Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Global emissions plunged an unprecedented 17 percent during the coronavirus pandemic

Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis and John Muyskens, WASHINGTON POST

But scientists say the drivers of global warming could quickly bounce back as social distancing ends and economies rebound.

The wave of shutdowns and shuttered economies caused by the coronavirus pandemic fueled a momentous decline in global greenhouse gas emissions, although one unlikely to last, a group of scientists reported Tuesday.

As covid-19 infections surged in March and April, nations worldwide experienced an abrupt reduction in driving, flying and industrial output, leading to a startling decline of more than 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That includes a peak decline in daily emissions of 17 percent in early April, according to the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. For some nations, the drop was much steeper.

Scientists have long insisted that the world must scale back carbon pollution significantly — and quickly — to mitigate the worst effects of climate change over coming decades, although none have suggested that a deadly global pandemic is the way to do so.

Tuesday’s study projects that total emissions for 2020 will probably fall between 4 and 7 percent compared to last year — an unheard-of drop in normal times, but considerably less dramatic than the decline during the first few months of the year when economies screeched to a halt. The final 2020 figure will depend on how rapidly, or cautiously, people around the world resume ordinary life.

The unprecedented situation produced by the coronavirus has offered a glimpse into the massive scale required to cut global emissions, year after year, to meet the most ambitious goals set by world leaders when they forged the 2015 Paris climate accord. Last fall, a U.N. report estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions must begin falling by 7.6 percent each year beginning in 2020 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/05/19/greenhouse-emissions-coronavirus/?arc404=true

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, HabitatsTags , , ,

Governor’s May revision to California budget proposal puts air quality, other environmental outcomes at risk

Kathryn Phillips, SIERRA CLUB CALIFORNIA

Governor Gavin Newsom released his May revision of his January budget proposal today and environmental quality is among the revised budget’s most hard-hit victims.

Since January, the state has suffered a dramatic shutdown in economic activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current budget estimate by the Department of Finance continues to be that the state will suffer a $54.3 billion deficit.

In his May revision, the governor proposes cutting general fund contributions to the California Environmental Protection Agency by more than 94 percent. That agency houses departments and boards that oversee air pollution control, water quality, and pesticide and toxic substance control.

Moreover, about $83 million in funds collected by the California Air Resources Board from fees and settlements from polluters will be shifted over to the Department of Toxic Substance Control and the State Water Board “to reduce costs” for those two entities.

The May budget proposal also eliminates a biodiversity program proposed in January, and raids a fund for habitat conservation to spend the money for other purposes.

The proposal mentions that $995 million in funds from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Funds collected through the cap-and-trade program will be prioritized for a list of programs. It is unclear whether those programs will include funding for incentives to accelerate transition of diesel and gas buses and heavy-duty trucks to zero-emission electric trucks and buses.

Statement of Kathryn Phillips, Director of Sierra Club California:

“Nobody envies this governor or legislature for the job they need to do in this tragic year to balance the state’s budget.

“But cutting and shifting funds away from key environmental programs that will protect the basic needs of life—clean air, clean water, healthy ecosystems—is the wrong approach.

“We look forward to working with the legislature to refine this budget to make sure it doesn’t slow the march toward a healthy environment for everyone in California.”

http://www.sierraclubcalifornia.org

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

California’s solar mandate to allow homes without solar

Cuneyt Dil, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Over the objections of environmentalists, California regulators approved a proposal Thursday to allow builders to construct homes without solar panels, a decision critics said undercuts California’s seven-week-old law that all new houses have their own solar power.

At a passionate hearing, the California Energy Commission unanimously approved the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s plan to build its own large-scale solar site that homeowners can tap into, forgoing the need for solar on each new home.

Environmentalists said it guts the state’s new landmark mandate and will lead to other statewide proposals copying Sacramento’s utility, which serves 1.5 million residents. But regulators backed the proposal after support from home builders and lawmakers who said it provides clean energy without raising home prices in a state facing a housing crisis.

“This is something that is bold and cutting edge,” Commissioner Janea Scott said of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s application.

The mandate that took effect Jan. 1 calls for new single-family houses or low-rise apartments to install solar panels. Alternately, utilities and organizations can apply to the California Energy Commission to build an offsite “community shared solar” site for buildings to draw from.

Using the latter option, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s plan sets a blueprint for private and public entities to seek their own large solar sites to meet the mandate, watchers say. The largest public utility in the U.S. — the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power — endorsed the idea in filings to the commission.

Public testimony ran for two hours at the commission meeting Thursday. Environmentalists and some homeowners said the move means fewer homes will be built with solar panels included. Solar advocates said consumers would save more money with their own solar panels rather than the savings from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s proposed plan.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10734660-181/californias-solar-mandate-to-allow

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , ,

Vision Zero, meet VMT reductions

Todd Litman, PLANETIZEN

Many jurisdictions have vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction targets, intended to reduce congestion and pollution. They can also provide large but often overlooked traffic safety benefits.

