The Weekly Climate #9: Oct 5-11 2020
Welcome to this weeks edition of The Weekly Climate! 🎉
In-sync —October 10, 2020. Jim woke 8:30am to a brief tap on his wrist. It was his watch who told him that it was time to get up as he had just reached an optimal amount of sleep and was at an optimal place in his sleep cycle. The curtains pulled silently aside to let in the light. He sat up and he could smell the coffee from the kitchen. The coffee was actually brewed 2.5 hours ago when power prices was low and renewable wind production was high. But it was still blazing hot. He jumped in the shower for which the water was already at an optimal temperature. It was amazing to think about that the water was actually also pre-heated 2.5hours earlier, just like the coffee, to take advantage of the lower power prices. He put on his clothes, poured a cup of coffee and opened his laptop.
Angela rode the elevator down and stepped out into the reception area. She walked out of the big revolving door and into the street. It was silent. You could only hear people’s footsteps and somebody talking on the phone. She went to the curb and her ride pulled up silently. She opened the door, got in and the car took off. The car said “we’re picking up your colleague Tom in 6 minutes and we will be at the office in 14 minutes from now”. Angela pulled out her phone and answered a few e-mails. The car stopped, the door opened and Tom got in. “Hey!”, said Tom. “Good morning” said Angela back. “Wow, I riding with the CEO today” marveled Tom. Angela smiled, “what are you doing at Jump Power?”. “I’m a software engineer working on our wireless communication protocols. I was just hired 2 weeks ago”. “How do you like it?” asked Angela. “So far so good. The introductory programme is really great. You get to know the others really quick. It’s my last day of the programme today, then from next week it’s work from home”, replied Tom. As a publicly traded company Angela and her top level management still had to work at an office. Anybody below C-level was working from home. Jump Power was one of the first companies to institute this policy prior to being publicly traded and it was largely their model that caused this to be the standard way of operating companies. It saves people time to be with their families, causes less stress, fewer sick days, less waste of time stuck in traffic, and increased company productivity and general worker satisfactory levels. And perhaps the biggest benefit from a societal standpoint was that it enabled more people to move into the cities because large company buildings was now turned into apartments. The car arrived at the office and Tom and Angela got out and walked toward the company building together.
It was now 5pm and Jim closed his laptop. He checked the MyNeighbors app to see if there was anybody in the garden. He could see Tom his next door neighbor and new colleague was up there. He poured himself a glass of wine and rode the elevator to the top of his building. He quickly saw Tom relaxing in one of the lawn chairs. “Hey Tom”, he said. “Hey Jim! You never guess who I rode with this morning! The CEO!”. “Wow man, I haven’t even met her once yet”, replied Tom. Every now and then Jim missed talking to “real” people and not faces at the company. But then he remembered how much more time he had now to be with his family and friends. Earlier in the day he had enjoyed a coffee with one of his other friends in the rooftop garden as well. Something that would have been quite unheard of back when he started at the company 25 years ago.
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: The Amazon is turning into a savannah, scale of wildfires are happening 30 years too early, September was the hottest month on record ever and hurricane Delta hit the U.S. friday night.
Technology: A interesting case study for micro-grids in the small California town of Gonzales, Distributed Energy Resources are leaving renters out in the cold and a new study have shown that nuclear and renewable energy doesn’t co-exist very well on the grid.
Startups: India and Africa focussed minigrid developer secures funding and wind executives goes a different way in a new startup than the rest of the market.
Investing: New Jersey is looking to force pension funds to divest from fossil fuel companies and the biggest fossil fuel supporting bank, JP Morgan, is urging it’s clients to adhere to the Paris targets.. Greenwashing?
Major Carbon Emitters: Climate denial ad on Facebook gets 8 million views amidst the companies supposedly crackdown on misinformation and two caches of leaked fossil fuel industry documents.
Politics: EU calls for 60% reductions, Greta el.al rightfully calls it bullshit and 350 looks back at 2 years of lack of commitments from political leaders since the IPCC 1.5C report.
Climate Justice: A look at the currently ongoing climate change lawsuits and a detailed look at Columbia’s oil curse.
Books: Heated launched the All we can save book club this week!
Other: Detailed look at how damaging your hamburger is, how to get away from meat and how to improve your home.
