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Greta Thunberg on the state of the climate movement

KK Ottesen, WASHINGTON POST

Since there are no binding agreements that safely put us towards a safe future for life on Earth as we know it, that means that we have to use morals, and we have to be able to feel empathy with one another. That is all we have right now.

Student and climate activist Greta Thunberg, 18, burst improbably onto the world stage in late 2018 when what began as a one-person school strike outside the Swedish parliament ended up galvanizing a global climate movement to demand immediate action to prevent environmental catastrophe.

Thunberg’s school strike spread in Sweden and around the world, inspiring a youth-led global climate strike movement, Fridays for Future, which urged cuts in carbon emissions. Her speeches at major political gatherings, including the World Economic Forum, the British Parliament, the U.S. Congress and, most recently, the United Nations climate summit known as COP26, have castigated leaders for failing future generations with their “fairy tales of eternal economic growth.” Or, as she said in one speech, “How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”

Thunberg credits her Asperger’s syndrome, which is considered part of the autism spectrum, for her truth-telling and focus as a climate activist. She lives in Stockholm.

You called COP26 a “failure” and a “PR event.”

Well, in the final document, they succeeded in even watering down the blah, blah, blah. Which is very much an achievement, if you see it that way. Of course it’s a step forward that, instead of coming back every five years, they’re doing it every year now. But still, that doesn’t mean anything unless that actually leads to increased ambition and if they actually fulfill those ambitions.

What do you mean when you say, “watering down the blah, blah, blah”?

As we all know, or as we might know, the so-called “f-word” was included for the first time in this document: fossil fuel. Which makes you wonder what they have been doing these decades without even mentioning fossil fuels for a problem which, to a very, very large extent, is caused by fossil fuels. And instead of “phasing out” [coal, the document’s language became] “phasing down.” So, yeah, that is one very clear example.

And also, one question that was very up in the air was the question about finance for loss and damage and the Green Climate Fund, which they again failed to agree on. The money that has already been promised, the bare minimum that the so-called global north have promised that they will deliver, they failed to come to any conclusions, and it’s been postponed once again.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/12/27/greta-thunberg-state-climate-movement-roots-her-power-an-activist/

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Straus Family Creamery puts Sonoma County dairy cows on seaweed diet to test method to fight climate change

Susan Wood, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Straus Family Creamery is widely known for all things food, but red seaweed isn’t one of them — until now.

This summer, ecologist-at-heart Albert Straus, who is a pioneer in organic farming, signed up his 24 cows on his Petaluma farm to help determine if feeding them red seaweed would reduce their methane emissions, mostly from belching. He mixed the ocean plant into their feed, like humans would add green onions to their scrambled eggs,

And over a 50-day trial in which the cows were tested four times a day, methane releases dropped by 52%. In some circumstances, the experiment showed the methane was cut by as much as 90%. Straus, who produces an assortment of mass-produced dairy products, believes a second trial planned in January will produce more consistent results.

“We know we can do better than that,” he told the Business Journal, referencing the lower percentage of reduction.

So far in the first trial, the equivalent of five metric tons of harmful greenhouse gases, blamed in causing the planet to heat up, was cut.

As part of a state climate initiative, California’s 2030 mandate requires a reduction of methane by 40%. It has been determined that cow burps are responsible for 35% of total U.S. on-farm greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/north-bay/straus-family-creamery-puts-sonoma-county-dairy-cows-on-seaweed-diet-to-tes/

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Windsor exploring ban on new gas stations, gas infrastructure

Brandon McCapes, SOCONEWS

The Town of Windsor will soon join the City of Petaluma in banning new gas station infrastructure, following a recommendation by the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA).

At their Nov. 3 meeting, the town council voted unanimously to direct planning staff to explore a ban, which would not affect current gas stations, but only prevent the establishment of fueling stations providing fossil fuels, or adding to the number of fuel pumps at existing stations.

Kim Voge, a planner from the community development department, said that, following Petaluma’s ban in March of this year, the RCPA has been recommending all jurisdictions in Sonoma County follow suit.

The Town of Windsor declared a climate emergency in September 2019, and the general plan includes policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve net zero emissions.

Currently, Windsor allows gas stations in three zoning districts (community commercial, service commercial and gateway commercial), requiring a use permit; the ban would be implemented by removing gas stations from the zoning ordinance, making all gas stations “non-conforming.”

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Op-Ed: For Uber and Lyft, the rideshare bubble bursts

Greg Bensiger, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars.

Well, none of that has gone as promised (but more about that later). Now a new study is punching a hole in another of Uber and Lyft’s promised benefits: curtailing pollution. The companies have long insisted their services are a boon to the environment in part because they reduce the need for short trips, can pool riders heading in roughly the same direction and cut unnecessary miles by, for instance, eliminating the need to look for street parking.

It turns out that Uber rides do spare the air from the high amount of pollutants emitted from starting up a cold vehicle, when it is operating less efficiently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found. But that gain is wiped out by the need for drivers to circle around waiting for or fetching their next passenger, known as deadheading. Deadheading, Lyft and Uber estimated in 2019, is equal to about 40 percent of rideshare miles driven in six American cities. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated that driving without a passenger leads to a roughly 20 percent overall increase in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions compared to trips made by personal vehicles.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/opinion/uber-lyft.html

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Aiming to ship coal out of Humboldt Bay, shadowy corporation makes bid to take over NCRA line

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/?

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The Climate Crisis: August 18, 2021

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

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Why I was wrong about methane

Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET

I didn’t think cutting methane was a high priority. Now I do. Here’s why.

