Posted on Categories Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , ,

Op Ed: California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

Daniel Kammen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ten years ago, many Californians could not have imagined the climate nightmare we are living today — dark orange skies during wildfire season, heat waves in the dead of winter, mandatory water restrictions amid crippling drought.

Without urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest climate challenges — hotter summers, a shorter rainy season and more destructive wildfires — could double in intensity.

It’s against this backdrop that the California Air Resources Board last week released a draft of our state’s scoping plan, a blueprint for combating climate change that will guide California’s policy for years. Despite the stakes for Californians, and although my research indicates the state could actually become carbon negative by 2030, the draft proposal would delay reaching carbon neutral until 2045. The barriers to a target of 2030 are political, not technical.

The draft plan calls for investment in new fossil fuel electricity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly carbon capture technologies that would lock in fossil fuel pollution. Adopting this approach would be lazy, nonsensical and racially unjust. During the current 45-day period for public review of the plan, California has the chance to choose a smarter path.

Renewable energy, even when coupled with energy storage, is cheaper than fossil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renewable energy must be prioritized before building out expensive and polluting gas power plants. Instead, California must set ambitious targets that immediately cut pollution through no-regrets strategies.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/opinion/kammen-california-can-do-better-than-carbon-neutrality-by-2045/

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Biden administration announces new funding to make homes energy-efficient

Anna Phillips, WASHINGTON POST

A decades-old home weatherization program has become central to the administration’s plans to cut Americans’ power bills and lower fossil fuel emissions

Amid surging inflation and energy price spikes, the Biden administration on Wednesday announced plans to spend roughly $3.2 billion to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes in low-income communities with the aim of slashing Americans’ energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

The new funding from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law last year provides a massive boost to a federal home weatherization program that began during the 1970s oil crisis as a way to cut people’s heating bills. It allots funding to modernize eligible homes with cost-effective upgrades, adding insulation to attics, swapping older refrigerators and other appliances for new, more efficient models, and replacing leaky windows and doors.

Biden officials said the infusion of funding — a tenfold increase compared to the program’s current budget — means it will be able to serve 450,000 households total. It currently retrofits about 38,000 homes a year.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/2022/03/30/biden-energy-efficiency-homes-climate/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Climate Change & EnergyTags , , , , ,

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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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/

Posted on Categories Air, Climate Change & EnergyTags , ,

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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Healdsburg debuts biggest floating solar farm in nation

Andrew Graham, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Over the last four months, two ponds at Healdsburg’s wastewater treatment plant were transformed by workers assembling rows of solar panels and pushing them out one by one to float gently on the water’s surface.

The project covered roughly half the combined 15 acres of ponds with 11,600 panels. It is likely the largest floating solar farm in the United States, the builders said, and will provide 8% of the city’s annual electrical needs.

The farm puts Healdsburg’s municipal power utility, itself a unique electricity model in the county, at the cutting edge of solar energy development. Floating solar farms are quickly gaining popularity in the U.S., backers say, particularly in places like Sonoma County where the price of land is dear.

“You couldn’t go out and buy a bunch of vineyard land for a solar project and make it economical,” Healdsburg utilities director Terry Crowley said. Floating solar farms are cost effective as the price of solar panels continues to drop, and are easy to build, Crowley said. Workers began assembling this one in mid-October and mostly finished by mid-January.

“It’s just new to California,” he said.

Windsor two years ago deployed a smaller floating solar installation to power its wastewater treatment plant. The new Healdsburg project is set to provide enough power to cover the annual supply of roughly 1,120 households.

The two-sided panels capture the sun’s energy as it strikes them from above, and also from below when sunlight reflects off the water. Metal cables anchor the floating farm to the ponds’ banks, while floating walkways give technicians and wastewater treatment plant workers the ability to check the panels.

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/healdsburg-debuts-biggest-floating-solar-farm-in-nation-if-not-for-long/

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How Biden aims to amp up the government’s fight against climate change

Juliet Eilperin and Annie Linskey, THE WASHINGTON POST

A new administration would enlist departments like Transportation, Agriculture and Treasury to advance its climate goals

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to embed action on climate change across the breadth of the federal government, from the departments of Agriculture to Treasury to State — expanding it beyond environmental agencies to speed U.S. efforts to mitigate global warming and to acknowledge that the problem touches many aspects of American life.

The far-reaching strategy is aimed at making significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions even without congressional action, by maximizing executive authority.

“From the very beginning of the campaign, when President-elect Biden rolled out his climate plan, he made it clear he sees this as an all-of-government agenda, domestic, economic, foreign policy,” said Stef Feldman, campaign policy director for Biden, a Democrat. “From the very beginning, when he talked about infrastructure, he talked about making sure that it built in climate change, that we are making our communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.”

The vast majority of scientists agree that carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases released when humans burn fossil fuels is helping warm Earth. On the campaign trail, Biden proposed the most aggressive plan of any major party nominee to try to slow that warming.

In a sign of how Biden has already elevated the issue, he discussed the topic with every European head of state with whom he spoke on Tuesday, including the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Ireland. Biden has started frequently referring to the climate “crisis,” suggesting a heightened level of urgency.

Read more at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2020/11/11/biden-climate-change/

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

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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