The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed directly below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Europe Has a Catch-2022 Gassy Problem
Dear Diary. Many of us in our lives have been in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t, Catch-22, situation. Going through English Literature classes in high school, many of us were assigned to read Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. The book is now a classic from the 20th century, describing WWII events that took place from 1942-1944 that were often “no-win,” or having influenced the modern lexicon, Catch-22 situations. After being published in 1961, it became a cult classic for soldiers during the Vietnam War Era, who found themselves in a no-win situation.
From Wikipedia: A “Catch-22” is “a problem for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule.” For example, losing something is typically a conventional problem; to solve it, one looks for the lost item until one finds it. But if the thing lost is one’s glasses, one cannot see to look for them – a Catch-22. The term “Catch-22” is also used more broadly to mean a tricky problem or a no-win or absurd situation.
It’s rather ironic that this year is numbered 2022 with many Catch-22 situations cropping up because of the War on Ukraine. Putin is backed into a corner now, being damned for whether or not he gets out of Ukraine or prolongs the War. I don’t have any sympathy for that dictator, who is likely not going to be able to save face because of his actions. Zalinski too is feeling Catch-22 pressure since he can’t appear soft giving up territory for peace.
The conflict has limited COVID coverage on networks, who are scrambling to find enough time to cover this existential threat but would be damned for limiting war coverage. Likewise, the big elephant in the room has limited news coverage of other topics, including climate change. Speaking of that, Europe is now facing a Catch-22 situation over natural gas, which was supposed to be a transition fuel leading us to a green fuel powered by renewables. Most of Europe is simply not ready for a quick transition, not forecasting that Russia would behave this improperly.
A few days ago, I did address one way Europe could survive a total gas shutoff from Russia:
Here is an update on the Catch-22 situation that Europeans are facing in association with Russia and the climate crisis. It’s my fondest wish that as the calendar flips from 2022 to 2023 that most of these Catch-22 situations will be alleviated by both good diplomatic peacemakers and policymakers :
Pipes meant for the Nord Stream 2 project, a gas line that was halted becasue of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
One four-syllable word has an outsize role in shaping our climate future.
Consider the infrastructure that got Europe hooked on Russian fuel. It was a 3,500-mile pipeline that began, in 1984, to carry gas from Siberia to West Germany, as my colleague Hiroko Tabuchi wrote this week. The C.I.A. warned against it, saying it would create a dangerous reliance on the Soviet Union. American oil companies, hoping for a cut of the profits, lobbied for it — and prevailed.
That will be hard to deliver, as my colleague Clifford Krauss explained. But the proposition is presenting lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic with a crucial question: Will this wartime surge end up creating a new generation of infrastructure that locks Europe into the gas habit for longer?
Tucked into the White House announcement is a crucial detail: The United States expects to more than double its gas sales to Europe, to 50 billion cubic meters, “until at least 2030.” That’s a lot of gas.
Expect fierce jockeying in the coming weeks, with profound repercussions for the world’s ability to avert climate catastrophe.
The American supplies would come in the form of liquefied natural gas, and that’s a particular kind of fossil fuel. Compared with piped gas, L.N.G. production generates higher levels of carbon emissions, though far less than coal.
Replacing Russian piped gas with L.N.G. right now isn’t necessarily a big climate problem. The worry is that, if new gas pipelines and terminals get built, they’ll be used for a long time, making it all but impossible to slow down global warming.
“I’m very worried our climate goals may be another victim of Russia’s aggression,” Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency, said this week in Paris at a meeting of energy ministers from around the world.
That meeting, Birol said, was supposed to be devoted to a discussion of the global energy transition away from fossil fuels. Instead, it was punctuated with discussions about how to increase production of fossil fuels to help Europe wean itself from Russian energy. The agency has said no new oil and gas fields should be developed starting this year if the world is to avert the worst effects of climate change.
The Biden Administration is under additional scrutiny. It has been unable to enact major climate legislation. We’ll keep you posted on whether it succumbs to pressure to approve new gas production permits or green-light new gas export terminals. New fossil fuel infrastructure projects take years to build, they are expensive and they tend to get used for decades.
The U.S. energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, tried to thread the needle. “There’s always concern about increasing infrastructure that would lock in problems related to greenhouse gas emissions,” she said in a response to a reporter’s question on Thursday at the Paris meeting. “There’s no doubt about that.”
But she insisted, as she has since the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began last month, that the administration wants the oil and gas industry to “ramp up production where and whenever they can right now,” even as it wants to transition to cleaner sources of energy that don’t come from fossil fuels.
The European Union has one of the world’s most ambitious climate targets: By law, it’s required to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the 27-nation bloc by 55 percent by 2030. Europe had counted on using gas to pivot away from coal and reach its climate goals long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The biggest share of that gas came from Russia.
Now, as the European Commission seeks to reduce Russian gas imports, it has proposed to ramp up renewable energy sources, to reduce energy demand by insulating leaky old buildings, to install heat pumps. All those things could very well hasten Europe’s transition to clean energy.
Renewables could replace two-thirds of Russian gas imports by 2025, one European think tank, the Regulatory Assistance Project, argued in an analysis this week. The rest could be replaced with gas other than from Russia without building new gas infrastructure.
Europe’s quest to ditch Russian gas immediately is a tall order, though.
Most U.S. gas exports have buyers already under long-term contracts. American export terminals are shipping out all the gas they can. Some European countries have import terminals that can take in more L.N.G., as the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies noted in a recent study. Others don’t.
If Europe builds more import terminals to take in liquefied natural gas, it could lock in reliance on gas for many more decades to come — and that gas infrastructure could risk becoming stranded assets in another 10 to 15 years.
Nikos Tsafos, an energy security specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington research organization, said that if Europe replaced piped gas from Russia with liquefied gas from somewhere else, it wouldn’t much affect its climate targets.
“There is fear of lock-in. But, in reality, if the L.N.G. merely displaces Russian gas, the climate impact will be trivial,” he argued. “Europe is still committed to phasing out gas use, more so now than before.”
Not so, the United States. It is poised to be the world’s largest gas exporter this year. Gas producers are bullish on growing the market. One industry analyst told Bloomberg that U.S. gas suppliers ought to negotiate contracts with European buyers immediately.
Claire Healy, head of the Washington office of the climate research group, E3G, said the U.S. plan to bolster L.N.G. shipments “makes no sense,” considering the need to quickly stop new oil and gas production to avert the worst effects of climate change. “It has turned a short-term energy crunch into a long-term crutch for American oil and gas producers,” she said.
The artist Mary Mattingly created “Swale,” a garden on a barge that docked at sites around New York City.Courtesy of the artist and Cloudfactory
Environmental art: Over the past six months, more than a dozen exhibitions explicitly confronting climate change have been held around the world.
Climate volunteers: A scientist in England asked for help transcribing rainfall records spanning three centuries. Thousands, stuck in lockdown, answered the call.
Methane leaks: Startlingly large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are leaking from wells and pipelines in New Mexico, according to a new analysis.
Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, according to a study reported in The Guardian.
Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
Before you go: Any questions?
Today, we’re inviting readers to send us questions. There are no limits to what you can ask, as long as it’s related to climate. Don’t be embarrassed to ask something you feel like you should already know — if you’re wondering, other people probably are, too. Between now and Earth Day, April 22, we will sift through the messages. Your questions, and the answers, will form the basis of future projects on the Climate desk, including in this newsletter. You can submit questions here.
Here are some “ET’s” and rare precipitation events (or non-events) recorded over the last couple of days and some signs of ET’s to come:
Here is more climate and weather news from Tuesday:
(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 war on Ukraine:
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