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Want to join the American Climate Corps? Here’s what we know so far.

Grist - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 14:44

The United States is about to embark on an experiment inspired by one of the New Deal’s most popular programs. On Wednesday, the Biden administration authorized the creation of the American Climate Corps through an executive order. The program would hire 20,000 young people in its first year, putting them to work installing wind and solar projects, making homes more energy-efficient, and restoring ecosystems like coastal wetlands to protect towns from flooding.

The idea has been in the works for years. It was first announced in President Joe Biden’s early days in the White House in January 2021, tucked into a single paragraph in an executive order on tackling the climate crisis. At the time, it was called the Civilian Climate Corps — a reference to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, launched in 1933 to help the country survive the Great Depression, which was responsible for building hundreds of parks, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as many hiking trails and lodges you can find across the country today. Early versions of Biden’s trademark climate law that passed last year, the Inflation Reduction Act, included money for reviving the CCC. But that funding got cut during negotiations last summer with Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and the program was assumed dead. 

Now it’s back, with a name change. Biden’s executive order promises that the American Climate Corps “will ensure more young people have access to the skills-based training necessary for good-paying careers” in clean energy and climate resilience efforts. There are plans to link it with AmeriCorps, the national service program, and leverage several smaller climate corps initiatives that states have launched in California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Washington. However, the order didn’t provide details on what kind of funding the program is getting or how much workers will get paid. The White House also launched a new website where you can sign up to get updates about joining the program.

Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps is widely popular, with 84 percent of Americans supporting the idea in polling conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication last year. Mark Paul, a professor of public policy at Rutgers University, said the new name that swapped “Civilian” for “American” leans into patriotism in an effort to broaden the program’s appeal even further. 

“I think that right now we are in a fight for the very soul of the nation,” Paul said. “President Biden and other Democrats are trying to brand climate [action] as not only good for the environment, but good for America. And I think that’s precisely what they are trying to convey with this name change, that climate jobs are good for the American people.”

The program could also be an attempt to appeal to young voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election. The administration drew criticism from climate activists when it approved the Willow oil project in northern Alaska in March after concluding that the courts wouldn’t allow them to block it. After that decision, polling from Data for Progress found that Biden’s approval ratings on climate change dropped 13 percent among voters between the ages of 18 to 29. The revival of the CCC has long been an item on progressives’ wish lists — back in 2020, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, reportedly sold Secretary of State John Kerry on making the program part of Biden’s platform during the 2020 presidential campaign. 

“I am thrilled to say that the White House has been responsive to our generation’s demand for a climate corps and that President Biden acknowledges that this is just the beginning of building the climate workforce of the future,” Varshini Prakash, the director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, told reporters ahead of Biden’s announcement.

A group of Civilian Conservation Corps members plant seedlings on a clear-cut hillside in Oregon. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

To be sure, the American Climate Corps could run into problems. If it’s modeled off AmeriCorps, the jobs might not exactly qualify as “good jobs” — AmeriCorps members are more like volunteers who get a small stipend, often living close to the poverty line. The White House, for its part, is selling the program as a path to good careers. The administration “will specifically be focused on making sure that folks that are coming through this program have a pathway into good-paying union jobs,” said White House National Climate Adviser Ali Zaidi on a call with reporters on Tuesday about the announcement. “We’re very keenly focused on that.” 

The initiative could help bolster the ranks of workers like electricians, according to Zaidi, addressing the country’s shortage of skilled workers who can install low-carbon technologies like electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps. “We’re hopeful that the launch of the American Climate Corps will help accelerate training for a new generation of installers, contractors, and other tradespeople who are, at the end of the day, the ones who make these great ideas a reality,” Paul Lambert, co-founder and CEO of Quilt, a heat pump company in California, said in a statement to Grist.

With the goal of hiring 20,000 a year, the new program is much smaller than many activists had hoped: The original CCC employed 300,000 men in just its first three months (women were excluded until Eleanor Roosevelt’s “She-She-She” camps opened in 1934). Some progressives, like Ocasio-Cortez, were hoping a climate corps could employ 1.5 million people over five years. Assuming all goes well, the program could expand. Paul speculates that the Biden administration is starting small as “proof of concept to the American people to show that this program can work and that it is worthy of investment.”

