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Biden’s climate change strategy looks to pay farmers to curb carbon footprint

PUBLISHED FRI, FEB 12 202111:47 AM EST
UPDATED FRI, FEB 12 20214:07 PM EST
Emma Newburger@EMMA_NEWBURGER
Source: CNBC

  • The Biden administration is looking to steer farm aid from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to encourage carbon emissions reductions on farms.
  • By adapting more “regenerative practices,” experts estimate that American farmers can sequester a large enough portion of emissions to avert a climate catastrophe.
  •  “If the government supports the farmers who are getting good results, everyone else will follow,” said a fourth generation cattle rancher.
Fourth generation cattle rancher Loren Poncia has made Stemple Creek Ranch carbon positive. He's implemented rotational cattle grazing systems that allow soil and grass to recover, applied compost on pastures and planted chicory that aerate the soil.
Source: CNBC
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Fourth generation cattle rancher Loren Poncia has made Stemple Creek Ranch carbon positive. He’s implemented rotational cattle grazing systems that allow soil and grass to recover, applied compost on pastures and planted chicory that aerate the soil.Courtesy of Paige Green

President Joe Biden has called on U.S. farmers to lead the way in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions to battle climate change — a goal fourth generation cattle rancher Loren Poncia set out to achieve over a decade ago.

Despite working in the beef sector, a big contributor to global warming, Poncia has transformed his Northern California ranch into one of the few carbon-positive livestock operations in the country.

“It’s a win-win — for the environment and for our pocketbook,” said Poncia, who adopted carbon farming practices through a partnership with the Marin Carbon Project.

Experts estimate that farmers across the world can sequester a large enough portion of carbon through regenerative agriculture practices to avert the worst impacts of climate change. Research suggests removing carbon already in the atmosphere and replenishing soil worldwide could result in a 10% carbon drawdown. The United Nations has warned that efforts to curb global emissions will fall short without drastic changes in global land use and agriculture.

Poncia’s ranch sequesters more carbon than it emits through practices like rotational cattle grazing systems that allow soil and grass to recover, applying compost instead of chemical fertilizers to pastures to avoid tilling, building worm farms and planting chicory to aerate the soil. Such climate-friendly projects have allowed Poncia to grow more grass and produce more beef.

“If we as a world are going to reverse the damage that’s been done, it’ll be through agriculture and food sustainability,” Poncia said. “We’re excited and positive about the future.”

While some farmers, ranchers and foresters have already embraced sustainable practices that capture existing carbon and store it in soil, others are wary of upfront costs and uncertain returns that could vary across states and farming operations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently said it would incentivize farmers to implement such sustainable practices. And more researchers and companies have started to better quantify and manage carbon that’s stored in the soil.

USDA push towards carbon farming

Battling climate change has become a matter of survival for American farmers, who have endured major losses from floods and droughts that have grown more frequent and destructive across the country.

In 2019, farmers lost tens of thousands of acres during historic flooding. And NASA scientists report that rising temperatures have driven the U.S. West into the worst decades-long drought ever seen in the past millennium.

In the U.S. alone, agriculture accounts for more than 10.5% of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, according to the estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.

As a result, the Biden administration now wants to steer $30 billion in farm aid money from the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation to pay farmers to implement sustainable practices and capture carbon in their soil.

This Monday, March 18, 2019 file photo shows flooding and storage bins under water on a farm along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb.
Source: CNBC
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

This Monday, March 18, 2019 file photo shows flooding and storage bins under water on a farm along the Missouri River in rural Iowa north of Omaha, Neb.AP Photo | Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Biden’s USDA Secretary of Agriculture nominee, Tom Vilsack, who has vowed to help meet Biden’s broader plan to reach a net-zero economy by 2050, said the money could go toward creating new markets that incentivize producers to sequester carbon in the soil.

Former President Donald Trump previously tapped those funds to bail out farmers harmed by his trade wars with China, Mexico and Canada that sent down commodity prices.

Using the CCC money to create a carbon bank might not require congressional approval, and agriculture lobbying groups are expected to persuade Congress to expand the fund.

“It is a great tool for us to create the kind of structure that will inform future farm bills about what will encourage carbon sequestration, what will encourage precision agriculture, what will encourage soil health and regenerative agricultural practices,” Vilsack said at his Senate confirmation hearing this month.

Vilsack, who spent eight years as President Barack Obama’s Agriculture secretary, has also asked Congress to have an advisory group of farmers to help build a carbon market and ensure that farmers receive the benefits.

The administration’s push to encourage carbon capture on farms could bolster an emerging market of on-farm emissions reductions and the technological advances that are helping growers improve soil health and participate in carbon trading markets.

An emerging market

Some farmers have started partnerships with nonprofit environmental and policy groups to work on environmental sustainability. The movement has seen increasing support from private companies, too.

Indigo Ag, a start-up that advocates for regenerative farming practices, said corporations like Barclays, JPMorgan Chase and Shopify have committed to purchasing agricultural carbon credits that help growers with transition costs.

Chris Harbourt, global head of carbon at Indigo Ag, said the company is working with growers to address financial barriers during the transition and provide education on implementing regenerative agriculture practices, like planting off-season cover crops or switching to no-till farming.

“Growers who adopt regenerative practices see benefits well beyond financial,” Harbourt said. “The soil is healthier and more resilient, which creates more opportunities for profitable years even when weather conditions are challenging.”

Erik Fyrwald, CEO of Syngenta, a Switzerland-based seed and crop protection company, said government policies need to provide proper incentives to farmers to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture.

“The incentives must be sufficient and reliable enough to give farmers the confidence to make the necessary investments to implement these practices on their farm,” Fyrwald said.

Poncia, who has received state funding twice from California’s Healthy Soils Program to implement sustainable practices on his ranch, said he hopes the administration can provide enough support for agricultural so other people can achieve similar results.

“The agriculture community wants to support this movement, but they need help, education and an ability to decrease risk,” Poncia said. “If the government supports the farmers who are getting good results, everyone else will follow.”

How can you support farmers? What information would you like to see on your food labels? How do you identify food from sustainable and nutritious sources? Foods purpose is to support the body and its functions: the give nutrition to the body.

