FtF News #100 – 5th April 2021

The FtF centennial arrives, glaciers are melting, and forestry is complicated

Hello, and welcome to Forge the Future, your weekly rundown of the latest climate news.

Well, we’ve finally made it to 100 issues of FtF! It seems an eternity since I hatched an idea for a climate newsletter back in early 2019, and a lot has happened in the meantime. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, learning about the climate crisis and what role I could play in helping address it. I’m still not fully there yet, but I’m grateful that I can continue to work on climate-related projects full time – it’s a massive privilege for me to be able to do this. Thanks to everyone that’s read and shared FtF along the way, especially those who’ve followed along from the very beginning – your support has meant a lot, and kept me plugging away at this each week!

The environment around climate change (pun intended) has changed a lot in these past couple of years, and whilst there’s still so much to be done, it does feel like the world is waking up to the importance of this challenge, and that we might still make a better world at the end of all this. After all, isn’t that what we’re all here for?

State of the world

Climate research and findings, weather events and studies

The world’s glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, according to a new study. Globally, glaciers have lost almost 270bn tonnes of ice since 2000, enough to cover the whole of Ireland with 3m of water per year. What’s more, that rate is increasing by around 17% per decade. Glacial melting is now apparently severe enough that it has caused a measurable shift in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s. Pre-1995, the poles were drifting south, but in the years since, they’ve moved east, and sped up 17-fold.

A new study of the Brazilian Amazon suggests that it may already have flipped to become a net carbon source, emitting nearly 20% more carbon into the atmosphere than it absorbed in the past decade. A key finding of the analysis was that degradation of forests was a more significant source of CO2 than outright deforestation, releasing triple the emissions of direct burning or clearing of forest.

COVID-19 lockdowns have provided a unique opportunity for study of the impacts of pollution in a number of parts of the world. In South Asia, it appears that reduced soot and other pollution due to lockdowns may have delayed snowmelt in the Indus River basin – a system that supplies water for over 300m people. Soot darkens snow, causing it to warm faster, but this year’s snow melt was noticeably slower, potentially allowing for better water management.

A key question around emissions of greenhouse gases is: what will happen when we stop emitting? Many sources have suggested that a certain amount of warming is ‘locked in’, that the world will keep warming for some time after we hit net-zero, but a thorough examination of the science suggests that this is not the case. Once CO2 emissions stop, further warming will essentially stop immediately (although it won’t decline for some time). However, there are lots of other factors to consider, including how we deal with other emissions, such as aerosols and methane, which each have different effects and complicate the outcome.

Planet positives

Moving towards a greener and more equitable world

Policy Progress

This week saw a smattering of positive policy changes, with Washington state passing a cap-and-trade bill after a decade of failed attempts. The bill aims to cut pollution by 95% by 2050 versus 1990 levels, and also establishes a regulatory program to reduce air pollution in the most unhealthy areas. Over in Europe, Denmark has announced plans to spend 60% of their share of the EU crisis fund on climate measures, a massive increase on the minimum 37% level required.

The LEAF Coalition, a partnership between Britain, Norway, the US and a number of leading multinationals, has announced plans to raise $1bn for countries to protect their forests. Forest protection is vital in the battle against climate change, but implementation is key here – previous schemes have struggled with complex and arbitrary calculations that are ripe for gaming by developers (see this week’s Adverse circumstances for more!).

Food for thought

Epicurious, a major food and recipe site, has announced it won’t run any more recipes involving beef in a bid to nudge behaviours to change. It actually made the change over a year ago, and called the move ‘not anti-beef but pro-planet’. In a similar move, high end New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park has announced it will offer no seafood or meat on its menu when it reopens, in a change to its pre-pandemic direction. Whilst these individual moves may be small, it feels like there’s a gradual shifting in attitudes towards meat, where avoiding meat is becoming less unusual and a growing part of the public consciousness.