If interest in the American Climate Corps is high, those 20,000 slots could fill up quickly. Among the 1,200 likely voters polled by Data for Progress two years ago, half of those under 45 said they’d consider joining, given the chance.

“I teach youth day in and day out, and one of the biggest problems we face right now is youth feeling like they don’t know what to do,” Paul said. “And now we have a program that the U.S. government is facilitating to point to and say, ‘You know, if you want to help, here’s one way that you can contribute to decarbonizing our nation.’”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Want to join the American Climate Corps? Here’s what we know so far. on Sep 20, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

No World Order: Coups in the Sahel Expose Europe’s Mistakes

Green European Journal - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 06:10

EU leaders have been quick to cast recent coups in the Sahel as unpredictable. But the EU cannot so easily absolve itself of responsibility without shifting its foreign policy from militarisation to grassroots human development. France’s forced withdrawal from the region gives the EU an opportunity to make this shift.

On 26 July 2023, members of the Nigerien military seized power in a coup, which saw President Mohamed Bazoum detained and commander general Abdourahamane Tchiani proclaiming himself the country’s leader. This adds to a recent string of military coups in Sahel countries, including in Burkina Faso (2022) and Mali (2021).

The Niger coup represents a major roadblock for the European Union (EU)’s collaboration with Sahel countries to counter extremist movements, a key focus of its 2021 revised Sahel policy.

As the second military coup in a country where the EU has invested in military training, following Mali, it also calls for a re-evaluation of the EU’s security strategy. The EU’s military approach has not worked. In fact, it may have harmed the effectiveness of its diplomacy and development support, raising questions about the EU’s credibility in civilian efforts. The backlash against France, a key regional actor promoting a military-centric security approach, adds urgency to addressing this matter.

Rather than bolstering the Sahel countries’ military, the EU must truly commit to improving people’s lives through tangible actions. Shifting to diplomatic engagement and investing in local grassroots peace and development efforts could reshape its vision for the Sahel’s long-term security.

This change in approach could foster prosperity and sustainability in one of the world’s poorest regions, disproportionately affected by climate change. It could also prevent the EU from adopting knee-jerk reactions to events like military coups, such as completely withdrawing support from Niger, which could have a negative impact on its perception in the Sahel.

In late 2022, the EU established the Niger military partnership mission (EUMPM) at the Nigerien authorities’ request. The mission aimed to bolster the Armed Forces’ ability to contain terrorism and protect the population.

Training the military and then punishing the population when a military coup occurs is problematic.

Planned for three years at a cost of 27.3 million euros, the mission faced a challenge during the July coup when the military, which the EU was willing to support with finances and equipment, sided with the coup leaders. In response, the EU halted not only EUMPM, but also 36 million euros in humanitarian aid and 66 million euros in development assistance for education and youth alone.

Training the military and then punishing the population when a military coup occurs is problematic. As Niger is of the world’s poorest countries, where over 40 per cent live in extreme poverty, this approach seems not just punitive, but borderline cruel. It also risks generating lasting resentment among the population, who may feel unfairly held responsible for their leaders’ actions.

When questioned about the EU supporting a military that challenged the democratic process, Josep Borrell defended the mission in Niger by saying: “when countries are fighting terrorism and their armed forces ask you to support them, to train their soldiers, and you do that, it is impossible to prevent what is going to happen the day after tomorrow. […] So, nobody can give you the guarantee of what is going to happen in the future.”

In a region known as “the coup belt”, where power changes hands quickly, often to military juntas, coups reoccurring seems rather predictable, especially when the underlying issues generating instability and popular discontent, like poverty and climate change, remain unaddressed.

Niger’s July coup marks its third since 2010, while Mali had three and Burkina Faso two during the same period. Considering that several of these coups were initiated or backed by the military, investing in military training appears risky and unlikely to pay off.

The EU’s other Sahel military training mission in Mali, initiated in 2013 to bolster the self-sufficiency of the Malian Armed Forces in countering terrorist groups, has also not been particularly successful. Despite the EU’s efforts, Mali’s security continuously worsened, culminating in the 2021 coup that led to the capture of President Bah Ndaw by the Malian army. Since then, Colonel Assimi Goita, a Malian military officer, has served as interim president.

In April 2022, the EU suspended EUTM Mali’s training due to the coup, citing concerns about a compromised political transition and the safety of EU personnel. This decision followed France’s announcement of withdrawing its 2,400 troops from Mali in protest of the military takeover.