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We can’t address climate change without tackling transportation

By Guest Column -January 29, 2021
Source: Virginia Mercury

Interstate 64 outside of Waynesboro. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By Michael Town

Over the past several years, Virginia has taken leaps and bounds forward in the transition to cleaner electricity sources and how we, as a commonwealth, are addressing the climate crisis.

This culminated last year in the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, a blueprint to completely decarbonize the electricity sector by mid-century, and what will be the commonwealth’s guiding energy policy for years to come.

Under the new Biden Administration, we can expect climate action and clean energy to again be a federal priority, and fortunately, Virginia will be ahead of the curve as we work together as a nation to regain our footing on the national stage as a leader in addressing climate change.

But while we have made huge steps forward in Virginia in powering our daily lives with cleaner sources of electricity, these efforts have really only addressed about one-third of Virginia’s carbon pollution, those emissions that come from fossil-fuel burning power plants.

Nearly half of all of our carbon pollution comes from the transportation sector and mostly from the cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs we drive every day. And this pollution is lethal, contributing to the deaths of n estimated 750 Virginians a year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health — about the same number that die in traffic accidents each year.

And, as with most sources of pollution, communities of color and low-income regions are on the frontlines, breathing disproportionately dirtier air than White and well-off neighborhoods.

Addressing this major source of pollution — Virginia’s largest by far — is the complex but achievable task at hand before lawmakers this General Assembly and it’s paramount that we act now if we want to protect tomorrow.

House Bill 1965 from Del. Lamont Bagby would make Virginia the next state with standards in place to help ensure a cleaner transportation future by requiring car manufacturers to stock and sell more electric vehicles on their lots — starting at 8 percent for model year 2025. This legislation passed out of committee on Wednesday on a vote of 13-9 and is now before the full House of Delegates. 

Because Virginia is one of the states without what’s called a “Clean Cars Standard” in place, electric vehicle stock is hard to come by as these vehicles are being sold primarily in states that have already committed to cutting carbon and working to electrify their fleet. This is true even as demand is high for these clean cars — between one-third and half of Virginians are considering an EV as their next vehicle.

But in order to really make this work for Virginia, the Clean Cars Standard shouldn’t stand alone: We also need the right mix of incentives to spark the electric vehicle market and investment in EV charging infrastructure to make sure that EVs are accessible and practical. These are advances we’re committed to achieving.

This is why in addition to working with Del. Bagby, we’re also working with other legislative champions and the Virginia Auto Dealers Association to advance measures that will make it easier to buy, sell, own and operate EVs in Virginia. This includes an upfront rebate program as proposed in Del. David Reid’s House Bill 1979 and further expanding vehicle charging infrastructure as called for in House Bill 2282 from Del. Rip Sullivan, House Bill 2001 from Del. Dan Helmer, and Senate Bill 1223 from Sen. Jennifer Boysko.

We must also look at transportation in Virginia at a holistic level. Owning a passenger vehicle isn’t feasible for every Virginian, which is why we must also look at ways to modernize transit and public transportation, with a focus on ensuring equitable access, as called for in legislation (HJ 542) from Richmond Del. Delores McQuinn.

Addressing the climate crisis isn’t simple – there just isn’t a quick fix. Solutions to climate change revolve around changing our business-as-usual, status quo approach to how we do things both on a macro and micro level.  

Lawmakers in Virginia have already transformed how we will power our daily lives in the future, taking advantage of innovation in the clean energy sector that will create jobs and fuel our economy. It’s now time to extend this vision — and the economic opportunities that come with it — to how we get from Point A to Point B.

By moving forward now, lawmakers will have taken the action necessary to protect public health, the environment and our future, while also signaling to the rest of the nation that we take our duty and role in addressing the climate crisis seriously.

We look forward to working alongside our environmental champions at the General Assembly to get this done now, in 2021, while laying the foundation for cleaner air for years to come.

Michael Town serves as Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. You can contact him at info@valcv.org.

We have published articles previously regarding electric cars and have noted that Biden has an aggressive policy regarding electric vehicles and revitalizing the U.S. auto industry as leaders in auto manufacturing once again. Do you have an electronic vehicle? Tell us about it? Are you considering going electric for your vehicle? How can your purchase of an electric vehicle impact your health and the health of those around you in the world?

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Biden’s Latest Executive Orders Are The Most Aggressive Moves On Climate Change Of Any President

The executive orders will take aim at fossil fuels and set the US up to be an international leader in tackling the climate crisis.
Zahra Hirji, BuzzFeed News Reporter
Source: Buzz Feed News
Last updated on January 27, 2021, at 4:23 p.m. ET
Posted on January 27, 2021, at 9:27 a.m. ET

Source: Buzz Feed News
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed sweeping executive orders to force the federal government to plan for and respond to the urgent threat of a warming planet, laying out his historic vision for how the United States can once again become a global climate leader.

The moves will stop new fossil fuel leases on public lands, boost renewable energy development and conservation, as well as create new government offices and interagency groups to prioritize job creation, cleaning up pollution, and environmental justice.

Since taking office last week, Biden and his Cabinet nominees have repeatedly said that tackling the climate crisis is among their top priorities. With these new actions, Biden is detailing how he plans to make that happen by making the federal government central to the response.

“The United States and the world face a profound climate crisis,” the main executive order Biden signed said. “We have a narrow moment to pursue action at home and abroad in order to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of that crisis and to seize the opportunity that tackling climate change presents.”

Biden’s early climate moves stand in stark contrast to former president Donald Trump’s actions, which included immediately deleting climate change from the White House website, thwarting climate action, and using his executive power to boost oil, gas, and coal development.

Biden’s day-one climate actions were a direct response to Trump, including directing his staff to review more than 100 anti-environmental rules enacted by Trump and to start the process for the country to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. But these new actions go far beyond reversing Trump’s actions or even reinstating climate initiatives first championed by former president Barack Obama.

“Today makes clear that President Biden hears our generation’s demands loud and clear, understands the power of our movement, and is serious about using executive power to deliver on his campaign promises,” said Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, in a statement.

As part of a broad new executive order, Biden is directing the Department of the Interior to indefinitely pause new oil and gas leases on public lands and offshore waters “to the extent possible.” The order does not specifically ban new coal leases and leaves fossil fuel leases on tribal lands up to their discretion.

