What’s really holding the world back from stopping climate change

“The world is on track to shoot far past climate change targets unless countries make drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Fortunately, many of the tools to make these cuts are already here and are continuing to get cheaper. Yet the pledges to lower emissions that countries have made so far are nowhere near enough, and the world is drifting even further off course.”

“the difference between 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and 2 degrees Celsius — could make global warming far more destructive. Governments have promised to keep us under these levels, but the world is far away from these targets, and moving farther away every year.”

“most of the world would need to start to abandon existing fossil fuel infrastructure in the next decade, and also nix any new and existing coal-fired power plants and plans to expand offshore oil drilling. And action must cut across sectors, addressing gas-guzzling transportation, heat-intensive manufacturing operations, and deforestation.”

How to fight the affordable housing and climate crises at once

“The nation’s affordable housing crisis has gotten some semblance of attention — with journalists writing stories on the rising cost of rent, the scarce supply of new housing, the looming threat of eviction — but one aspect of the crisis has gone consistently overlooked. On top of the severe housing shortage that currently exists, nearly 6 million homes nationwide have moderate to serious home health hazards. They require repairs that, if left ignored, will make them uninhabitable, and eventually they’ll disappear from the market altogether.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, a research and advocacy group, estimates a shortage of 7 million affordable housing units for low-income renters, but those figures don’t account for all the existing affordable units that stand at risk of demolition.

Issues like lead paint, leaky roofs, and knob-and-tube wiring don’t just leave tenants and homeowners in substandard, unsafe housing. They also leave families — mostly poor families — shut out from energy efficiency programs the federal government already funds to upgrade homes. Due to inflexible program restrictions, homes with outstanding repairs aren’t eligible for existing weatherization subsidies, despite those families arguably needing them the most. Addressing this problem could help solve both the affordable housing and the climate crisis at once.”

Climate change is already making parts of the world unlivable

“Global average temperatures have already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius, roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving perilously little room for meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The accord set a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius/3.6 degrees Farenheit compared to average temperatures before the industrial revolution in the 1800s. The agreement also set a more ambitious target of staying below 1.5°C/2.7°F.

Global warming has already raised global sea levels by 9 inches. It has left a distinct mark on extreme weather too, worsening heat waves, storm surges, and rainfall. Scientists can even quantify how much human-linked emissions of heat-trapping gases have made these events worse.”

“The natural world is passing some of the hard limits of what it can handle from climate change right now, leading to irreversible changes like extinction of species. “Ecosystems already reaching or surpassing hard adaptation limits include some warm water coral reefs, some coastal wetlands, some rainforests, and some polar and mountain ecosystems,” according to the report. Humans who are dependent on these ecosystems are deeply affected as well.”

“Sea level rise is forcing residents of small islands to permanently evacuate. At least five islands in the Pacific Ocean have been lost to higher water levels. Rising temperatures are changing rainfall patterns and melting snowpacks, limiting freshwater for drinking and agriculture. This is driving migrations around the world.”

“As bad as the situation is right now, climate change can still get much worse. Rising temperatures mean that many more areas of the world, spanning some of the most populated regions, will experience times when it’s too hot to survive.”

“More than 150 million people currently live on land that will be below the high-tide line by 2050.”

When It Comes to Climate Change, Wealth Equals Adaptation

“Adaptation and the development of low-carbon energy generation technologies will both be required to address and mitigate the challenges of man-made climate change. And yes, the world is slated to get warmer, but humanity is not running out of time to avert a harrowing climate future.

Again, when bad weather meets poverty, people die. The recipe for successfully adapting to climate change is continued economic growth and technological progress.”

Sea Level To Rise One Foot by 2050, Says NOAA

“since 1968 the U.S. government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has been subsidizing a significant number of its policyholders to build and live in flood-prone areas. As a result of losses outstripping its premiums, the NFIP is $20.5 billion in debt. In a recent article in Regulation, Peter Van Doren, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, points out that the often highly concentrated nature of flood disasters would require private insurers to charge premiums amounting to 5 to 9 times the average claim in order to remain solvent. Few people would buy such expensive policies.

Last fall the NFIP launched its Risk Rating 2.0 program which is raising the rates for nearly 75 percent of its policyholders. Premiums may increase by as much as 18 percent per year for owner-occupied homes and 25 percent for second homes. Over time, such increases will incentivize people to move away from areas where the sea is engulfing their homes and businesses.

A growing body of research suggests that at least some Americans are beginning to factor sea level rise into their purchases of beachfront property.”

How Manchin used politics to protect his family coal company

“As governor, Joe Manchin supported an unusual detail in a clean energy bill that was moving through the West Virginia Legislature in 2009.
The provision classified waste coal as an alternative energy.

The muddy mix of discarded coal and rocks is one of the most carbon-intensive fuels in America. And Manchin’s family business stood to benefit financially when it was reclassified as something akin to solar, wind and hydropower.

Selling the scrap coal has earned Manchin millions of dollars over three decades, and he has used his political positions to protect the fuel — and a single power plant in West Virginia that burns it — from laws and regulations that also threatened his family business.

