“The present observed global warming is close to 0.4 degrees C [0.72 F], relative to ‘climatology,’ which is defined as the thirty-year (1951–1980) mean. A warming of 0.4 degrees C is three times larger than the standard deviation of annual mean temperatures in the 30-year climatology. The standard deviation of 0.13 degrees C i[0.23 F] is a typical amount by which the global temperature fluctuates annually about its 30-year mean; the probability of a chance warming of three standard deviations is about 1 percent. Thus, we can state with about 99 percent confidence that current temperatures represent a real warming trend rather than a chance fluctuation over the 30-year period.”—James Hansen testifying to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on June 23, 1988.
Five years ago this June, Elizabeth Kolbert took note of the anniversary of atmospheric scientist James Hansen’s seminal testimony to Congress about climate change with an essay at The New Yorker in which she pointed out:
This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of Hansen’s testimony, and it would be hard to think of a more lugubrious milestone. In the intervening three decades, nearly half of the Arctic ice cap has melted away, the oceans have acidified, much of the American West has burned, lower Manhattan, South Florida, Houston, and New Orleans have flooded, and average temperatures have continued to climb. Just last week, a team of scientists reported in Nature that the rate of melt off Antarctica has tripled in the past decade; as the Washington Post put it, “If that continues, we are in serious trouble.” (Were the Antarctic ice to melt away entirely, global sea levels would rise by two hundred feet; if just the more vulnerable West Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea levels would rise by about ten feet.) Also last week, scientists reported that most of Africa’s oldest baobab trees have died, probably because of climate change, and last month researchers showed that rising CO2 levels were reducing the nutrient content of rice, which is probably the single most important food source for people. Yet Washington continues to ignore the problem, or, worse still, to actively impede efforts to address it. How can this be?
Since that was written in 2018, the reports of impacts from the global warming that Hansen identified three decades before as already becoming evident in the observable data have worsened. Hansen also testified to a House committee in July 2023 and another Senate committee, this one chaired by then-Sen. Al Gore Jr., in May 1989.
When Hansen told senators in that June testimony that he was 99% sure Earth was warmer than it had been since trustable measurements had begun in the 1880s, they were skeptical. And resistant to anything resembling much more than talk.
Hansen turned out to be prescient, Kolbert wrote, “spectacularly accurate.” That, of course, wasn’t how the fossil fuel industry responded publicly to what he said. As we’re all too well aware, Shell and Exxon and the Koch Bros.—using an array of paid shills and phony think tanks, astroturf groups, propaganda fronts, and marketing coups like getting The New York Times to publish Mobil ads looking like regular newspaper copy on its editorial pages—created public doubt that Hansen’s and other scientists’ views on the climate were even slightly accurate. This even though more than a decade before Hansen got behind the microphone their own scientists had given them the same but less data-driven analysis as he gave the Senate.
Of course, climate scientists didn’t then and don’t now agree on all the details. But while there are anomalies in some of the data, still incomplete understanding of certain processes, differences of opinion over how fast various tipping points may be reached and how bad things will actually get, the only disagreement at this late date on the basic premise that the greenhouse effect is happening comes from sources of dubious credibility, stubborn ignorance, or a paycheck. The climate-change-is-a-hoax folks are now mostly relegated to Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter backwaters. For instance, the 149 Republican climate science deniers in Congress have mostly adopted the disingenuous truism about the climate always changing, which is debunked in the Weekly Eco-Video below. The fact so many of these deniers display as deep an ignorance of basic chemistry and physics as they do of the basic tenets of democracy speaks volumes about the state of ours.
Hansen continued his climate work, serving as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies from 1981-2013. Among his many papers, one published in 2007 explored via paleoclimate data the likelihood that “fast-feedback” effects would cause ice sheets to disintegrate. The environmental activist-journalist George Monbiot wrote at the time:
The IPCC predicts that sea levels could rise by as much as 59cm [23 inches] this century. Hansen’s paper argues that the slow melting of ice sheets the panel expects doesn’t fit the data. The geological record suggests that ice at the poles does not melt in a gradual and linear fashion, but flips suddenly from one state to another. When temperatures increased to 2-3 degrees [Celsius; 3.6-5.4 Fahrenheit] above today’s level 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose not by 59 centimetres but by 25 metres [82 feet]. The ice responded immediately to changes in temperature.