Moreover, Biden is directing a review of existing fossil fuel leases and development projects, and asked the Interior Department to find ways to boost renewable energy projects, especially offshore wind, on federally owned water and land.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association, balked at the new restrictions. “Restricting natural gas and oil leasing and development on federal lands and waters could threaten U.S. energy security, economic growth and good-paying American jobs,” API tweeted.

While the order would not impact the majority of the nation’s oil and gas drilling and coal mining, which takes place on private land, it could still have a major climate impact. The extraction of fossil fuels on public lands between 2005 and 2014 accounted for roughly 25% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions during that time, according to a United States Geological Survey report.

A key part of the executive orders is creating new offices and committees focused on addressing specific climate problems and goals. Besides formally creating a new White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, led by Gina McCarthy, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Biden on Wednesday established a National Climate Task Force that directs members across agencies and departments “to enable a whole-of-government approach to combating the climate crisis,” according to a White House memo.

Biden is also creating a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative designed to create new jobs in conservation, an Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization to take on projects that cut the pollution from existing and abandoned fossil fuel infrastructure, as well as a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council to boost environmental justice monitoring and enforcement.

Few details were provided on exactly who will be spearheading the many new efforts, how much funding they will receive, or timelines for delivering on these bold goals.

In most cases, Biden’s actions follow through on his climate campaign promises, such as promising to set aside 30% of public lands and waters to conservation by 2030 and having an international climate summit in his first 100 days — one will be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.

“The last four years have been a feeding frenzy on our public lands and waters, and this moratorium is the right way to start our overdue transition to a more sustainable economy,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona and chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Grijalva last year co-sponsored the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act of 2020 that similarly supports the 30% conservation goal. He said now Congress will move forward with the bill.

“The stakes on climate change just simply couldn’t be any higher than they are right now,” John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, said at a press briefing Wednesday.

January 27, 2021, at 10:48 a.m.

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19 ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS TO LEARN ABOUT RECYCLING

Posted under Kids & Families by Katie Chiavarone on 
Source: Nature’s Path

Recycling with kids is incredibly important to do, and a good concept to promote as parents and educators. Kids will see that recycling goes beyond simply having a second garbage bin. By repurposing items before throwing them away, kids will learn that making new items from recycled ones takes less energy and fewer resources than making products from brand new materials.

Here are 20 activities that demonstrate the importance of recycling while making it doable and functional for kids:

1. Build a robot.

Don’t throw away the cardboard boxes and yogurt containers! Build a robot with these materials.

2. Make seed paper.

Do this instead of tossing shredded paper in the bin.

3. Play a game. 

Play games to help kids practice which items can be recycled, and which are waste.

4. Make a bird feeder

This is one of those activities that demonstrates how much cheaper it is to use recycled materials than to buy something brand new.

Source: Nature’s Path
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

5. Paint the symbol.

Practice recognizing this symbol through art. This way, kids can easily identify recycling bins out in public.

6. Make recycling bins for the home.

Making small bins that can be kept indoors allows kids the chance to easily sort the garbage.

7. Try an online game.

There are a few online games where kids can practice recycling in a fun way, like this one.

8. Pack a waste-free lunch.

Use a recycled container in lieu of items in bags. More ideas for a waste-free lunch here.

9. Read the facts.

Recycling 1 ton of paper can save 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 2 barrels of oil, and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity. The energy that you save can power 1 home for 5 months.

10. Watch a video.

A short, kid-friendly video can really drive the point home.

11. Go on a recycling scavenger hunt.

Head out to a local park and see how much you can collect from the environment that can be recycled! Got competitive kids? Make it a race.

12. Read! 

Father And Children Reading
Source: Nature’s Path
SHidonna Raven Garden and Cook

13. Make a DIY toy.

Before recycling items, try to repurpose them. A milk jug or a yogurt container can make for really fun ball poppers for kids.

14. Turn newspaper into building rods.

Check out these amazing play structures and tents made from newspaper!

15. Homemade puzzles.

Instead of throwing away greeting cards, cut them up and make a homemade puzzle. Cereal boxes are great for this, as well.

16. Donate toys and clothes.

Instead of throwing away toys your kids are done playing with, help them choose some to be donated and reused by other children.

donating clothes
Source: Nature’s Path
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

17. Take a field trip!

Head out to a local recycling center and watch a bit of the process happen.

18. Spearhead a recycling club.

Help your child start a local initiative in their neighborhood or school.

19. Homemade wind chimes.

String and paint old tin cans to make a nice piece of outdoor musical decor.

There are many other ways to teach kids about recycling and how they can make an impact, but these ones mentioned above certainly make a great start. Kids should feel empowered to contribute to the health of the environment, and can help influence those around them to recycle too!

KATIE CHIAVARONE

What are some other fun ways to teach kids about recycling? What other ways can you get kids involved in recycling? What other ways can you teach kids about sustainable living?

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Biden and Pope Francis Could Make a Climate Change Miracle

How the new U.S. leader and the liberal pontiff—like presidents and popes before them—can cooperate to transform American politics.

BY TIMOTHY NAFTALICHRISTOPHER WHITE
JANUARY 31, 2021, 4:22 AM
Source: Foreign Policy

Pope Francis is joined by then-Vice President Joe Biden after the pontiff addressed Congress on his first U.S. visit on Sept. 24, 2015. MINDY SCHAUER/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER/MEDIANEWS GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

America now has its second Catholic president. It took 60 years and, in some ways, the two eras could hardly be more different for American Catholics. In 1960, John F. Kennedy worried that many American Protestants would not vote for him because he was a Catholic. In 2020, Joe Biden had more reason to be concerned that it would be his fellow Catholics that would refuse to vote for him.

But there is a key similarity. President Biden comes into office uniquely positioned to work productively with a powerful ally in the Vatican on an issue that a week into his presidency he has already described to the American people as “an existential threat:” climate change. Sixty years ago, when nuclear annihilation posed the greatest threat to humanity, a like-minded pope helped Kennedy to broaden domestic public support for a change in Washington’s posture in the Cold War, preparing Catholic opinion in particular for a shift in the rhetoric towards Moscow. There may be some lessons for the incoming Biden-Harris administration as it grapples with the fact that 74 million Americans voted for a climate-change denier.

