Electrify, The Book

Thanks to MIT Press for this preview:

How to Fix Climate Change (A Sneaky Policy Guide)

We may already have a “miracle” fix for climate change: Electrify everything.

Climate change is a planetary emergency. We have to do something now — but what? Saul Griffith, an inventor and renewable electricity advocate (and a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant), has a plan. In his book “Electrify,” Griffith lays out a detailed blueprint for fighting climate change while creating millions of new jobs and a healthier environment. Griffith’s plan can be summed up simply: Electrify everything. He explains exactly what it would take to transform our infrastructure, update our grid, and adapt our households to make this possible. Billionaires may contemplate escaping our worn-out planet on a private rocket ship to Mars, but the rest of us, Griffith says, will stay and fight for the future. Continue reading

Pushing Decarbonizing Technology Via Industrial Policy

The NLMK mill in Portage, Indiana, which uses a furnace powered by electricity and produces steel from recycled scrap. SCOTT OLSON / GETTY IMAGES

Thanks to Yale e360:

Beyond Biden’s Climate Plan, a New Industrial Revolution Is Needed

The new U.S. climate plan is historic and will pump billions of dollars into advancing the transition away from fossil fuels. But a more far-reaching, innovative approach is needed to push forward the radically new technologies that will be required to decarbonize the economy.

Workers guide a hydrogen-powered truck, part of Anglo American Plc’s NuGen carbon-neutral project, during a moving demonstration at the Anglo American Platinum Ltd. Mogalakwena platinum mine in Mogalakwena, South Africa, on Friday, May 6, 2022. Anglo American unveiled the worlds biggest green-hydrogen powered truck at a platinum mine in northeast South Africa where it aims to replace a fleet of 40 diesel-fueled vehicles that each use about a million liters of the fossil fuel every year. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

For all the great news in the Biden administration’s massive new climate spending plan, the hardest work of transforming the economy to stop global warming lies ahead. That’s because nearly all the money in the $369 billion plan will be spent on technologies that American companies already know how to deploy, such as solar farms, making buildings more efficient, and developing networks of electric vehicle charging systems.

Doing a lot more of the same will undoubtedly bring down emissions faster. But deep decarbonization requires a transformation of the American economy that will demand a much more active effort to push the technological frontier and build new industries so emissions can be driven to zero. Continue reading

Tree Core Samples & Age Estimations

Tree cores Harvard Forest

Core samples may hold clues to a forest’s response to climate change. Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Juan Siliezar, staff writer for the Harvard Gazette asks and answers a question that we never tire of:

Want to know how cold it was in 1490? Ask a tree

Harvard Forest Senior Ecologist Neil Pederso

“We use tree cores to extract what I’ve been leaning toward calling the memory of the tree,” said Neil Pederson in the lab alongside core samples.

Sometimes getting to where you want to go is a matter of finding the right guide.

Four teams of researchers, led by Harvard Forest ecologists, searched for a patch of ancient trees deep in the woods of western Pennsylvania this summer as part of a project to study how climate changes affected trees over the centuries. One of the scientists had come across them 40 years earlier, but they appeared to have vanished. Just as the group was about to give up and move on they came across someone who gave them a valuable clue. Continue reading

The New Climate War Book Tour Optimism

If you are wondering where the hope comes from, read Eric Schwartzman’s article at Yale Climate Connections:

Climate scientist Michael E Mann PhD, author of The New Climate War signs his book for winemaker Ross Halleck of Halleck Vineyard in Sonoma County, California.

Scientist Michael Mann expresses hope during West Coast book tour

University of Pennsylvania climate scientist says he remains optimistic despite daunting challenges and continued concerns about ‘false’ climate solutions.

CORTE MADERA, CALIFORNIA – Don’t believe the climate crisis doomsayers: We can still achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. But we have to elect lawmakers with the political will to enact meaningful climate legislation. The atmosphere is warming significantly, just as Exxon Mobil scientists were predicting back in 1982. Continue reading

Alerce, A Mysterious Phenomenon Examined Scientifically

The Gran Abuelo tree in Alerce Costero national park, Chile. Buried alerce trunks can hold carbon for more than 4,000 years. Photograph: Salomón Henríquez

I do not recall whether we saw the tree pictured above, but we certainly breathed in the oxygen it expired. We spent the summer of 2009 in southern Chile, some of it working in the Chaihuin River Valley–a portion of the Reserva Costera Valdiviana co-owned at the time by WWF and The Nature Conservancy. The “Caleta” entrance to Chaihuin can be seen in the map below.