It continues today.

Only now Manchin has enormous influence over federal climate policy. He is using his chair role of the energy committee — and role as maverick Democrat – to shape environmental policy across the states.”

“By 2006, when Manchin was governor, the plant’s owners went before the West Virginia Public Service Commission and claimed it was on the verge of shutting down.

The commission, then chaired by Jon McKinney, a Manchin appointee, raised the rate that Grant Town could charge for its electricity from $27.25 per megawatt to $34.25. They also gave the plant a way to stay in business longer, by extending its power purchase agreement with FirstEnergy by eight years to 2036.

Those changes still reverberate today. West Virginia has seen some of the highest electricity rate increases in the nation. Its loyalty to coal is one reason for that.

The price of residential power in a dozen other states that share the PJM grid with West Virginia has declined, according to a report released last month from the West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

“Over the past 10 years, West Virginia’s residential prices have risen, while PJM’s average price has come down considerably,” the report found.

Between 2010 and 2019, utility bills in West Virginia rose at five times the national average, according to calculations by James Van Nostrand, a West Virginia University professor who spent 22 years as a lawyer representing energy clients in state regulatory proceedings.

Power prices are higher in West Virginia in part because coal is more expensive than natural gas and renewables. In other states, aging coal plants that can’t compete economically are allowed to shut down.”

“Manchin’s business interests reflect long-standing ethical questions in Congress, said Shaub, the former government ethics official. Lawmakers have the power to prevent obvious conflicts of interest. But neither party has changed its rule to stop members from making money off their votes in the Capitol, he said.”

The latest data on US climate pollution is very bad

“The world is still trapped in the same cycle where rising growth means rising use of fossil fuels. Rhodium’s new data shows how easy it is for the economy to become more polluting even if there’s still growth in renewables. What the US needs to do to address climate change is break this pattern: “The best way to solve our climate problems is continue our economic growth, but to have emissions decline,” Larsen said.

The promise of the $555 billion in climate spending in the pending Build Back Better legislation is that the US can still build an offramp. Its investments in renewables and utilities would accelerate a clean power sector and the closure of coal-fired plants, and expand access to electric vehicles. It would also encourage electric vehicles for last-mile deliveries that are needlessly polluting. The bill’s climate provisions are historic, in that they invest in “off-the-shelf, ready-to-go technologies that are commercially available and easy to build up in America today,” said Jesse Jenkins, an environmental engineering professor at Princeton University who is advising lawmakers on the bill.

In December, the House passed the Build Back Better bill, which would inject funding into deploying these readily available solutions and incentivizing research into the harder-to-tackle emissions. One important part of the bill incentivizes renewable electricity and transmission that will help finally close the remaining 183 aging coal-fired power plants in the country.

For rising freight emissions, the bill helps electrify more vans and vehicles that deliver packages to your door, and run equipment used at airports and ports on renewables. Some of its other provisions include $3 billion in direct loans for manufacturing zero-emissions trucks and aircraft, and another $2.5 billion for using offshore wind to power equipment at ports. For heavy-duty trucks, there’s $5 billion to replace polluting trucks with cleaner vehicles. The infrastructure bill that Biden signed into law last year also helps make a dent in transportation emissions by paying for more electric vehicle charging stations and cutting pollution at ports.

Without Build Back Better and other economic and political interventions, domestic emissions could actually be on the rise again above 2019 levels. (This comes from separate Rhodium modeling that’s based on the pessimistic assumption that there will be no federal legislation, no new EPA regulation, and no further state action.) In this world, pollution levels in 2030 would remain just 15 to 25 percent below the US peak in 2005.

The US doesn’t have to be headed down this path. Larsen explained that it is important for this transition “to happen very quickly if we’re going to be able to begin to see a reduction in emissions by the end of this decade.””

Germany Shuts Down Three Perfectly Good Nuclear Power Plants

“Electricity prices tripled in many European countries this winter, including in Germany, as renewable power supplies faltered and Russia seized the opportunity to boost the price of its natural gas exports. So, of course, the German government thought this was a fine time to permanently shutter three perfectly good nuclear power plants.
The closures are part of Germany’s famous energy transition, widely known as the Energiewende, to a low-carbon, nuclear-free economy. Germany aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2045 chiefly by switching entirely to renewable energy generation to supply electricity to residences, factories, and transport. That goal would be much more easily achieved if the country not only kept running its carbon-free nuclear power plants, but also built more of them.”

“How will Germany make up for the power lost from shutting down the three nuclear power plants? A new analysis by the admittedly pro-nuclear Environmental Progress activist group argues that the expected addition of solar and wind capacity will not be sufficient to make up for the loss of the German nuclear plants. Consequently, the group observes, “Next year, the share of German electricity generation coming from fossil fuels could be as high as 44 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2021 and 37 percent in 2020.”

In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged in November that France will build more nuclear power plants. The new plants, he said, are meant “to guarantee France’s energy independence, to guarantee our country’s electricity supply and achieve our objectives, in particular carbon neutrality in 2050.””