Solar trade woes cast a pall over Biden’s climate goals

“Even the mere prospect of new trade restrictions has prompted solar installers, who are already facing supply issues and higher labor costs, to pull back on some projects. At the same time, Biden wants to avoid being seen to be weak on China — another centerpiece of his campaign pitch and early policy agenda.

The conflict pits parts of the solar industry against each other. American solar panel manufacturers are petitioning to expand existing tariffs on Chinese products to those coming from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Backers of the tariffs and trade restrictions say they would allow panel makers in the U.S. to expand production. Added duties would also accomplish another of Biden’s goals: punishing China over the use of forced labor.

But the Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents developers that install panels and build solar projects, says imposing tariffs on those three nations would hit more than three-fourths of imports and about half of the total solar panel supply in the U.S. “That would have a pretty devastating impact on the solar industry,” said Abby Hopper, CEO of the trade group.”

“Other trade issues before the administration could also hamper solar build-out. Commerce is weighing whether to extend separate Trump-era tariffs on Chinese solar for another four years, and the Department of Homeland Security is considering whether to increase trade restrictions on Chinese panel components, like it did this summer.

In June, the Biden administration blocked the import of products containing silicon materials from a key Chinese supplier, Hoshine, over concerns it uses forced labor in its manufacturing. The company operates in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, where the ruling Communist Party has interned hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uyghur Muslims.

The policy has resulted in Customs and Border Protection detaining some shipments of solar panels coming in from China.”

Joe Manchin won’t support a key climate program. Alternatives won’t be enough.

“A key climate policy designed to phase out fossil fuels will likely be cut from Democrats’ upcoming reconciliation package due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has reportedly refused to back the measure as negotiations over the budget bill continue.

According to the New York Times’s Coral Davenport, who first reported the news on Friday, Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will not support the sweeping clean electricity program widely seen as the centerpiece of the bill’s climate plan.

The $150 billion program — officially known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program, or CEPP — would reward energy suppliers who switch from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to clean power sources like solar, wind, and nuclear power, which already make up about 40 percent of the industry, and fine those who do not.

Experts believe the program is the most effective way to slash US carbon emissions significantly enough to prevent the global temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius, a threshold which would have drastic consequences for the planet if exceeded.”

“Manchin’s home state of West Virginia is one of the largest producers of coal in the US, and Manchin himself benefits financially from the coal industry.

Manchin’s spokesperson, Sam Runyon, told the New York Times that Manchin opposed the CEPP because he couldn’t support “using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing.””

“Manchin is correct in saying that some companies are indeed changing over to sustainable electricity production; currently, almost 40 percent of electricity generated in the US comes from a clean energy source, either nuclear or renewable. But corporations are ultimately concerned about their bottom line, and the carrot-and-stick approach of the proposed clean electricity program incorporates that reality by incentivizing companies to make the drastic changes necessary to address climate change — and penalizing them if they don’t.

The other reason a clean electricity program could prove key to addressing climate change is that it creates a national standard, as opposed to the patchwork of municipal and state legislation and individual efforts currently in place. Among other impacts, the program would help bring lagging areas up to speed with the ambitious targets set by the Biden administration, which call for 80 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, and 100 percent by 2035.”

Why the US isn’t ready for clean energy

“In the near future, the energy made in the US is going to be much greener. The country’s current goal is for solar plants alone to make nearly half of US electricity by 2050. But we can’t just build solar plants where coal and gas plants used to be. They have to be built where it’s … sunny. And wind turbines have to be built where it’s windy. But that’s not always where the people who need the power are.

The distance from energy source to energy need is about to get a lot bigger. And the US is going to need more high-voltage transmission lines. A lot more. As soon as possible. While solar plants can be built relatively fast, high-voltage transmission projects can take up to 10 years. So experts say we need to start proactively building them, right now.”

The surprising downsides to planting trillions of trees

“Solving a problem as vast as climate change or biodiversity loss is never as straightforward as planting lots of trees. People often think, “We’ll just plant trees and call that a restoration project, and we’ll exonerate our carbon sins,” said Robin Chazdon, a forest researcher at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Usually, she said, “that fails.”

Buzzy tree-planting programs tend to obscure the fact that restoration requires a long-term commitment of resources and many years of monitoring. “We should just stop thinking about only tree-planting,” as climate scientist Lalisa Duguma has said. “It has to be tree-growing.” Even fast-growing trees take at least three years to mature, he added, while others can require eight years or more. “If our thinking of growing trees is downgraded to planting trees, we miss that big part of the investment that is required,” Duguma said.”