We have also seen the redwood trees in California, distant cousins of the alerce. Spectacular is an insufficient word to describe them, but hours-long visits to redwoods cannot compare to sleeping night after night under alerces. Chaihuin was for our family an immersion into the alerce ecosystem. Although I reserve the word miracle for other types of mysterious phenomena, I have no problem with a scientist using the word in this manner:

Alerce shingle was used as currency by local populations throughout the 1700s and 1800s. Photograph: Krystyna Szulecka Photography/Alamy

‘It’s a miracle’: Gran Abuelo in Chile could be world’s oldest living tree

100ft alerce has estimated age of 5,484, more than 600 years older than Methuselah in California

In a secluded valley in southern Chile, a lone alerce tree stands above the canopy of an ancient forest.

Green shoots sprout from the crevices in its thick, dark trunks, huddled like the pipes of a great cathedral organ, and water streams down its lichen-streaked bark on to the forest floor from bulbous knots in the wood. Continue reading

Really, World Bank?

We knew there were still agents of climate skepticism, and even deniers, in important positions of influence. But the person trusted to lead the World Bank is among the last we would expect to be one of them. Really. Read about it in Bill McKibben’s newsletter:

The Global Banker Who’s Not Sure the Globe is Warming

Biden’s Easiest Climate Call Ever is to Ditch David Malpass

Some essential climate tasks are hard and expensive and take years.

And a few could not be easier. President Biden needs—now—to get rid of David Malpass as the head of the World Bank. Continue reading

Carbon Burial Venturing

Port Arthur’s Motiva Oil Refinery.PHOTOGRAPH: KATIE THOMPSON

The capturing of carbon is a concept we have been working to understand, but questions about where it goes  and how it is stored, have been fuzzy until now (thanks to Jeffrey Ball at Wired):

Tip Meckel holds a sandstone sample. PHOTOGRAPH: KATIE THOMPSON

The Big Business of Burying Carbon

The porous rock beneath the Gulf Coast launched the petroleum age. Now entrepreneurs want to turn it into a gigantic sponge for storing CO2.

SOMETIME AFTER THE dinosaurs died, sediment started pouring into the Gulf of Mexico. Hour after hour the rivers brought it in—sand from the infant Rockies, the mucky stuff of ecosystems. Year after year the layers of sand hardened into strata of sandstone, pushed down ever deeper into the terrestrial pressure cooker. Continue reading

Almost Missed

I have missed plenty of good articles, books and other sources of news and analysis that relate to our goals with this platform. When I am late to see something important, like the book to the right, no regrets. Especially when it comes to my attention through an essay like this one by Daniel Sherrell:

The Democrats’ climate bill is a historic victory. But we can’t stop here

Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act filled me with joy and rage, relief and apprehension, exhaustion and vigilance. We must celebrate, but also mourn, rage and organize

I was at a Mets game when news broke that the climate bill had enough votes to pass in the Senate. It was the bottom of the eighth, and Edwin Díaz had just struck out the heart of the Braves’ lineup. The crowd at Citi Field was feeling good. Everyone could sense a win was at hand.

I read the push notification then sat there stunned for several minutes, watching the Mets clinch the game, waiting for the world-shaping news to register. Continue reading

Resistance Is Futile

Illustration by Kotryna Zukauskaite

We do not have time for the patience required for proving the futility of resistance, but this historical perspective is valuable nonetheless:

When Coal First Arrived, Americans Said ‘No Thanks’

Back in the 19th century, coal was the nation’s newfangled fuel source—and it faced the same resistance as wind and solar today

Steven Preister’s house in Washington, D.C. is a piece of American history, a gorgeous 110-year-old colonial with wooden columns and a front porch, perfect for relaxing in the summer. Continue reading