These suspensions left a security vacuum, strengthening paramilitary groups like Russia’s Wagner and emboldening Malian rebel forces. With Wagner now scrambling to readjust after the recent loss its leader, the security vacuum is only likely to deepen. The EU had allocated 133 million euros for EUTM Mali between 2020 and 2024, funds that could have supported numerous grassroots peace and development initiatives instead.

France’s forced withdrawal from the Sahel also provides the EU a chance to rethink its security strategy. France’s longstanding entrenchment in the Sahel, rooted in its historical ties to its former colonies, and its distinct approach to security and development may have undermined the EU’s regional influence.

France’s foreign policy in the region has prioritised using military intervention to maintain ties with former colonies, safeguard economic interests, and protect expatriate citizens. Development played only a minor role; it could only come after security was ensured and was ideally funded by the countries themselves, not by France’s financial contributions.

Allowing France to take a dominant role in the Sahel made the EU appear as “merely France’s support actor”, tacitly endorsing its member state’s military-centric, self-invested approach.

France’s days in the Sahel are now numbered: it is an increasingly unpopular and contested actor in the region, with growing anti-French sentiments sweeping the Sahel countries.

For a growing number of people, the French military presence on their territory is a symbol of France’s neo-colonial aspirations to politically control its former colonies, while taking advantage of their critical resources, like uranium in Niger. Demanding the French army to depart is an assertion of national sovereignty, with security a matter of national concern.

In August 2023, Niger revoked several bilateral military cooperation agreements with France. The latter contested the decisions, claiming those deals were signed with Niger’s legitimate leaders. In response, tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside a military base in September 2023, demanding that French soldiers leave Niger.

The demise of France in the Sahel and its security model could offer the EU valuable lessons to build a new security vision.

Mali had similarly withdrawn the defence accords with France in April 2022, claiming violations of its national sovereignty by French troops, including breeches of Malian airspace.

The demise of France in the Sahel and its security model could offer the EU valuable lessons to build a new security vision. Over a decade of military missions have not rendered the region more stable. On the contrary, it is currently much more unstable.

Rather than investing in military training, the EU could focus on addressing the root causes of insecurity, including by supporting grassroots peace and development initiatives, distributed through its development mechanisms.

The Sahel region is experiencing some of the harshest impacts of climate change in the world, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average, resulting in unpredictable rainfall and shorter wet seasons. This has led to reduced crop yields and the loss of grazing land, pushing many people into dire circumstances. Some migrate, while others are driven to extremist groups for survival.

By addressing climate change and helping people sustain their livelihoods, especially through development assistance, the EU can also contribute to countering violent extremism and enhance regional security.

The EU first needs to shift its development assistance approach. Rather than supporting top-down projects developed through government consultation but without input from local communities, which often do not achieve long-term success, the EU should focus on investing in grassroots initiatives that harness local commitment and expertise.

Numerous local projects, such as reforestation campaigns, sustainable agriculture projects, and renewable energy initiatives, would welcome the EU’s support in tackling the pressing issues facing the Sahel.

Categories: H. Green News

‘First movers’ only: US, China, UK left off UN climate guestlist

Climate Change News - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 03:48

UN chief Antonio Guterres left big players off the lineup for his Climate Action Summit on Wednesday, putting climate credibility above power politics.

Over 100 governments expressed an interest in speaking at the summit in New York but only 34 made the cut, with slots restricted to what the UN called “first movers and first doers”.

Of the G20 nations, only the leaders of Brazil, Canada, France, Germany and South Africa will speak. The US, China, the UK and India were among those omitted from the speaker list.

A source with knowledge of discussions told Climate Home that governments like the US and UK had urged Guterres to let them speak, but did not meet his criteria.

Countries shaded green are those speaking at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York, 20 September 2023

Re-heated announcements

UK leader Rishi Sunak was under pressure at home to explain his climate stance after the BBC revealed he was planning to water down key policies like phasing out gas boilers and petrol cars.

Carmakers reacted angrily to the mixed messages. Experts pointed out the UK has legally binding carbon budgets and there is strong public support for the net zero target.

Yesterday, US president Joe Biden announced nothing new on climate in his speech to the UN yesterday.