And if that seemed dire, Hansen posited with other researchers in a 2013 paper that a 3±1 degree Celsius rise in the temperature from burning all the remaining fossil fuel reserves could make most of the Earth uninhabitable for humans. Another paper he authored in 2016 said paleoclimate data indicated that a 2 degree Celsius rise would melt enough of the ice sheets to slow or even stop the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation. This would in time further speed up ice sheet loss.
He came to believe he had to do more than just talk science to make something happen. So he criticized both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations on climate, one for too little action and one for outright hostility. That didn’t make him popular with either. In fact, the Bush administration made a strong effort to shut him up.
Hansen got arrested a few times for blocking traffic in protests. That pissed off a few people too. What’s a scientist doing protesting like that? Shouldn’t he working through channels? He has also irked several Big Green environmental groups for repeatedly arguing that without vastly more nuclear power the U.S. and the rest of the world will never be able to get off fossil fuels fast enough. The old-line environmental movement is still split over the issue, and there’s no evidence from any parts of the climate movement run by younger generations that they will soon be clamoring for more nukes.
Hansen gave some interviews and wrote some op-eds, like Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb? in 2003. In a 2008 interview and op-ed, he made some more people mad by saying oil firm chiefs should be put on trial:
Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming.
CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.
Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation if we pass on a runaway climate to our children. Humanity would be impoverished by ravages of continually shifting shorelines and intensification of regional climate extremes. Loss of countless species would leave a more desolate planet.
If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead. We must demand a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants. We must block fossil fuel interests who aim to squeeze every last drop of oil from public lands, off-shore, and wilderness areas. Those last drops are no solution. They yield continued exorbitant profits for a short-sighted self-serving industry, but no alleviation of our addiction or long-term energy source.
His substitute for trying those CEOs was acting as plaintiff for his granddaughter and “future generations” in the lawsuit of Juliana v. United States against the government for not protecting a stable climate system. After the plaintiffs lost in district and appeals courts and planned to appeal to the Supreme Court, the government agreed to a settlement in 2021.
At 82, Hansen won’t see the worst of what’s to come. But there’s still time for us to show him that his warning is finally being taken seriously, still time to avoid the most draconian impacts. Every minute of delay makes doing so a bit harder. Eventually, “too late” will be reality not speculation. Tick, tick, tick.
The biodiversity crisis gets a lot less attention than the climate crisis, but they are partners. A new study titled More losers than winners: investigating Anthropocene defaunation through the diversity of population trends has found 48% of the 71,000 species examined are losing ground.
Catherine Finn, leading author of the study published in the peer-reviewed journal Biological Reviews, said in a statement: “Almost half of animals on Earth for which assessments are available are currently declining. To make matters worse, many of the animal species that are thought to be non-threatened from extinction, are in fact progressively declining.” The study notes:
The widespread loss of biodiversity has reached unprecedented degrees of ecosystem degradation at rapid timescales (ongoing extinction rates are 1000–10,000 higher than ‘background’ extinction rates), leading to the growing consensus that life on Earth is entering its sixth mass extinction (Barnosky et al., 2011; Kolbert, 2014; Ceballos et al., 2015; McCallum, 2015; Cowie, Bouchet & Fontaine, 2022). However, compared with the previous five such events, this mass extinction is the first directly induced by a single species — humans.
Said Daniel Pincheira-Donoso, principal investigator of the project and senior lecturer on evolutionary biology at Queen’s University Belfast, “This new study method and global-scale analysis provides a clearer picture about the true extent of global erosion of biodiversity that the traditional approach cannot offer. Our work is a drastic alert about the current magnitude of this crisis that has already devastating impacts on the stability of nature as a whole, and on human health and wellbeing.”
While the Energy Information Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, can be counted for totally trustworthy measurements of our current energy situation, it is notorious for downplaying the rise of renewable sources like wind and solar in its annual forecasts. For instance, in a 2005 projection for 2030, the EIA estimated there would be a cumulative 62 gigawatts of wind power installed in the United States by then. That figure was passed in 2014. It currently stands at 141 gigawatts.
To be sure, forecasting the outcome of a major disruption innovation is no easy matter. And the EIA has defended itself in the past, pointing out that unexpected policy changes and unexpected events can change the picture markedly. True enough. But in some instances, their forecasts makes no sense at all. So it is with the latest EIA Annual Energy Outlook when it comes to electric vehicles. As Zach Shahan at CleanTechnica writes, “To be frank, it looks wildly pessimistic …” The EIA states:
[W]e project that electric vehicles (EVs), including both battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), will account for between 13% and 29% of new light-duty vehicle sales in the United States in 2050 and between 11% and 26% of on-road light-duty vehicle stocks. Declines in EV component costs, along with federal and state policies that provide incentives for EV purchases or require minimum sales, drive EV sales growth in our model projection.
