For now, the world remains off course. Last month, the agency warned that global carbon dioxide emissions were expected to rise at their second-fastest pace ever in 2021 as countries recovered from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic and global coal burning neared a high, led by a surge of industrial activity in Asia.
The $3.5 trillion budget blueprint Democrats agreed to this week includes a key part of President Biden's climate plan: a national "clean energy standard." It's aimed toward zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035.
The release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report showed the magnitude of the challenge of addressing climate change in time to stop its worst impacts, and the failure of leaders to adequately respond to decades of warnings. In covering the clean energy economy, I get a close-up view of some of the potential alternatives to the continued burning of fossil fuels and get to talk to the people who do research and build businesses that support those projects. Some of the most exciting developments have been in alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for grid storage, with researchers seeking low-cost ways to store electricity from wind farms and solar arrays. The combination of batteries and renewable energy holds the promise of providing electricity around the clock and replacing fossil fuel power plants.
Oregon lawmakers this week approved what’s been described as the nation’s most ambitious clean electricity standard, targeting 100% emissions-free power for the state by 2040.
Wind power capacity doubled over the last year, while solar power grew by almost 50%.
The International Energy Agency reports that over the next 30 years, air conditioning may be one of the top drivers of electricity demand. “Without action to address energy efficiency, energy demand for space cooling will more than triple by 2050 — consuming as much electricity as all of China and India today,” the agency reports.That makes the need for high-efficiency cooling extremely vital. Not to mention more widespread use of renewable energy and, of course, drastically curbing climate emissions.
Democrats say the tools exist now to stave off a hotter planet: rapidly expand wind and solar energy, beef up energy storage and the electric grid, electrify transportation, and make buildings energy efficient. Many of those elements are tucked into a $3.5 trillion budget package that Democrats hope to pass in the fall.
The Biden administration framed Monday’s decision as a way to increase the nation’s renewable energy capacity while creating well-paying construction jobs building turbines and other clean-energy equipment.
All around California, the development of open space to produce renewable energy has put climate and biodiversity goals at odds. To meet the state’s 2045 goal of 100 percent renewable energy will require between 1.6 and 3.1 million acres of wind and solar, according to projections from The Nature Conservancy, and much of that land, like the North Livermore Valley, has wildlife living on it. The debate has become acrimonious, framed as a choice between stopping the extinction of the desert tortoise or the extreme heat killing people in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to limiting development and saving ratepayers money, Del Chiaro says, distributed solar is safer since those high-voltage transmission lines that stretch across California’s dry landscape all-too-frequently spark wildfires, as well as more reliable because local energy generation “is just inherently more reliable and resilient.”
Power use will become smarter and more automated, with technology helping spread energy use throughout the day to work in tandem with a grid powered by variable wind and solar, rather than cause big surges in demand that require the burning of gas or coal.
Kansas has about as much solar potential as Florida but lags far behind the state, powering only about 12,000 homes – or less than 2% of what is covered in Florida, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That could be related to an ongoing debate in the states that is pitting utilities companies against solar energy.
But the most promising concrete technologies utilize very little energy to incorporate CO2. That’s because when CO2 is incorporated into concrete, it’s literally piped into the mix. The natural tumbling motion of churning concrete is all the energy that’s needed to transform the CO2 into a calcium carbonate, a substance that doesn’t just act as filler but also actively strengthens the concrete mix. All of this tough calcium carbonate means the concrete needs less cement in its mix, which is another environmental savings, since cement is the worst polluting component of concrete.
American schools are the second-largest public infrastructure investment. But what most people don’t know is that they are also among the biggest energy consumers in the public sector. K-12 schools consume about 8% of all the energy used in commercial buildings. In turn, they emit as much carbon dioxide as 18 coal-powered power plants. This not only burdens the environment, but children themselves – students suffer from heatstroke, affected hormone and sleep cycles, as well as respiratory issues. Many schools have started redesigning their infrastructure with the climate crisis in mind. From installing more solar panels to replacing old heating, cooling and ventilation systems, or HVAC systems, with more sustainable ones, school districts are increasingly transitioning to cheaper and greener options. But old building habits and funding constraints can pose a challenge.