Adverse circumstances

Events that move the needle in the wrong direction

Taking Credit

I’ve often alluded to the complexity of measuring carbon drawdown and the value of carbon offsets, but two stories this week brought that home in a big way. The first is an investigation into California’s forestry offset scheme, which allows projects to gain carbon credits for protecting and improving forests versus a carbon baseline. However, due to simplifications in how the scheme was put together, it has been extensively gamed by project developers, resulting in 20-39m ‘ghost’ credits – credits for non-existent carbon drawdown that were then used by polluters to justify emitting yet more greenhouse gases.

A similar Greenpeace investigation looks at projects supported by major airlines, who claim the forestry protection programs make them carbon neutral. Again, much like in California, the schemes are impossible to fully verify, and much of the accounting that calculates the carbon benefit is arbitrary. The airlines are also using the projects as a way to avoid taking action to tackle their significant environmental impact – basically, they’re taking the easy route out.

These projects are not all bad, however – often they provide forest owners with a financial incentive to protect and improve forests, something that has real, meaningful benefits for both the environment and local communities. However, the process of quantifying, commodifying and marketing these benefits as ‘offsets’ is on very shaky ground. It’s a case of a positive outcome not entirely justifying the means and mechanism by which it came to pass. A better solution is not immediately apparent, but forestry offset schemes right now seem deeply flawed.

Long Reads

Interesting deep-dives into climate-related topics

Australia is a land of climate contrast – on the one hand, the country is dropping coal power and scaling up rooftop solar at record rates, but on the other, it has a strongly anti-environmental policy record and is one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporters. Grist dives deep into how, despite government rhetoric, Australia is falling ever further behind in climate action, and uses creative carbon accounting to cover the shortfall. Unfortunately, nothing much is likely to change until serious pressure is put on the government to step up and act.

Lithium-ion batteries are rapidly turning into one of the cornerstone technologies of global decarbonisation, powering cars, vans, trucks as well as, increasingly, grid-scale energy storage (not to mention all of our personal devices!). However, the nuances of how batteries work, how the technology has progressed, and what may lie ahead are complex, and bear deeper examination. This Bloomberg piece summarises the salient points well for those desiring a more thorough understanding of the topic.

Quick Headlines

Some quick climate news nuggets to sate your appetite

FtF News #99 – 28th April 2021

The might of methane, moderate improvements in climate ambition, and a massive carbon accounting gap

Hello, and welcome to Forge the Future, your weekly rundown of the latest climate news.

As is the nature of such things, climate news ebbs and flows, and this week has been relatively quiet – a welcome lull in what can often feel an overwhelming tide of events. Hence this week’s edition is a little shorter than sometimes, which is probably a good thing given my usual verbosity!

State of the world

Climate research and findings, weather events and studies

A new UN report is expected to declare the importance of tackling methane emissions. Methane is fairly well known as a relatively short-lived, but potent greenhouse gas, but with more and more detection capabilities coming online in recent times, it’s become clear that far more methane is being emitted than was previously thought, and those emissions are still growing rapidly, year on year. On the flip side, however, the short-lived nature of methane means that tackling emissions of the gas offers a far more rapid route to slowing warming than CO2. Whilst both need to be addressed, a concerted effort to cut methane emissions in three key areas could reduce emissions by 45% by 2030, which could reduce warming by up to 0.3°C by the 2040s.

Up to 20% of groundwater wells worldwide are in danger of running dry – problematic given that they supply water for half the world’s irrigated agriculture, as well as drinking water for billions. The new study analysed data for 39m wells across 40 different countries, and found that most are barely deeper than their groundwater tables, putting them at risk should groundwater recede, as has happened in many areas due to increased use, changing weather conditions and more.

Around 85% of Mexico is now under drought conditions, with lakes and reservoirs drying up across the country. Conditions are thought to be the worst in at least 30 years, with some reservoirs down to a third of normal capacity, with a month and a half to go before any chance of significant rainfall. The country’s second largest freshwater lake, Lake Cuitzeo, is 75% dried up, and is at risk of being lost entirely.

