Andrew Graham, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Utah state official and the leaders of two federally recognized tribal nations in March discussed shipping Rocky Mountain coal by rail along the Northern California coast and exporting it out of Humboldt Bay, according to a newly revealed document that sheds additional light on parties involved in the controversial proposal.
The internal memo from a Utah port agency, first published last week by the Salt Lake Tribune, indicates coal industry players in Montana and Utah were at least initially involved in the proposal.
Amid widespread public outrage over the prospect of coal trains chugging through Northern California cities and towns and alongside rivers that are key water sources for the region, both the Utah agency and the Humboldt Bay-based Wiyot Tribe have since distanced themselves from the proposal.
And local opposition to the project appears increasingly difficult for coal advocates to surmount. This week, officials with the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, which regulates port facilities in the bay, said that body’s elected board was likely to pass its own resolution opposing coal shipments.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/memo-shows-involvement-of-utah-agency-and-2-tribes-in-north-coast-coal-expo/?
Tosin Thompson, NATURE
Children worldwide worry about the future and feel let down by governments, a huge study on attitudes towards climate change has found.
Climate change is causing distress, anger and other negative emotions in children and young people worldwide, a survey of thousands of 16- to 25-year-olds has found. This ‘eco-anxiety’ has a negative impact on respondents’ daily lives, say the researchers who conducted the survey, and is partly caused by the feeling that governments aren’t doing enough to avoid a climate catastrophe.
“This study provides arguments for anyone who has any connection to youth mental health — climate change is a real dimension into their mental-health problems,” says Sarah Ray, who studies climate anxiety at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California.
The survey — the largest of its kind — asked 10,000 young people in 10 countries how they felt about climate change and government responses to it.
The results, released in a preprint on 14 September1, found that most respondents were concerned about climate change, with nearly 60% saying they felt ‘very worried’ or ‘extremely worried’. Many associated negative emotions with climate change — the most commonly chosen were ‘sad’, ‘afraid’, ‘anxious’, ‘angry’ and ‘powerless’ (see ‘Climate anxiety’). Overall, 45% of participants said their feelings about climate change impacted their daily lives.
Read more at https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02582-8#ref-CR1
Bill McKibben, THE CRUCIAL YEARS
Last Wednesday, a team at Oxford University released a fascinating paper that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. Stirringly titled “Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition,” it makes the following argument: “compared to continuing with a fossil-fuel-based system, a rapid green energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars–even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy.”
So far in the global warming era, we’ve caught precious few breaks. Certainly not from physics: the temperature has increased at the alarming pace that scientists predicted thirty years ago, and the effects of that warming have increased even faster than expected. (“Faster Than Expected” is probably the right title for a history of climate change so far; if you’re a connoisseur of disaster, there is already a blog by that name). The Arctic is melting decades ahead of schedule, and the sea rising on an accelerated schedule, and the forest fires of the science fiction future are burning this autumn. And we haven’t caught any breaks from our politics either: it’s moved with the lumbering defensiveness one would expect from a system ruled by inertia and vested interest. And so it is easy, and completely plausible, to despair: we are on the bleeding edge of existential destruction.
But one trend is, finally, breaking in the right direction, and perhaps decisively. The price of renewable energy is now falling nearly as fast as heat and rainfall records, and in the process perhaps offering us one possible way out. The public debate hasn’t caught up to the new reality—Bill Gates, in his recent bestseller on energy and climate, laments the “green premium” that must be paid for clean energy. But he (and virtually every other mainstream energy observer) is already wrong—and they’re all about to be spectacularly wrong, if the latest evidence turns out to be right.
Read more at https://billmckibben.substack.com/p/were-finally-catching-a-break-in?
Jules Scully, PV-TECH
A coalition of 347 organisations has warned that potential changes to California’s policy support for rooftop solar could set back climate change progress and harm low-income residents’ access to solar energy.
An open later sent by campaign group Save California Solar to state Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) calls on policymakers to keep solar affordable as the Newsom Administration considers changes to net energy metering (NEM), a policy that defines how solar users send energy back to and interact with the grid.