So, the best case scenario in EIA analysts’ view is that sales of plug-in and fully electric light-duty vehicles will rise to 26% in 2030, then plateau, only reaching 29% by 2050? “Wildly pessimistic” is a charitable description of that forecast.
For one thing, 10 states, including California, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia have banned or are planning to ban the sales of new gas-powered cars and light-trucks by 2035. For another, numerous sources note that global sales of cars and light trucks powered with internal combustion engines hit their peak in 2017 and are unlikely to ever exceed that level. That year, the tally of ICE cars sold globally was 86 million. Last year, it was 69 million. Meanwhile, in China, the EU, and the United States, EV sales are steadily eroding the market share of the makers of ICE cars.
Relatedly, in another odd forecast, the EIA projects the average cost of lithium-ion batteries, which was $1,355 per kilowatt-hour in 2008 and has fallen to $151/kWh today—will run between $105/kWh and $118/kWh by 2050. EIA is the only source saying batteries will cost anywhere near that much in 27 years. For instance, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a highly respected research and data company on energy investment, predicts prices will fall below $100/kWh by 2026. Some other sources with fewer relevant credentials say prices will fall further than that as numerous battery factories built by Tesla, GM, Ford, and Toyota come on line and drive costs down with massive output.
Too few experts—including apparently those at EIA—truly comprehend the speed with which a disruptive innovation can take over a market. My forecast: They’re about to get a big lesson.
PERMITTING SPEED-UP OF ENERGY PROJECTS HAS A BIG PROBLEM: INADEQUATE STAFFING
The debt ceiling deal that passed Congress Wednesday includes a provision for speeding up energy infrastructure though without dealing with the thorny issue of new transmission lines, the green-lighting of which can take many years.
Speeding up clean/green energy projects is a good thing, crucial in fact. The problem is that this change isn’t just about clean energy projects getting a quicker decision. So will fossil fuel projects such as liquefied natural gas terminals. Agencies tasked with environmental reviews of such projects, especially the Environmental Protection Agency itself, have for years been under-staffed and under-budgeted. Freezing the budget now means two years of inflation will reduce those agency budgets even further. Combining shorter timeframes with less money for reviews means there will be some very bad outcomes because shortcuts inevitably will be required to meet the deadlines.
Clean energy projects inherently have far fewer negative environmental impacts than new projects for fossils fuels, which are literally killing millions of people worldwide even before climate change is figured in. The inclusion of fossil fuel projects as part of the speed-up ticked off many environmental advocates, including a few members of Congress. Praise be. Nonetheless, however one feels about that part of the deal, it’s now water under the bridge.
This being the case, to achieve the goals of accelerating clean energy projects—while gritting our teeth over the compromise that gave them equal status with fossil fuel projects—a priority come January 2025, presuming Congress and the White House are in Democratic hands then, should be providing the EPA and other agencies the additional staff needed to do a credible and comprehensive reviewing job.
Researchers of an updated study published Wednesday in the journal Nature have found that human activity has already exceeded seven of eight “planetary boundaries” necessary for maintaining the resilience of Earth systems. The scientists, who first came up with the concept 14 years ago, scrutinized climate, biodiversity, fresh water, aerosol pollution, nutrients, and “novel entities and other pollutants” needed for a “safe operating space” for continued civilization. When they got started in 2009, they didn’t analyze how surpassing these boundaries might harm people, especially poor and otherwise vulnerable populations. Their latest effort does, and includes social justice issues in the mix as well.
Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and a co-author of the new and original works, told Eric Roston at Bloomberg Green, “We simply need to have science-based targets well beyond climate for all the planetary boundaries, in order to have a stable and resilient Earth system—and also to handle the climate crisis.”
The authors—51 of them—wrote that the Paris Agreement’s aspirational goal of keeping average warming to a rise of 1.5° C (2.7° F) over the pre-industrial average is too high, something that can be seen in the vast number of people now being exposed to dangerous heat levels when we’ve only hit 1.2° C (2.2°F) so far. At 1.5°C, they write, more than 200 million people, the majority of them poor and vulnerable, will swelter. The unprecedented heat will cause even more intensified storms, extreme floods, crop failures leading to spreading hunger, water scarcity and the conflict that goes with it. Some animal and plant species alive now will vanish. Coral reefs, which sustain fisheries around the planet globe, will suffer more frequent mass die-offs. Roston writes:
To make sure human-touched areas continue to perform key roles, the authors say 20% to 25% of every square kilometer of urban, agricultural and other land altered by people should retain elements of natural ecosystems. To prevent freshwater biodiversity loss, the scientists recommend that rivers and streams deviate no more than 20% from natural monthly flows.