Planet positives

Moving towards a greener and more equitable world

Progress, of a sort

One of the principal goals of the US Earth Day climate summit was to encourage other countries to increase their ambition. Now that the event has wrapped up, it’s hard to be overwhelmed by the response, although some progress was made. The US, as reported last week, came forward with its target of 50% emissions reduction by 2030 versus 2005 levels, but few others strengthened their commitments. Canada and Japan both increased their commitments, with Japan promising 46% reductions below 2013 levels and Canada 45% below 2005 by 2030. Both are significant improvements from their previous targets, but still lag UK and EU ambition. South Korea promised an updated NDC later in the year, and agreed to stop funding coal plants overseas – a small but significant win.

Many hoped that China would come forward with more concrete plans, but whilst they reaffirmed their 2060 carbon neutrality goal, little more was revealed. Xi Jinping did agree to ratify the Kigali Amendment on HFCs at a separate meeting with French and German leaders, but tensions remain high between China and the US. Greta Thunberg, in her usual direct manner, called out the rather hollow nature of long-range climate targets in an Earth Day piece in Vogue, which argues that ultimately, climate action will only come if we all work together – a sentiment it’s hard to argue with.

Adverse circumstances

Events that move the needle in the wrong direction

Mind the gap

There’s a growing gap in emissions accounting between the models used by countries for their own emissions and those used by independent climate models. The size of this gap? At least 5.5 billion tons of CO2. Much of the gap comes down to how different countries account for the benefits of forestry (once again, forestry proves complex and troublesome for carbon accounting!). Countries are usually allowed to count ‘managed’ forests as negative emissions, the theory being that avoiding deforestation and fire risk helps increase carbon take-up. However, some countries (hi USA!) count virtually all of their forests as managed, lopping a sizeable chunk from their emissions totals. This is problematic as countries head towards ‘net zero’, as this accounting model allows them to continue emitting by counting natural forests as carbon-negative.

Swiss Re, the insurer, has released the results of its latest climate ‘stress test’ analysis. It found that global GDP could shrink by up to 18% by 2050 if climate change is not tackled, with the worst consequences striking Asian economies such as China. This simply adds to the mountain of evidence documenting the monumental economic costs of not tackling climate change (to say nothing of social, societal and environmental impacts). It seems that despite the clear arguments for climate action, we still cook the books in our favour to avoid doing what we must.

Long Reads

Interesting deep-dives into climate-related topics

The benefits and drawbacks of biomass have long been debated in environmental circles, but this dive into the wood pellet industry is fascinating. Whilst there’s definitely potential for positive impact from the industry, its current implementation has some unpleasant side-effects, particularly on communities around the plants where the pellets are made. In addition, as with many forestry-related industries, determining the true environmental impact is very difficult, with an abundance of hard-to-measure factors at play. This article also felt especially relevant given the trains supplying Drax go right past my window every day!

The second piece I’m highlighting this week is a little different – it’s an open letter from three environmental scientists on the dangers of net-zero. They make a compelling case for net-zero becoming a get-out clause for politicians to promise climate salvation whilst putting off meaningful emissions reductions until later (making the task ever harder). Net-zero has involved a series of ever more involved solutions, including BECCS, DAC and more, all of which promise to massively help with emissions, but few if any have meaningfully been implemented in a cost-effective manner.

Quick Headlines

Some quick climate news nuggets to sate your appetite

FtF News #98 – 21st April 2021

A US climate pledge at last, ever-cheaper wind power, and coal continues to cling on

Hello, and welcome to Forge the Future, your weekly rundown of the latest climate news.

Well, apart from a slightly bizarre April snowstorm, it seems spring has finally arrived here in the UK. I must say the warmth is very welcome after what has felt like a very long grey winter in lockdown!

Earth Day is also this week (it’s tomorrow, if you’ve missed mention of it elsewhere!). The US is holding a major international climate summit to mark the occasion as part of its renewed environmental ambitions – more on that below.