NEM allows customers with rooftop PV systems to receive a financial credit on their electric bills for any surplus energy fed back to their utility.
According to the coalition, proposals by California utilities “would drastically reduce the credit solar consumers receive for the excess energy they produce”. The group said: “We are concerned that ill-informed changes to net metering, such as slashing solar bill savings or imposing new fees on solar users, will set back California’s climate change and environmental justice goals.”
Read more at https://www.pv-tech.org/california-organisations-warn-of-ill-informed-changes-to-net-metering-policy/
Ryan Burns, LOST COAST OUTPOST
Unidentified coal companies appear to be behind a new backdoor effort to acquire the North Coast Railroad Authority’s right-of-way between Eureka and Willits and rehabilitate the defunct railroad, all so they can export coal to Asian markets via the Port of Humboldt Bay.
State Senator Mike McGuire calls this development “one of the largest environmental threats to hit the North Coast in decades.”
On Aug. 16, a mysterious, newly formed corporation called North Coast Railroad Company, LLC, filed a pleading with the Surface Transportation Board. Ostensibly a proposal to submit an “Offer of Financial Assistance” to rebuild the line, the filing makes a number of surprising claims.
For one, the 14-page filing, submitted by a pair of Chicago attorneys, says NCRCo. is “capitalized to the tune of $1.2 billion” and has “thoroughly-developed plans” to acquire and rehabilitate the dilapidated rail line between Humboldt Bay and Willits. Once complete, the company says, this newly reconstructed railroad will move “high-volume shipments” between the San Francisco Bay Area and Humboldt Bay.
The document does not disclose what these “high-volume shipments” might contain. Nor does it identify anyone involved with the corporation.
The pleading prompted an incredulous response from the North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA), the state agency that spent 30 years trying to resuscitate that same stretch of railroad but is now, under McGuire’s leadership, working to develop the Great Redwood Trail, a multi-use pathway extending 320 miles along the agency’s right-of-way.
Read more at https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2021/sep/2/aiming-ship-coal-out-humboldt-bay-shadowy-corporat/?
Hayley Smith and Alex Wigglesworth, LOS ANGELES TIMES
As he stood amid the rubble of the town of Greenville, Gov. Gavin Newsom this month vowed to take proactive steps to protect California’s residents from increasingly devastating wildfires.
“We recognize that we’ve got to do more in active forest management, vegetation management,” Newsom said, noting that the region’s extreme heat and drought are leading to “wildfire challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen in our history.”
Yet despite a universal desire to avoid more destruction, experts aren’t always in agreement about what should be done before a blaze ignites. Forest management has long been touted as essential to fighting wildfires, with one new set of studies led by the University of Wisconsin and the U.S. Forest Service concluding that there is strong scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of thinning dense forests and reducing fuels through prescribed burns.
But some ecologists say that logging, thinning and other tactics that may have worked in the past are no longer useful in an era of ever hotter, larger and more frequent wildfires.
“The fact is that forest management is not stopping weather- and climate-driven fires,” said Chad Hanson, a forest and fire ecologist and the president of the John Muir Project.
Many of California’s most devastating recent fires — including 2018’s deadly Camp fire and the Dixie fire, now the state’s second largest on record — seared straight through forests that had been treated for fuel reduction and fire prevention purposes, Hanson said.
Read more at https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-08-21/california-burning-is-it-time-to-rethink-forest-management
Bill McKibben, THE NEW YORKER
I’ve long felt that one of my great failings as a climate communicator has come in trying to get across the dangers posed by methane, the second most damaging greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide. Despite long years of many people trying to underscore the risks of methane, our go-to shorthand for climate pollution remains “carbon.” That’s why companies and political leaders boast about how much they’ve reduced their carbon emissions, but, if they managed the trick by substituting gas for coal, their total contribution to global warming has barely budged—because natural gas is another word for methane, and because when it invariably leaks from frack wells and pipelines it traps heat, molecule for molecule, much more effectively than CO2.
