The Weekly Climate #7: Sep 21-27 2020
Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate! 🎉
The last human (September 28, 2020) — Sandra boarded the electric high-speed train from Pittsburgh to New York. She walked along the narrow aisle of the train, past other commuters and found her seat. She sat down and plugged her headphones in. She just came from a meeting with Pittsburgh officials discussing proposals about what to use the just retired Homer City Station Plant for. So many cool and interesting proposals were discussed. Everything from an art museum, to a startup co-working space, to a lab for researching green energy to low income housing. But the proposal she liked the best was a proposal to turn the power plant into a memorial for the climate crisis and how close humanity had been to being destroyed by a few organizations greed, deceit and attacks on democracy.
The Homer City Station Plant along with a handful of plants across the country was one of the last coal power plants in the world to be shut down, now almost 3 years ago. The fossil fuel industry really had it’s grip wrapped tightly around the U.S. political system which is what enabled it to stay in power far longer than any other place on the Earth. She was proud of her work. Although it took a number of death threats, slandering, and the usual verbal assaults by fossil fueled climate deniers she and her team at Sierra Clubs Beyond Coal campaign had been instrumental in shutting down each and every last one of the coal power plants in the U.S.
The train left the platform and within 20 minutes they passed close by the Homer City Station Plant. She could see the smokestack and the towering buildings that hovered above anything in the vicinity. She pictured in her mind all the fossil fuel infrastructure that had vanished in the past two decades as both peak oil, peak coal and latest peak gas finally dawned on the industry. Remnants was still left, such as the massive Keystone XL pipeline for which the company behind went bankrupt and couldn’t clean up after. But all in all much of nature was finally given back. Pipelines were only a small thing, but she thought about all the open pit mines such as the massive Tagebau Garzweiler in Germany which now was converted into a national park. She hadn’t been to the park, but she did go to the mine back in the early 2020s when it was still there and she remembered how she was totally blown away by the sheer size of it. How she literally couldn’t see from one end to the other end of it.
She thought of all the moving infrastructure that within a few decades were repurposed or recycled. Such as trains, tanker trucks, and the gigantic tanker ships. She remember visiting TI Europe a few years ago. It used to be one of the biggest tanker ships in the world, but now it was converted into a full service senior village complete with spa, pool, cafes, restaurants, shopping mall, and luxury apartments.
Sure much of that infrastructure had now been replaced by renewable energy infrastructure, but now a days solar panels are so effective that all new houses and apartment buildings comes with solar power layered into the bricks, roofs and windows. That coupled with a battery could power a home for many days. The grid being almost entirely used for big heavy industrial loads or in case you have some sort of malfunction in your own distributed mini grid. Still, she’d take a group of offshore wind turbines or even a nuclear power plant instead of an oil rig any day.
Sandra turned to the local newspaper on her tablet and on the front page was an article that read “Last person to ever die from the effects of air pollution dies at age 54”. The article was about how Trevon Patterson, a black male whole lived close to the Homer City Station Plant who were expected to be the last person to ever die from the effects of air pollution, simply for the fact that there are currently no hospitals in the world who have any patients with any air pollution related respiratory illnesses in their care. She knew that cancers might still occur, but still this was perhaps the biggest victory. She sank once and leaned back. This is what she had been fighting for. When she joined the fight in the 2020s. 7.000.000 people every year died needlessly due to air pollution mainly caused by the fossil fuel industry. That number was now close to zero. The era of air pollution related deaths were finally over.
This has been a short story written about what the future might look like in a world where we have solved the climate crisis. Before I leave you to the newsletter, ask yourself this question: Even if climate change wasn’t happening, wouldn’t you want this future instead?
🏃♂️💨The quick overview
For those in a hurry here we go:
Climate & Science: 2C will still result in 2.5 meters of sea level rise and ocean heat waves are a thing.
Technology: EUs grid is decarbonizing at an increasing pace and IEA says we need to focus on carbon storage solutions.
Startups: A new startup is fixing the poverty tax while ridding us of plastic waste and Sidewalk Labs is launching a new tool to help buildings optimize their energy consumption.
Major Carbon Emitters: We welcome Facebook to the list of major carbon emitters for their contribution in sharing climate change misinformation.
Politics: China pledges carbon neutrality by 2060 (and the world eagerly await a plan) and California bans the sale of ICE cars by 2035.
Climate Justice: Flooding now affects 1M people in East Africa and global Friday For Future strikes resumes. Both news items has received frighteningly little news coverage.