Barbados, Leadership & Climate Action

Sargassum seaweed, which thrives in warming oceans, is overtaking a beach in Barbados. Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux, for The New York Times

The region is likely to bear disproportionate challenges from climate change and this island is not taking it lightly. We appreciate the effort described in this story by Abrahm Lustgarten, published by ProPublica:

Until the recent completion of an infrastructure project, Kenneth Blades was able to keep only part of his farmland watered. Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux, for The New York Times

Barbados Resists Climate Colonialism in an Effort to Survive the Costs of Global Warming

Across the Caribbean, soaring national debt is a hidden but decisive aspect of the climate crisis, hobbling countries’ ability to protect themselves from disaster. One island’s leader is fighting to find a way out.

Late on May 31, 2018, five days after she was sworn in as prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley and her top advisers gathered in the windowless anteroom of her administrative office in Bridgetown, the capital, for a call that could determine the fate of her island nation. Continue reading

Alerce, Fungi & Futures

Roots rise from shallow soil. Tomás Munita

The Valdivian Coastal Reserve was mentioned once in our pages, only in passing.

Tomás Munita

Strange, because if I was asked to name my favorite protected area on the planet it would be at or near the top of my list. The abundant but threatened alerce trees were part of the reason. A family story would explain more of why, and that is part of a larger work story that needs more attention another time.

A mushroom rises from the forest floor. Tomás Munita

The story below, featuring an adjacent protected area, stirs an intense place memory, and at the same time reveals much about a topic that was not on our radar at the time. And it says much about potential futures for that place. So, thanks to the New York Times climate correspondent Somini Sengupta (again and again) as well as photographer Tomás Munita:

Unearthing the Secret Superpowers of Fungus

Tomás Munita

In the fight against warming, a formidable ally hides just beneath our feet.

 — Toby Kiers took long strides across the spongy forest floor, felt the adrenaline rush in her veins and stopped at the spot she had traveled so far to reach. Into the ground went a hollow metal cylinder. Out came a scoop of soil.

Tomás Munita

Dr. Kiers stuck her nose into the dirt, inhaled its scent, imagined what secrets it contained to help us live on a hotter planet. “What’s under here?” she asked. “What mysteries are we going to unveil?”

The soil was deposited into a clear plastic bag, then labeled with the coordinates of this exact location on Earth. Continue reading

Strategically Planned Mutual Destruction

An extract from a GCC business card for reporters, shared by former journalist Nicky Sundt

In the long run, no winners will emerge from the obfuscation perpetrated by climate deniers. They and we all have children of the future to consider. Their efforts have assured mutual destruction, no matter how much money their denial earned them in the short run. If you are looking for a better understanding of how concern and action over climate change was strategically weakened early on, this is worth a read:

The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change

Thirty years ago, a bold plan was cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The little-known meeting – between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius – forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.

On an early autumn day in 1992, E Bruce Harrison, a man widely acknowledged as the father of environmental PR, stood up in a room full of business leaders and delivered a pitch like no other. Continue reading

Monbiot Uncorked

‘The dangerous heat England is suffering at the moment is already becoming normal in southern Europe.’ A firefighter tackles a wild fire in Gironde, France, 17 July 2022. Photograph: Thibaud Moritz/AFP/Getty Images

George Monbiot has never held back, but now the cork is released full force:

This heatwave has eviscerated the idea that small changes can tackle extreme weather

Dangerous heat will become the norm, even in the UK. Systems need to urgently change – and the silence needs to be broken

Can we talk about it now? I mean the subject most of the media and most of the political class has been avoiding for so long. You know, the only subject that ultimately counts – the survival of life on Earth. Continue reading

Trillion Tree Puzzles

Villagers hired by Eden Reforestation Projects planting trees in the northern part of Goiás State, Brazil. Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

Zach St. George showcases why the compelling idea is problematic, and why the problematic idea is so compelling:

A plant from which Eden separates seeds to plant in Goiás. Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times

To fight climate change, companies and nonprofits have been promoting worldwide planting campaigns. Getting to a trillion is easier said than done.

