A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.


We Can Stop Searching For The Clean Energy Miracle. It’s Already Here.

Joe Romm, Think Progress
Key climate solutions have been advancing considerably faster than anyone expected just a few years ago thanks to aggressive market-based deployment efforts around the globe. These solutions include such core enabling technologies for a low-carbon world as solar, wind, efficiency, electric cars, and battery storage.

That’s a key reason almost everything you know about climate change solutions is probably outdated. In Part 1 of this series, I discussed other reasons. For instance, climate science and climate politics have moved unexpectedly quickly toward a broad understanding that we need to keep total human-caused global warming as far as possible below 2°C (3.6°F) — and ideally to no more than 1.5°C. But the media and commentariat generally have not kept up with the science or solutions and their utterly game-changing implications.

This post will focus on the light-speed changes in clean energy technology that have left even the most informed journalists and experts behind, which in turn means the public and policy-makers are receiving outdated information…


Germany nearly reached 100 percent renewable power on Sunday

Craig Morris, Energy Transition DE
After surpassing 80 percent renewable electricity for a few hours last year, Germany may have briefly reached around 95 percent on May 8. But the news is not only cause for celebration – a boundary has also been crossed. We are now entering the hard territory. Craig Morris explains…

Germany did not get 95 (or whatever) percent renewable electricity for the entire day, but only for a few hours. And third, Germany did not, a Quartz.com put it, have “so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity.” It had so much baseload running below the must-run level that it had to pay people to consume electricity. Wind and solar will never cause negative prices on their own. (If you’re not sure what “must-run” means, read this first.)..

The real news is therefore not that Germany may have reached a record-high level of renewable electricity, but that its base load power plants are in real trouble. Proponents of decarbonization in the Anglo world like to claim that nuclear is a good complement to wind and solar for low-carbon power supply. Germany on Sunday is a good example of why that is not true. (Actually, every country is all the time, but we can’t even make such a comparison above in the US for a lack of published visualizations.)…


Here’s what Obama’s new methane rule won’t cover

Clayton Aldern, Grist
On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final regulations aimed at cutting methane emissions from new oil and gas infrastructure built after 2015. But as impressive as they sound on paper, the rule doesn’t answer the tough question: What is the United States doing about all the methane emissions from its existing infrastructure?

Between the new rule and a related set of 2012 regulations, EPA has suggested that we are currently on course for a 20 to 30 percent cut in methane emissions by 2025. However, the Obama administration has promised a 40 to 45 percent cut by that year, meaning more action is needed…


The US is badly underinvesting in electricity infrastructure

David Roberts, Vox
The US electricity system is central to the economic life of the country. And and its importance is only going to increase in coming years as: a) more energy uses, like transportation, shift to electricity, and b) more and more people get directly involved in generating and sharing electricity, via distributed energy technologies like rooftop solar panels and home energy storage.

Or to put it more bluntly, as I’ve argued several times: Electricity is the future.

A wise country that takes the long view would be investing heavily in electrical infrastructure, laying the foundation for economic health over the next century.

But we don’t live in that kind of country. Instead we live in the United States, where infrastructure of all kinds is systematically underfunded. That point was brought home yet again by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in its report Failure to Act, out this month…


Mapped: The global coal trade

Staff, Carbon Brief
The global coal trade doubled in the decade to 2012 as a coal-fueled boom took hold in Asia. Now, the coal trade seems to have stalled, or even gone into reverse.

This change of fortune has devastated the coal mining industry, with Peabody – the world’s largest private coal-mining company – the latest of 50 US firms to file for bankruptcy. It could also be a turning point for the climate, with the continued burning of coal the biggest difference between business-as-usual emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change.

Carbon Brief has produced a series of maps and interactive charts to show how the global coal trade is changing. As well as providing a global overview, we focus on a few key countries:


Can Justin Trudeau See the Forest Fire for the Trees?

Andrew Nikiforuk, Foreign Policy
The horrific wildfire that is consuming large swaths of Fort McMurray, Alberta, has already broken Canadian records for calamities fueled by climate change. The fire surpassed the economic damage wrought by Quebec’s multibillion-dollar ice storm in 1998 and even southern Alberta’s biblical $2 billion deluge in 2013. The boreal inferno, which mushroomed exponentially like some airborne virus, not only forced the perilous evacuation of 80,000 Canadians from the corporate mining outpost, but also consumed nearly 2,400 buildings. Twitchy bankers and nervous insurers now peg the unprecedented firestorm as Canada’s costliest natural disaster…