The focus on the human toll of a changing planet helps make the new analysis more concrete than previous iterations of planetary boundaries research, said Kim Cobb, who is director of the Institute at Brown University for Environment and Society and was not involved with the study. While there may still be scientific uncertainties about elements of these systems, “we don’t really have any uncertainties about the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable,” she said. “And so that’s something that I think should ground us in decision-making today.”
”Waste is a social process, and waste management practices in the United States reveal the construction of environmental racism. Since the end of the Civil War, American sanitation systems; zoning boards; real estate practices; federal, state, and municipal governments, and makers and marketers of cleaning products have all worked with an understanding of hygiene that assumes that “white people” are clean, and “non-white people” are less than clean. This assumption is fundamental to racist claims of white supremacy, a rhetoric that involves concepts of “race pollution,” “white purity,” and the dangers of non-white sexuality is “miscegenation.” It is also fundamental to broad social and environmental inequalities that emerged after the Civil War and that remains in place in the early twenty-first century.”—Carl A. Zimring in “Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States” (2015)
Why BIPOC Farmers Need More Protection From Climate Change. By Dana Cronin at Civil Eats. Veronica Mazariegos-Anastassiou co-owns, operates, and farms Brisa Ranch in Pescadero, California with her husband, Cole Mazariegos-Anastassiou, and friend Cristóbal Cruz. Veronica got her start working with rice farmers in Togo as a Peace Corps volunteer and has been farming full-time in California for seven years. Established in 2018, Brisa is a small-scale organic fruit, vegetable, and flower farm that sells directly to consumers, local restaurants, and grocers. Over the past few years, Brisa has been impacted by wildfires, drought, and floods and Mazariegos-Anastassiou and her partners have received no federal support to recover from these climate events. Climate change is emerging as a central theme of the 2023 Farm Bill negotiations. Some farming groups are asking Congress to prioritize young farmers and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) farmers in those climate provisions, given the historic discrimination they’ve faced, coupled with the fact that BIPOC communities bear disproportionate impacts of climate change. According to the National Young Farmers Coalition, which surveyed over 10,000 people under 40 years old, lack of access to land and capital are the core issues young farmers face across the U.S., and the challenge they would most like to see addressed in the next farm bill.
Tracing the Impact of Sackett v. EPA On Beloved Waters. By Hannah Story Brown and Dorothy Slater at the Revolving Door Project. The Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett did not just disregard the plain statutory language of the Clean Water Act; it also willfully ignores third-grade earth science. The brand new test that the conservative court (sans Kavanaugh) came up with for deciding whether a wetland should be protected by the Clean Water Act depends on whether that wetland is visibly connected to navigable waters, i.e. whether the “wetland has a continuous surface connection with that water, making it difficult to determine where the ‘water’ ends and the ‘wetland’ begins.” But that is simply not how water works. Water also moves underground, passing through soil and sand and rock, under walls and roads. The water cycle means that quite literally all of the water on this planet is connected by its continuous movement through the earth and atmosphere. The insistence from Justices Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Barrett that we should only recognize interconnectedness in cases where it isn’t clear where one thing ends and another thing begins is also a good encapsulation of what’s broken about our current paradigm. It is this ignorant philosophy which drives us towards the existential breaking point of climate change. And water is a particularly potent way to think about the crucial relationships we overlook.
Capturing carbon with machines is a failure. So why are we subsidizing it? By Richard Heinberg at the Independent Media Institute. Climate scientists warn that if we want to avert catastrophe, a significant amount of excess atmospheric CO2 must be captured and sequestered. The process is called carbon dioxide removal, and it has been receiving more attention as nations, states, and industries strive to meet their climate goals. But how should we go about doing it? In a study, scientists concluded:
[B]iological sequestration methods, including restoration of forests, grasslands, and wetlands and regenerative agriculture, are both more effective and more resource efficient in achieving a climate-relevant scale of CO2 removal than are techno-mechanical methods—which use machinery and chemicals to capture CO2. Additionally, the co-impacts of biological methods are largely positive, while those of technical/mechanical methods are negative. Biological methods are also far less expensive.
