Playing It Coal
July 21, 2022
Some Good News
- U.S. House passes bill protecting marriage equality (Reuters)
- US launches initiative to support Ukrainian farmers hit by Russia’s war (CNN)
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” – Marie Curie
The Market’s Hot
Last month, the Supreme Court hamstrung the EPA’s ability under the Clean Air Act to reduce the carbon pollution being emitted from the nation’s gas and coal-burning power plants, and last week, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) torpedoed President Biden’s plans to address the climate emergency with funding for clean energy programs. The science is clear – the climate crisis is real, yet some people don’t seem to exist in the same world as the rest of us.
Right now more than 100 million Americans live in places that are under some sort of extreme heat warning. Wildfires are engulfing areas across 13 states, from Texas to California and Alaska, and strained power grids are threatening electrical blackouts. Parts of the “sun belt” are enduring the worst drought in more than 1,000 years. Yet despite the ferocious heat wave gripping much of the south and west, people continue flocking to the very cities at risk of becoming unlivable due to the climate catastrophe.
San Antonio, Texas, which added more people to its population than any other U.S. city between July 2020 and July 2021, has already had over a dozen days of over 100F this summer. Second on the list is Phoenix, Arizona, which hit 104F Tuesday and so far this year has had a record number of heat-related deaths. Fort Worth, Texas, third on the U.S. Census population growth list, has a “red flag” warning in place amid temperatures that hit 109F this week.
An expert in climate adaptation at Tulane University notes that since the 1990s, several sunbelt states that slashed housing regulations to spur development have cities, like those in Arizona, that are struggling to secure enough water to survive. “The deregulation is really catching up with communities and they are paying that price today,” he says. President Biden’s climate and clean energy programs were designed to bring the U.S. into alignment with what hundreds of scientists making up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say is essential to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. It’s unfortunate for humanity that inattention, self-interest, and politics tend to overrule science. (Time, NPR, Guardian, My San Antonio, 12 News, IPCC)
Melt A Bad Hand
- As Senator Manchin was refusing to support President Biden’s proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the end product of those emissions was melting enough ice in Greenland to cover the state of West Virginia with a foot of water. Temperatures have been running around 60F – 10 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.
- One climate scientist stated the obvious: “Yes, the chance of temperatures getting this hot is clearly linked to global warming.” Before human-caused climate change kicked in, temperatures near 32F there were unheard of. But since the 1980s, this region has warmed by around 1.5F per decade – four times faster than the global pace. The latest research points to an ever more precarious situation on the Northern Hemisphere’s most icy island.
- In 2020 the rate of melting had exceeded anything Greenland has experienced in the last 12,000 years – enough to cause measurable change in the gravitational field over the island. If all of Greenland’s ice melted, it would lift sea level around the world by 7.5 meters, or 24.6 feet. (CNN)
Playing It Coal
- China’s climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions are the highest in the world, and Beijing has pledged to strictly control coal power capacity over the 2021-2025 period, peaking by 2030. The country’s new projects slowed in 2021, but rising energy supply worries – driven in part by a wave of power outages last September – have triggered an increase in approvals for the construction of new coal-fired power plants.
- “Energy security has become a sort of code word for coal, rather than for reliable supply of energy,” said Wu Jinghan, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace in Beijing. Although China is accelerating wind and solar power construction, Wu added, building more coal capacity will make it harder for renewable projects to gain access to the grids and reach consumers.
- China’s coal-fired power construction plans were a chief point of contention during global climate talks in Glasgow last year, where countries agreed to “phase down” rather than “phase out” global coal use. (Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- South Africa nightclub teen victims had methanol in their systems (WaPo, $)
- Millions could die without ‘urgent’ funding as ‘catastrophic famine’ looms in East Africa, IRC says (ABC)
- Europe plans to force countries to ration gas as Russia weaponizes energy (CNN)
- Israeli minister rues ‘stupid’ Israeli TV report in Mecca (Reuters)
- Erdoğan asks Russia and Iran to back Turkey’s incursion into Syria (Guardian)
- Belarus behind bomb hoax that grounded dissident’s flight: ICAO (Al Jazeera)
- Italy political turmoil a headache for Europe’s central bank (AP)
Chip Or Flop
- A bipartisan bill subsidizing domestic semiconductor production cleared its first procedural hurdle Tuesday in a 64-34 Senate vote. The details of the legislation, dubbed USICA, are still being worked out, but the bill would provide roughly $52 billion in subsidies to encourage chip companies to boost production in the U.S.