State of the world

Climate research and findings, weather events and studies

A new study has found that just 3% of the world’s ecosystems remain fully intact, without impact from humanity. Previous studies based on satellite imagery have suggested that 20-40% of the surface remained untouched, but ground surveys have found that key species were absent in much more of the planet than previously thought. However, the study’s authors suggest that reintroduction of key species into certain ecosystems could help restore a significant proportion of the earth.

Drought-induced wildfires have been sweeping through much of Nepal and some parts of northern India. More than 2,700 fires were recorded between November and March, and air pollution has been spiking across the country. The fires have also destroyed vital firewood and grazing land, which will have knock-on impacts for many communities. Whilst many of the fires are thought to have been started by people (both accidentally and intentionally), the exceptional drought has meant they have spread far more rapidly than they would in less dry years.

A tropical cyclone has completely flattened a western Australian town, after wreaking havoc in parts of eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste. That earlier damage killed at least 138 people, with many more missing, but the storm was fortunately less energetic by the time it struck the Australian coast – whilst the damage was severe, it doesn’t seem to have resulted in further loss of life. Such storms hitting the western Aussie coast are not unprecedented, but very unusual, and the frequency may be increasing.

New research suggests that rising temperatures are causing havoc with the Indian monsoon, with each 1°C of warming likely to increase rainfall by 5%. Much of India’s crops are heavily dependent on the monsoon, and either too much or too little rain can spell disaster. Unfortunately, warming is also making the monsoon less predictable, and that variability means that farmers are hard pushed to adapt or prepare adequately.

Canada may well be massively underestimating its methane emissions, if a new study is to be believed. On the ground measurements suggest that actual emissions are as much as 50% more than official estimates. Methane emissions are receiving increased focus in recent years, and with that has come a realisation worldwide that current estimates are often significantly undercounting the problem. Hopefully with more data will come renewed energy to tackle the sources of the potent greenhouse gas.

Planet positives

Moving towards a greener and more equitable world

Green ambitions

As I mentioned at the start, the US is holding an Earth Day climate summit, and is expected to unveil its updated Paris Agreement NDC beforehand. Nothing is confirmed, but it’s speculated that the US will aim for a 50% cut in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels. That would be a massive hike in ambition and demonstrate a huge reversal from past administrations. However, the amount of action required to make that happen is enormous, and much of it rides on the recently unveiled multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill. However, with US politics being what it is, the passing of the bill (at least in a relatively intact state) is in no way guaranteed.

Even if the US achieves that target, it would hardly make it a climate leader. The EU agreed last year to a 55% cut in emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels (the US target, if adjusted back to that baseline, would be just a 40% cut). The UK is now coming forward with another updated NDC, proposing a massive 78% cut in emissions by 2030 versus the 1990 baseline. However, whilst the UK target looks impressive, as mentioned in previous posts the policies to back that up have been rather lacking, so it remains to be seen whether it is a serious ambition or more bluster.

Blowing a gale

The meteoric drop in the price of solar is well known by now in climate circles, but wind has also fallen dramatically, with prices dropping 71% in just 11 years. Moreover, a new study of wind energy prices suggests that they could fall another 50% by 2050, and potentially further still. Considering that wind is cost-competitive with other energy sources already, that puts wind power in a very strong position indeed. The driver for these huge drops? Lower capital and operating costs, and ever larger and more efficient turbines. Onshore turbines are expected to average 5.5MW each by 2035 (with a 174m diameter), whilst offshore wind turbines are expected to grow to a whopping 17MW average, with rotor diameters of 250m. It’s hard to visualise just how massive that is – each blade would be taller than the London Eye, and the whole structure would easily be the tallest building in most major cities.

