Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track global extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Putin’s War Should Speed Up the Demise of Fossil Fuels
Dear Diary. As I write today’s post, Putin’s war on Ukraine has entered its seventh day. One week has seemed much much longer as we all have been glued to news casts watching horrific atrocities associated with this war. President Zalinski and his people are valiantly and bravely resisting Russian aggression:
There is not much to write about that is positive here due to death and destruction, but climate wise, the war might just spur a quicker change towards renewables. Oil is up to about $100 a barrel since Russian crude is quickly being embargoed by most nations. My question for this week is, could climate mitigation get a big boost despite the absence of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan?
Apparently so given some articles I am seeing this morning:
First today, let’s reprint the article from the Philadelphia Enquirer referred to by Dr. Mann:
Ukraine makes the case for ending fossil fuels | Will Bunch Newsletter
Plus, the unbearable whiteness of how western journalists cover a war in Europe
March is finally here, and if you search hard enough you can find the first green shoots of spring — except for one. The Phillies should be four games into their 2022 spring training schedule down in Florida, but instead they are locked out in a labor dispute that arguably makes less sense than Russia invading Ukraine. MLB is accomplishing the once impossible: Making me not care about baseball.
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Fossil fuels are a pipeline for climate change AND war. Don’t open that spigot
You probably didn’t see it — not with the understandable 24/7 coverage of Russia’s barbaric assault on Ukraine — but there was some bombshell news Monday about the world’s slower-motion apocalypse: climate change.
The world’s top experts convened by the United Nations to study the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions by humans — the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC — said that the dreaded effects such as deadly droughts and floods and rapidly rising sea levels are already here and likely to become worse than earlier predicted. The UN secretary general António Guterres put it bluntly when he said “people and the planet are getting clobbered by climate change.”
On the very same day, here in Pennsylvania, a GOP lawmaker unveiled a plan that would have a significant impact on carbon emissions. It would make climate change worse. The bill introduced Monday in Harrisburg by Republican state Rep. Seth Grove of York County would spur increased natural gas drilling in the Keystone State as well as the development of new pipelines. This legislation could have been called the Bonanza For Big Gas Lobbyists Act, but that’s not the political spin on fossil fuels in this harsh winter of 2022.
No, Grove’s bill is named the End Russian Aggression Act, even if it’s not exactly clear how banning Pennsylvania from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI — a compact of Eastern U.S. states hoping to speed the transition from dirty fuels like coal to clean energy — would stop the advance of Vladimir Putin’s tanks.
Grove’s nakedly political bill likely won’t become law — not this year, with Democratic governor Tom Wolf in power — but it does represent a pendulum swing. Republicans and oil-and-gas interests who had been on their back heels after seasons of deadly wildfires and storms now see an opening in Ukraine’s deadly conflict. Russia’s status as a leading oil-and-gas producer means the war brings higher gasoline prices, at least in the short run, and also has Europe scrambling for alternative sources of natural gas to stay warm.
Seizing on the immediate crisis while ignoring the much bigger one lurking down the road, Republicans see an opportunity to not only rough up President Biden, a climate realist, heading into November’s midterms. They’re also using the crisis advocate for their donors’ pet projects like the Keystone XL pipeline — killed, for now, by the White House because of its climate impact — or opening up more drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
It should be pointed out that this makes absolutely no sense.
For nearly a century, humans have been killing other humans for the buried treasure of black gold — from Baku to Baghdad. Dictators like Putin or Saudi Arabia’s murderous monarchs have used their control of the oil spigot to extort other nations and bend them to their will. In the present crisis, Putin’s leverage on the West would amount to a hill of beans if Europe had started earlier and more aggressively to move away from fossil fuels. Thus,building infrastructure that would lock us into oil and gas for another generation seems the height of madness.
I touched base Monday with Pennsylvania’s top climate scientist —Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. He agreed with that assessment, telling me that “the Ukraine crisis is a perfect example of the dangers of our reliance on fossil fuel energy and the urgency of transitioning rapidly toward clean energy.”
The problem is that in the present, world leaders like Biden have to deal with the decades of bad decisions — for example, Germany racing to decommission its nuclear plants after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, before clean alternatives could replace the lost electricity — which means the West is managing the Ukraine crisis in a world still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. That means that short-term measures to prevent an economic crash or the freezing of Europe — tapping into government oil reserves, or even a holiday on gasoline taxes while the conflict is raging — make sense.
What makes no sense at all is giving into right-wing bullying aimed at locking in long-term projects such as permanent pipelines that pretend that science like Monday’s IPCC report doesn’t even exist. In fact, I’m wondering what would be dumber — watching cities like New Orleans or Miami sink into oblivion because we didn’t listen to the world’s experts, or dealing with the next madman with a giant army funded by windfall oil profits threatening to use his economic clout to launch World War IV in the year 2035?
Is the U.S. serious about ending Russian aggression, or generally making the world safe for democracy? Then we should take the dollars we planned to throw at Big Oil and Gas for another pipeline, and speed the development of clean energy like wind and solar that won’t need to be shipped across national boundaries. That’s what Germany announced on Tuesday — a renewed push for 100% renewable energy by 2035. That’s smart — so that when the next Hitler or Putin rises up with the idea of terrorizing civilization, he’ll be tilting at windmills.
