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Florida Buries its Head in the Water Instead
On the list of crazy weather records this overheated summer, it’s possible that the single most extreme might have been a 101.1 Fahrenheit temperature measured by an ocean buoy at Manatee Bay in Florida in July. That appears to be the hottest temperature ever measured in the ocean; it’s in a murky and shallow stretch of the Keys, but across the entire Gulf coast temperatures are truly astounding. The average for the Gulf of Mexico this week is more than 88 degrees Fahrenheit, crushing the average for the date across the last three decades by two and a half degrees; God forbid a hurricane gets loose in there any time soon. Coral reef researchers were reporting “100% mortality” at sites in the Keys.
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So you would think that as Florida students return to school this fall, studying up on climate change would be a no-brainer—if physics and chemistry usually seem a little abstract, nothing could be more immediate than an ocean running at Jacuzzi temperatures. There’s so many ways you could study it, from the youngest students to high school seniors, and it would bring everything from history to economics alive. Some of it might be sad—I was deeply moved by this Diana Nyad piece about swimming in the ocean she’d known since she was a girl now that it was a hundred degrees. But I was fascinated by her writing—read this one paragraph and think about the different directions a talented teacher could take it:
At age 9, after the Cuban Revolution, I searched the horizon to catch a glimpse of Cuba, this suddenly forbidden island. My mother pointed out across the ocean and said to me: “There. Havana is just across there. It’s so close that you, you little swimmer, you could actually swim there.” Later, after five attempts over 35 years, I finally did make that crossing. But I couldn’t have made that swim last month. In such hot water, the body heat I’d generate from the duress of the effort — a continuous 52 hours and 54 minutes — would quickly lead to overheating and failure. And danger. Hyperthermia would conquer even the strongest of wills.
But that’s not what Florida students will necessarily be studying this year. Instead, the state’s “education” department has approved a series of right wing videos from Prager U, which draws much of its funding from some of the country’s biggest frackers. And they’re getting their money’s worth: the videos that Prager sends out explain, for instance, that “the planet has heated up and cooled since prehistoric times, even without the burning of fossil fuels.” Which, duh, but this time it’s—as every part of the scientific community agrees—because of the burning of fossil fuels. In one video, a Polish girl tries to explain to her classmates that like solar and wind energy that clean energy is in fact “unreliable, expensive and difficult to store.” Which is no longer true: it’s now the cheapest power on the planet. By all accounts, Gulf neighbor Texas survived its epic heatwave earlier this summer precisely because it had so much solar and so many batteries hooked to its grid.
The most obnoxious part of the Prager videos, though, is the preening they engage in. The Polish girl’s grandfather tells her not to worry that her friends think she’s old-fashioned for wanting to stick with coal; he compares her stand with the bravery of the Warsaw uprising. As a narrator explains, “Through her family’s stories, Ania is realizing that fighting oppression is risky and that it always takes courage.”
It’s not enough to carry water for the fossil fuel industry; the carriers would also like to imagine themselves as brave fighters against Nazism. To call it all shameless barely begins to scratch the surface. And the ugliness of it all is really amazing. According to Politico, a PragerU video about a child in Africa features a narrator calmly attacking solar and wind because “their batteries break down and become hazardous waste” and because it’s risky “to rely on things like wind and sunlight, which are not constant.” I have spent a fair amount of time in rural African communities which got power only because cheap solar became available, talking to kids who for the first time ever have light to read by at night. As one father in Cote d’Ivoire told me, “You can feel the effects with their grades now at school.”
But not in Florida’s schools, where anyone who watches this Prager nonsense will emerge dumber than before. And that’s galling, since the Sunshine State, thoughout the lifetimes of these students, will need to be making a series of good decisions if it’s going to survive in anything like its present form. Already, for instance, major insurers are pulling out of the state; Newsweek reported that its residents might soon be “uninsurable.” But instead of starting to prepare students for the real world, the state will let them bathe in the warm water of denial.
