Earth Matters: Climate activists must get bolder; 46% of new electricity plants will be solar in ’22

Earth Matters: Climate activists must get bolder; 46% of new electricity plants will be solar in ’22

Even if some version of the much-diluted Build Back Better bill somehow manages to squeak by in the Senate come March or later, it is obvious its 10-year-long government investment in climate defense—even though it is accurately described as “unprecedented”—won’t be nearly enough to deal with a crisis beyond anything Homo sapiens have encountered since modern humans left Africa. Even before it was chopped to appease the unappeasable Joe Manchin, the bill’s advocates viewed this as a first step, important to be sure, but definitely not the last word. 

Wind turbines generating electricity on an Iowa farm

The bill with its climate and social infrastructure provisions passed the House of Representatives in June without a single Republican aye. It okays about $50 billion a year for climate defense at a time when, all told, the national defense gets more than $1 trillion a year if the Veterans Administration budget is included, as it should be. “Unprecedented” in the case of BBB’s climate provisions still means a piddling amount given the gargantuan task before us. Imagine if America’s leaders had said in 1941 that taking on the fascist Axis would be too expensive.

Most congressional Republicans are still climate science deniers whose vote for BBB has always been out of the question. But 7% inflation seems to freak out today’s so-called “moderate” science-affirming politicians more than heatwaves, sea-level rise, megadroughts, crop failures, 100-year weather events becoming decadal, wildfire seasons becoming year-round, species becoming extinct by the million, and the prospect of hundreds of millions of climate refugees crossing borders everywhere. Some people just can’t free themselves from the bogus idea that the environment and the economy are two separate entities instead of inextricably intertwined. The climate crisis isn’t just another issue that can be compartmentalized. What’s more expensive than aggressively taking on this crisis? Not doing it.

Effective action is, of course, far more than a matter of what’s going on in the gridlocked U.S. Senate. The Glasgow climate summit two months ago was No. 26 in a long line of such gatherings that have been held after scientific knowledge of the damage we’re doing to the planet’s atmosphere and biodiversity was spread to people beyond the fossil fuel kingpins who had kept this to themselves for decades while making matters worse and paying people to spew lies about that fact. Tellingly, lobbyists for the hydrocarbon industries made up the single largest group at the summit. As I wrote in December:

What’s become clearer than ever these past few months is that any hope of taking effective action on climate issues means the grassroots must ratchet up its activism—and not just a little bit. Most of the news about climate is grim, whether it’s the status of the melting Thwaites Glacier, the fact that, worldwide, more coal will be burned next year than ever, and the fact that nations’ pledges under the Paris agreement are only good enough to keep average global temperatures rising by a disastrous 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100. Worse yet, their claims for what they’re doing to cut emissions are brimful of bad counting. There is, however, one very bright spot: the stepped-up climate-related activism of the past few years, much of it led by Indigenous people and youth. 

Rebecca Leber

With her usual thoroughness, longtime climate reporter Rebecca Leber at Vox this week wrote “Time is running out. Here’s how the climate movement can level up,” in which she describes the high-risk, high-reward stakes of building a more radical movement. Here’s a long excerpt to whet your interest:

To beat the clock on climate change, some activists believe they’ll win by refining what the movement is already doing. By finding new levers to push, and new age groups to attract, the movement would build on the momentum of what’s already working to change entrenched institutions.

But others think it’s time for a new movement entirely. That includes Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund, a group that’s funding a more aggressive strain of organizing that conveys climate change as a house-on-fire-style emergency requiring more direct action now. […]

Some of these strategies will clash, and some could even threaten the movement’s unity. But the risks could also be worth it: The stakes are higher than ever to snap the US out of apathy and inertia while the whole world barrels toward worsening climate change. […]

The kind of activism that fits this vision, Salamon argues, is more aggressive direct action that could run the gamut from hunger strikes to blockades of streets and pipelines to workplace strikes. Though not common in the US, Extinction Rebellion has staged blockades of pipelines and Amazon warehouses in the UK. […]

There’s another fundamental split in philosophies over what it will take to ensure a lasting revolution on climate change.