Chemicals are essential for the well-being, high living standards and comfort of modern society. They are used in many sectors, including health, energy, mobility and housing.
“The countries that take decisive actions now” to tackle climate change, Mr. Biden said, “will be the ones that reap the clean energy benefits of the boom that’s coming.”
After February's deadly power outages, new legislation would mandate winterizing parts of the state's energy system. But lawmakers took a pass on major market reforms to make the grid more resilient.
"The administration established a multi-agency target of deploying 30 gigawatts, or 30,000 megawatts, of wind energy by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes for a year and slash 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions."
Tuesday's announcement outlines a compromise for a 399-square-mile area off Morro Bay, a site that's appealing to renewable energy companies because of existing transmission lines nearby that once serviced a retired power plant. It also identifies a location off Humboldt County in Northern California.
Resilience (USA, 30 min) Energy Award Directed by Stephen Farina. In 1998, a vast power grid serving 5 million people in Canada was destroyed by an ice storm. Twenty years later researchers of that disaster are developing a new kind of resilient power grid. Based in part on the book The Grid and the Village, the film explores how to protect grids and the people they serve from war, terrorist attack, and extreme weather.
San Onofre is not the only place where waste is left stranded. As more nuclear sites shut down, communities across the country are stuck with the waste left behind. Spent fuel is stored at 76 reactor sites in 34 states, according to the Department of Energy. Handling those stockpiles has been an afterthought to the NRC, the federal enforcer, said Allison Macfarlane, another former commission chair.
A recent report by the International Energy Agency found that, in order to keep average global temperatures from increasing 1.5 Celsius above preindustrial levels, the threshold beyond which scientists say the Earth faces irreversible damage, all nations would have to end the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The Earth has already warmed an average of 1 degree Celsius since the late 1800s.
The installation of Karsner as one of ExxonMobil’s 12 board members shows how much has changed among Republicans involved in the energy business, a group that is looking for ways to deal with climate change, not dally over whether it really exists. And the proxy fight shows how shareholders and investors no longer judge ExxonMobil by the size of its oil and gas reserves, but rather by looking at the company’s plans for decarbonizing its operations and thinking about how to make a transition to a very different kind of enterprise.
Some of this gear can weigh thousands of pounds and have buoys that prevent entangled whales from diving deep enough to find food. Whales who don’t drown or starve right away will often drag gear for several years. Doing this can create deep lacerations in the whales’ soft flesh and sap energy from essential processes such as reproduction and, the researchers suspect, growth.
The Defense Department has hired eight climate change experts from the Army Corps of Engineers; Mr. Biden’s budget calls for 17 more. “The impacts of climate change on the department’s mission are clear and growing,” Richard Kidd, deputy assistant secretary of defense for energy, environment and resilience, said in a statement. “We need a work force that reflects that fact.”
In May, the Biden administration and California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced a plan to bring floating offshore wind to California. They have identified two sites: a nearly 400-square mile area north-west of Morro Bay, which could host 380 floating wind turbines, and another further north off Humboldt Bay. Together these projects could bring up to 4.6GW of clean energy to the grid, enough to power 1.6m homes.
California denied 21 oil drilling permits this week in the latest move toward ending fracking in a state that makes millions from the petroleum industry but is seeing widespread drought and more dangerous fire seasons linked to climate change. State Oil and Gas Supervisor Uduak-Joe Ntuk sent letters Thursday to Aera Energy denying permits to drill using hydraulic fracturing in two Kern County oil fields to “protect “public health and safety and environmental quality, including (the) reduction and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions."