I didn’t use to think that eliminating methane emissions should be a priority. True, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. But it’s also a short-lived one, which only stays in the atmosphere for twenty years or so. In contrast, CO2 emissions cause warming for 2-3 centuries or more. So methane emissions seemed to be something that could be addressed at any point we got around to them. I’ve rethought that conclusion, however for a combination of policy and political economy reasons.

On the policy side, cutting methane would have immediate benefits that aren’t limited to reducing warming. Because methane contributes to ozone pollution, emissions cause immediate health effects as well as warming effects. According to the U.N., “a 45 per cent reduction would prevent 260 000 premature deaths, 775 000 asthma-related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 25 million tonnes of crop losses annually.”.

In addition, one reason to worry about methane is that it accelerates warming, even if the world would have eventually gotten to the same temperature due to CO2 emissions. The pace of warming matters, not just the extent of warming. A pulse of methane today may not matter in a century, but it does mean that warming over the next few decades will happen faster. Slower warming gives the world less time to adopt adaptation measures like strengthening flood defenses, making crops more drought resistance, taking precautions against heat waves. . Before we can take those steps, institutions and public attitudes will themselves have to adapt to the realities of climate change. If we can slow warming a bit, even if we end up in the same place ultimately due to carbon emissions, that gives us more time to prepare for what’s coming down the road.

Read more at https://legal-planet.org/2021/06/17/why-i-was-wrong-about-methane/

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Biden administration to propose first rule requiring cut in climate pollutants

Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, THE WASHINGTON POST

The new Environmental Protection Agency rule targets hydrofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule Monday to slash the use and production of a class of powerful greenhouse gases used widely in refrigeration and air conditioning in the next decade and a half. The proposal marks the first time President Biden’s administration has used the power of the federal government to mandate a cut in climate pollution.

Unlike many of the administration’s other climate initiatives, there’s broad bipartisan support for curbing hydrofluorocarbons, pollutants thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. Congress agreed at the end of last year to slash the super-pollutants by 85 percent by 2036 as part of a broader omnibus bill.

A global phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons, also known as HFCs, is projected to avert up to 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century.

Widely used in refrigeration, as well as residential and commercial air conditioning and heat pumps, HFCs were developed as a substitute for chemicals that depleted the Earth’s protective ozone layer. But their heat-trapping properties have helped increase temperatures.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/05/03/epa-climate-hfcs/

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This California city banned the construction of any new gas stations

Kristin Toussaint, FAST COMPANY

Petaluma has decided it has enough gas stations to last until we transition to electric vehicles.

In the California city of Petaluma, which covers less than 15 square miles, there are currently 16 gas stations. But there will never be another one, even if one of the existing stations goes out of business. The ones that are left also can’t ever expand the number of fuel pumps, either, though they can add electric charging stations and hydrocarbon pumps. City officials recently approved a permanent ban on new gas stations in a move that climate activists say is national first, and a crucial step towards curbing our reliance on fossil fuels.

“It’s a really important sign of things to come where, because we haven’t seen sufficient action at a state or federal level, cities have an opportunity to do the right thing and make sure we are planning a transition from a carbon economy to a clean energy economy,” says Matt Krogh, an oil and gas campaign manager with the environmental nonprofit Stand.earth. “There’s no need to build new fossil fuel infrastructure of any sort. We have all the tools we need for a clean energy economy, and these wasted investments are things that are going to become polluting liabilities, and communities get left holding the bag.”

Across the country the number of gas stations has been steadily declining, as big businesses like Costo, Sam’s Club, and Safeway have been adding gas stations to their existing stores. This can run smaller gas stations out of business—but also creates large environmental repercussions. “If they go out of business, there’s no one to pay for the cleanup or to offer new services like transitioning to electric charging or hydrogen,” Krogh says.

Gas stations have underground storage tanks which can crack and leak, polluting the soil and groundwater. That land has to be completely remediated before the ocation can be used for anything else, a process which often costs millions of dollars. In the U.S., there are currently 450,000 “brownfield” sites—previously developed land that currently isn’t in use and may be contaminated—and the EPA estimates half of those sites are contaminated by petroleum from underground tanks at abandoned gas stations.
Continue reading “This California city banned the construction of any new gas stations”

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Petaluma City Council moves to ban new gas stations

Kathryn Palmer, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

The Petaluma City Council this week moved to ban new gas stations, cementing a nearly two-year moratorium as leaders accelerate ambitious climate action goals.

The prohibition, approved unanimously late Monday, caps a years-long effort by city leaders and climate activists who have pushed an ambitious, zero-emission-by-2030 timeline. The council must approve the ban during a second reading before it takes effect.

It also streamlines processes for existing gas stations seeking to add electric vehicle charging stations and potential hydrogen fuel cell stations, with city staff underlining an urgency to support alternative fueling in order to meet state zero-emission infrastructure targets.

“The goal here is to move away from fossil fuels, and to make it as easy as possible to do that,” Councilor D’Lynda Fischer said. “Right now, we have existing fossil fuel stations, and what we want them to do is add (electric vehicle) chargers and create another source of fueling people can use.”

The city of roughly 60,000 people is host to 16 operational gas stations, and city staff concluded there are multiple stations located within a 5-minute drive of every planned or existing residence within city limits.

A contentious Safeway gas station at McDowell Boulevard and Maria Drive, which drew the ire of residents for its proximity to a school and residential neighborhoods, will see no impacts from the ban.

The controversial project has been locked in a legal battle with resident group Save Petaluma since 2019. The group is suing Safeway and the city in an attempt to compel the company to complete an additional environmental study of the project, with the hope that the study will help block the fueling station first proposed in 2013.

Read more at: https://www.petaluma360.com/article/news/petaluma-city-council-moves-to-ban-new-gas-stations/?sba=AAS