Happily, there are educators at work in the state, and making a difference. Florida weatherman Jeff Berardelli may be the best example. From his post at WFLA, and across social media, he’s been telling the story of this summer in straightforward and useful terms. He gave an interview recently where he explained his thinking:
My job is to educate people about what I know, right? I live at the intersection between weather and climate, and specifically extreme weather and climate change. That’s my specialty. So, there are certain events that are going to take place and have been taking place that are going to be pretty alarming and I think it’s my job as a scientist, the person who kind of lives at the intersection of both of those things, to put it into context and give people perspective on it.
These are good teaching opportunities, these moments, when extreme things happen, they allow me to kind of educate people on the latest science, the latest studies … the latest facts about how climate change is impacting our extreme weather. … My role is to act as both the scientist and also a communicator, because that’s exactly the field that I’m in.
This is not radical thinking, it’s not agenda-driven, it’s not partisan. It’s precisely the kind of teaching we used to take for granted in America.
In other energy and climate news:
+From the smart people at Climate and Capital Media, a list of “ten climate solutions that don’t help.” It’s centered on the various gambits that the fossil fuel industry is employing to keep its business model—burning stuff—intact. For intance, carbon capture:
Attempts to build power plants using Carbon Capture and Sequestration are also numbingly expensive and, so far, have all but failed. Oil giant Chevron recently acknowledged its flagship CCS project built in 2017 off the northwest coast of Australia is operating at just one-third of its capacity because of problems at the facility.
Tim Buckley, director of Climate Energy Finance and contributor to Climate & Capital, says Chevron’s admissions are an indictment of the technology: “Dismal operating performance since [the plant] opened six years ago shows the technology has little future.” Buckley notes that most carbon sequestration worldwide is “aimed at extracting more oil and gas from reservoirs.”
Iron ore magnate and passionate climate solution technology investor Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest lashed out at CCS recently, saying it’s a failed technology and a ploy created by oil and gas companies so they can continue extracting fossil fuels, In short, an industry “just waiting for the next idiot to come along.”
Bottom line: CCS is an expensive, ineffective technology being used to extend the useful life of fossil fuels, and masquerading as a climate change solution.
+Thoughtful investors are getting a little tired of “engaging” with fossil fuel companies, who just use that “engagement” as a way of slow-walking change. Or so say the folks at Responsible Investor.
+New polling finds most Americans don’t think the climate crisis affects some groups more than others.
For the first study, the question posed to 1,084 respondents was, “Do you think that climate change affects some groups more than others, or does it affect all groups about equally?”
In the second study, a total of 1,017 respondents were randomly assigned either the original question or one of two alternative questions: “Do you think that climate change affects some groups in the U.S. more than others, or does it affect all groups in the U.S. about equally?” or “Do you think that climate change affects some racial groups more than others, or does it affect all racial groups about equally?”
For the first study, just 37% of respondents felt climate change impacts some groups more than others; 46% felt it affected all groups about equally, and 17% weren’t sure. For the second study, when the question included the term “racial groups,” just 22% felt some groups were affected more than others. Fifty-seven percent felt all racial groups were affected about equally.
This is dismaying, since the disparate impact of the climate crisis on poor people, people of color, Indigenous people, older people, and disabled people are all firmly established in the literature. Indeed, the most basic fact about global warming may be that the less you did to cause it, the likelier you are to feel its effects.
But if one were trying to spin it a little, perhaps there’s something to be said for the fact that affluent white people don’t seem to think they’re going to get a pass from the changed weather.
+I love the NYC Labor Choir, and here they are singing “Life on Earth—
So Amazing,” which is a lovely rewrite of Handel’s Messiah.
And in other wonderful art: if you find yourself in Bath, Maine there’s an apparently quite remarkable exhibit at the Maine Maritime Museum.
Entering the underwater world of an ‘immersive’ art installation with a narrative that begins before modern human impact began taking its toll, visitors will encounter the voices and figures of our neighbors living under the waves, eighteen humans who represent solution and hope, and scenes ranging from a dark and climate-challenged world to a light and magical underwater mountain range called Cashes Ledge, needing permanent protection.