Adverse circumstances

Events that move the needle in the wrong direction

Coal is down, but not out

Draft policy documents suggest India may still build more coal power plants, as it remains the cheapest source of electricity despite the climate and health consequences. Coal power’s contribution to Indian electricity generation fell for the second consecutive year in 2020, marking a sharp departure from over a decade of straight growth. The news comes as the IEA published its latest energy forecast for 2021, which suggests that the world is on track for the second largest rise in energy-related carbon emissions ever this year. The main driver? Coal plants being built across Asia. This massive rise in emissions would reverse 80% of the fall seen last year, sending us back in the wrong direction.

However, before everyone goes pointing fingers at developing nations, it’s worth considering who is financing those coal plants. New research attempts to trace funding sources for new coal plants, and finds that whilst most of the plants are located in Asia, funding sources are much more widespread, with large swathes of funding coming from developed nations in Europe and North America. The findings highlight the importance of clamping down on countries funding coal power outside their own shores – whilst some restrictions have been put in place, much more can be done in this area to reduce the continued growth of coal, and ensure that funding is funnelled into more sustainable energy sources.

Long Reads

Interesting deep-dives into climate-related topics

Inside Climate News has conducted an 18 month investigation into harmful emissions arising from various heavy oil products stored in heated tanks. The investigation not only uncovered emissions way higher than expected, but highlighted the often glaring discrepancies between the EPA’s equations to estimate emissions (often provided by the API) and real world measurements.

Oil companies cutting emissions is generally seen as a good thing. However, the way many of them are doing so is by simply divesting their most polluting assets. Unfortunately, this merely transfers the assets to less visible owners, who continue to operate them out of the spotlight. There’s a real need for a mechanism to safely and cleanly wind down polluting operations rather than simply offloading them to the highest bidder.

Quick Headlines

Some quick climate news nuggets to sate your appetite
  • The US federal government (the world’s largest single electricity consumer) has pledged to buy 24/7 carbon-free energy as part of the government’s new infrastructure bill.

  • Google has unveiled a timelapse feature in Google Earth, allowing you to scan through how the planet has changed in the last 40 years.

FtF News #97 – 14th April 2021

Cheese, more cycling and the UK’s slapdash climate policies

Hello, and welcome to Forge the Future, your weekly rundown of the latest climate news.

The balance between individual and collective action on the climate is a tricky one. Whilst many parts of our collective climate impact are out of our control, diet is an area that often comes up as both important and actionable. I’ve made a real effort in recent years to cut my meat consumption way down, and despite my relatively carnivorous upbringing, I found it surprisingly easy. No doubt this was aided by the plethora of really excellent meat alternatives available these days.

However, I’ve struggled more with limiting my dairy consumption. Cheese in particular is a massive guilty pleasure for me – I know its climate impact is significant, but I’ve yet to find a decent alternative. So I was excited to read about the work going into genuine dairy-free cheeses. Whilst none of these products are on the market just yet, it seems like it won’t be long before we can finally enjoy a good Gruyère without the guilt.

State of the world

Climate research and findings, weather events and studies

CO2 and methane levels both surged in 2020, according to the NOAA. The rate of CO2 increase was the fifth highest ever recorded, and methane increases were the highest on record – a particular worry given the potency of the gas as a warming agent. GHGSat, a firm specialising in the detection of greenhouse gases, found large, frequent emissions of methane over Bangladesh – a country extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It’s not yet clear what the source of the emissions might be – a minister suggested it could be related to rice farming, or gases emitted from landfill.

A new study has found that endemic species – those found only in a single region – are expected to be consistently more adversely affected by climate change than those less specialised. The effects are particularly acute if warming climbs to 3°C above pre-industrial levels, at which point more than 90% of endemic species would face negative consequences, with 20% of land-based and 32% of marine species facing risk of extinction at such temperatures. Conversely, invasive species are expected to largely see either neutral or positive impacts from warming.

In a trio of more positive stories, rhino poaching in South Africa has fallen for the sixth consecutive year, falling 33% versus 2019 levels. It’s thought that coronavirus restrictions prevented poachers from getting into game reserves to kill the animals. Ivory Coast has created its first ever marine protected area, covering 1,000 square miles of mangroves, reefs, and a globally important nesting ground for sea turtles. The move is a first among West African nations, and the country plans four more similar reserves in coming years. Finally, the Bangweulu Wetlands will see their first cheetahs in nearly a century, with 3 recently introduced to improve biodiversity in the region. All small steps, but every little helps!