Book reviews: “All we can save” was released last week to great reviews so get your copy and join the Heated book club.
Other: Jeff Bezos climate pledges are under scrutiny and Sir David Attenborough has released a new documentary.
🐢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. We’ve been looking at this before but here’s another look at the 100 climate change regulations that Trump has repealed and to add to that Trump just appointed two climate change deniers to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), he’s planning to open yet another forest in Alaska to exploitation and he’s once again showing the world that opinions are more important than facts by denying clear scientific facts about wildfires. However, all is not well on the democratic side either. Apparently, neither Republicans nor Democrats wants to include a carbon tax in their program, which is perhaps the only clearest policies that we must implement world wide. And what’s even more shocking, the Biden campaign actively supports Enhanced Oil Recovery in which CO2 captured from the air (by Direct Air Capture for instance) is injected into a almost depleted oil well hereby extracting the last oil in the well. This is really bad.
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. This week BPs announcement was followed by a ton of other industrial pledges to go carbon neutral. Most of them are bullshit as this new report reveals including BPs (and here’s another analysis covering other than big oil). One clear example of that is that BP will not rule out more exploration in the North Sea. Yes I am not kidding you. The company that has sworn that oil will go away soon still wants to explore in the North Sea. This is important so let’s dwell at this for a moment. The exploration process itself can take many years. Once a location has been found they need to build a rig. Once the rig is built it’s going to be operational for many decades unless they going to strand it. Which would be a completely insane proposition to build it just to strand it a few years later. I’m now more certain than I’ve been in a while that BP is fucking with us. And you know it would appear that the stock market calls bullshit too as BPs stock price just reached a 25 year record low after last weeks climate strategy announcement.
👩🔬Climate & Science
California is ground zero for climate disasters. By watching what happens in California and the west coast in general we get to peak into the future and what it will be like in a lot of places within this century. There’s also a lot of discussion about what can be done to limit the impact of wildfires. This detailed NYT article looks at wildfire fighting since the 1930s and the strategies which might have put us in the explosive state that we are in now. Related to that is the fact that beavers are nature’s best firefighters. If you want graphic overview of how we got this far, take a look at this cartoon published in Grist.
A study published in Science has revealed that ocean heat waves which 6 years ago killed a lot of sea lions and salmon are connected to climate change. The one 6 years ago was particular damaging, but a lot of them has actually been detected with equal devastating effects on marine life.
Another study published in Nature has revealed that even if we manage to limit global warming to 2C the melting Arctic ice will still raise the sea level by 2.5 meters.
EU’s grid is decarbonizing at an accelerated pace. This year so far 66% of EUs electricity was generated by renewable and nuclear resources . However, I must admit that I’m quite certain that this includes biomass, which is not a low carbon energy source despite the renewable nature.
GE debuts its monster 13MW wind turbine. One spin of this thing will power a household for a couple of days. Staying on GE it’s also good to see their recent announcement that they’re going to exit coal.
IEA says that carbon storage (note the emphasis on storage, not capture) is going to be critical to meet climate targets. I recently also had eye opener similar to this, that it way well be that we can capture CO2 using vastly unproven Direct Air Capture methods, but just capturing it is just step one. What we going to do with gigatons CO2 once we have it? In relation to that The Guardian also published a very short discussion of carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) technologies.
A new startup is trying to fix the so called “poverty tax” which is when low income families are forced to buy smaller items instead of bulk, which could have saved them a lot of money — and they also rid us of a ton of fossil fueled plastic waste.
Sidewalk Labs (Google Alphabet’s urban innovation company) is launching new tool called Mesa, which aims to optimize buildings energy efficiency. The tool will automatically adjust heating, lighting etc to reflect optimal conditions based on external temperature, light, people etc.
Plug Power, the company known for its hydrogen-powered forklift, is eyeing the opportunity to make green hydrogen for airplanes. This is a good move because the forklift business model was based on fossil gas 🤥.
⛽️Major Carbon Emitters
Emily Atkin lays into Facebook for their many years of attacks on climate science. Among things she reveals that in 2016 the most shared climate story on Facebook was a fake story about how climate science is a hoax. Read her article it’s really horrifying.
Oxfam has released a report saying that the world’s richest 1% pollute as much as 50% of the world’s poorest. Over the 25 year period studied carbon emissions rose almost 60%. In that period the increase in carbon emissions for the richest 1% increased by 3x more than the increases in emissions from the world’s poorest. VOX even provides a guide to the richest 1% about how they can reduce their emissions.