While Biden warned of the “accelerating climate crisis”, he just re-announced a climate finance pledge from 2021, a climate investment bill from August 2022 and existing initiatives the US is involved with.

He claimed that “the world is on track” to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance to developing countries. Rich countries promised in 2009 to deliver this amount by 2020 but fell at least $17 billion short.

While developed countries say they are “confident” of belatedly meeting the pledge in 2023, this won’t be confirmed until 2025. Analysts hold the US largely responsible for the shortfall.

In their speeches yesterday, the presidents of Brazil and South Africa criticised wealthy countries for not meeting this pledge by 2020.

Rich countries ‘confident’ $100bn climate finance delivered in 2023

The world’s biggest polluter China was not on the speaker list. It has yet to publish its strategy to tackle methane emissions, which has been being drafted since at least last December.

Yesterday, China’s vice-president Han Zheng met with US climate envoy John Kerry. The US government said Kerry had called on China to “reduce emissions of super pollutants like methane”.

Axios revealed the two megapowers will convene a summit for states, provinces and cities at Cop28 climate talks in the UAE this December.

Europe and islands dominate

Of those invited to speak at the UN, over half are European countries or small islands.

Emerging economies speaking include Brazil, South Africa, Vietnam, Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Brazil’s leader Lula is expected to announce that he is scrapping his predecessor’s weakened climate targets and working on new and improved ones.

Lula scraps Bolsonaro’s cuts to Brazilian climate target ambition

The leaders of South Africa and Vietnam are expected to provide updates on their coal-to-clean energy funding deals with wealthy countries.

African nations speaking include Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Malawi and Cop27 host Egypt while Latin America will be represented by Chile and Colombia.

As well as governments, seven other institutions will speak including insurer Allianz, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the US state of California and the British city of London.

The post ‘First movers’ only: US, China, UK left off UN climate guestlist appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

Climate risks place 39 million U.S. homes at risk of losing their insurance

Grist - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 01:45

From California to Florida, homeowners have been facing a new climate reality: Insurance companies don’t want to cover their properties. According to a report released today, the problem will only get worse. 

The nonprofit climate research firm First Street Foundation found that, while about 6.8 million properties nationwide already rely on expensive public insurance programs, that’s only a fraction of 39 million across the country that face similar conditions.

“There’s this climate insurance bubble out there,” said Jeremy Porter, the head of climate implications at First Street and a contributor to the report. “And you can quantify it.”

Each state regulates its insurance market, and some limit how much companies can raise rates in a given year. In California, for example, anything more than a 7 percent hike requires a public hearing. According to First Street, such policies have meant premiums don’t always accurately reflect risk, especially as climate change exacerbates natural disasters. 

This has led companies such as Allstate, State Farm, Nationwide, and others to pull out of areas with a high threat of wildfire, floods, and storms. In the Southern California city of San Bernardino, for example, non-renewals jumped 774 percent between 2015 and 2021. When that happens, homeowners often must enroll in a government-run insurance-of-last-resort program where premiums can cost thousands of dollars more per year.

“The report shows that actuarially sound pricing is going to make it unaffordable to live in certain places as climate impacts emerge,” said David Russell, a professor of insurance and finance at California State University Northridge. He did not contribute to the report. “It’s startling and it’s very well documented.”

Russell says that what’s most likely to shock people is the economic toll on affected properties. When insurance costs soar, First Street shows, it severely undermines home values — and in some cases erodes them entirely. 

The report found that insurance for the average California home could nearly quadruple if future risk is factored in, with those extra costs causing a roughly 39 percent drop in value. The situation is even worse in Florida and Louisiana, where flood insurance in Plaquemines Parish near New Orleans could go from $824 annually to $11,296 and a property could effectively become worthless. 

“There’s no education to the public of what’s going on and where the risk is,” said Porter, explaining that most insurance models are proprietary. Even the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t make its flood insurance pricing available to the public — homeowners must go through insurance brokers for a quote. 

First Street is posting its report online, and it also runs, where anyone can type in an address and receive user-friendly risk information for any property in the U.S. One metric the site provides is annualized damage for flood and wind risk. Porter said that if that number is higher than a homeowner’s current premiums, then a climate risk of some kind probably hasn’t yet been priced into the coverage. 

“This would indicate that at some point this risk will get priced into their insurance costs,” he said, “and their cost of home ownership would increase along with that.”