The San Onofre reactors are among dozens across the United States phasing out, but experts say they best represent the uncertain future of nuclear energy. “It’s a combination of failures, really,” said Gregory Jaczko, who chaired the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the top federal enforcer, between 2009 and 2012, of the situation at San Onofre.
As Japan marks the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the global conversation around the merits of using nuclear power to tackle the climate crisis remains hot. Many environmentalists are opposed, pointing to the risk of nuclear meltdowns and the difficulty of properly disposing of nuclear waste.
A Low Carbon Future for China's Furnace Cities (United Kingdom [UK], 10 min). Directed by Monika Koeck. China’s economic development and rapid urbanization has led to a dramatic rise in energy consumption due to excessive heating and air-conditioning causing carbon emissions of immense proportions. China’s government has set the ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by 40–45% by 2020 against the 2005 baseline. A UK/China-funded team working on how to solve the problem in some of the most extreme climate regions in China. The team discovers groundbreaking solutions using computational-fluid-dynamics simulations.
"The New York Democratic representative spoke to NPR this week hours before final details on Biden's much-awaited infrastructure package were released. That plan would spend $2 trillion over eight years, much of it on mitigating the climate crisis. It is the first of a two-part push on an expansive array of infrastructure initiatives, green energy projects, as well as social programs that the administration refers to as "human infrastructure," that is estimated to be around $3 trillion to $4 trillion."
The experimental short film ANSAGE ENDE is an artistic reflection on being engaged with the world. Combining fiction and documentary, music and text, this hybrid film calls for a collective and activist approach to the climate crisis. The visually stunning ANSAGE ENDE opens with an imaginative journey through an empty landscape where water meets land. Two characters walk through the mud, away from the viewer, into an open yet unknown future. They fantasize about what our rapidly developing world might bring and question their personal participation in this possible future. Slowly the film moves away from the imaginary into the real. Climate destruction becomes ghastly visible: huge machines in a brown coal mine eat up the soil, searching for energy and profit. Policemen and women enable sawers to cut down the neighboring forest for the expansion of the mine. Young activists occupy the trees, trying to stop the destruction of this primeval forest.
"The bill is light on specifics but sets out a general framework for directing at least $1 trillion per year over the next decade to rapidly weaning the United States off fossil fuels and replacing corroded water systems, increasing benefits for home care workers, remediating toxic industrial sites, and propping up new, localized food producers, among other things. The bill lays out an expansive vision of how to slash the nation’s planet-heating emissions in half and balance the racial and regional gaps in wealth and health, issues that have animated the party’s base and inflected once-sleepy debates over roads and rail funding with the energy of a new-wave civil rights movement."
California’s power grid operator delivered a blistering rebuke Monday to the state’s Public Utilities Commission, blaming the agency for rotating power outages — the first since the 2001 energy crisis — and warning of bigger blackouts to come. In their first public comments since the blackouts began Friday evening, officials at the California Independent System Operator described a “perfect storm” of conditions that caused demand to exceed available supply: scorching temperatures in California and across the western United States, diminished output from renewable sources and fossil-fueled power plants affected by the weather, and in some cases plants going offline unexpectedly when electricity was needed most. But Stephen Berberich, the grid operator’s president, said the state could have been prepared for that perfect storm if only the Public Utilities Commission had ordered utility companies to line up sufficient power supplies.
“I am ‘report fatigued.’ We need action,” Marshall Shepherd, director of the University of Georgia’s atmospheric sciences program, wrote at Forbes this month. He called for more planning from local and federal governments for a transition to “a renewable energy economy,” and urged leaders to “address the disproportionate burden” of climate disasters on “vulnerable, poor, and marginalized populations.” The experts HuffPost spoke to all had the same antidote to climate dread: Take action. The climate crisis is urgent, the changes needed are at a massive scale, but it doesn’t mean individuals can’t make a difference.“We are now in an all-hands-on-deck moment,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale University’s program on climate change communication. “We need everybody doing everything they can, at the individual level, community level, national government and business level. This is all of society.”