In this comparative study, the scores for natural versus mechanical carbon removal methods were not close: Natural methods won in every category—and by a significant margin. The problem with machine-based carbon removal is not just that current technologies are immature (with the hope of getting better with more research and investment), but also that using machines is inherently inefficient, costly, and risky. On the other hand, removing carbon by restoring nature costs less, is more effective at reducing atmospheric carbon, and offers numerous side benefits.
For some U.S. residents, it is now impossible to get home insurance—and all because of the climate crisis. By Arwa Mahdawi at The Guardian. The rising incidence of wildfires means many Californians can no longer insure their property. It’s a sign of what’s ahead for the whole housing market. Insurance company documents aren’t exactly renowned for being riveting reading. This week, however, State Farm, the largest insurance firm in the U.S. by premium volume, came out with an eyeball-grabbing update: it has stopped accepting new homeowner insurance applications in California. In a statement, the company said the decision was based on the heightened risk of natural disasters, such as wildfires, along with historic increases in construction costs. This news didn’t come out of nowhere. Last year, two large insurance firms in California ended their coverage for some multimillion-dollar houses in wildfire-prone areas. “We cannot charge an adequate price for the risk,” one insurance company CEO explained in an earnings call.
Manchin and Biden’s Horrible Mountain Valley Pipeline Push. By Allie Rosenbluth at Oil Change International. Building more gas pipelines like Mountain Valley does not increase the United States’ security under any definition. It does the opposite. Joe Manchin’s “dirty deal” to greenlight the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and gut crucial safeguards that give communities a say in the permitting of energy projects is back again. But this time, the Biden administration has weighed in to explicitly support the 300-mile proposed fracked gas pipeline that would cut through Appalachia. Manchin and the Biden administration are promoting this project by claiming MVP will “help our allies” and is in the interest of “national security” and “energy security.” But claims that MVP would help Europe or benefit national security — in Europe, in the United States, or anywhere else — are wildly unfounded.
HALF A DOZEN OTHER THINGS TO READ (OR LISTEN TO)
Report Finds 228 Local Restrictions Against Siting Wind, Solar, and Other Renewables, as Well as 293 Contested Projects. By Matthew Eisenson at Climate Law, a blog at the Sabin Center at Columbia Law School. Renewable energy projects have encountered significant opposition in at least 45 states. In addition, at least 228 local laws, ordinances and policies have been enacted in 35 states to restrict renewable energy projects, according to a report, Opposition to Renewable Energy Facilities in the United States, issued on May 31 by Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. This report updates and considerably expands two previous Sabin Center reports, published in September 2021 and March 2022. The report’s state-by-state catalog describes local and state restrictions against the siting of renewable energy projects (primarily wind and solar), as well as instances of organized opposition against individual projects from 1995 through May 2023. As the report describes, in many instances, local opposition has led to cancellations, delays, or reductions in the size of projects. The report also describes, where applicable, state laws that preempt or curtail local restrictions.
Biden’s climate gamble in the debt deal. By Robin Bravender and Timothy Cama at GreenWire. While some green groups are painting the deal as a big loss for President Biden, the White House and other Democrats view the deal as a necessary political move to keep the nation from defaulting on its debt and to safeguard the massive renewable energy investments in last year’s climate law. The deal “holds firm” against GOP efforts to roll back and repeal the climate law, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, a White House official told reporters over the weekend. And while critics argue that changes to speed up the permitting process for energy projects will hurt the climate and pollute communities, the White House says those moves will help speed the transition to renewable energy. These changes will help “build more solar, build more wind, EV chargers, transmission, and the other infrastructure we need to secure a clean energy economy,” the White House official said. Ultimately, said former Biden White House climate official David Hayes, “no one can get excited about this deal.” Hayes called the outcome a “no-harm-done kind of situation.”
Outrage as Brazil law threatening Indigenous lands advances in congress. By Tom Phillips at The Guardian. Indigenous leaders and environmentalists in Brazil have voiced horror and indignation after lawmakers approved controversial legislation which opponents fear will strike a devastating blow to Indigenous communities and isolated tribes. “You will have Indigenous blood on your hands,” the Native congresswoman Célia Xakriabá told its rightwing backers as leftwingers took to the podium to protest by smothering their hands in the red dye of annatto seeds. The legislation could open the door to road-building, mining, dam construction, agricultural projects, as well as authorizing contact with isolated Indigenous groups in certain circumstances. It would allow the government to reclaim land from Indigenous communities whose “cultural traits” are deemed to have changed. Perhaps most damagingly, the legislation would also invalidate Indigenous claims to lands such groups could not prove they physically occupied on the day Brazil’s constitution was enacted in October 1988. Activists say that “time limit trick” could scupper scores of legitimate claims for the delimitation of Indigenous lands, from groups who had already been evicted from their ancestral lands or whose presence had yet to be recognized at the cut-off date.