Wildfires are the fastest growing natural disaster risk, First Street reported. Over the next 30 years, it estimates the number of acres burned will balloon from about 4 million acres per year to 9 million, and the number of structures destroyed is on track to double to 34,000 annually. Wildfires are also the predominant threat for 4.4 million of the 39 million properties that First Street identified as at risk of insurance upheaval. 

“You don’t want someone to live in a place that always burns. They don’t belong there,” he said. “We’re subsidizing people to live in harm’s way.”

First Street hopes that highlighting the climate insurance bubble allows people to make better informed decisions. For homeowners, that may mean taking precautions against, say, wildfires, by replacing their roof or clearing flammable material from around their house. Policymakers, he said, could use the information to help at-risk communities adapt to or mitigate their risk. In either case, Porter said, reducing threats could help keep insurance rates from spiking. 

Ultimately, though, Russell says moving people out of disaster-prone areas will likely be necessary.

“Large numbers of people will need to be relocated away from areas that will be uninsurable.” he said. “There is a reckoning on the horizon and it’s not pretty.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Climate risks place 39 million U.S. homes at risk of losing their insurance on Sep 20, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

An Alaska expedition uncovers new details about dinosaurs of the Far North

High Country News - Wed, 09/20/2023 - 01:00
A trio of scientists spent weeks on the Yukon River to learn more about the habitat and landscape where ancient dinosaurs once roamed.
Categories: H. Green News

California installs 10,000 EV fast chargers, but needs quadruple that

Grist - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 15:08

More than a year ahead of a state deadline, California has installed 10,000 fast chargers for electric vehicles, the latest in a series of recent milestones in the state’s race to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles. 

Direct-current fast chargers, or DCFC, play an important role in the transition to electric vehicles, because they are a driver’s best option to quickly recharge a battery while on the road. Fast chargers typically offer power outputs between 50 kW to 350 kW, and some can charge an EV battery to 80 percent in as quickly as 20 minutes. In contrast, the next-fastest type of charger, a Level 2, takes between four to 10 hours to reach the same level of charge.

In 2018, former Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order that mandated the state install 250,000 EV chargers, including 10,000 fast chargers, by 2025. Since then, the state has nearly quadrupled the number of public and “shared private” (chargers installed at places of business or apartment buildings) fast chargers to hit its target, from around 2,600 to more than 10,000. 

“This is the future of transportation — and it’s happening right now all across California,” Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday at Climate Week NYC in New York, where he made the announcement.

But the state is further behind in its goal to reach 250,000 total chargers by 2025. It currently has less than half that: There are about 93,800 public and shared private chargers in total, but only 41,000 of those are fully public. Additionally, its goal of 250,000 chargers, set more than five years ago, no longer reflects the breakneck pace at which Californians are transitioning to electric vehicles. 

There are more than 1.6 million EVs in the state, and 25 percent of new cars sold in the first quarter of 2023 were electric vehicles. An August report from the California Energy Commission found that the state will need more than 1 million public and shared private chargers — including 39,000 fast chargers — to support 7 million electric vehicles by 2030, a steep increase from current targets. 

“With new EV sales increasing every month, the charging market needs to step up the pace,” John Gartner, senior director of transportation programs at the Center for Sustainable Energy, told Grist in an email. 

Still, Gartner said that installing 10,000 fast chargers was significant, considering the high equipment costs and long wait times for permitting and connection confronting the industry. Gartner said federal and state incentive programs would be crucial in reducing financial risk and attracting private investment in EV infrastructure.  

California has invested billions in incentives. Last week, it opened applications for $38 million in equity-focused incentives to fund public charging stations in low-income and disadvantaged communities in 28 counties. And a newly passed bill awaiting Newsom’s signature would provide close to $2 billion for zero-emission vehicle incentives and for supporting infrastructure through 2035.

The federal government is also making $5 billion available to states for EV infrastructure through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, and has a goal of installing 500,000 chargers by 2030.  

The rest of the country has even farther to go on EV infrastructure. The three most populous states after California have only a fraction of the number of fast chargers. Florida has 2,038, Texas has 2,017 and New York has 1,283. Alaska has the fewest number of fast chargers, with 32. 

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline California installs 10,000 EV fast chargers, but needs quadruple that on Sep 19, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Why we need to sweat

Grist - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 06:00

Hello, welcome to Record High. I’m Kate Yoder, a staff writer at Grist, and today, we’re looking at how sweating can help us cope with climate change.