The unfolding horror show caught the young government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at an interesting juncture. Unlike his predecessor, Stephen Harper — an ideologue who championed pipelines, muzzled climate change scientists, and attacked environmentalists with malice — Trudeau has changed the tone. He ended the censorship of scientists and personally played a prominent role at the recent Paris COP21 conference on climate change. But he has not yet departed from Harper’s “drill, baby, drill” national narrative. He now promotes oil-export pipelines and wind farms in the same sentence — a sort of political schizophrenia. Contrary to overwhelming scientific evidence, Trudeau acts as though sunny rhetoric on curbing emissions will somehow win more markets for what has become an uneconomic crude. At current oil prices, most oil sand miners are bleeding cash…


We Need to Talk About Climate Change

Eric Holthaus, Slate
…I want to be clear: Talking about climate change during an ongoing disaster like Fort McMurray is absolutely necessary. There is a sensitive way to do it, one that acknowledges what the victims are going through and does not blame them for these difficulties. But adding scientific context helps inform our response and helps us figure out how something so horrific could have happened. We’ve reached an era where all weather events bear at least a slight human fingerprint, which, as Elizabeth Kolbert points out in the New Yorker, means “we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno.” That’s a scientific fact. We need to talk about what we want to do with that information. Since climate change is such a pressing global problem, there’s no better time to have that conversation than now—when we can see what exactly inaction might continue to cause.

This tragedy, like all tragedies, has aspects that are contested and political. Discussing the likely causes and contributing factors of a disaster in real time help us cope, but more than that, they help us figure out the best way of preventing future disasters. Though uncertainty still reigns among those working to put out the fire in Fort McMurray, there are certain facts that we do know: Experts have warned for years that Alberta’s forests are being primed for “catastrophic fires.” We know that. In the boreal forest, once the winter snowpack melts, the exposed dry brush serves as perfect kindling—which is why this time of year marks the start of fire season. We know that. Record warm temperatures, a vanishingly small snowpack, and drought conditions—all of which are symptoms of climate change in boreal Canada—very probably made this fire worse. “This [fire] is consistent with what we expect from human-caused climate change affecting our fire regime,” said Mike Flannigan from the University of Alberta…


Long-term oil shortfall predicted by Wood Mackenzie

Daniel J. Graeber, UPI
Global supply-side pressures could reverse within 20 years as low crude oil prices crimp spending on exploration and production, Wood Mackenzie finds.

For the fifth week in a row, oil services company Baker Hughes reported a decline in rig activity in North America, with a 2 percent drop to 431. Last year’s count for the week ending April 22 was 932…


Oil majors told to adapt or die

Kieran Cooke, Climate News Network
At best, big oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and BP face a period of gentle decline, but will ultimately survive. At worst, if they do not adapt and change direction, “what remains of their existence will be nasty, brutish and short”. That’s the core message of a research paper on the oil corporates by one of the UK’s leading energy experts, Paul Stevens, a senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House thinktank, the Royal Institute of International Affairs.


Significant contamination at 3,900 fracking spill sites in North Dakota alone

Sami Grover, Treehugger
There’s no doubt that fracking has provided a boost to the North Dakota economy in recent years, but at what cost? New research from Duke University scientists has mapped 3,900 fracking spill sites in North Dakota, analyzing both water and soil around these locations and finding significant, persistent pollution levels that could have serious implications for human and environmental health alike.


Agriculture, A Huge Contributor To Climate Change, Is Starting To Clean Up Its Act

Natasha Geiling, Think Progress
Last April, the United States Department of Agriculture announced plans to tackle agriculture’s contribution to climate change. Dubbed the USDA’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture & Forestry, the plan included a set of voluntary but incentive-based programs in ten key areas, from soil health to nutrient management. All told, the USDA estimated that the programs would help agriculture cut its emissions by 120 million metric tons by 2025 — the equivalent of taking more than 25 million passenger vehicles off the road.

Now, a year later, the department is reflecting on the progress it has made through a newly released report that serves as the first annual check-in on the initiatives…


The Champs-Élysées went car-free on Sunday to cut pollution

K.G Orphanides, Wired
On Sunday, the Champs-Élysées in Paris was taken over by pedestrians, bicycles and other human-powered transport for the first monthly event designed to give the city’s residents greater freedom to explore its grand open spaces.

Thousands of Parisians and tourists poured onto the two kilometre stretch leading to the Arc de Triomphe. In February the city council voted that on the first Sunday of every month the length of the eight-lane Champs-Élysées would become a pedestrian space…


American beekeepers lost 44 percent of bees in 2015-16

University of Maryland Study, Science Daily
Beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss–and consequently, total annual losses–worsened compared with last year. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates…


See Earth’s Temperature Spiral Toward 2°C

Andrea Thompson, Climate Central
The steady rise of Earth’s temperature as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and trap more and more heat is sending the planet spiraling closer to the point where warming’s catastrophic consequences may be all but assured.

That metaphoric spiral has become a literal one in a new graphic drawn up by Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. The animated graphic features a rainbow-colored record of global temperatures spinning outward from the late 19th century to the present as the Earth heats up…

 

News clippings image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.