Many jurisdictions are officially committed to Vision Zero, an ambitious goal to eliminate all traffic deaths and severe injuries. Although some cities are making progress, most jurisdictions are failing. U.S. traffic death rates declined during the last half of the the 20th century, reaching a low of 32,479 in 2014, but subsequently increased, averaging about 37,000 annual deaths during each of the last three years. New strategies are needed to achieve ambitious safety goals.

Several new strategies exist, and are overall very cost effective, considering their total benefits, but are generally overlooked in conventional traffic safety planning. Conventional traffic safety programs tend to assume that motor vehicle travel is overall safe, and so favor targeted strategies that reduce higher-risk driving, such as graduated licenses, senior driver tests, and anti-impaired driving campaigns. However, such programs generally fail because it is not feasible to reduce high-risk driving alone. It is infeasible for most teenagers, seniors and drinkers to significantly reduce their driving in sprawled, automobile-dependent areas that lack non-auto travel options. Every time we tell somebody to reduce their high-risk driving, we have an obligation to create more accessible and multi-modal communities so they have viable alternatives.

Although the United States has rigorous road and vehicle safety standards, and numerous traffic safety programs, it also has the highest per capita traffic death rate among developed countries. Why? Because people in the United States also drive more than residents in peer countries, as illustrated below.

An abundance of research, described in the World Resources Institute report, “Sustainable & Safe: A Vision and Guidance for Zero Road Deaths,” and in my report, “A New Traffic Safety Paradigm,” indicates that, all else being equal, increases in motor vehicle travel increase crashes, and vehicle travel reductions increase safety. In other words, the new traffic safety paradigm recognizes exposure, the amount that people drive, as a risk factor. Since about 70% of casualty crashes involve multiple vehicles, so vehicle travel reductions provide proportionately large crash reductions. For example, if you reduce your mileage by 10%, your chance of being in a crash declines by 10%, but there is also a reduction in risk to other road users, since your vehicle is no longer vulnerable to other drivers’ errors.

Read more at https://www.planetizen.com/node/108401?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-02132020&mc_cid=747bd915ad&mc_eid=50ff5c2bfe

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , ,

US greenhouse gas emissions likely fell last year after rising in 2018

Emma Foehringer Merchant, GREEN TECH MEDIA

The power sector led the way, but adequate emissions cuts remain far off, according to a new analysis from the Rhodium Group.

U.S. emissions likely fell in 2019, putting the country back on a downward emissions trend, according to newly released analysis from research firm Rhodium Group.

The results, which estimate a decline in greenhouse gas emissions of around 2 percent in 2019, contrast with 2018, when emissions rose for the first time in three years. Rhodium attributes much of the 2019 turnaround to the electricity sector, where technologies such as wind and solar, in addition to super-cheap gas prices, continued to erode the dominance of coal-fired power.

But emissions increases in other sectors tempered the 10 percent reductions in the power sector.

“[It] shows how much coal matters, because in reducing generation from coal we get pretty sizable reductions in the power sector. But at the same time, it shows the limit of coal-led reductions in power, and of the power sector overall, in bringing down economywide emissions,” said Hannah Pitt, a senior research analyst with Rhodium’s climate and energy group. “There is only so much you can squeeze out of the power sector before you really need to start seeing reductions in other sectors.”

While electricity emissions declined and transportation emissions remained fairly flat in 2019, Rhodium estimates that emissions from buildings, industry and other sectors increased.

Taken together, the U.S. is still dangerously far from the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, whether or not President Trump is successful in his bid to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement.

Read more at: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/emissions-fell-in-2019-per-rhodium-group

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Developer Bill Gallaher sues Santa Rosa over natural gas ban as city doubles down on climate goal

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has a new goal of drastically reducing or offsetting its carbon emissions by 2030, a target set by city leaders this week hours after discussing one of many fronts in Santa Rosa’s fight to shrink its climate footprint: a lawsuit over the city’s pending natural gas ban for new homes.

The City Council in November, seeking to curb future use of fossil fuels in houses, unanimously approved the ban over the objections of home builders, who fear higher prices for all-electric homes will deter buyers. Some concerned residents also pointed to the recent reliance on natural gas during the series of prolonged power outages imposed last fall by PG&E to prevent its equipment from starting wildfires.

The city’s prohibition, which needs approval from state regulators, requires most new homes three stories or less to use appliances — stoves, water heaters, dryers — that run on electricity instead of natural gas.

But the ban now faces a lawsuit from local developer Bill Gallaher, owner of a Windsor-based home building company and a chain of senior living facilities located across California and Nevada. He and a development group also lodged separate lawsuits against Windsor last year over its natural gas ban, which is similar to the measure advanced in Santa Rosa. Dozens of municipalities in the state have considered or adopted a similar ban.

All three suits are pending in Sonoma County Superior Court. At least one mandatory settlement conference on the litigation against Windsor has taken place, and another such meeting with Santa Rosa is set for early February.

Santa Rosa council members discussed Gallaher’s lawsuit Tuesday in closed session, directing City Attorney Sue Gallagher to defend the city’s ordinance. In the open portion of the same meeting, the council unanimously adopted a resolution declaring a climate emergency and setting the citywide goal of carbon-neutrality by 2030 through a combination of reducing emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“I do think it would be a dereliction of duty if we did not take individual and systemic actions to curb our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Councilman Chris Rogers.