Now, finally, methane appears to be having its day in the sun. A key thing to understand about methane (CH4) is that it doesn’t hang around in the atmosphere anywhere near as long as CO2: its life span is measured in decades, not centuries. While methane is in the air, it traps a lot of heat, but a dramatic reduction in the amount of CH4 would be a quick fix that would help slow the rise of global temperatures, giving us more time to work on the carbon quandary. As Stanford University’s Rob Jackson told me, last week, the best estimate is that methane caused about a third of the global warming we’ve seen in the past decade, not far behind the contributions of CO2.
The first way to reduce methane in the atmosphere, of course, is to stop building anything new that’s connected to gas: stop installing gas cooktops and gas furnaces, and substitute electrical appliances. And stop building new gas-fired power plants, instead substituting sun, wind, and battery power. And, as a really important new study by the star energy academics Bob Howarth and Mark Jacobson emphasizes, by all means do not start using natural gas to produce hydrogen, even if you’re capturing the carbon emissions from the process.
Read more at https://link.newyorker.com/view/5be9d06e3f92a40469e05fc8er70o.6ds/6fbf19eb
Maria Rachal, SMART CITIES DIVE
The California Energy Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to adopt changes to the state building energy efficiency standards that in part heavily encourage the use of electric heat pumps over gas alternatives. The state updates the code every three years. If later approved by the California Building Standards Commission, the changes will apply to all newly built or renovated residential and nonresidential structures beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
The vote follows building decarbonization action in dozens of California cities — including Berkeley, San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — some of which have taken even more clear-cut steps to prohibit natural gas infrastructure in certain new buildings and make electric appliances standard.
The updated code also has provisions for adding solar power and battery storage features to many new structures and establishes “electric-ready” requirements for homes. According to estimates the commission shared, over a 30-year span the revamped code would provide a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction equivalent to taking 2.2 million cars off the road for a year.
Read more at https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/news/california-energy-commission-adopts-building-decarbonization-changes/604762/?
Fiona Harvey and Giles Tremlett, THE GUARDIAN
Global greenhouse gas emissions must peak in the next four years, coal and gas-fired power plants must close in the next decade and lifestyle and behavioural changes will be needed to avoid climate breakdown, according to the leaked draft of a report from the world’s leading authority on climate science.
Rich people in every country are overwhelmingly more responsible for global heating than the poor, with SUVs and meat-eating singled out for blame, and the high-carbon basis for future economic growth is also questioned.
The leak is from the forthcoming third part of the landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the first part of which was published on Monday, warning of unprecedented changes to the climate, some of them irreversible. The document, called the sixth assessment report, is divided into three parts: the physical science of climate change; the impacts and ways of reducing human influence on the climate.
Part three is not scheduled to be released before next March, but a small group of scientists decided to leak the draft via the Spanish branch of Scientist Rebellion, an offshoot of the Extinction Rebellion movement. It was first published by the journalist Juan Bordera in the Spanish online magazine CTXT.
Bordera told the Guardian that the leak reflected the concern of some of those involved in drawing up the document that their conclusions could be watered down before publication in 2022. Governments have the right to make changes to the “summary for policymakers”.
Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/aug/12/greenhouse-gas-emissions-must-peak-within-4-years-says-leaked-un-report
Brad Plumer and Henry Fountain, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Some devastating impacts of global warming are now unavoidable, a major new scientific report finds. But there is still a short window to stop things from getting even worse.
Nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, though there is still a short window to prevent the most harrowing future, a major new United Nations scientific report has concluded.
Humans have already heated the planet by roughly 1.1 degrees Celsius, or 2 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century, largely by burning coal, oil and gas for energy. And the consequences can be felt across the globe: This summer alone, blistering heat waves have killed hundreds of people in the United States and Canada, floods have devastated Germany and China, and wildfires have raged out of control in Siberia, Turkey and Greece.
But that’s only the beginning, according to the report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists convened by the United Nations. Even if nations started sharply cutting emissions today, total global warming is likely to rise around 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades, a hotter future that is now essentially locked in.
Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/09/climate/climate-change-report-ipcc-un.html