“When you have lots of different tactics going at once, you have lots of entry points for people becoming engaged in the issue,” said David Meyer, a social scientist at the University of California Irvine who studies climate protest movements. This kind of decentralization helps with one of the biggest challenges facing any social movement: the need to innovate or risk failure. “Movements that don’t diversify their tactics evaporate or get crushed,” Meyer added. “If you don’t innovate tactics, it gets boring and authorities find ways of dealing with you.” 

Inevitably objections will be raised: Don’t push too hard, don’t push too fast, don’t do anything to offend people. Despite its tone, this counsel of delay isn’t cautionary wisdom, it’s an accomplice to catastrophe. We surrender to it at our peril. 

ECO-TWEET

Women are victims of climate change. According to development experts, a program developed without women is less efficient than the same program developed with them. As producers of more than half of the world’s food, they have some traditional knowledge of biodiversity..#cop27 pic.twitter.com/FFCLhHP0ds

— Green Actions Senegal 🌳 (@Greenactions221) January 9, 2022

SHORT TAKES

N.C. governor orders aggressive emissions cuts and a environmental justice plan

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper

Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper last week expanded his administration’s climate and clean energy agenda with Executive Order 246 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in 30 years with an eye toward environmental justice. The order calls for an upgraded North Carolina Clean Transportation Plan focused on decarbonizing the transportation sector, which is the state’s single largest greenhouse gas emitter. The order seeks an increase in registered zero-emission cars, trucks, and buses to at least 1.25 million by 2030, with sales of such vehicles making up 50% of the total that year. This is Cooper’s third energy directive in four years. In 2018, an order called for faster adoption of renewable energy, with a 2025 goal of registering 80,000 zero-emissions vehicles in the state. Six months ago, Executive Order 218 called on agencies to “strive” to install 8 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2040.

The new order instructs state agencies to implement climate policies to assist “marginalized communities, indigenous communities, and communities of color who have faced the impact of pollution and climate change in a disproportionate way.” Two elements of that will be a new carbon emissions inventory and the completion of a “Deep Decarbonization Pathways Analysis” to help meet net-zero and environmental justice objectives. “Transforming North Carolina toward a clean energy and more equitable economy will provide good jobs and a healthy environment for generations of families across our state,” Cooper said at a press conference Friday.

Nearly half of new U.S. electricity-generating capacity will be solar in 2022

The U.S. Energy Information Administration this week projects that solar will comprise 46% of new utility-scale electricity generating installations this year. Overall, the EIA estimates 46.1 additional gigawatts of capacity will be added to the grid from all sources. For comparison, the nation’s current generating capacity from all sources is about 1,120 gigawatts, with 38 of those being utility-scale solar. Small-scale solar, including residential rooftop installations, raise the current total U.S. solar capacity to 113 gigawatts. Experts believe that electrification of an economy that still produces 60% of its electricity with fossil fuels will require at least a 50% increase in total electricity capacity. 

New wind projects coming on line this year are projected to hit 7.6 gigawatts of capacity added to the current cumulative wind-sourced total of 139 gigawatts. In a 2005 report, the EIA had projected wind capacity would only reach 60 gigawatts by 2030, a level it surpassed in 2012.

New natural gas facilities are projected to add 9.6 gigawatts and batteries 5.1 gigawatts in 2022. For the first time in 25 years, the EIA projects that nuclear capacity will be added—2.2 gigawatts at Plant Vogtle in Georgia. But only one of the two 1.1 gigawatt reactors under construction are now scheduled to go operational this year, with the other not switched on until at least the second quarter of 2023. The project has been beset by delays now amounting to five years and a doubling of the originally estimated cost of construction to $28 billion. 

Kentucky Coal Mine Will Become Giant “Water Battery” Energy Storage Project

Concept drawing of the Lewis Ridge Closed Loop Pumped Hydropower Storage Project

While lithium-ion batteries have so far proved a good source for short-term storage of electricity of a few hours, they are far too expensive for long-term storage of half a day or more. While other approaches are being tried or investigated, pumped hydro is still the only source of storage can that handle the task. The principle is simple. Use renewable power to pump water uphill when electricity demand is low and release it to spin turbines when demand is high. 

In Bell County of southeast Kentucky, one of the most economically depressed regions of the country, developers have submitted required federal paperwork for licensing the Lewis Ridge Closed Loop Pumped Hydropower Storage Project. The site is a former coal strip mine. According to Rye Development, “Pumped storage offers a flexible solution to the changing grid, including the ability to store intermittent solar and wind resources moving forward. When constructed, the Lewis Ridge project will have the ability to generate over 200 [megawatts] for 8 hours.” 