🐢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. Last week featured the vice-presidential candidates debate and here Trump’s vice-presidential candidate Pence didn’t want to say that the climate crisis is an existential threat. Biden’s campaign ran a great campaign video against the fossils. It’s really tragically funny, because it’s true. Watch it here. Brian Kahn from Earther states the kind of obvious that to pass good climate policy we need good and real people in Congress and Heated sums up what’s at stake for the 2020 election.
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. Just about all fossil majors are expected to cut jobs in the next period. Those who made a commitment to switch to green energy (such as BP and Shell) claims that the job cuts are due to the natural restructuring process of switching their energy portfolio to a green one. And both BP and Shell have come under fire for greenwashing job cuts in this way. BP’s CEO strongly claims that it is not greenwashing. This is very interesting because if we hold this greenwashing job cuts case in the light of this article that appeared on Forbes. Here the author — who’s clearly a fossil fuel industry fan — lays out the strategy that fossils must follow to continue pumping out coal, oil and gas two of the four key strategies he highlights is “Get ruthless in restructuring your portfolio: remove assets that will never be competitive.” and “Adopt a zero-based mindset: ask what you absolutely must have, not what you can do without.” which seems very much in line with cutting jobs in places that doesn’t make economic sense. The article is really interesting at it allows one to peak inside fossil fuel survival strategy.
And a 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 update we want to bring is that a study conducted by the California grid operator reports that poor planning and the once in 35-year heat wave event was the culprit of the blackouts in August. Typically, the grid operator only plans for events that are expected to happen every two years, but with increasingly extreme weather events this practice probably needs to be changed.
👩🔬Climate & Science
A study have shown that the Amazon is at a critical tipping point which if passed means that it will turn into a savannah. Currently, 40% of the Amazon is already there. The Guardian published a detailed look at the fires currently raging in the Amazon and what caused them.
Another study is showing that these megafires that are happening currently was expected to happen, but not for another 30 years. This comes in the week that California gets its very first “gigafire” — a fire currently burning on the border of Oregon has burned a larger area than all wildfires in California from 1932 to 1999. And the fires are sure horrible, but the aftermath of the fires can be very dangerous to as a study recently showed that compounds in the water left after the fires could be potentially deadly.
And September 2020 became the hottest month on record. Ever. We’ll leave it at that.
Hurricane Delta made landfall in Louisiana friday last week. It has become the 10th hurricane to hit the US in one year hereby breaking a record that has stood since 1916. Parts of the state was already severely damaged from Category 4 storm Laura that hit just a few weeks ago.
And we finish off with some non-temperature related news. A report by the Global Carbon Project highlights the dangers of overlooking nitrogen as a source of greenhouse gases as these gases alone could cause us to miss our climate targets.
Last week, the introduction to the newsletter looked at an imagined future for cows and if we switch off our empathy for our fellow animals for a moment there’s a lot of work ongoing about how we can keep using them as meat machines. A new study looked at feeding them seaweed to reduce methane emissions and another study suggests gene editing as a way to reduce methane emissions.
Greentech Media looked at interesting case for microgrids in the town of Gonzales. Here, the utility is behind on upgrading their power infrastructure and doesn’t expect to start the project for at least another four years. So the city is looking elsewhere to serve their power needs: Micro-grids.
Another interesting article by Greentech Media looks at the recent trend of so called Distributed Energy Resources (DER) such as solar, batteries, etc installed in people’s homes as these might leave renters out of the green energy party. The problem is that renters don’t partake in the financial benefits of owning DERs.
Finally, a new study has shown that nuclear and renewable energy doesn’t co-exist very well on the grid. The obvious reason is nuclear’s desire to produce a stable output for a long time with renewable energy’s tendency to be more fluctuating. These problems could probably be solved, but what’s more worrying is the fact that for the countries analyzed the one’s focussing on nuclear actually had higher emissions than the one’s focussing on renewable energy.
Husk Power Systems, a minigrid developer focussing on India and Africa, secures 5M$ in funding. Husk supplies 120.000 people with power from their portfolio of 1.75MW renewable energy.
Forbes published a detailed portrait of the Nordic battery maker Northvolt. It’s an interesting read about the vision and plans of the company.
A new wind developer, Triple Oak Power, goes a different way than the rest of the market, focussing on onshore wind instead of solar or offshore wind which seems to be the norm. The company is founded by former Avangrid Renewables wind executives. The company recently secured an undisclosed financial commitment.
If you want more startup news I can highly recommend Climate Tech VC newsletter.
