Newsdesk – March 30

‘What started to become clear thanks to the fires was rammed home by Covid-19. We are only as healthy as the least healthy among us’ Photograph: Blend Images/Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images

With the climate crisis and coronavirus bearing down on us, the age of disconnection is over.  Everything is connected. It’s hard to imagine right now that, just weeks ago, the truism of ecological politics was treated as hippy nonsense by mainstream politics. A pandemic, more than almost any other phenomenon, shows that all our lives are inextricably intertwined, for now and forever, whether we like it or not. The crisis brings into sharp focus the impossibility of trying to keep economics, health, environment, education and social justice treated as separate questions with separate answers. It shows how the “efficient”, on-demand world that capitalism has constructed is so incredibly fragile that a series of shocks can bring it to the point of collapse. And with the complete focus right now on Covid-19, it takes an effort to cast our minds back to this summer’s bushfires. Perhaps due to the remarkably low loss of human life compared with the scale of the disaster, there was a tremendous focus on the more than a billion mammals, birds and reptiles killed. We need to work on building into the political common sense the idea that corporations absolutely should be regulated to enforce environmental and social responsibilities, and that we can no longer consider shareholder profit to be their sole focus.  The flip side of this systematic shift is to institute legal rights for the natural world. If BHP has legal rights, why shouldn’t the Great Barrier Reef? Rights of nature is an increasingly mature legal field, instituted from New Zealand to Bolivia, India to parts of the US. And politics, like the natural world it operates within, is a system. It works in complex ways because all it is is the collected actions of humans, influenced by each other and by external impetuses such as the weather. Or viruses – The Guardian

  • Does climate change still matter in the election? – E&E News
  • Japan sticks to 2030 climate goals, accused of a ‘disappointing’ lack of ambition – Climate Home News
  • Why New Zealand lags behind Scandinavia on climate action – Stuff
  • Coconut farmers in Southeast Asia struggle as palm oil muscles in on them – Mongabay
  • After almost 4 months of Arctic expedition, researchers come home to a world in crisis – The Barents Observer
  • Professor Sees Climate Mayhem Lurking Behind Covid-19 Outbreak – Bloomberg Green
  • Nate Hagens: Coronavirus exposes economic, cultural, environmental fallacies – The Daily Climate

What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change ( Opinion).  Lockdowns and distancing won’t save the world from warming. But amid this crisis, we have a chance to build a better future. Coronavirus has led to an astonishing shutdown of economic activity and a drastic reduction in the use of fossil fuels. In China, measures to contain the virus in February alone caused a drop in carbon emissions of an estimated 25 percent. As the United Nations’ secretary general recently noted, the threat from coronavirus is temporary whereas the threat from heat waves, floods and extreme storms resulting in the loss of human life will remain with us for years. Personal consumption and travel habits are changing, which has some people wondering if this might be the beginning of a meaningful shift. In order to be meaningful for global emissions, however, the changes in consumption habits as a result of the virus would need to extend beyond individuals to the larger structures that shape our lives. The short-term positive effects on the climate that we’re seeing today serve as a dramatic reminder that changing personal consumption habits will mean very little going forward if we also fail to decarbonize the global economy. Gatherings of world leaders to address the climate crisis have been delayed or canceled, and the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow planned for November could be next, meaning that the pandemic will very likely slow already sluggish international action. Public attention is likely to be diverted from the climate by ballooning fears over health and finances, and climate activism that depends on large public protests is being forced indoors and online. There are, of course, more radical policy interventions that could improve the health of the planet, our communities and our lives. Adopting a 32-hour workweek in the United States could lower emissions and vastly improve the quality of American life. It’s unlikely we will see a four-day workweek anytime soon, but the profound disruptions of the pandemic provide a rare opportunity, even in the midst of great suffering, for rewiring our sense of what is possible in American society – The New York Times

A natural gas power plant – perhaps not evil? Shutterstock

The missing puzzle piece for getting to 100% clean power.  Across the country, dozens of cities and states have passed laws or resolutions targeting 100 percent carbon-free electricity. However, the question remains: is it even possible to power a modern economy with a carbon-free grid? Now, there is a growing list of jurisdictions that face stringent emissions targets in years ahead and urgently need to figure out answers. The core issue with the dilemma that comes with an energy grid run mostly on renewable sources of energy is variability. Whereas fossil fuel power plants can be turned up or down to meet demand (they are “dispatchable,” in the lingo), the big sources of renewable energy,  sun, wind, and hydropower cannot. We must remember this dilemma at the heart of renewable energy: variability. As a place like California puts more solar and wind power onto the grid, the grid begins experiencing more short- and long-term swings — more gaps that must be filled by energy resources that are dispatchable. And Ideally, what a renewables-heavy grid needs is a source (or carrier) of energy that can sit idle for long periods but jump in at a moment’s notice to supplement a flagging supply of sun or wind. A clean grid needs backup energy that can be stored for long durations, in large quantities, but can be quickly available. The puzzle of a carbon-neutral power grid has been missing a puzzle piece, a firm resource that can reliably and cost-effectively back up large amounts of renewable energy. Power-to-gas just might fit – Vox