+The Wall Street Journal is highlighting a “green skills gap” that may make it hard to build out clean energy as fast as we should.
To help close the green skills gap, companies are getting creative. For newer, fast-growing roles such as sustainability manager and energy auditor, some businesses have recruited workers without prior green job experience, according to LinkedIn. It also said around half of the solar consultants and waste managers hired in the U.S. had no prior experience.
Businesses are also upskilling current workers and hiring people from areas of the economy that are shrinking. For example, Gillingham said coal-power plant workers are being trained to run renewable-energy farms, operate electric-vehicle charging networks or expand transmission lines.
Universities are also stepping up to help close the green skills gap. For example, the Yale School of the Environment has begun a “major push” into certification programs to train professionals with new green skills that they can quickly bring into their companies, said Sara Smiley Smith, associate dean at the school.
+The Washington Post demonstrates that in every conceivable trip across all fifty states, it’s cheaper to be driving an EV than a gas vehicle.
+Check out the proposed Fashion Act, proposed in the New York legislature to cover any company that sells $100 million worth of apparel, and force them to start disclosing the pollution in their supply chains and “measurably improving” the lives of their workers. This is smart legislating—no fashion house is going to want to forego sales in Manhattan, so it could have far-reaching effect
Apparel and footwear are responsible for an enormous and under acknowledged part of global greenhouse gas emissions, between 4-8.6%. (By comparison, the entire United States accounts for 11%). It is an industry pumping out an endless flow of mostly plastic based products taking no responsibility for how it is made or the waste it creates. The fashion sector is not just an enormous polluter, it is also a leading industry in the use of exploited, forced and child labor.
+Himalayan glaciers melted 65% faster in the 2010s than in the previous decade, according to new data
Availability of water in the HKH is expected to peak in mid-century, driven by accelerated glacial melt, after which it is projected to decline, with variability in meltwater from glaciers and snow resulting in huge uncertainty both for mountain communities and vast lowland populations. Floods and landslides are projected to increase over the coming decades, threatening the lives, livelihoods, property and infrastructure of people and settlements downstream.
+A regular reminder that Dave Roberts Volts podcast is not to be missed if you have a wonkish tilt. And this week he’s interviewing Joe Romm, veteran climate analyst who has prepared an important new paper on the remarkable bogosity of most carbon offsets. I think this is about the final word on this confusing topic, here made clear!
Meanwhile, the great Katherine Hayhoe is coming to Substack as well! Another master of plain-speaking!
+A new study in Nature highlights the huge emissions associated with cutting down trees for “forest products.”
These findings are, in a sense, good news because they imply that if people could reduce forest harvests, forest growth could do more to reduce atmospheric carbon, a potential mitigation ‘wedge’ that is rarely identified in climate strategies. As with other mitigation efforts, reductions have value only to the extent they do not shift emissions to another source. Over time, if more forests were able to mature this net sink would decline but these efforts would help ‘buy time’ for more climate mitigation activities to become viable.
+I love ‘grow local’ food schemes for many reasons, including the fact that everything tastes better. Here veteran climate advocate Mark Dunlea talks with Sandy Steubing what’s going on in upstate New York
+A group of older Swiss women has announced they’re suing thier government in Europe’s Court of Human Rights for failing to protect them from the dangers of rising temperatures.
While climate change is affecting all Swiss people, the KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz — known in English as the Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland — say that older women like them are the most vulnerable.
One recent study found that last summer’s heat waves killed more than 61,000 people across Europe, most of them women over 80. In Switzerland, more than 60 percent of about 600 heat-related deaths last summer were attributed to global warming, according to a study from the University of Bern, with older women having the highest mortality rate.
“Our health is at risk,” said Elisabeth Stern, 75, a member of the KlimaSeniorinnen in Zurich and an avid hiker, who said she had kept herself fit and healthy her whole life. Last summer, sick of staying indoors with the windows shut, Ms. Stern, a former cultural anthropologist, visited the cooler mountains for a reprieve. But she collapsed in a cable car, overcome by the heat.
