The Remarkable Efficiency Of Heat Pumps, Explained

Heat pumps use electricity to compress a refrigerant, raising its temperature. IEA

Heat pumps have only been a passing reference occasionally in these pages, but today they are the focus, thanks to Paul Hockenos in Yale e360:

In Europe’s Clean Energy Transition, Industry Turns to Heat Pumps

With soaring gas prices due to the Ukraine war and the EU’s push to cut emissions, European industries are increasingly switching to high-temperature, high-efficiency heat pumps. Combined with the boom in residential use, the EU is now hoping for a heat pump revolution.

An industrial heat pump at the Mars Confectionery in Veghel, the Netherlands. GEA

The Wienerberger brickworks in Uttendorf, Austria, in the Tyrolean Alps, has always required a steady stream of 90 degree C (194 degree F) heat to dry its construction blocks. This process would have been an expensive proposition for the company after Russia cut gas exports to Europe, as it was for most of Europe’s energy-intensive construction industry. But four years ago, Wienerberger — the largest brick producer in the world — made an investment in the future that is now paying off: it replaced Uttendorf’s gas-fired boiler with an industrial-scale heat pump, which whittles the factory’s energy bill by around 425,00 euros a year. Continue reading

EV Boom

Ibrahim Rayintakath

At this point we should not be surprised but the momentum is still stunning:

Electric Vehicles Keep Defying Almost Everyone’s Predictions

It is striking that in the same year that Tesla’s stock price dropped by about two-thirds, destroying more than $700 billion in market value, the global market for electric vehicles — which for so long the company seemed almost to embody — actually boomed. Continue reading

Fridays For Future @COP27

Fridays for Future protest calling for money for climate action at Cop27. Photograph: Peter de Jong/AP

If you wonder what our youth are up to, take a look at what the Guardian’s team of Fiona Harvey, with Adam Morton and Patrick Greenfield is reporting from Sharm el-Sheikh:

Cop27: EU agrees to loss and damage fund to help poor countries amid climate disasters

Change in stance puts spotlight on US and China, which have both objected to fund

A breakthrough looked possible in the deadlocked global climate talks on Friday as the European Union made a dramatic intervention to agree to key developing world demands on financial help for poor countries. Continue reading

Canada’s Best Tide Forward

As Brazil turns the tide to its better environmental self, the New York Times reporter Ian Austen explains how Canada harnesses its best tide for an environmental feat long dreamed of:

The Bay of Fundy’s funnel shape is part of the reason for its exceptional tides. Along its 96 or so miles of length, the bay dramatically narrows and its depth drops, from 765 feet to 147 feet. David Goldman for The New York Times

Who Will Win the Race to Generate Electricity From Ocean Tides?

The Bay of Fundy, between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has one of the world’s most powerful tides. Now, engineers and scientists hope to finally turn it into a clean energy source.

ABOARD THE PLAT-I 6.40 GENERATING PLATFORM, Nova Scotia — The Bay of Fundy, off the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, has long tantalized and frustrated engineers hoping to harness its record-setting 50-foot high tide to generate electricity. Continue reading

McKibben From COP 27 & A Rare Smile

You can read the daily news from COP27 on the official website, and it is useful information but not fully contextualized; for that we have our most reliable scribe who today is giving us one of his rare smiles:

Has the fever broken just a bit?

The view from Egypt: Trumpism, Putinism, Bolsonaroism finally on the defensive

Those of us who have been faithful in bringing the world bad news are perhaps excused if we seize occasionally on the the promising straws in the wind (though always aware that ill winds continue blowing, and not just in Florida where a rare November hurricane made landfall today). I’m thinking globally this afternoon, because I’m at the climate summit in Sharm al Sheikh in Egypt, where dozens of countries have pavilions (it’s the Epcot of carbon mitigation.) And the planet looks just a little better than it did a month ago. Continue reading

What Billionaires Are Responsible For

Andrew Steer speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in May. Photograph: Ciaran McCrickard/World Economic Forum

At first, and even second glance, this argument is reasonable, so we share it in good faith:

Billionaires should not make up climate finance gaps, says Bezos Earth Fund head

Rich countries ‘not living up to obligations’, says Andrew Steer, in charge of $10bn environmental fund

Billionaires can not be expected to make up for climate finance gaps left by rich countries that fail to deliver on promises to the developing world, the head of the Bezos Earth Fund has said…

The article is worth reading at the source, in the Guardian, and our thanks as always to that newspaper and Patrick Greenfield.

But if you want a different take on what billionaires are responsible for, you might want to read what Anand Giridharadas has to say on the topic.

Or, at least read the review in the Guardian of his 2018 book.

