all plastic ends up in a landfill (or in the ocean) as it is harder to recycle plastic than just to make new. And guess what, the fossil fuel industry knew and has plotted to hide this fact from the rest of the inhabitants of the Earth.
Exxons business plan can be summed up in three words: Drill, baby, drill. Fuck you Exxon.
New study casts doubt on the climate “benefits” of fossil gas. Well, we have known for a while now that fossil gas is a bridge to nowhere, but what was new to me was that even the emissions savings that were believed to be true by credible sources now turned out not to be the case. This new study casts doubt that fossil gas is better than coal at all.
And Vox presents a detailed look at how China can go carbon neutral in 2060.
If you want more major carbon emitter news I can highly recommend Heated and Drilled
The EU calls to exclude fossil fuels from their 670B€ COVID recovery fund. Yes please. I think the US could learn quite a bit from this. Let’s hope they’re successful with that.
A case study in Yale Communications looks at Austin, who’s population is booming but energy consumption is flat thanks to better and mandatory building inspection.
If you want more politics news I can highly recommend Heated.
Hawaii sues big fossil over climate change and this post takes a look at what a climate lawsuit is and how it works.
A letter from a woman who belong to the indigenous Waorani urges the world and especially the nine presidents of the Amazon to stop taking advantage of the land and killing the Earth. They have a word for us: “Cowori” meaning ‘the white man that knows too little for the power that he wields, and the damage that he causes’.
This week a lot of spotlight was put on the arctic for a bunch of reasons. Firstly, Canada’s last iceshelf breaks off taking an entire research station with it. The arctic has entered a death spiral and it’s changing how people live there as this fantastic picture essay shows.
📕All we can save bookclub
I have taken the liberty rename this section a bit as I want to spotlight Heated’s bookclub about the “All we can save” book, which was recently published, however, we will also take a look at the occasional other book in this section.
Let’s start off with an interview with the editors of this great book.
Heated started running an All We Can Save Bookclub two weeks ago. Two newsletters each week will be dedicated to the book. I love the book and hence will use this space in my newsletter to echo those newsletters. You can read the second Heated bookclub newsletter here. Get the book here. (I have no affiliation, I just think this book is a terribly important different view on the climate crisis).
The Guardian published an interesting look at environmentalism and their many victories and their role to play for climate change. And sure we have so much to thank environmentalists for. However, I think the article conveniently leaves out two key technologies that are well-known solutions to climate change and which environmentalists have fought since the beginning of their movements: Nuclear and genetic engineering (for more on that I can highly recommend Stewart Brand’s book “The Whole Earth Discipline”).
Mario Molina died last week. He shared the nobel prize in chemistry for discovering the relationship between chemicals in hairspray and our depleting ozone layer.
Probably one of the biggest news items last week didn’t really fit into any category so it ended up here and that is IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook report was published last week. It has received a lot of comments. Bill McKibben (founder of 350) is not happy. Energy Central highlights that IEA adds fuel to the fire (terribly pun intended) that fossil fuels are here to stay. But on the positive side it also hails solar as the absolute king of power markets while simultaneously pointing out that the grid itself is the weak link in order to handle that shift in paradigm. And it also highlights the need for more investment in nuclear.
And a documentary about Greta called “I am Greta” has premiered. The story about the film in itself poses an interesting read.
A matter of degrees — A breakthrough moment?: Really excited about this new podcast run by the formidable Katharine Wilkinson and Leah Stokes. It’s a podcast for the climate curious who knows climate change is a problem but are trying to figure out how to tackle it. They launched big last week with two episodes. This episode looks at the youth climate movement.
A matter of degrees — Give up your climate guilt: … and this one looks at climate guilt and climate blame and the failed narratives surrounding climate change.
How to save a planet — Fighting fire with fire: In this episode Alex and Ayana dives into wildfires and asks — how did it get so bad and what can we do to address them?
The Interchange — Making sense of the DER Extravaganza: Distributed Energy Resources are all the rage and are also discussed heavily in response to Californias blackouts from August. This podcast tries to make sense of all that.
Decouple — French Nuclear Energy & Social Solidarity feat Myrto Tripathi: This episode looks into France’s energy transition many decades ago where they transitioned into almost all nuclear in 15 years.
That’s it for this week folks! If you feel like I’m missing something, please let me know.
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See you all next week 👋