It is embarrassing to be a sweaty person. I remember making my way to the podium to give a speech at my sixth-grade graduation, my feet squelching audibly in flip-flops with every step; taking a test and noticing the warped paper beneath my moist hand; standing up from a plastic chair and hoping no one noticed the sweaty butt print I left behind. So it came as a relief to learn that sweating was actually good for something. 

Once I learned that the science journalist Sarah Everts wrote a book called The Joy of Sweat, I knew that I had to talk to her. Everts makes the case that perspiration is a human superpower, a gift for enduring sweltering temperatures. “I think it’s funny that humans have this enormous taboo about a biological function that’s ultimately going to help us survive climate change,” she told me.

Paula Winkler / Getty Images

The science of sweat goes as follows: At the first hint of getting hot, your heart starts pumping blood toward the outskirts of your body. In tandem, sweat glands pump water — drawn from that blood — onto your skin. When those tiny beads evaporate, they move heat off the body and into the air. It’s an incredibly efficient way to cool down. The geneticist Yana Kamberov, who studies the evolution of sweat, told me that the ability to shed buckets of water is an ability as unique to humans as our oversize brains.

So why do we burn through all that water, one of life’s precious resources? To avoid getting cooked from the inside out. “Dying from a heat wave is like a horror movie with 27 endings that you can choose from,” said Camilo Mora, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa, who has cataloged 27 different ways that heat can lead to organ failure and death. 

“Dying from a heat wave is like a horror movie with 27 endings that you can choose from.”

The thing is, sweating has its limits, as I reported for Grist this week. Very hot, humid conditions can render it ineffective. When the air is thick with water molecules, it’s harder for sweat to evaporate, and the body starts overheating. The theoretical point at which no amount of sweating can help you is thought to be six hours of exposure to a “wet-bulb temperature” of 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Wet-bulb temperature — invented by the U.S. military in the 1950s after recruits kept collapsing from heat illness — is a measurement that combines heat and humidity with sunlight and wind.

But heat gets dangerous long before that point. Last year, a study found that the upper limit of safety for healthy people was a wet-bulb temperature of 31 degrees C, or 88 degrees F. And factors like age, illness, and body size change the math. Older people are especially vulnerable — partly because of health conditions, and partly because sweat glands tend to deteriorate with age.

That humidity poses a problem for sweating is well-known, but I was surprised to learn that the opposite extreme — hot, dry air — could present its own set of problems. Sweat evaporates very quickly in arid conditions, but the human body can only produce a limited amount of sweat, said Ollie Jay, a health professor at the University of Sydney in Australia. That limit is about a liter per hour at rest, or about three liters an hour during exercise. If you managed to reach that point of maximum sweatiness in dry heat, then you wouldn’t be able to sweat enough to cool down. But most climate models ignore this, leading almost certainly to overestimates for what humans can handle, Jay said.

Given how crucial perspiration is for survival, you’d think researchers would have the science of sweat all figured out by now, but there are still open questions. Read the full story here. (Teaser: It includes a robot that sweats.)

By the numbers

Earlier this month, researchers analyzed the hot and humid conditions under which the human body starts to overheat unless specific actions to cool down are taken. They found that under our current climate, 8 percent of the land on Earth will meet this threshold at least once a decade. That would increase to a quarter if global temperatures warm 2 degrees C above the preindustrial average.

Data Visualization by Clayton Aldern

What we’re reading

It’s not only coral in trouble in Florida: Anemones, sponges, and jellyfish — usually resilient creatures — are struggling to survive in the Everglades amid record marine temperatures. “It’s a complete ecosystem problem,” Matt Bellinger, owner and operator of Bamboo Charters in the Keys, told Abigail Geiger and Gabriela Tejeda for their piece in Grist.

Read more

Take a siesta: A midday break with a meal and a nap doesn’t just sound pleasant, it also protects outdoor workers from exposure to the hottest time of day. Grist fellow Siri Chilukuri explains the benefits of reviving the Mediterranean tradition and the challenges of bringing it to the overworked United States.

Read more

The fight for worker safety heats up: After laboring in temperatures up to 118 degrees F, baggage handlers, runway signalers, and cabin cleaners at the Phoenix airport requested an investigation of working conditions they say leave them prone to heat illness and exhaustion. They are the first airport workers to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Grist fellow Katie Myers reports.