Memo From Mr. Gates

We have only rarely linked to stories featuring or mentioning Mr. Gates.

This is not because we do not value his opinions; we think he is the smart money on multiple fronts. Climate change is one of them.

Even if we consider McKibben the more reliable scribe, and even if we give Malmo his due, this is still smart money territory:

The state of the energy transition

My annual memo about the journey to zero emissions.

When I first started learning about climate change 15 years ago, I came to three conclusions. First, avoiding a climate disaster would be the hardest challenge people had ever faced. Second, the only way to do it was to invest aggressively in clean-energy innovation and deployment. And third, we needed to get going. Continue reading

Ecotage Made Plain

I first heard an interview with Andreas Malm last year, and listening to more on the subject I found his argument understandable, and compelling enough to read a bit further. But, I did not read the book. I let it go, the way one lets any taboo thought recede from memory. His book came back to my attention today with this essay. And I realize that by not sharing on this platform I was denying what is compelling about his basic argument. At the very least, I can share what the publisher says about the book:

Why resisting climate change means combatting the fossil fuel industry

The science on climate change has been clear for a very long time now.  Yet despite decades of appeals, mass street protests, petition campaigns, and peaceful demonstrations, we are still facing a booming fossil fuel industry, rising seas, rising emission levels, and a rising temperature. With the stakes so high, why haven’t we moved beyond peaceful protest? Continue reading

The Race That Matters Most

Bernice Lee, an expert on climate politics at Chatham House, says: “Good results at a global level are built on strong domestic, local and regional action.” Illustration: Nathalie Lees

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment editor, Damian Carrington, as always, for reminding us which horse to bet on:

Hope amid climate chaos: ‘We are in a race between Armageddon and awesome’

Renewables, decarbonisation, activism, cooperation … The challenge is immense, but the situation is far from hopeless

Every one of us will love someone who is still alive in 2100, says climate campaigner Ayisha Siddiqa. That loved one will either face a world in climate chaos or a clean, green utopia, depending on what we do today.

It’s a powerful reason for action, providing hope that the will for transformative change can be found. Continue reading

Previously Unheralded Climate Policy Good News

(David McNew / Getty)

Robinson Meyer‘s newsletter this week is the most positive in its history, so if only for that read it and click the banner above to sign up:

America’s Climate Bill Looks Even Better Than Before

Late last month, analysts at the investment bank Credit Suisse published a research note about America’s new climate law that went nearly unnoticed. The Inflation Reduction Act, the bank argued, is even more important than has been recognized so far: The IRA will “will have a profound effect across industries in the next decade and beyond” and could ultimately shape the direction of the American economy, the bank said. Continue reading

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

Fishing Endgame

Note: Data for 2020 is from June 2020 through May 2021; for 2021, it is from June 2021 through May 2022.

Overfishing and potential solutions have received lots of attention in our pages over the years. It is not a new problem. And yet, we now have better metrics for how serious the problem is and who is responsible, currently, for making the problem worse. The screenshot to the left does not capture the full value of the dynamic illustration accompanying this article. Click the image to go to the source:

A Chinese ship fishing for squid off the west coast of South America in July 2021. Isaac Haslam/Sea Shepherd via Associated Press

How China Targets the Global Fish Supply

With its own coastal waters depleted, China has built a global fishing operation unmatched by any other country.

Rich and ecologically diverse, the waters around the Galápagos Islands have attracted local fishermen for centuries. Now, these waters face a much larger, more rapacious hunter: China. 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

Patagonia 2.0

Details of a desk in a Patagonia office with a stack of orange and brown stickers that read “defend bears ears national monument’ on top of stacks of magazines and papers.

Patagonia has become more politically active, going so far as to sue the Trump administration in a bid to protect the Bears Ears National Monument. Laure Joliet for The New York Times

We have mentioned this company multiple times in our pages over the years, because we take inspiration from it, the same way we have taken inspiration from the example set by Chuck Feeney. It is worth noting that I also value everything I have ever bought from Patagonia. The day of this blizzard in New York I took an old beat up backpack in to see if they could repair it in the nearby shop; instead, they gave me a new one.

Good quality products, combined with good service, make the good environmental values of the company all the better:

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” said Mr. Chouinard. Meridith Kohut for The New York Times

Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company

Mr. Chouinard filmed an announcement for his employees at home in Wyoming. By giving away the bulk of their assets during their lifetime, the Chouinards have established themselves as among the most charitable families in the country. Natalie Behring for The New York Times

A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.

Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe. Continue reading

Solar@School, Win-Win-Win

Solar panels installed near the Heart-Butte schools in Montana. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

Two elementary school students stand at table covered in papers, markers and other school materials, and face a wall with a poster map of Montana, divided by tribal territories. The child at left uses an orange marker to point at an area called “Blackfeet & Gros Ventre.”

Students at Heart-Butte School exploring their area of the world on a map in the “Blackfeet Immersion” classroom. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

In the USA it has become normal to think that partisan divisions prevent collaboration on issues of common interest. The partisan divisions are real, and then some; but there are silver linings here and there.  Cara Buckley, a climate reporter, continues to demonstrate a talent for finding cases where communities benefit from collective action in the act of taking better care of the environment:

Black and white goats frolic in grass on a field, which is fenced off and behind which is a series of solar panels angled at the sun. Trees line the horizon.

Goats cared for by Batesville High School’s 4-H students, next to the school’s solar panels. “If you’re conservative, we didn’t ask you for more taxes, if you’re liberal, you love the green concept,” Dr. Hester said. Terra Fondriest for The New York Times

Facing Budget Shortfalls, These Schools Are Turning to the Sun

Public schools are increasingly using savings from solar energy to upgrade facilities, help their communities, and give teachers raises — often with no cost to taxpayers.

One school district was able to give pay raises to its teachers as big as 30 percent. Another bought new heating and ventilation systems, all the better to help students and educators breathe easier in these times. The improvements didn’t cost taxpayers a cent, and were paid for by an endlessly renewable source — the sun.

Mike Tatsey, in jeans and a light blue plaid short sleeve shirt, his thumbs hooked into his jean pockets, stands in a field with solar panes in the background. Brush partially obscures the foreground.

Mike Tatsey, superintendent of schools in Heart-Butte, believes that freeing up extra money for staples like groceries and shoes could have a ripple effect in classrooms. Janie Osborne for The New York Times

As solar energy gains traction across the country, one beneficiary have been schools, particularly those in cash-strapped districts contending with dwindling tax bases.

From New Jersey to California, nearly one in 10 K-12 public and private schools across the country were using solar energy by early 2022, according to data released Thursday by Generation180, a nonprofit that promotes and tracks clean energy. That’s twice as many as existed in 2015. Continue reading

Olives, Farmers, Beauty & Beastly Heat

Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

My thoughts today start with the people who farm olives in this location deprived of the water needed to sustain their livelihoods. Because my mother was born on an olive-producing farm in an olive-privileged region of Greece, my eye is always drawn to stories about olive farmers.

Jaén, a province of Andalusia, has over 67 million olive trees. Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

When there are photos of olive trees, I am in for the whole story. My strongest, earliest memories are of the olive trees surrounding the terrace of the farmhouse my mother grew up in. Stories about olive farmers challenged by climate change are more difficult to read without sympathy pain, but I do so knowing that olive trees are survivors.

Panacite, a store in Ubeda, sells a range of variants of oil production from the region. Emilio Parra Doiztua for The New York Times

David Segal and José Bautista have reported this story with compassion and clarity:

Spain’s Jaén Province, home to one fifth of the world’s supply of “green gold,” copes with climate change and threats to its way of life.

The branch, plucked from one of thousands of trees in this densely packed olive grove, has browning leaves and a few tiny, desiccated buds that are bunched near the end. To Agustín Bautista, the branch tells a story and the story is about a harvest that is doomed. Continue reading

Re-Organizing In Northern Spain

Landscape of Mondragon. Workers eating from a roast capitalist pig that is being carved by a mechanical arm.

Illustration by James Clapham

With all the problems created by the status quo business practices and economic models, alternatives for organizing business are worthy of our consideration. Nick Romeo offers a look into the challenges facing the most important worker-owned company in the world:

How Mondragon Became the World’s Largest Co-Op

In Spain, an industrial-sized conglomerate owned by its workers suggests an alternative future for capitalism.

Jorge Vega Hernández, a mechanical engineer working in northwestern Spain, returned from a business trip and started to feel sick. It was March, 2020—the beginning of the pandemic—and so he called a government help line. 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

England’s Green And Pleasant Land

Solar farm in Wroughton, England. Planning permission for 23 solar farms has been refused across England, Wales and Scotland between January 2021 and July 2022. Photograph: Chris Gorman/Getty Images

Nature gets disrupted even by the most sensitively planned green solutions. Here is a parallel story to yesterday’s, with solar replacing wind and England replacing Western USA, illustrating the challenges facing renewable energy:

Exclusive: Projects which would have cut annual electricity bills by £100m turned down

Solar farms are being refused planning permission in Great Britain at the highest rate in five years, analysis has found, with projects which would have cut £100m off annual electricity bills turned down in the past 18 months.

Continue reading