As Tina Casey at Clean Technica writes, Kentucky ranks #50 among the states in installed solar capacity, and #47 in wind capacity. But that is about to change with a 200-megawatt solar facility installed at an old coal site in Martin County. The owner? Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

Estimating Deaths Globally From Air Pollution

Students wearing face masks cross a street together with their teacher in Jinan, in east China’s Shandong province during a smog alert in 2015. Air pollution in urban areas is a big killer and causes asthma in at least 2 million children a year worldwide. 

The Lancet Planetary Health has published two new studies of the extent of air pollution’s health-altering effects, including deaths, in urban areas. Led by Susan C. Anenberg at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, researchers used modeling studies to conclude that 86% of people living in urban areas, or 2.5 billion people, are exposed to unhealthy particulate matter levels. This led to what they estimate as 1.8 million excess deaths in the world’s cities in 2019. They also attributed 2 million asthma cases among children worldwide to nitrogen dioxide pollution, with two in three of these occurring in urban areas.

Said Dr Robert Hughes, a clinical research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Co-Investigator of Children, Cities and Climate project: “These important and timely studies underscore the urgency of improving urban air quality and reducing reliance of fossil fuels in and around our cities. The estimates add to growing evidence showing that decarbonizing cities can improve our health, and that of our children, at the same time as reducing the risk of climate breakdown, building on findings from LSHTM’s Children, Cities, and Climate preliminary report.”

Deadly 2021 a deadly one because of extreme weather

Over the past five years, 86 billion-dollar U.S. weather disasters, a record average of more than 17 a year, have cost $742 billion. That’s nearly $100 billion more than all the billion-dollar disasters from 1980 to 2004, adjusted for inflation. It’s also more than five times the three billion-dollar disasters a year that the nation averaged in the 1980s. Last year, 20 billion-dollar U.S. weather-related disasters from heatwaves, flooding, and wildfires to derechos, tornadoes, and hurricanes, a total of $145 billion. At the same time, more people died from such disasters in the contiguous U.S. than in any year since 2011.

“That’s exactly what I’d expect with climate change because climate change is essentially supercharging many types of extreme weather, making heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, intense rainfall, flooding, and storms more severe, destructive, and deadly,” said Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environmental studies at the University of Michigan.

the happiest number I’ve heard in ages

Bill McKibben

That’s what veteran climate activist and author Bill McKibben writes about over at his substack:

[S]ometimes you learn things you didn’t know beforehand, and last week, I noticed a comment in passing: forty percent of the world’s shipping, one commenter insisted, consists of just sending fossil fuels around the world to be burned.

That can’t be right, I thought—what about all the other things we have to ship. There’s grain, and lumber, and iron ore, and cars, and a zillion containers loaded with tennis rackets and dog toys and 70-inch tvs. But no—a little research makes clear that in fact if you add up all the tonnage, something very close to forty percent of all the shipping on earth is just devoted to getting oil and coal and gas (and now some wood pellets) back and forth across the ocean.

That’s a remarkable snapshot: almost half of what we move around the seas is not finished products (cars) nor even the raw materials to make them (steel), but simply the stuff that we burn to power those transformations, and to keep ourselves warmed, cooled, and lit. Which is great news. Because it means that if and when we make the transition to solar power and windpower, we will not just stop pouring carbon into the atmosphere, and not just save money—we will also reduce the number of ships sailing back and forth by almost half. So if you’re worried about almost anything at all that’s going wrong on the high seas—piracy, say, or the hideous sonic effects of all those ships on whales—then you can cut that in half as well.

WEEKLY Green VIDEO

ClimateDenierRoundup did an excellent job at Daily Kos a week ago in dismantling Charles Lane’s fact-challenged hit job on electric cars and winter driving in The Washington Post.  In two pieces at Clean Technica, Steve Hanley responds and Johanna Crider writes How Long Can A Tesla Keep You Warm In A Frozen Traffic Jam? “Dirty Tesla” Finds Out. In the video below, a Tesla owner demonstrates with an actual test how far off the mark Lane was.