At his direction, city staff will develop a public tracker so residents — many of whom urged the council to take action Tuesday — can follow the city’s progress toward achieving its climate goals. In an interview Friday, Rogers noted that city officials were aware of the potential threat of litigation when they voted unanimously to adopt the natural gas ban and that the city might have to fight a lawsuit as a result.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10587634-181/developer-bill-gallaher-sues-santa

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Study finds 26,000 lives were saved by shift from coal to natural gas

Oliver Milman, HIGH COUNTRY NEWS

The human toll from coal-fired pollution in America has been laid bare by a study that has found more than 26,000 lives were saved in the U.S. in just a decade due to the shift from coal to gas for electricity generation.

The shutdown of scores of coal power facilities across the U.S. has reduced the toxic brew of pollutants suffered by nearby communities, cutting deaths from associated health problems such as heart disease and respiratory issues, the research found.

An estimated 26,610 lives were saved in the U.S. by the shift away from coal between 2005 and 2016, according to the University of California study published in Nature Sustainability.

The coal sector has struggled in recent years, with 334 generating units taken offline during the period analyzed in the study. A cheap glut of natural gas has displaced coal, with 612 gas-fired units coming online during this time.

As a result, more than 300m tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide has been saved, while levels of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, emitted by coal plants and linked to irritations of the nose and throat, dropped by 60% and 80%, respectively.

“When you turn coal units off you see deaths go down. It’s something we can see in a tangible way,” said Jennifer Burney, a University of California academic who authored the study. “There is a cost to coal beyond the economics. We have to think carefully about where plants are sited, as well as how to reduce their pollutants.”

Read more at https://www.hcn.org/articles/climate-desk-study-finds-26-000-lives-were-saved-by-shift-from-coal-to-natural-gas?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , , ,

Good and bad news in California’s greenhouse gas emission inventory

Irwin Dawid, PLANETIZEN

Executive Summary: California Greenhouse Gas Emissions for 2000 to 2017

Overall greenhouse gas emissions in California dropped 1% in 2017, according to the inventory by the California Air Resources Board, which includes a 9% drop in emissions from electricity generation and a 1% increase in transportation emissions.

“The California Air Resources Board said Monday that the state’s emissions fell 1% in 2017, the most recent year available, to 424 million metric tons,” writes J.D. Morris, a business reporter covering energy and California’s clean power initiatives for the San Francisco Chronicle reporter covering energy. “The state is now well past its 2020 goal of reducing greenhouse gas levels to 1990 levels — 431 million metric tons.”

Clearly, the big success story is that carbon-free sources of energy, “[f]or the first time since the state began tracking greenhouse gas emissions, powered most [52%] of the state’s electric grid,” notes Morris.

Electricity generation, from in-state and out-of-state sources, accounted for 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector, the third-highest after transportation (41%) and industrial (24%).

The news is not so positive when it comes to transportation. For the fifth consecutive year, emissions have increased, although the increase in 2017 was “the lowest growth rate over the past 4 years,” notes the second bullet in the executive summary of the 24-page report, California Greenhouse Gas Emissions for 2000 to 2017 [pdf]. Vehicle tailpipe emissions accounted for 37% of emissions in 2017.

Read more at https://www.planetizen.com/news/2019/08/105810-good-and-bad-news-californias-greenhouse-gas-emission-inventory

Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

Sonoma County climate activists to join in worldwide call for action

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Joining an international day of youth-led environmental strikes, local activists are planning to walk out of school and work later this week to rally support for efforts to fight global climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions.

Strikes are set for Friday in Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, Petaluma, San Francisco, Oakland and dozens of other cities and towns around the world. The events, timed just ahead of a United Nations climate summit, are the latest in a series of weekly Friday events in which young people speak and act out in the name of saving the planet.

“This is a very hopeful and action-driven event,” said Franchesca Duval, a Sebastopol chicken farmer helping to organize the Santa Rosa strike. “It’s not just ‘Come out and get scared.’ It’s come out and let the world know that we as Californians are supporting the global community, that we need to be making these changes.”

More than 500 people, including students from Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University, and Analy High School, are expected to participate Friday, Duval said.

Santa Rosa’s event will begin at 9:30 a.m. on the junior college campus. A march to Old Courthouse Square will begin at 11 a.m. A rally will follow at noon, and “opportunities for action” also will be available on the square after the rally.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10058368-181/sonoma-county-climate-activists-to?sba=AAS

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable LivingTags , ,

Big lifestyle changes ‘needed to cut emissions’

Roger Harrabin, BBC NEWS

People must use less transport, eat less red meat and buy fewer clothes if the UK is to virtually halt greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government’s chief environment scientist has warned.

Prof Sir Ian Boyd said the public had little idea of the scale of the challenge from the so-called Net Zero emissions target.

However, he said technology would help.

The conundrum facing the UK – and elsewhere – was how we shift ourselves away from consuming, he added.

In an interview with BBC News, Sir Ian warned that persuasive political leadership was needed to carry the public through the challenge.

Read more at https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-49499521