” A bigger problem still is that many large planting campaigns don’t account for the underlying social or economic conditions that fuel deforestation in the first place. People may cut down trees to collect firewood or carve out land for their animals. In those cases, putting seedlings in the ground won’t do much to end deforestation. “Planting trees might not be the intervention,” Fleischman said. “The intervention might be giving people a substitute for firewood.””

“there are plenty of successful restoration programs — and they’re getting better, said Chazdon, who’s also an adviser for the WEF trillion trees campaign. “There is ample evidence that when restoration is done properly, it works,” she said.”

What’s causing California’s unprecedented wildfires

“There are several key ingredients needed for wildfires. They need favorable weather, namely dry and windy conditions. They need fuel. And they need an ignition source.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that they are still investigating the origins of most of the blazes underway. But other factors this year stacked the deck in favor of massive conflagrations.

California and much of the western US are in the midst of a years-long drought. With limited moisture, plants dry out and turn into kindling. Ordinarily, vegetation at higher altitudes would still hang onto some moisture and act as a barrier to wildfires in places like the Sierra Nevada. However, the severity of the drought has caused even this greenery to turn yellow and gray.”

“human activity has made wildfires worse at every step. Climate change caused by burning fossil fuels is increasing the aridity of western forests and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme heat events.

People are also building closer to wildland areas. That means that when fires do occur, they cause more damage to homes and businesses. That proximity also means that humans are more likely to spark new infernos. The vast majority of wildfires are ignited by people, up to 84 percent, whether through errant sparks, downed power lines, or arson.

And for hundreds of years, people have suppressed naturally occurring fires. European settlers also halted cultural burning practices from the Indigenous people of the region. Stopping these smaller fires has allowed forests, grasslands, and chaparral to grow much denser than they would otherwise. Paradoxically, that means more fuel is available to burn when fires do occur, causing blazes to spread farther and faster.”

We’ve been radically underestimating the true cost of our carbon footprint

“according to some top environmental economists, we have good reason to believe the true cost of emitting carbon is actually a lot higher than that price tag suggests.

There are a couple of reasons for that. First, until now, the economists who calculated the SCC had barely factored in one of the biggest harms that climate change can cause: human mortality. Second, the way the SCC had been calculated rested on a problematic premise: that damage in the future counts for significantly less than damage in the present.”

“People do tend to value the present more than the future. You may grab that chocolate chip cookie today, for instance, even though you know it means you’ll have to lean into the diet extra hard tomorrow. But that doesn’t necessarily mean our climate models should follow suit. In fact, some philosophers think baking in people’s rate of pure time preference is a terrible idea.

“We’re basically just measuring a form of human impatience and irrationality, then trying to add it into political decision-making,” Toby Ord, a senior research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, argued on the 80,000 Hours podcast in 2017. “It doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing that one should be respecting at all. It’s just like finding a cognitive bias that we have, and then adding it back into your economic analysis in order to make your analysis biased in the same way.””

“Now, that’s not to say the pure rate of time preference should be absolutely zero. As Carleton and Greenstone wrote, “Perhaps the most compelling explanation for a nonzero pure rate of time preference is the possibility of a disaster (e.g., asteroids or nuclear war) that wipes out the population at some point in the future, thus removing the value of any events that happen afterwards.” Ord has made the same argument, suggesting we should discount the future by the extinction risk to humanity, and no more.

Whatever you think about discounting, intellectual honesty requires us to admit that how we choose to answer the question of what we owe to future generations gets baked into the discount rate and thus into the SCC. And any answer to that question will be a subjective moral judgment, not some objective mathematical truth.”

“even the first purely economic reason to discount the future (society will be wealthier in the future, and damages matter less the wealthier you are) is not some objective truth.”

A Jobs-Killing Civilian Climate Corps Is Not the Way To Fix Climate Change

“The backlog of forest restoration projects suggests that there are issues on public lands that really need to be addressed, but that is not an argument for creating a vast new federal bureaucracy with as many as 1.5 million government employees.”

Climate change worsens extreme weather. A revolution in attribution science proved it.

“Bolstered with better data and even clearer trends, they’re no longer reluctant to point the finger back at humanity for worsening these calamities. In the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a team of leading researchers convened by the United Nations presented some of the most robust research that connects the dots. It shows how some greater weather extremes can be traced back to rising average temperatures, which in turn stem from emissions of greenhouse gases, mainly from countries and corporations burning fossil fuels.

“On a case-by-case basis, scientists can now quantify the contribution of human influences to the magnitude and probability of many extreme events,” according to the report.”