The Week in Climate Change

01/14—01/20/2019

Sean C. Davis
Jan 21, 2019 · 6 min read

Science/Effects

As sea level rise encroaches on South Florida, the Miami-Dade County study shows that thousands more residents may be at risk — and soon. By 2040, 64 percent of county septic tanks (more than 67,000) could have issues every year, affecting not only the people who rely on them for sewage treatment, but the region’s water supply and the health of anyone who wades through floodwaters.

Almost every day last week a new heat record was broken in Australia. They spread out, unrelenting, across the country, with records broken for all kinds of reasons — as if the statistics were finding an infinite series of ways to say that it was hot.

The report assesses the impacts of “climate-related events” — flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires and thawing permafrost — at 79 facilities described as “mission assurance priority installations.” The most common problem is flooding — both coastal and inland — which is affecting 53 of the facilities already, with seven more expected to become vulnerable within 20 years.

The report says drought conditions — listed as a risk for 43 of the installations now, with an additional five expected to face the problem within 20 years — can impair operations by worsening heat-related illnesses and increasing the risk of wildfires, which it calls “a constant concern on many military installations.”

Politics

The law, known as the Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018, mandates that 100% of the electricity sold in the city come from renewable energy sources by 2032. In addition, the law, which was signed at AGU Headquarters, also doubles the required amount of solar energy deployed in the District, makes significant improvements to the energy efficiency of existing buildings, provides energy bill assistance for low- and moderate-income residents, requires all public transportation and privately owned fleet vehicles to become emissions-free by 2045, and funds the DC Green Bank to attract private investment in clean energy projects.

Most capital investments last only a decade or two to begin with; people are constantly rebuilding roads, buildings and other infrastructure. And a warmer climate could, if it plays out slowly enough, merely shift where that reinvestment happens.
But a big risk is that the change happens too quickly. Adaptation that might be manageable over a generation could be impossible — and cause mass suffering or death — if it happens over a few years.
Imagine major staple food crops being wiped out for a few consecutive years by drought or other extreme weather. Or a large coastal city wiped out in a single extreme storm.

[New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s] agenda calls for a “globally unprecedented” ramp-up in renewable energy deployments as New York seeks to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040, and ultimately to eliminate its entire carbon footprint.

[Colorado] Gov. Jared Polis, who was sworn into office on January 8, has promised the state will run only on renewable power by 2040. That would phase out fossil fuel generation in Colorado even faster than in California and Hawaii, which both recently introduced a 2045 goal.

The GAO found that as a result of Trump’s changes, the State Department no longer provides its diplomatic missions “with guidance on whether and how to include climate change risks” as they develop country strategies. The guidance is effectively a toolkit diplomats use to establish the priorities that the U.S. has in a given country and plans to best address them.

Globally, about 244 million people are international migrants, and an additional 740 million people are migrants within their home countries, according to the International Organization for Migration’s 2018 World Report.

Energy and environment

[I]n Illinois, they found evidence of toxic pollutants such as arsenic, cobalt and lithium in groundwater at 22 of 24 coal ash dump sites. In Georgia, similar contamination was reported at 11 of the state’s 12 coal-fired power plants. A report released Thursday reveals evidence of contaminants leaching from all 16 coal-fired power plants with ash ponds or landfills in Texas.

In 2016, the Sierra Club sent volunteers to more than 300 dealerships around the country to record their experience shopping for an electric vehicle. The results were dismaying, to say the least. More than one in five Ford and Chevy dealers had failed to charge an EV so it could be taken for a test drive. Only around half of salespeople explained how to fuel a plug-in vehicle, and only a third discussed the tax credits available to buyers.

EVs are in a phase of adoption known as ‘the chasm,’ a gulf separating early adopters from the majority of consumers. This is the most treacherous period in the life of new technology, and it determines its success or failure. Some technologies, like the smartphone, make it through this period unscathed. Others, like the Segway, slip into the gap, never to be heard from again. To make it across the chasm, EVs will need to reach beyond their core market of high-earning technophiles and start winning over soccer moms and NASCAR dads.

“The Court tentatively finds that the single most recurring cause of the large 2017 and 2018 wildfires attributable to PG&E’s equipment has been the susceptibility of PG&E’s distribution lines to trees or limbs falling onto them during high-wind events,” his order in the case reads.

“The power conductors are almost always uninsulated,” Alsup wrote. “When the conductors are pushed together by falling trees or limbs, electrical sparks drop into the vegetation below. During the wildfire season when the vegetation is dry, these electrical sparks pose an extreme danger of igniting a wildfire.”

In bankruptcy, companies can reject contracts with suppliers, forcing them to join other creditors in asserting claims. PG&E could threaten to walk away from older contracts, particularly those with developers of renewable energy that were negotiated several years ago when prices for solar panels were higher than they are now. (Most of the renewable energy the utility uses is solar power.)

Con Edison, the New York utility, is also exposed because it supplies power to PG&E through a subsidiary that has operations in California and neighboring states. PG&E is one of the biggest buyers of electricity produced by Con Edison at installations like the Copper Mountain Solar Project in Boulder City, Nev. PG&E pays Con Edison an average $197 per megawatt-hour for its electricity, compared with the $25 to $30 per megawatt-hour cost of power from new solar plants.

In an email to employees, CEO Elon Musk said the layoffs were part of an initiative to bring down the cost of producing the sedan, which has been complicated by the halving of a US federal tax credit previously available to buyers.

Activism, etc.

Photo courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory: “The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image showing swirls of color in the Arabian Sea on November 23, 2018.”

The Week in Climate Change

All of the climate news, science and activism you need to know about from the previous week— all in one place.

Sean C. Davis

Written by

Writer and stuff- politics, social issues, climate change, activism, etc.

The Week in Climate Change

All of the climate news, science and activism you need to know about from the previous week— all in one place.

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