It took Kennedy two years to risk identifying himself with any initiatives from Pope John XXIII. Initially, Kennedy felt he had to keep the Vatican at arms’ length. Anti-Catholic bigotry had not prevented his election but it had suppressed the Democratic vote in some parts of the country. The Vatican was equally sensitive. Days after his inauguration, the Holy See took the unusual step of making clear in a public statement that the president would not be expected to kneel in any future audience with the pope.

Although Kennedy never fully lost his wariness about seeming too close to Rome, he wasn’t naive about the potential benefits of papal support in a world staring nuclear annihilation in the face. The Kennedy White House had a hand in shaping the pope’s call for peace during the Cuban missile crisis. And after that 13-day dance on the precipice of nuclear war, both Kennedy and John XXIII—an elderly man whose pontificate had begun in 1958, three years before the dynamic young JFK took his oath—wanted to change the global conversation about peace and soften Soviet resistance to a détente.

As John XXIII was dying with cancer in 1963, the Vatican initiated a back-channel effort, led by Jewish-American journalist and peace activist Norman Cousins and blessed by Kennedy, to move Washington and the Kremlin closer to achieving the first nuclear arms-control agreement. The Pope’s most important contribution was Pacem in Terris, or “Peace on Earth,” a papal encyclical calling for a new approach to peacemaking, one that relied not on weapons but on words and the power of negotiation.

The New York Times published the letter in its entirety in April 1963, marking a first for the paper, and for the Vatican it marked a course correction. No longer would papal enyclicals be directed to Catholics alone, but, in John XXIII’s phrase, to “all people of goodwill,” words that proved very helpful to Kennedy, who knew that among America’s most hardened anti-Communists were his fellow congregants. The Vatican had made a point of sending the Kennedy White House the final proofs of the encyclical days before it was officially published.U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul VI meet at the Vatican on July 2, 1963. The pontiff praised the first Roman Catholic U.S. president for his "untiring” efforts to obtain peace in the world.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Pope Paul VI meet at the Vatican on July 2, 1963. The pontiff praised the first Roman Catholic U.S. president for his “untiring” efforts to obtain peace in the world. BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES – Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Highlighting the papal message in a speech at Boston College a week after its publication, Kennedy said “that document surely shows that on the basis of one great faith and its tradition there can be developed counsel on public affairs that is of value to all men and women of goodwill. As a Catholic I am proud of it, as an American I have learned from it.”

With the Vatican having gone first, it was politically easier for Kennedy to issue his own extended statement on seeking peace in the Cold War, resulting in his June 1963 American University speech, which helped pave the way to the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with Moscow later that summer.

The pope wasn’t the only religious leader who played an important role in encouraging Americans to support relaxing tensions with Moscow. But the Vatican’s highly visible use of soft power to reduce nuclear danger helped shift attitudes at the height of the Cold War. Now five decades later there is an opportunity for a pope and a president to work together on a different issue that threatens the future of humanity.

In the United States, some Christian leaders have politicized the issue of climate change, pitting science against faith. Not the Vatican. The condemnation of Galileo was 400 years ago, and Rome insists that the faithful not see any tension between their faith and climate science—or between their faith and their public responsibility as citizens. Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical, Laudato si’, like Pacem in Terris, was an urgent appeal for a new dialogue on “how we are shaping the future of our planet.” In this case it is the proliferation of fossil fuels and not nuclear weapons that is the cause of the urgency.

Francis’s encyclical was strategically timed to influence the Paris Climate Agreement, which was later abandoned by the Trump administration. In his new book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, Francis recalls how after being elected pope, he assembled the world’s best scientists and asked them to provide a summary of the “state of our planet.” He then asked theologians and scientists to work together on the document, to serve as a blueprint to galvanize people toward engaging on climate concerns. When the pope was traveling to Strasbourg in 2014 to address the Council of Europe, then French President François Hollande’s environmental minister urged the pope to complete the letter and release it before representatives of the world gathered in Paris for what would become the climate accords, in order to help solidify support for the agreement.

With the Biden administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris initiative, the challenge now, as in 1963, is to convince more of the American public to shed their superstitions and tribal blinders and embrace the complex reality of an existential threat to the planet. The pope, who has tried to appeal to all people of goodwill to tackle the threats to the environment, can be of great help to Biden in persuading people of faith that there are no liturgical and theological roadblocks to combating global warming, just as there were none to seeking to reduce the danger of nuclear war with an atheistic Communist state.

Like Kennedy and John XXIII, a half century ago, the current pope and president will need to speak over the leadership of the American church directly to American Catholics on the existential issue of their generation. Just as John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris contradicted years of hard-line Cold War statements by prominent American Catholic leaders such as former Senator Joseph McCarthy’s ally Francis Cardinal Spellman, Pope Francis’ bishops in the United States aren’t fully in unison with him or the man who is now the nation’s most prominent Catholic in recognizing the existential threat of climate change. Just minutes after Biden took office, the head of the U.S. bishops’ conference, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, issued a letter to the new president saying he hoped they could work together on certain issues, but that abortion remains their “pre-eminent priority.” Gomez’s approach to climate change is not an aberration among the hierarchy. In 2019, his predecessor, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said that combating global warming was important, but “not urgent.” In the same vein, Eternal Word Television Network, the world’s largest Catholic news network released a voting guide ahead of the 2020 election labeling environmental concerns a “negotiable policy issue” for Catholics. But Catholic laity are ready for a new message. Whereas only 57 percent of white evangelical protestants say they are concerned about the environment, according to polling from Yale University and George Mason University, 77 percent of white Catholics were worried about climate change.