New Jersey is looking to force their pension funds to divest from fossil fuels. That sounds like a great idea and something that all states and countries should look into. As there’s a consistently larger party going on in renewable stock currently and the green bonds market just surpassed 1 trillion $.
JPMorgan, the largest fossil fuel supporting bank in the world, has announced that they’re going to force their clients to adhere to Paris targets. Whether this is just greenwashing remains to be seen. According to a new Carbon Tracker report, none of the fossil fuel majors are currently anywhere near the Paris targets.
Finally, it has been revealed that the oil majors provide investors with their forward facing production and earnings, but not with their emission targets. Which is a key metric in a climate crisis world.
If you want more investing news I can highly recommend the Bloomberg Green newsletter.
⛽️Major Carbon Emitters
Leaked documents from Exxon reveals that their current production plan bodes climate disaster in terms of emissions. It is a disgrace that this company along with the rest of the fossil fuel industry can be allowed to continue to exist.
And more leaked documents from an elite PR firm reveals the fossil fuels industry’s plan to attack a Clean Fuel Standard in Canada. The plan was to convince the public that fighting climate change is a loosing battle.
Climate denial ad gets 8 million views on Facebook despite Facebook’s claim to stop spreading misinformation. Facebook is fast becoming the butthole of the internet if it doesn’t start changing its ways.
A big oil spill in Kamchatka is spelling ecological disaster for this pristine area in the east.
EU proposes to raise the carbon emission reduction requirement for member states with up to 60% but a long and detailed post by Greta Thunberg et. al calls bullshit on EUs “commitments accusing the EU of cheating with the numbers. The blogpost is pretty convincing to say the least.
And we have been fortunate to get a visit from Captain Obvious this week, as a US report reveals that climate change could spell economic chaos. No shit Sherlock.
The 1.5C report from IPCC held it’s 2 year birthday last week and 350 look back at the lack of commitment from worldwide political leaders to adhere to the findings of that report.
If you want more politics news I can highly recommend Heated.
In a virtual meeting last week Climate Vulnerable Countries urges the rest of the world to set ambitious climate targets as climate change is already increasingly damaging to these countries.
The DesmogBlog reviews all about the current climate lawsuits that are ongoing around the world. Its a great read and a great inspiration about how even lawyers can do something to help climate change.
Finally, a detailed look at Columbia’s oil curse and it’s really horrifying what is happening down there and very worrying where the global media coverage of stories like this is. Why does it has to be oilprice.com that reveals stories like this?
📕”All We Can Save” Bookclub & other books
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 look at the occasional other book in this section.
Heated started running an All We Can Save Bookclub last week. 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 first 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).
Fragile Earth was published last week which is a book that documents the impact of the climate crisis in pictures. The pictures published here on Guardian are truly eye-opening. Climate change is here and has been for some time.
An article on Forbes goes into detail about exactly how damaging your hamburger is to the climate. Grist tells the inspiring story of a rapper turned restaurateur who runs a chain of vegan restaurants who aims to create true Texas style barbecue but without animal protein. And while you’re looking into how to change your diet you may look at how to optimize your home as well.
Quick shoutout to two podcasts from last week that I didn’t have time to listen to (as mentioned in the newsletter) and that is: “Inherited — Party poopers” which have a very interesting angle that I as a white male hadn’t considered which is that although Greta is great for the climate movement she clearly doesn’t represent all climate activists. Finally, “Generation Green New Deal — The AOC Effect” with a great portrait of AOC. While very US centric AOCs rise is still an inspiration and almost causes me to want to go into politics. Seriously though.. Where are the AOCs of EU? Ok back to podcasts for this week:
Inherited — The Green New Dream: Unfortunately, the last episode in this season. In which they present a wide variety of “utopias” (not unlike this newsletters introduction) following us having solved the climate crisis.
Drilled — S5 Ep3 The Trial: More details on the trial against Chevron Texaco in Ecuador and the strategies that the big fossils used to try and derail it. It is seriously harrowing and appalling that these things have happened. Holy shit.
Ezra Klein — How a climate bill becomes a reality: A new podcast on my list which has always been on my radar. This one features Leah Stokes who discusses how to ensure a climate bill becomes a reality.
How to save a planet — How 2020 became a climate election: Another US centric one about probably one of the most important tipping points for solving the climate crisis: The U.S. 2020 election.
The Energy Gang — Exxon is losing the energy transition: The world largest generator of wind and solar just outpaced the most iconic oil company in market value. What does that mean?
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 👋