- The White House and leaders of both parties see this as a critical national-security need. The vote paves the way for a larger package that would include additional funding for scientific research. Earlier this year the House passed its own version of the legislation, a $350 billion package. The House and Senate versions still need to be reconciled, but supporters were confident a satisfactory spending package would emerge.
- After Tuesday’s procedural vote, Senator Mark Kelly (D. Ariz.) said: “It’s the difference between our country getting four advanced semiconductor fabs or possibly 14,” using a shorthand term for chip fabrication plants. A few days before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband bought over a million dollars worth of chip designer Nvidia’s stock. (WSJ ($), Yahoo)
Case Definitely Not Closed
- Covid cases, including hospitalizations and deaths, are on the rise again, but state health officials are out of ideas for new messaging. “When you’ve said the same thing over and over about being vaccinated, being boosted, that if you’re vulnerable and you’re indoors with people who are not part of your household and you can’t distance, you need to wear a mask – I mean, the message hasn’t changed since the very beginning,” said Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.
- New York Governor Kathy Hochul, also a Democrat, said she has no plans to change her administration’s approach to Covid-19. “Right now, we just want to have people be smart and would recommend in various settings – including transportation – we still want everyone to wear a mask.”
- Daily deaths from Covid are over 400, up 25% from one month ago. But there’s a growing recognition there’s little more authorities can say. A New Mexico health official said no death is acceptable, but “there also is a dynamic in society between freedom and public health.” (Politico)
Additional USA News
- Secret Service provided a single text exchange to IG after request for many records (CNN)
- 17 members of Congress arrested during Supreme Court protest, Capitol Police say (CBS)
- U.S. death toll from drug overdoses is rising fast among Black and Indigenous people (NPR)
- Justice Department seizes $500K from North Korean hackers who targeted US medical organizations (CNN)
- White House eyes limited abortion health emergency declaration (Politico)
- Abortion Provider Prepares Defamation Suit Against Indiana Attorney General (NYT, $)
- Hoover Dam transformer explodes; no one hurt (AP)
Barking Up The Right Tree
- Who doesn’t remember the 1950s TV series “Lassie,” about a smart and fearless Collie who performed heroic tasks for her human owners and animal friends every week? Lassie would bark and bark and look desperate until someone would follow her to wherever somebody else was in trouble. Turns out, there’s a real modern-day Lassie out west.
- A 53-year-old man was hiking in a remote section of Tahoe National Forest on the night of July 12 when he fell 70 feet down the side of the mountain and thought he’d broken his hip and ribs. Somehow, he managed to find a location with cellphone service and dialed local authorities, who sent out a team of 25 search and rescue members from the Nevada County Sheriff’s Officer the next day. “Some searchers thought they heard a voice calling out, but they couldn’t figure out where it was coming from,” Sgt. Dennis Hack told the local TV station.
- The team pinged the man’s cellphone and talked to a friend to try and determine his location. All of a sudden the man’s dog, Saul, came barreling through the woods and led the team back to his owner, who was found under a camouflage tarp and taken by helicopter for treatment for traumatic injuries. In a Facebook post, the team said “The true credit goes to the subject’s K9 Border Collie that ran through the forest approximately 200 yards and in true ‘Lassie’ fashion to flag down two searchers.” (NBC News)
- Mega Millions jackpot soars to $630 million after no winner matched all 6 numbers Tuesday (CNN)
- ‘Release the Snyder Cut’ Campaign Was Partially Driven by Fake Accounts, Says Report (CNET)
- Spanish Authorities Seize a ‘Contraband’ Picasso at Ibiza Airport (NYT, $)
- The SLS rocket finally has a believable launch date, and it’s soon (Ars Technica)
- Ancient fortress found by archaeologists may be a lost royal city (CNN)
- These Fins Were Made for Walking … and Then Swimming (NYT, $)
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