Because of the anti-Catholic bigotry of his times, Kennedy had to receive help indirectly. Biden can embrace it openly. In fact, he already has. When the pope called Biden to congratulate him on his election win, among the chief issues they pledged to work on together was environmental action. Biden’s choice for special climate envoy, fellow Catholic and former Secretary of State John Kerry, recognizes the remarkable opportunity presented by Francis’s Vatican to soften the political divide on environmentalism. In 2015, as he was negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement, Kerry praised the global importance of Laudato si’ and, after Biden tapped him for his new post, Kerry said the nation’s 46th president “will trust in God and he will also trust in science to guide our work on Earth to protect God’s creation.” When then Vice President-elect Kamala Harris introduced the Biden administration’s climate team last month, she specifically quoted the encyclical, citing the pontiff’s words: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”Trending Articles

In the same way that Laudato si’ proved to be an effective tool of soft power in helping Hollande and other heads of state embrace the Paris Climate Agreement, Francis can prove useful to Biden both in terms of his powerful evocation of environmental concerns, but also through practical leadership on the ground. Francis’s point man in the U.S. capital, Archbishop Wilton Gregory—whom he just elevated to be a cardinal in November, making him one of the pope’s principal collaborators—is among the top leaders of the U.S. bishops when it comes to environmental concerns. In his previous post in Atlanta, Gregory mandated climate education in Catholic schools and an energy audit of the church’s schools, churches, and other institutions. Now, in the nation’s capital, he is well positioned to do the same. During an interview with television host and political commentator Stephen Colbert in December, Biden revealed that Gregory had recently called him and said he looked forward to partnering with him. Biden would be well advised to take him up on that offer. Through a strategic partnership with the Biden administration, as one of the largest landowners in the world, Catholic institutions could pave the way in setting new standards for environmental stewardship. Finally, during this week’s signing of executive orders relating to the threat of climate change, Biden announced that he had directed the Department of Justice to establish an office of climate justice. Including a faith outreach team as a part of that office could prove to be a pivotal partnership for bringing about the environmental justice that both the president and the pope say that are committed to achieving.

Like Kennedy and John XXIII, Biden and Francis share a similar posture on the most important issue facing humanity. In different ways—spiritually and politically—both men will be seeking converts in bridging the divide between faith and science. Biden and Pope Francis are in their seventies and eighties respectively, and while both are at the top of their respective hierarchies, they have a relatively brief window of opportunity, which like an earlier pope-president combination could fundamentally change the world.

Timothy Naftali, a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU (Wagner) and co-author of Impeachment: an American History, is writing a presidential biography of John F. Kennedy. Twitter: @TimNaftali

Christopher White is a national correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter.

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Renewables chief hails ‘crucial’ Biden climate agenda as administration plans massive energy overhaul

PUBLISHED MON, JAN 25 20216:14 AM EST UPDATED MON, JAN 25 20216:23 AM EST
Dan Murphy@DAN_MURPHY
Source: CNBC

  • The International Renewable Energy Agency has hailed the U.S. decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord as a “crucial” step forward in the fight against climate change.
  • The Biden administration plans to make the U.S. a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050. The administration also plans to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035.
Demonstrators in Chicago protest President Donald Trump's decision to exit the Paris climate change accord on June 2, 2017.
Source: CNBC
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Demonstrators in Chicago protest President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate change accord on June 2, 2017.Scott Olson | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The International Renewable Energy Agency has hailed the U.S. decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord as a “crucial” step forward in the fight against climate change.

“It means a lot for the renewable world, and for the energy transition,” Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency told CNBC at the Atlantic Council’s annual Global Energy Forum. 

“Coming from a superpower, one of the big emitters in the world, this is really crucial and it’s very important,” he added. “I think it will make a difference.”

The Abu Dhabi-based organization serves as a platform for international cooperation on renewable energy and has more than 180 member countries globally. The backing comes as the new Joe Biden administration scrambles to reposition the United States as a global leader on climate change policy, after four years of environmental protection rollbacks under former President Donald Trump. 

“I’m optimistic that something has changed,” La Camera said, after President Biden used his first days in office to rejoin the Paris Accord, block the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, restore public land protections and launch a review of environmental regulations.

Ambitious climate agenda

The Biden administration plans to make the U.S. a 100% clean energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050. The administration also plans to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035, tapping into renewable energy solutions and technology that can be deployed at scale and rival fossil fuels on cost.

“The commitments are very high, and very difficult to get,” La Camera said. “I hope they will fulfil their commitment,” he added. “If they do so, I think it will be a very good improvement and a big acceleration of the energy transition.”WATCH NOWVIDEO03:39Why clean energy stocks are off to such a strong start to 2021

IRENA has called upon its member states to exploit solutions such as wind, solar and geothermal energy to move the world toward climate stability, after a recent UN report said nations who failed to keep pace would face serious costs, damages and losses.

IRENA says just 35% of global electricity supply today is renewable, and this share needs to rise to around 60% by 2030 and 90% by mid-century in order to meet the Paris climate goals – an immense challenge made harder as nations emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

Engaging in climate politics

The Biden pledge comes ahead of the UN climate summit in November known as COP26, where signatories to the Paris Agreement will submit revised plans to achieve the Paris objective. The Accord seeks to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees celsius (35.6 degrees fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement in 2017.

The new administration and its climate envoy, Former Secretary of State John Kerry, will be under pressure to set credible climate targets and outline a game-plan to achieve its ambitions, with countries such as France and the U.K. already legally enshrining their 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goals. WATCH NOWVIDEO02:06Biden may face difficulties passing laws on climate change, says analyst

The European Union, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Japan have also set targets to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Korea aims to become carbon neutral by 2050, and China by 2060. Experts say bolstering its climate credentials would allow the U.S. to use climate policy as a tool of foreign policy leverage. 

“The Biden administration and Secretary Kerry are talking about infusing climate into every foreign-policy interaction,” Meghan O’Sullivan, Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Geopolitics of Energy project, told an Atlantic Council panel session.

“It means asking the different agencies that conduct foreign policy and national security, like the Pentagon, USAID, and the State Department, to make climate really central in their overall objective,” she said.

Climate could also form a platform for a restoration of U.S.-China relations, according to Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre.

“It’s a key deliverable for Biden and it’s a key deliverable for his party, so I think you should expect a very different relationship from the U.S. on climate issues,” she told CNBC.

COP26, under the presidency of the United Kingdom, starts in November.

What do you think of Biden’s environmental goals: Paris Accord, block the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, restore public land protections and launch a review of environmental regulations? How can this help improve the environment you live in? What do you do to improve the environment? Why? Why not?