Planet positives

Moving towards a greener and more equitable world

A positive habit

A new piece of research looking at cycling habits found that the addition of temporary cycling infrastructure in European cities during the pandemic has resulted in significant increases in cycling. It’s one of the first studies to look at the effectiveness of ‘pop-up’ cycle infrastructure such as additional bike lanes, which have led to up to a 48% increase in cycling in some cities. In public transport research, there’s often debate on the effectiveness of bike lanes in encouraging more people to cycle, but hopefully these findings encourage more cities to support cyclists. 

One of the cities really doubling down on cycle-friendliness is Paris, where mayor Anne Hidalgo is leading a massive revamp of the city, making it less car centric and much more accessible for cycling and pedestrians. One of the latest schemes plans to completely revamp the Champs Elysées. The famous avenue has lost its shine for many Parisians, who view it as polluted, congested and expensive. The plans would see it filled with trees, cutting car traffic, and more small-scale shops, hopefully taking it from pricey tourist trap to chic hangout.

Right to Repair

France’s new ‘repairability’ score seems to be already having an impact. All new electronics sold in the country must come with a score for how repairable they are. Whilst the scores are self-assessed by manufacturers, so far responses seem to be honest, and the big names are performing… poorly. Both Apple and Microsoft scored extremely poorly, with Apple falling down on disassembly, whilst Microsoft fails to make spare parts readily available. However, more encouragingly, Samsung has recently made full guides on repair available for its latest flagship Galaxy smartphone – something it has never done before. Hopefully others follow suit and begin to improve their act. It also emphasises that more information is almost always a good thing. Even for those not actively seeking out the knowledge, simply knowing the impact of items can help change behaviour.

Adverse circumstances

Events that move the needle in the wrong direction

Less talk, more action please

I’ve noted in previous issues that the UK seems to have a disconnect between its headline net-zero target and day-to-day policy. It seems I’m not the only one to feel this way, with everyone from the Climate Change Committee to environmental groups growing increasingly uneasy with the UK’s climate policy stance. The general sentiment is that policy is unclear and hesitant, which in turn means that businesses are reluctant to commit to greener policies. Just this week, expert testimony in a challenge to England’s £27bn road expansion scheme suggested that emissions from the plans could be up to 100x greater than claimed in the supporting documentation. The 2050 net-zero target is great, but unless it’s backed up by serious and concerted policy, it will mean little.

Long Reads

Interesting deep-dives into climate-related topics

The Washington Post dives deep into the history of the environmental justice movement in the US, looking at how pollution and its effects on communities has long been divided along racial lines. The movement has been slowly building as a ground-roots effort for nearly four decades, but with the Biden administration finally promising major support, has its time finally come?

Grist examines abandoned oil wells across Texas and New Mexico, looking at how they come to be abandoned, who cleans them up, and how many more wells might be abandoned in coming years. Whilst oil companies are required to pay bonds to cover clean-up costs, they are in no way sufficient, and companies are expert at dodging fines and abandoning wells once they look like they might have to pay up.

Quick Headlines

Some quick climate news nuggets to sate your appetite

FtF News #96 – 7th April 2021

Cherry blossoms, a battery boom and how not to design your green infrastructure bill

Hello, and welcome to Forge the Future, your weekly rundown of the latest climate news.

After a chaotic week of trains, vans and moving hassle, I’m now installed in a new flat, just in time to put together another FtF! Hopefully things should be back to normal from now on. In the meantime, here’s a slightly hurried tour through this week’s climate news!