Another target of GOP spending cuts: renewables for farmers. By Max Graham at Grist. Environmental groups have been clamoring to make this year’s farm bill the next big climate law. With more funding, climate advocates say, farmers could cut greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon in soil, curbing nitrogen fertilizer use, and planting trees. But the farm bill—and the movement to make it climate-friendly—isn’t just about farming. It also pumps tens of millions of dollars each year into clean energy projects: solar panels on a poultry and cattle farm in Georgia; an energy-efficient refrigerator at a grocery store in South Dakota; a wind turbine in Minnesota. The source of that money, the farm bill’s Rural Energy for America Program, “helps to reduce input costs for farmers, to cut their energy costs, and to lower their carbon footprints,” said Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate at the Environmental Law and Policy Center. This voluntary program for farmers and rural small business owners, was supposed to get an additional $2 billion through the Inflation Reduction Act. Now, it’s being targeted by House Republicans looking for spending cuts. They’ve proposed clawing back half a billion dollars meant for the program—along with $3 billion for renewable energy projects run by rural electric cooperatives, and eliminating funding for the Department of Agriculture’s climate research. The cuts, proposed separately from the deal that House Republicans and the White House reached on the debt limit, are sure to encounter resistance if they make it through the House of Representatives and get sent to the Democrat-led Senate. But the development signals that turning this year’s farm bill into a historic climate law might be harder than advocates have hoped.
Pennsylvania Legislators Claw Back the State’s Power to Plug Abandoned Wells. By Audrey Carleton at Capital & Main. After a deal last year kneecapped regulators’ ability to address the crisis of abandoned oil and gas wells, Pennsylvania Democrats voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would resurrect regulators’ authority. Altogether, there are estimated to be between 300,000 and 500,000 orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. As in the case with the rest of nation’s EPA-estimated accumulation of 2.1 million orphaned wells, those in Pennsylvania pose risks of explosion to surrounding communities, and they leak methane, a planet-warming greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere and toxins into nearby homes and waterways. Introduced by Democratic Rep. Greg Vitali, the bill restores the authority to raise bonding amounts for conventional oil and gas wells. Currently, the state requires operators of any conventional and unconventional wells drilled after 1985 to put up a bond of $2,500 and between $4,000 to $10,000, respectively, when they drill or acquire a well. This is meant to cover the cost of plugging if the operator abandons the well—and lower per-well rates are available for operators that put up what’s called a blanket bond for a grouping of wells in one go. Unfortunately, these bond amounts represent a mere fraction of the true cost of plugging, which can run more than $100,000.
Farmers face a soaring risk of flash droughts in every major food-growing region in coming decades, new research shows. By Jeff Basara and Jordan Christian at The Conversation. Flash droughts develop fast, and when they hit at the wrong time, they can devastate a region’s agriculture. They’re also becoming increasingly common as the planet warms. In a new study published May 25, 2023, the authors found that the risk of flash droughts, which can develop in the span of a few weeks, is on pace to rise in every major agriculture region around the world in the coming decades. In North America and Europe, cropland that had a 32% annual chance of a flash drought a few years ago could have as much as a 53% annual chance of a flash drought by the final decades of this century. The result would put food production, energy and water supplies under increasing pressure. The cost of damage will also rise. A flash drought in the Dakotas and Montana in 2017 caused US$2.6 billion in agricultural damage in the U.S. alone.
A Poisonous Cold War Legacy That Defies a Solution • The U.S. wants to pressure China to help avert climate catastrophe • Peru battles record dengue outbreak, in a warning for a warming world • Canada wildfire smoke triggers air quality alerts in Northeastern U.S. • Using pig fat as green jet fuel will hurt planet, experts warn • Why Thinking of Cities as Nature Is Key to Fighting Climate Change • California Overestimates Water Supply by Ignoring Climate Change • US Energy-Insecure Households Were Billed More For Energy Than Other Households • The state of the Amazon: Chapter 1 of “A Perfect Storm” • New index identifies marine reserves that are protected in theory only • North America is now the growth leader for new battery factories