“There was a time when Switzerland was a cold place in general,” said Ms. Stern, who spent part of her childhood on a farm in Switzerland’s east and has watched a nearby glacier disappear in her lifetime. “It just has changed so rapidly.”
+Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca, the biggest lake in South America, is drying up amidst a brutal winter heatwave in the region
Titicaca is only 30 cm (1 foot) away from reaching its record low of 1996 due to severe drought, said Lucia Walper, an official with Bolivia's hydrology and meteorology service. She added that the drought could last until November in some parts of the country.
Farmers in the adjacent Huarina community are desperate for help
"Look, this part is totally dry. There's no water," said Isabel Apaza. "I don't know what we're going to do any more since we don't have food for our cows or lambs."
+What happened when a huge (and hugely polluting) coal plant in Pittsburgh closed in 2016? A new study brings the good news:
Average weekly visits to the local emergency departments for heart-related problems decreased by 42 per cent immediately after the shutdown, analyses of state health records show.
There were 33 fewer average annual hospitalisations for heart disease over this period compared to the three years preceding the plant closure. This included 13 fewer average yearly hospitalisations for ischemic heart disease (typically heart attack) and 12 fewer average yearly hospitalisations for cerebrovascular events (most often stroke).
Senior study investigator George Thurston compared the benefits from the dramatic drop in air pollution exposure to the steady reductions in illness and disease people experience after they quit smoking.
+A big win for students and alumni who had been pressing Harvard professor Jody Freeman to step down from her role as a board member at Conoco
On Thursday, Freeman said in a statement that she had left the position at ConocoPhillips “to focus on my research at Harvard and make space for some new opportunities”.
She added: “I learned a lot from my decade-long board service, think I made a positive difference, and am glad I did it.” Freeman received more than $3m from the company during her time on the board.
An article in the Washington Post published after TBIJ’s revelations outlined how, in the decade since Freeman got a seat on the ConocoPhillips board, the oil giant had increased the size of its oil and gas production and while lagging behind other companies on renewable energy investment.
+The effervescent Gina McCarthy, a few months after stepping down as Biden’s climat czar, has a new gig: explaining to Americans how the IRA works and how to take advantage of its funding
“It’s a pretty exciting moment. I’m a kid in a candy store,” McCarthy told The Climate 202. “This is my opportunity to make the shift away from government and actually support these federal actions.”
America Is All In is devoted to encouraging and supporting climate action among subnational leaders, including mayors, governors, tribal leaders and corporate executives. It is co-chaired by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.
+A new study finds that putting solar panels on top of the country’s many many warehouses would produce enough power to fuel the New York/New Jersey metro area!
+Thank heaven for Leah Stokes, a master of all the details of the energy transition. She took to the oped page of the LA Times to explain just how hypocritical the head of Southern California Edison is being in his opposition to key parts of the Biden energy plan:
With nearly 200 million Americans frying under extreme heat, and water off the coast of Florida reaching hot tub temperatures, Americans can see the climate crisis with their own eyes. We know we must cut fossil fuels as fast as possible. Yet the Edison Electric Institute — the trade association that represents privately owned utilities providing power to more than 235 million people across all 50 states — is planning to oppose a critical part of President Biden’s efforts to address the climate crisis.
The disturbing thing is: I’m funding this effort to delay climate action. If you live in Southern California, you’re probably funding it too.
As a customer of Southern California Edison, the electric utility that supplies much of Los Angeles County and others surrounding it, my energy payments flow upward to Edison International, the parent company of SCE. Its CEO, Pedro Pizarro, is the current chair of EEI. So, while Southern California Edison boaststhat it is “leading the transformation of the electric power industry,” it’s really leading the electricity industry backward to dirty fossil fuels.
+Alberta—home to the tarsands complex, among the most destructive things humans have ever done on this planet—announced a six month moratorium on…renewable energy projects. Celebrating the moratorium was one group that declared co2 was the ‘gas of life.’
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