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Biden Threads Climate Change Policy Through Federal Government

Biden is elevating the issue as a policy priority, appointing people to newly created positions and threading it through other agencies than those that have traditionally addressed it.

By Susan Milligan, Senior Politics WriterDec. 16, 2020, at 2:56 p.m.More
Source: US News

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, US President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, reacts to his nomination as Biden looks on during a news conference at Biden's transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 16, 2020. (Photo by KEVIN LAMARQUE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Source: US News
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

“He has the bold and innovative leadership necessary to deliver the clean energy future laid out in Biden’s Build Back Better plan,” Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power 2020, said in response to former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg being selected as President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of transportation.(KEVIN LAMARQUE/POOL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden‘s selection of Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for secretary of transportation is about more than planes, trains and automobiles. It’s about climate change, an issue that the incoming president is weaving throughout his emerging administration. 

Not only will former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg work to improve the ability of people and goods to travel across America and around the world, but he’ll do so in a way that helps save the planet, Biden said as he introduced his new Cabinet nominee Wednesday.

Climate change traditionally is an issue that has often been siloed into a few agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. But Biden is elevating climate change as a policy priority, appointing people to newly created positions and threading the issue through other agencies.

As transportation secretary, Buttigieg will address the “existential threat of climate change with jobs,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, noting the Nor’easter storm that was bearing down on the region, preventing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris from attending the announcement in person.

“When I think of climate change, I think about jobs, good-paying union jobs,” Biden said. “Jobs that put Americans to work, making our air cleaner for our kids to breathe, restoring our crumbling roads, bridges and ports, making it faster, cheaper and cleaner to transport American-made goods all across the country and the world.”

Buttigieg noted his commitment to the “security of the climate” and remarked on the intersection of transportation with the environment.

“At its best, transportation makes the American dream possible,” Buttigieg said, connecting people and neighborhoods and allowing goods to be transported efficiently. But when not administered fairly, transportation policy “can reinforce racial, economic and environmental injustice,” Buttigieg said.

His appointment was lauded by environmentalists, who noted Buttigieg’s past attention to the issue. As mayor, Buttigieg initiated a “smart streets” program to make the downtown more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly.

“The Department of Transportation wields enormous power in the fight against climate change, as the transportation sector generates the most carbon emissions. President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to put climate champion Pete Buttigieg at the helm is a clear indication of the administration’s commitment to reducing emissions and modernizing our infrastructure, all while creating millions of good paying, clean energy jobs,” Lori Lodes, executive director of Climate Power 2020, said in a statement.

“As mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg confronted the devastation of climate change and rebuilt the community. He has the bold and innovative leadership necessary to deliver the clean energy future laid out in Biden’s Build Back Better plan.”

And a Buttigieg-led Transportation Department won’t be the only federal agency incorporating climate into its mission. When announcing Tom Vilsack as his agriculture secretary nominee, Biden mentioned his own plan for rural America. “That includes making American agriculture the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions and create new sources of income for farmers in the process, by paying farmers to put their land in conservation and plant cover crops that use the soil to capture carbon,” Biden said.

Vilsack, for his part, vowed to “position American agriculture to lead our nation and the world in combating climate change and reaping the new, good-paying jobs that will come from that leadership.”

Biden’s pick for the head of his domestic policy team, Susan Rice, also mentioned “a climate in need of healing” in her list of domestic issues she would address in her new role.[ 

Biden has also named former Secretary of State John Kerry to a newly created role, an international envoy for climate change. Kerry has an appeal to progressives, with his backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal.” But he also has the relationships and the high profile needed to get world leaders on the phone to talk about it.

The president-elect is also expected to name Gina McCarthy, former director of the EPA, to head a newly formed Office of Domestic Climate Policy. He is also expected to name former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as secretary of energy.

Granholm’s home state is home to the automobile industry, and her looming nomination is a sign that the Biden administration wants to reassure workers in the embattled industry. But Granholm has also been a supporter of alternative energy resources.

In his remarks to introduce Buttigieg, Biden said the nation didn’t need to make a choice between saving the environment and salvaging the auto industry. He said he would work “with states, business and labor to install 500,000 charging stations for the next generation of vehicles.

“We can own the electric vehicle market. We can put 1 million jobs back in Detroit and the Midwest, building cars,” Biden said.

If Biden implemented his plan successfully to make the US a leader in electric car manufacturing, how could this improve the environment you live in? Would you buy an electric vehicle? Why? Why not? What do you do to contribute to the environment?

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‘Netflix for solar’: Virginia finalizing rules for solar subscription program

Solar Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth McGowan
December 17, 2020
Source: Energy News

State regulators are expected to release final rules soon for a new shared solar program expected to launch in 2023.

During a summer 2019 visit to his vacation house in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Scott Surovell clicked on an ad for community solar. He signed up in five minutes. Soon after, he learned that tapping into an off-property array would about cover his entire electric bill.

“We need this in Virginia yesterday,” the Democratic state senator who represents a district near Washington, D.C. noted in a social media post that autumn. Then, he set about deploying his legislative chops to create a bill heavy on accessibility and equity.

Fast forward to today. Virginia utility regulators are on the verge of releasing their final version of a shared solar program outlined in a bill Surovell shepherded through the General Assembly earlier this year. 

The State Corporation Commission published its proposed regulations on Sept. 21. The deadline for the release of the final rules is Jan. 1.

In a nutshell, Senate Bill 629 calls for establishing a program allowing customers in Dominion Energy territory to buy solar power via subscription from a shared power facility owned by a third-party entity. It’s identical to HB 1634.

Initially, the program will be capped at 150 megawatts. Both solar and environmental justice advocates are lauding a measure requiring that at least 30% of the enrolled customers qualify as low-income. If that subscriber bar is met, the program could add 50 more megawatts.

No single project can be larger than 5 MW. That is likely a model for a series of small-scale distributed generation projects starting at roughly 1 MW and rolled out in increments.

Rachel Smucker said the new regulation — set to debut in 2023 — opens an opportunity for Virginia to lead on delivering solar to low-income communities.

