Newsdesk – June 9

 

Having a racist and violent police force in your neighborhood is a lot like having a pollution-emitting factory in your neighborhood. [Photograph by Jim West / Alamy]

Racism, Police Violence, and the Climate Are Not Separate Issues.  Over the years, the environmental movement has morphed into the environmental-justice movement. The two groups of Americans who care most about climate change, Latino- Americans and African-Americans tend to be disproportionately exposed to the effects of global warming. Living in a community with high levels of air pollution impairs human bodies,  but so does living in a place with a brutal police force. As one recent study recently put it, “When faced with a threat, the body produces hormones and other signals that turn on the systems that are necessary for survival in the short term. These changes include accelerated heart rate and increased respiratory rate. But when the threat becomes reoccurring and persistent—as is the case with police brutality—the survival process becomes dangerous and causes rapid wear and tear on body organs. Deterioration of organs occurs more frequently in Black populations and can lead to conditions such as diabetes, stroke, ulcers, cognitive impairment, autoimmune disorders, accelerated aging, and death”.  John Muir, who has some claim to being the original modern environmentalist, once said,  “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” He was talking about ecosystems, but it turns out that he was more correct than he knew: the political world is hopelessly intertwined with the natural world. So, if you put it in today’s context, having a racist and violent police force in your neighborhood is a lot like having a coal-fired power plant in the place you live in.  African-Americans are three times as likely to die from asthma as the rest of the population. “I Can’t Breathe” is the daily condition of too many people in this country. One way or another, there are a lot of knees on a lot of necks – The New Yorker

  • Chevron could be forced to pay $100m for failure to capture carbon emissions – The Guardian
  • Australian researchers set a record for carbon dioxide capture – Phys.org
  • Earth’s carbon dioxide levels hit record high, despite coronavirus-related emissions drop – The Washington Post
  • Don’t Thank the Virus for Saving the Climate Yet – The New York Times
  • US ranks 24th in the world on environmental performance – The Guardian
  • Environmental catastrophe is declared as one of biggest ever Arctic oil spills stretches out over Taymyr tundra – The Barents Observer
  • Less than a thousand remain: New list of animals on the brink of extinction – Fast Company
One of three partly submerged columns that make up a floating platform for a windmill in the harbor of Ferrol, Spain. Photo Credit: Daniel Rodrigues for The New York Times

A New Weapon Against Climate Change May Float. The wind power industry sees an opportunity in allowing windmills to be pushed into deeper water.  Naturally,  generating electricity from wind began on land, but developers, led by Orsted of Denmark, started venturing into the sea in the early 1990s. They sought wide-open spaces to escape the objections of neighbors to having a twirling monster next door.  Three decades later, offshore is now the fastest-growing segment of the wind business, but marine wind farms have been limited to water shallow enough to allow turbines to sit on piles or other supports on the sea bottom.   If these floating platforms could be put almost anywhere at sea, “we can go to areas where we have never before harnessed the wind,” said José Pinheiro, the project director of WindFloat Atlantic. Most offshore wind farms have been already installed off countries like Britain, Germany, Denmark, and China, which have large expanses of shallow water extending from their coasts. Putting turbines on floating platforms would allow wind developers to follow the lead of the oil industry, which routinely drills in  water a mile deep. That would open markets like the West Coast of the United States, France and South Korea. The question now remains: how large a weapon in the battle against climate change could this industry become?  Analysts at the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based group, estimated that if floating technology were widely adopted, the industry would have the technical potential to eventually supply the equivalent of 11 times the world’s demand for electric power. Powering everything from cars to factories with clean electricity will need to play a big role in achieving climate goals.  “The stronger and more consistent wind is available further at sea”, Mr. Nielsen, a designer of the Equinor floater says.  Having more spots to choose from should also provide more leeway to reduce potential conflict between fishing interests and wind projects. “If the wind industry is going to expand,” he said, “they really have to move into deeper water.” – The New York Times

South African cape fur seals swim in the shallows of Seal Island, an important feeding area for white sharks, in False Bay, Cape Town. Photo Credit: Nic Bothma/EPA, via Shutterstock

Don’t Thank the Virus for Saving the Climate Yet. Like climate change, Covid-19 recognizes no borders and requires a coordinated international response.  Much has been made about what the coronavirus “means” for climate change: measurable drops in carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution, behavioral changes that climate action might demand. What are the lessons we can draw from Covid-19 that might apply to the longer-term effort for action on climate change? There is the cost of action, but the cost of inaction isn’t exactly zero, in fact, the cost of inaction is dangerously high. The public has demonstrated repeatedly that people are willing to do some stuff for climate change, but if it were suggested that success on climate change was dependent on total economic halt, people would say, “No we’re not going to go there.” Another lesson we’ve all learned is that data matters, and you’ve got to have your feet on the ground and your facts straight.  One of the things we need is a Dr. Anthony Fauci of climate change, laying it all out there in a manner that the public can take on board. Someone who is not using complicated ideas that confuse people, but is also not sugarcoating things and not hiding the facts, and is doing so in a way that has broad trust across political divides and geographic separation.  Another lesson from Covid-19 is that things that may seem remote can come up very quickly and be huge problems. What has led to dramatic action on Covid-19 is that the threat was very immediate and very personal, and that has given people a real appreciation for why dramatic action is required. Everyone was given marching orders: wash your hands, social distancing, and we also engaged industry at the highest levels. We are neither leaving it to individuals alone or to corporations entirely. Something similar will be required on climate change. Almost all businesses now understand that they need to be good stewards of the environment, which isn’t to say that the government can go away. Rather, the government should understand its role a little differently and create incentives for environmental care. If big polluters pay for their harms, then everyone down to the household should pay for their emissions.  We need to stop our harmful behavior, or else pay fully for our environmental impacts – The New York Times