Shell is gearing up to go full BP and as George Monbiot says: Snake Oil. This is the purest fucking bullshit you’ll see this week.
12 out the 40 C40 cities pledged to divest from the fossil fuel industry in an effort to support a green and sustainable COVID19 recovery. Not to be a downer here, but it kind of raises the question of what the remaining 28 cities are doing in this regard.
China pledges carbon neutrality by 2060. It’s clear that China has been pressured into doing more, so this may represent a big shift in policy, but clearly not yet implementation. China’s leader Xi Jinping gave almost no details in relation to what they will actually do to accomplish this. This worrying as China has more than 200GW of coal power plants in it’s current construction pipeline.
The California governor Newsom signed an executive order last week which bans the sale of ICE cars by 2035. This is a first in the U.S and isbound to run into legal challenges unfortuntely.
There’s a great review of carbon pricing policies and the global troubles of introducing them in the Boston Review this week, written by Matto Mildenberger and Leah Stokes.
Flooding now affects over 1 million people in East Africa. And once again one might wonder where the big news coverages of this is. And related, here’s a detailed eye witness report about how flooding has been impacting Bangladesh the past months.
Friday For Future global strikes resumed on September 25 despite COVID, which has limited the amount of participants. I’ve been looking for news coverage of the climate strikes during the weekend but I have been unable to find a lot of information in major news outlets, which is really sad (I found some this one, this one and this one). And I really hope this is not the media losing interest in this extremely important topic.
A dirty Louisiana lawmaker has been proven to have been bribed to allow a pipeline to run through indigenous and black communities.
All we can save was released last week and I’ve personally already been blown away by the different perspective this book takes and thinking a lot about how to integrate this work into my own work. It’s quite possibly one of the most important books on the climate crisis to have come out in a long time. There’s been a number of reviews, this one is particularly detailed. And Heated is going to be running the next book club as well as dedicating the next 10 weeks to this book, so hurry up and subscribe to Heated join.
If you would rather read a prominent and respected old white dudes take on the climate crisis then the Noam Chomsky’s new book will probably be your best bet.
Everyone mourns the loss of Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died at 87 last week. Ginsburg was a trailblazer in just about all aspects. Not only has she been instrumental in gender equality in women’s rights, but she has also been instrumental in enabling the Environmental Protection Agency to act on climate change.
Jeff Bezos have joined chorus of climate pledges last1 week and has pledged 10B$ to the cause. 10B$ is a lot of money and obviously a big help, but we should just be sure to vigilant as to what Bezos role in the climate crisis have been so far. Not exactly a climate hero as Heated points out. The fund was actually announced since February this year, and so far no grants has been awarded which is underwhelming to say the least. Still let’s hope he picks it up quite a bit.
Sir David Attenborough has released a new documentary titled “A Life on Our Planet”, which has received great reviews (this link also contains a trailer). You can see where the documentary can be watched here.
I was in an interesting panel discussion a couple of weeks ago at the GROW Invest event in Helsingborg, Sweden, where we discussed the question of impact vs high returns. The short conclusion: The “vs” should really and “and”.
Drilled Season 5 — Episode 1: Lockdown: The new season of Drilled launched last week. This season will focus on the Steve Donziger case. Steve Donziger is an environmental lawyer who has one a big case against Chevron which ordered them to pay back billions for damaging the environment in South America. However, that has also landed himself with an ankle monitor. Find out why in this episode. Here’s a quick overview of the case in case you want that before you dive in.
Inherited — Episode 2: The sky is falling: This time we follow Jenna, resident of the Rockaways in New York, which got hit badly by hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Warm Regards — Disinformation over data: This podcast has always been on my radar but I’ve never got the time to include it. That was until they interviewed my favorite climate news reporters Amy Westervelt and Emily Atkin. In this episode they discuss the fossil fuel industries campaign of disinformation over data.
How to save a planet — Black Lives Matter and the Climate: A great look into how Black Lives Matter and the climate movement are connected and what the climate movement can learn from each other. Ayana sums it up greatly: Roots, creativity, strategy and fire.
Generation Green New Deal — Why Join a Movement: This episode dives into what motivates the young people to dedicate their lives to climate activism. They discuss this from a wide variety of angles within the Sunrise Movement with new and old members of the movement.
My Climate Journey (Member Bonus) — Jason Bordoff: (Link is to the free trailer) Jason interviews Jason Bordoff who’s an expert in energy policy. They touch pretty the whole political field of climate change policy.
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 👋