She is the Virginia policy and development manager for the solar trade association that also serves Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia. Her group recently changed its name to the Chesapeake Solar & Storage Association.

“I think there’s a lot of interest from the industry to dig into this program,” Smucker said. “They have even said the 150-megawatt cap is too small. Solar developers are interested in taking the shackles off of the program on the capacity side. The onus is on all of us to make sure we get this set up right.”

Surovell, in his second Senate term serving Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford counties, discussed SB 629 as a panelist at Solar Focus, the association’s virtual conference in mid-November.

The idea of growing solar gardens in his home state had intrigued him since 2010 when, as a newly elected House delegate, he learned about such endeavors in Colorado. In a July letter to the State Corporation Commission, he said his legislation would enable people and businesses to purchase solar power and net the energy against their home meters.

Access to non-rooftop solar, he wrote, was especially crucial to people in neighborhoods with heavy tree cover, those subject to homeowner association restrictions and residents in apartments or condominiums.

In that same letter, he emphasized ensuring that shared solar didn’t solely benefit the wealthy.

“Creating a program that is easy for low and moderate income consumers to participate [in] will be essential to the success of this initial phase,” he wrote. “The legislation was intended to provide equal and equitable access to renewable energy and critical cost savings to Virginia consumers who have faced barriers to accessing the green economy.”

Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, sat on the same Solar Focus digital panel with Surovell. Last year, she spearheaded separate legislation (HB2741) designed to expand solar access to those with fewer resources. It called for the creation of a Clean Energy Advisory Board, tasked with setting up a solar financing platform for households with low to moderate incomes.

“Ultimately, this is about people,” Aird said about the crux of Surovell’s legislation. “What’s critical to me is pushing regulators to get this right.”

Advocates: ‘Like Netflix for solar’

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam revised SB 629 to define low-income customers as households whose income is no more than 80% of the median income in that particular locality. Some advocates have suggested that figure be adjusted to take into account Virginia’s broad economic differences as well as differences in housing types.

Setting income limits matters, Smucker said, but it’s equally crucial that regulators figure out how to connect poorer households to solar gardens. That requires linking with existing affordable housing programs and having continued conversations with community leaders via a stakeholder working group.

“This should be like Netflix for solar,” she said about ease of enrollment. “We want to maximize its reach to communities that could really benefit.”

Ideally, she explained, that means that households would have multiple pathways to verify their income, would be able to register online and wouldn’t be penalized for unsubscribing.

Advocates also want the State Corporation Commission to revisit two other parts of the regulation commissioners rolled out in draft form. One is the annual reset of the minimum charge solar customers would be required to pay and the other is how customers will be credited on their monthly bills for the solar energy they use. 

During the legislative session, some lawmakers threatened to withdraw support from Surovell’s measure unless he included a minimum bill charge to cover the cost of serving customers and administering the program.

“The minimum bill was a sore point,” Surovell told Solar Focus attendees about claims that solar customers are unfairly exempt from basic utility infrastructure and upkeep costs.

“They claim there’s a cost shift that happens and non-solar customers bear more of that burden than solar customers,” Smucker said. “But we haven’t seen any data for that claim, so we don’t subscribe to that notion.”

However, because the requirement is built into the legislation, she said a charge of $8 to $10 would be reasonable.

“The [State Corporation Commission] makes the final ruling,” she said. “But if it’s $40, that’s restrictive and you won’t find subscribers. Investor interest won’t be there if it’s astronomically high and that will quickly erode the potential of the program.”

The state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy didn’t counter that argument. It classified as “inappropriate” any infrastructure fee because “there will be no change in the infrastructure required to service the customer’s location.”

The department “recommends that the operational reality of the shared solar program is reflected in the regulations to prevent inappropriate costs from being included in the minimum bill,” the agency wrote in Nov. 2 testimony submitted to the commission. “The lack of detail on the content of the minimum bill combined with the intention to hold an annual proceeding wherein the amount of the minimum bill could be altered could create uncertainty for developers and consumers.”

In addition, the department joined solar advocates in prodding utility regulators to remove restrictions on bill credits for shared solar customers.

Appalachian Voices and the Southern Environmental Law Center called for customers to be permitted to roll over their bill credit, month to month, as long as the bill credits don’t exceed a customer’s average annual bill.

All backers of the shared solar program are hopeful that preliminary groundwork can begin next year so the program is ready to launch by 2023.

“Interconnection can take up to a year in Virginia and permitting can also take a long time,” Smucker said. “That’s why we’ve been pushing for projects to be allowed to attract customers to the program in 2021.” 

Other community solar program fizzled out earlier 

Industry veteran Myles Burnsed of Charlottesville said in an interview that his company, EDF Renewables Distributed Solutions, is interested in the prospect of developing, owning and operating the third-party projects envisioned in Surovell’s law. EDF would likely connect with a separate company to manage and subscribe customers. 

Burnsed, vice president of strategic development, said he’s watched similar solar programs launch in other states with varied levels of success. Like others in the industry, he noted that it can take years to smooth the kinks and unexpected challenges that arise.  

“It will be challenging, but it will attract people,” he said, adding that eventually quadrupling the size of the Virginia program to 600 MW would generate “a lot more interest and competition.”

EDF, an international company with a three-decade presence in North America, is already partnering with a Virginia rural electric cooperative to develop a 3.1 MW community solar project in Shenandoah County. That’s enough energy to power 570 homes annually.

Plans call for breaking ground for the array on 32 acres of farmland early next year and signing up customers by year’s end.

“We’re still super early on in the process,” said Morgan Messer, spokesperson for Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, a distributor for Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. “This is still a pilot, so what the subscription process looks like we don’t know yet. We haven’t yet outlined any of the qualifications.”

Other co-ops in the state also have succeeded with community solar projects — unlike Virginia’s investor-owned utilities. A program the legislature rolled out several years ago geared for customers at Dominion and Appalachian Power never gained a foothold. It required utilities, not third parties, to own the solar projects.

“On that first go-round, there weren’t any projects,” Burnsed said. “It seems to have fizzled out.”

Senior attorney Will Cleveland, who specializes in utility issues for the Southern Environmental Law Center, wants to avoid a repeat of that debacle. 