ECO-OPINION

Why Is the Biden White House Refusing to Confront the Oil and Gas Industry? Environmental and Indigenous groups are increasingly frustrated with what they view as inaction. By Nick Cunningham

There Are So Many Reasons Not to Trust Banks on Climate Change. Bank of America is one of 19 financial institutions joining a Climate Risk Consortium. Hold your applause. By Kate Aronoff

6 Reason to support the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act. Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK) recently reintroduced the “Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act (H.R. 6059), which aims to tackle the black-market trade in illegal wildlife and seafood products—the fourth most lucrative global crime—behind illicit drugs, human trafficking, and counterfeiting. By Elly Pepper

Three Myths About Renewable Energy and the Grid, Debunked. Renewable energy skeptics argue that because of their variability, wind and solar cannot be the foundation of a dependable electricity grid. But the expansion of renewables and new methods of energy management and storage can lead to a grid that is reliable and clean. By Amory B. Lovins and M.V. Ramana 

These Carbon-Spewing Vehicles Must Be Stopped [W]hen it comes to electrifying heavy trucks and buses, among the most polluting vehicles on the road, the [United States] is in danger of falling behind the efforts of other nations. After the global climate summit in Glasgow last fall, 15 nations, including Canada and Britain [but not the U.S.], agreed to work together so that by 2040, all trucks and buses sold in those countries will be emission-free, By Margo Oge and Drew Kodjak.

It’s Time to Hold Law Firms Accountable for Their Role in Climate Change. Students are boycotting Gibson Dunn for representing the corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, undermining the Indian Child Welfare Act, and more. For too long, law firms have been given carte blanche for their contributions to the climate crisis: They lobby on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, file the paperwork necessary for carbon-emitting projects, and litigate cases against Indigenous and frontline communities. By Leehi Yona and David Cremins

Tanks for Nothing: The Decades-Long Failure to Protect the Public from Hazardous Chemical Spills. Throughout most of the U.S., the public is not protected from spills and other disasters involving storage of hazardous chemicals—including toxic and flammable substances—in aboveground tanks. For decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and most states have refused to act to protect the health and safety of workers and communities, as well as water and natural resources, from the threat of hazardous chemical tank fires, spills, and explosions. By David Flores, Darya Minovi and Johnathan Clark

ECO-BITS

A PowerHYDE affordable solar home 

Affordable solar homes in Asia and Africa are lifting owners out of poverty • Mass die-off of Magellanic penguins seen during 2019 heat wave  Louisiana governor warns Biden of economic “shocks” from oil rollback  What is a climatarian diet? Science-based tactics for eating healthier and eco-friendlier  USDA chief Vilsack pledges more climate-smart farming  First U.S. advanced reactor proposal suffers setback  Biden’s top environmental justice official just left the White House. What now?  

HALF A DOZEN OTHER THINGS TO READ

Forest School Is My Kids’ New Favorite Place to Go. One day per week, they get an education that the classroom can never teach. “On Mondays {…] instead of walking them to school as I do on the other days, I drop them off at a nearby provincial park where they spend the entire day outside at a certified ‘forest school.’ From 8:30 till 3:30 they stay outdoors, no matter the weather, and explore the surrounding forest, swamps, and Lake Huron shoreline with a small group of kids. When I pick them up at the end of the afternoon, they’re red-cheeked and exuberant—and never want to leave.” By Katherine Martinko.

Coyote caught in a leg trap

In a World That Still Traps Animals, Can Science Limit Suffering? People have trapped animals for millennia, seeking fur and food. Is there an empirical way to make the practice more humane? By Michael Schulson.

The Corn Belt Is Losing Topsoil, Increasing Carbon Emissions, and Lowering YieldsNew research finds massive soil loss across the Midwest, which sends more pollutants into the water, dust into the air, and carbon into the atmosphere. Changing farm practices and improved technology could reverse the trend. By Liz Kimbrough.

Stories we wish we’d written. A look at some of the journalism from 2021 that inspired us, made us feel seen, and, sometimes, even made us cry. By High Country News

Climate Clues from the Past Prompt a New Look at History. As scientists rapidly improve their ability to decipher past climate upheaval through ice cores and other “proxies,” historians are re-examining previous political and social turmoil and linking it to volcanic eruptions, prolonged droughts, and other disturbances in the natural world. By Jacques Leslie

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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