On a hot morning in April, near the start of Brazil’s dry season, four women and two men walked single file across a sodden field at the edge of Engenho, a village in the northern part of Goiás State. They wore long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats to protect against the sun, and leather gaiters and gloves to protect against snakes. In a plastic tub, they carried an entire forest. Continue reading

Air Conditioning 2.0

The new mechanism (pictured) could replace traditional vapor-compression cooling technology, which has remained largely unchanged since the early 20th century.

Oddly, we have only mentioned air conditioning twice before in our pages since 2011. So much of the human population is in need of it, and its carbon footprint is so problematic, it presents a significant challenge to efforts to mitigate climate change. Here is reason to mention it again:

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jarad Mason (left) and co-author Jinyoung Seo have developed a new class of solid-state refrigerants that could enable energy-efficient and emission-free cooling. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Keeping cool without warming the planet

A summer dilemma worthy of Solomon: how to stay cool in days of high heat and humidity without turning to traditional air conditioning, which consumes vast amounts of electricity and emits potent climate-changing greenhouse gases.

The answer potentially involves a new class of solid-state refrigerants that could enable energy-efficient and emission-free cooling. Continue reading

82 Leading Scientists Agree

Aerial view of deforestation in the Western Amazon region of Brazil.

Aerial view of deforestation in the Western Amazon region of Brazil. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

To state the obvious, yes:

Humans need to value nature as well as profits to survive, UN report finds

Focus on market has led to climate crises, with spiritual, cultural and emotional benefits of nature ignored

Taking into account all the benefits nature provides to humans and redefining what it means to have a “good quality of life” is key to living sustainably on Earth, a four-year assessment by 82 leading scientists has found. Continue reading

Net Zero’s Three Major Flaws

The flaws of Net Zero campaigns have been linked to several times in our pages. So have some of the inspirational yet problematic proposals like tree-planting initiatives and direct air capture. I recommend taking five minutes to read and view this to get a clearer view on the three major flaws with the latest buzzwords:

New Climate Promises, Same Old Global Warming

In what seems like a rapid shift of gears, corporations are finally jumping into action on climate change. Continue reading

McKibben On The Supreme Court’s EPA Ruling

Photographs by Mitch Epstein

When you have found an explainer reliably clear on complicated but important issues, keep reading their essays:

The Supreme Court Tries to Overrule the Climate

A destructive decision in West Virginia v. E.P.A.

Credit where due: the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in West Virginia v. E.P.A. is the culmination of a five-decade effort to make sure that the federal government won’t threaten the business status quo. Lewis Powell’s famous memo, written in 1971, before he joined the Supreme Court—between the enactment of a strong Clean Air Act and a strong Clean Water Act, each with huge popular support—called on “businessmen” to stand up to the tide of voices “from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians” calling for progressive change. Continue reading

Clever Climate Work Perk

(Adam Maida / The Atlantic ; CSA Images / Getty)

If you have not been reading Robinson Meyer’s excellent newsletter, take a look at this week’s and you might want to sign up over at The Atlantic:

Corporate Climate Action Is an Employee Perk

In February, Bank of America offered its employees a notable perk: If they had worked at the bank for at least three years, and made less than $250,000, then it would give them $4,000 to buy a new electric car. (Employees interested in merely leasing an EV could claim $2,000.) The move, attached to a company-wide round of salary increases, wasn’t the first time that the bank had made the offer; it had made a similar one in 2015, and again in 2020, although those incentives had also applied to gas-electric hybrids. Continue reading

Wetland Treasury

The U.S. once held a wealth of wetness, but the country’s treasury has shrivelled. Illustration by Carson Ellis

The word swamp does not have a pleasant ring to it. The thing itself, though, is something much more than pleasant. Essential to our future, Annie Proulx clarifies in a lovely manner, swamps should be treated with greater care:

Swamps Can Protect Against Climate Change,

If We Only Let Them
Wetlands absorb carbon dioxide and buffer the excesses of drought and flood, yet we’ve drained much of this land. Can we learn to love our swamps?

It can be hell finding one’s way across an extensive boggy moor—the partially dry, rough ground and the absence of any landmarks let the eye rove helplessly into the monotype distance. Continue reading