“Presumably, [shared solar] will work better than the thing that never happened at all,” Cleveland said. “Before, neither utility ever rolled out a program. By that measure, it was a complete failure.”

<a href="https://energynews.us/author/emcgowan/">ELIZABETH MCGOWAN</a>
ELIZABETH MCGOWAN

Elizabeth is a longtime energy and environment reporter who has worked for InsideClimate News, Energy Intelligence and Crain Communications. Her groundbreaking dispatches for InsideClimate News from Kalamazoo, Michigan, “The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You Never Heard Of” won a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2013. Elizabeth covers the state of Virginia. Her book, “Outpedaling ‘The Big C’: My Healing Cycle Across America” will be published by Bancroft Press in September 2020.

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Climate crisis: 2020 was joint hottest year ever recorded

Global heating continued unabated despite Covid lockdowns, with record Arctic wildfires and Atlantic tropical storms

Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington
Source: The Guardian
Fri 8 Jan 2021 02.00 ESTLast modified on Sun 10 Jan 2021 04.42 EST

Map showing land surface temperature anomalies from 19 March to 20 June 2020
 The Arctic and northern Siberia saw particularly extreme average temperatures in 2020, with a large region 3C higher than the long-term average. Photograph: Nasa/EPA
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

The climate crisis continued unabated in 2020, with the joint highest global temperatures on record, alarming heat and record wildfires in the Arctic, and a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic.

Despite a 7% fall in fossil fuel burning due to coronavirus lockdowns, heat-trapping carbon dioxide continued to build up in the atmosphere, also setting a new record. The average surface temperature across the planet in 2020 was 1.25C higher than in the pre-industrial period of 1850-1900, dangerously close to the 1.5C target set by the world’s nations to avoid the worst impacts.

Only 2016 matched the heat in 2020, but that year saw a natural El Niño climate event which boosts temperatures. Without that it is likely 2020 would have been the outright hottest year. Scientists have warned that without urgent action the future for many millions of people “looks black”.

The temperature data released by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) showed that the past six years have been the hottest six on record. They also showed that Europe saw its hottest year on record, 1.6C above the long-term average, with a searing heatwave hitting western Europe in late July and early August.

The Arctic and northern Siberia saw particularly extreme average temperatures in 2020, with a large region 3C higher than the long-term average and some locations more than 6C higher. This resulted in extensive wildfires, with a record 244m tonnes of CO2 released within the Arctic Circle. Arctic sea ice was also significantly lower, with July and October seeing the smallest extent on record for those months.

“[The year] 2020 stands out for its exceptional warmth in the Arctic,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of C3S. “It is no surprise that the last decade was the warmest on record, and is yet another reminder of the urgency of ambitious emissions reductions to prevent adverse climate impacts.”

“The extraordinary climate events of 2020 show us we have no time to lose,” said Matthias Petschke, at the European commission. “It will be difficult, but the cost of inaction is too great.”

Satellite view of tropical storms in the Atlantic
 A record 29 tropical storms formed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2020. Photograph: AP
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

“Despite the absence of the cyclical boost of El Niño to global temperatures [we are] getting dangerously close to the 1.5C limit,” said Prof Dave Reay, at the University of Edinburgh. “Covid lockdowns around the world may have caused a slight dip in emissions, but the CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere is still going up fast. Unless the global economic recovery from the nightmares of 2020 is a green one, the future of many millions of people around the world looks black indeed.”

The level of CO2 in the atmosphere reached a new record in 2020, with the cut in emissions due to Covid lockdowns described as a “tiny blip” by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation. Vincent-Henri Peuch, director of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, said: “Until the net global emissions reduce to zero, CO2 will continue to accumulate in the atmosphere and drive further climate change.”

The UK Met Office issued a forecast on Friday that CO2 levels will pass a new milestone in 2021 – being 50% higher than before the Industrial Revolution. Its scientists said CO2 will exceed 417 parts per million (ppm) for several weeks from April to June, which is 50% higher than the 278 ppm in the late 18th century when industrial activity began.

This is despite the expectation that weather conditions brought by the counterpart of El Niño, La Niña, will see higher natural growth in tropical forests that will soak up some of humanity’s emissions.

“The human-caused buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere is accelerating,” said Prof Richard Betts at the Met Office. “It took over 200 years for levels to increase by 25%, but now just over 30 years later we are approaching a 50% increase. Global emissions will need to be brought down to net zero within about the next 30 years if global warming is to be limited to 1.5C.”

Do you recycle? Do you bike? How can you help the environment where you are and in the Hampton Road, Virginia area – – click above?

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Scientists turn CO2 into jet fuel

It could lead to net zero emissions for air travel.

Jon Fingas@jonfingas
December 27, 2020
Source: Engadget

A Rolls-Royce engine is seen on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner owned by ANA Holdings Inc. in Everett, Washington, U.S. August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Alwyn Scott/File Photo
REUTERS/Alwyn Scott/File Photo
Source: Engadget
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Researchers may have found a way to reduce the environmental impact of air travel in situations when electric aircraft and alternative fuels aren’t practical. Wired reports that Oxford University scientists have successfully turned CO2 into jet fuel, raising the possibility of conventionally-powered aircraft with net zero emissions.

The technique effectively reverses the process of burning fuel by relying on the organic combustion method. The team heated a mix of citric acid, hydrogen and an iron-manganese-potassium catalyst to turn CO2 into a liquid fuel capable of powering jet aircraft.

The approach is inexpensive, uncomplicated and uses commonplace materials. It’s cheaper than processes used to turn hydrogen and water into fuel.

There are numerous challenges to bringing this to aircraft. The lab method only produced a few grams of fuel — you’d clearly need much more to support even a single flight, let alone an entire fleet. You’d need much more widespread use of carbon capture. And if you want effectively zero emissions, the capture and conversion systems would have to run on clean energy.

The researches are talking with industrial partners, though, and don’t see any major scientific hurdles. It might also be one of the most viable options for fleets. Many of them would have to replace their aircraft to go electric or switch fuel types. This conversion process would let airlines keep their existing aircraft and go carbon neutral until they’re truly ready for eco-friendly propulsion.

From cars to jets, are we ready for eco-friendly travel? Why? Why not?

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