State of the world

Climate research and findings, weather events and studies

Drought is causing havoc across the globe at the moment. The US West continues to dry out, with 44% of the contiguous US now under drought conditions. These conditions are likely to exacerbate wildfires, such as the ones currently burning in South Dakota. Meanwhile, Taiwan is suffering its worst drought in decades, and is now cutting water supplies to semiconductor manufacturing hubs – another blow for a crucial global industry already under huge pressure.

Kyoto’s famous cherry blossoms have peaked this year at the earliest date since records began, around 1,200 years ago. This is not just an isolated occurrence – the record shows a marked trend towards earlier blooming since around 1800, after around 1,000 years of relative stability. Aside from signalling the warming of the planet, earlier blooming could also disrupt pollination of the trees, as insects potentially end up out of sync with the flowers, impacting the entire ecosystem.

Tropical forest acreage lost to deforestation accelerated again in 2020, with 12% more lost this year versus 2019. Much of the loss was in Brazil, although Cameroon and Colombia also saw significant deforestation. However, both Indonesia and Malaysia’s levels of deforestation declined – a rare win for tropical forests. A new study this week calculated the ‘deforestation footprint’ of developed countries, in a bid to link the deforestation in developing countries with the demand for goods from developed nations. Much of the impact of countries like the UK, France, Germany and others comes in the form of ‘imported’ deforestation, often of tropical forest. We may no longer log our own forests, but we still cause deforestation indirectly.

Planet positives

Moving towards a greener and more equitable world

A change of pace

This week saw President Biden unveil details of a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure plan to reinvigorate the US economy. The plan has a strong focus on equity and climate resilience, with massive funds promised to rebuilding and strengthening key infrastructure against worsening climate impacts, improved R&D, the removal of lead water pipes, support for EVs and much more. It feels like a major change of pace from the US, and if passed, would start to rectify a good chunk of the impact of the Trump administration. However, the proposed funding source for the bill is increased corporation taxes, particularly on multinationals booking profits overseas, which has immediately raised Republican opposition, so it is unlikely to pass as is.

Fuelling the electric dream

Europe is seeing a boom in battery storage, fuelled by the rapidly growing European EV market. Major manufacturers in the region are reluctant to cede the construction of a large proportion of their vehicles to foreign companies, so are pouring money into local firms. BritishVolt, Northvolt and Automotive Cells Co. are amongst the new companies scaling up, and BNEF estimates European battery market share could rise from 7% currently to 31% by 2030, with 27 battery plants planned across the region, producing over half a terawatt-hour of cells by the end of the decade.

Adverse circumstances

Events that move the needle in the wrong direction

How not to do it

As I mentioned last week, the UK axed its Green Homes grant scheme after only six months, due to a catalogue of failures. The scheme was one of the only significant pieces of green COVID recovery policy put in place by the UK government, but fell apart rapidly. Despite an excellent goal of improving insulation and green home technologies such as heat pumps, the scheme has now burned trust with both homeowners and installers, who will be extremely reluctant to trust any future schemes the government may propose.

Home insulation is a tricky issue to tackle – in any area with a large base of older housing, there’s no quick fix to improving the insulation of homes. Retrofitting existing homes is imperfect, slow and time-consuming. However, those qualities also make it well-suited as a part of a COVID recovery plan – such a scheme, if well executed, can provide a large number of jobs whilst simultaneously improving home energy efficiency. However, schemes need to be well financed, well executed and long-lasting, rather than showy affairs that crumble within months.

Long Reads

Interesting deep-dives into climate-related topics

Many climate predictions and models rely on comparisons between weather/climate now and in the distant past. To do that involves moving beyond directly recorded readings, and figuring out the state of the environment from so-called proxy data – the impacts of climate on everything from seashell growth to leaf wax. This process is far from simple, and Carbon Brief dives deep into the details of environmental proxy data.

Climate Matters explores the topic of wet versus dry bulb temperatures, and the key role humidity plays in the liveability of different locales. Whilst high dry heat can cause its own impacts, humidity can make temperatures as low as 20°C lethal without the right cooling in place.

Quick Headlines

Some quick climate news nuggets to sate your appetite

Loading more posts…