After Ukraine, it appears that a lot of Republicans, but not all yet, have seen the proverbial writing on the wall. Switching to local renewables will get us energy security. Putin counted on natural gas to blackmail Germany into not supporting Ukraine, putting a wedge between that country and the rest if NATO, weakening the alliance. Putin’s efforts are backfiring.
Here is more from the Washington Post:
The Climate 202 Analysis
Republicans are embracing carbon border fees to counter Putin
with research by Vanessa Montalbano 3/2/2022 at 8:13 a.m. EST
Republicans are embracing carbon border fees to counter Russia
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Republicans are increasingly voicing support for carbon border fees to weaken Moscow’s influence over Europe’s energy security.
It’s a notable shift on climate policy for Republicans, who in recent years have been mostly silent on carbon border fees, which would slap a tax on imports from countries that aren’t taking aggressive steps to cut planet-warming emissions.
“As a longtime observer of how climate policy and politics evolve on the right, I do see a shift,” Heather Reams, president of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a right-leaning environmental advocacy group, told The Climate 202.
How it works: Joint E.U.-U.S. carbon border fees, also known as border carbon adjustments, would levy a tax on polluting goods such as aluminum and cement from countries like Russia and China. They could eventually be broadened to affect oil, gas and coal imports.
In theory, the fees would incentivize Europe to import lower-carbon goods made in the United States with higher environmental standards, including U.S. liquefied natural gas, which proponents say is much cleaner than Russian gas.
Ultimately, backers say this would undermine Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s power to coerce Europe, which currently relies on Moscow for nearly 40 percent of its gas supplies, amid the unfolding Ukraine crisis.
What they’re saying
In December, when the possibility of Russian aggression against Ukraine loomed, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) wrote an opinion piece in Foreign Policywith Donald Trump‘s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, laying out the case for carbon border fees.
Cramer and McMaster noted that the European Commission has already outlined plans to impose a carbon tax starting in 2026 on polluting imports. They added that Igor Sechin, chief of the oil giant Rosneft and a close Putin ally, has reportedly told the Kremlin that carbon border taxes could inflict far greater damage to Russia’s economy than sanctions.
In an interview with The Climate 202, Cramer said he’s trying to convince his conservative base that carbon border fees are consistent with longtime GOP advocacy for “energy independence” and an “America First” approach.
“People expect us or want us to deal with climate, but it’s not a natural thing for conservative Republicans to talk about,” Cramer said. “Here is an ‘America First’ solution that reduces emissions in a realistic way and has the additional advantage of freezing out Vladimir Putin.”
In a separate interview with The Climate 202, McMaster said that his push for carbon border fees was a logical outgrowth of his 2020 memoir, which detailed the risks that Russia and other countries pose to U.S. national security.
“Some things in life are like black swans and some are like pink flamingos — right in front of you,” said McMaster, who resigned from the Trump administration in 2018 and is now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank on the campus of Stanford University.
However, neither Cramer nor McMaster supports a domestic price on carbon, which could complicate efforts to design U.S.-E.U. carbon border tariffs that comply with World Trade Organization rules.
It could also be a nonstarter for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a vocal climate hawk who mounted an unsuccessful push last year to include carbon pricing in President Biden‘s reconciliation bill.
“I’m glad my Republican colleagues are interested in this issue but we will need some form of domestic price on carbon pollution for border adjustment to work the way they intend,” Whitehouse said in a statement to The Climate 202. “A border adjustment requires a denominator and a carbon price makes the best one.”
But Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a Biden ally who co-chairs the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, last year introduced legislation with Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) to establish a border carbon adjustment without a domestic carbon price. Coons said in a statement to The Climate 202 that “as we confront the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I am working to advance this proposal that people across the political spectrum can support as a means to promote energy security.”
Ben Pendergrass, senior director of government affairs at Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots organization that trains volunteers to advocate for carbon pricing, said he doesn’t necessarily oppose carbon border fees without a complementary climate policy at home.
“We obviously think it’s a good idea to have a domestic carbon price,” he said, “but I can certainly see the benefits of enacting a border carbon adjustment now instead of waiting for every single thing to be in place.”
Drill, baby, drill
Still, several other Republicans have responded to the Ukraine crisis by urging the Biden administration to lift restrictions on domestic fossil fuel production, echoing demands from the American Petroleum Institute.
“America, not Russia, is the world’s No. 1 energy producer,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said on the House floor yesterday. “We should act like it and lead. President Biden must restore American energy dominance.”
In response, many climate activists have countered that the Ukraine crisis illustrates the need to transition away from fossil fuels toward a clean energy economy.
“Russia’s main weapon against Europe is its threat to cut off oil and gas,” tweeted the author and climate activist Bill McKibben. “So, it might be wise to stop using oil and gas now that we have workable alternatives … Also saves the planet.”
Here are some of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s “ET’s:”
Here is some more January 2022 climatology:
Here is more climate and weather news from Wednesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”