Read more

Heat waves and pregnancy are a dangerous combo: Exposure to both short- and long-term heat raises the risk of life-threatening complications during labor and delivery, Jessica Kutz reports for The 19th. A recent study found that extreme heat was associated with a 27 percent increase in “severe maternal morbidity,” a category that includes cardiac arrest, eclampsia, heart failure, and sepsis.

Read more

An “extreme heat belt” is emerging in the Midwest: When hazardous heat came to Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska in August, emergency rooms saw a record number of people suffering from heat-related illnesses. Many homes in the region are designed in a way that’s ill-prepared for hotter temperatures, Holly Edgell writes for Kansas City’s KCUR.

Read more

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Why we need to sweat on Sep 19, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Rich countries ‘confident’ $100bn climate finance delivered in 2023

Climate Change News - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 04:48

There will be no confirmation that rich countries have met their $100 billion a year climate finance promise until 2025 at the earliest.

That’s according to ministers from Canada and Germany, the two nations tasked with drawing up the “delivery plan” for belatedly meeting the pledge.

In an open letter, Canada’s Steven Guilbeault and Germany’s Jennifer Morgan, said on Friday that they were “confident that the goal will be met this year”.

That would be three years after the target date of 2020, as promised by wealthy nations at climate talks in 2009.

But, the ministers warned, “data on climate finance delivered in 2023 will not be available until 2025 due to data requirements and reporting processes in place”.

Climate finance failed to reach $100bn in 2020 (Photo: OECD)

Negotiators, campaigners and experts said the delay would damage trust between climate negotiators and questioned the legitimacy of rich countries climate finance figures.

Richard Klein is a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute. He said developed countries were being “very naive if they think they can get away with this”.

He added that trust between governments is already very low and this will only confirm what developing countries criticise and undermine developed countries’ negotiating positions.

“You can’t have [German leader Olaf] Scholz going to G20 saying that he expects climate action of all partners, and then do this,” he said.

‘Too little, too late’

Alpha Kaloga is the African Group’s lead negotiator on finance and loss and damage. He told Climate Home that “we welcome the effort”, but even if $100 billion was provided in 2023, there would still be shortfalls to make up for in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

“The confidence shown by developed [countries] in term of fulfillment of the pledge does not match our understanding of the pledge,” he said.

Saleemul Huq, a Bangladeshi campaigner and adviser to the Cop28 presidency, told Climate Home that “the fact that developed countries still cannot guarantee the delivery of the mythical $100bn… is simply the symptom of their lack of seriousness to deliver on their promises”.

Climate Action Network campaigner Harjeet Singh said even if the target was met it was “too little and too late”, as the “genuine costs faced by developing nations run into trillions annually”

Player and referee

Since 2015, rich countries have tasked the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with collecting this data.

Kaloga said this process is “not transparent as it seems that [developed countries] are player and referee at the same time”. The OECD is funded by its member countries, which are mostly developed nations.

Kaloga also said that the OECD’s classification of climate finance was “debatable” as reports by Oxfam and others have “revealed that much of the reported amount is overestimated”.

Oxfam said in June that the real value of rich countries climate finance in 2020 was just $24.5 billion. They got the official $83 billion figure by overstating climate benefits and taking loans at their face value, Oxfam said.

“If developed countries are serious about the statement, they should set an inclusive task force to track and estimate the support provided and received,” Kaloga said.

Reporting delays

The OECD’s figures are published about 18 months after the relevant year’s end.

Joe Thwaites, a senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the delay is caused by some developed countries being “very slow in reporting their data”.

“EU member states report their climate finance for a given year less than a year later, so it’s clearly possible,” he added.

The delay means governments will go into Cop28 and Cop29 without assurance that the goal has been met, doing nothing to ease tensions between developed and developing countries.

Developing countries have criticised rich nations’ failure to meet the target. Cop28 president Sultan Al-Jaber said the “dismal failure” had been “holding up” progress in the negotiations.

Governments are now negotiating a post-2025 climate finance goal to succeed the $100 billion target. This new target is scheduled to be finalised in 2024.

The US is responsible for the vast majority of the shortfall (Photo credit: ODI)

Previous promises

Rich nations have expressed similar confidence at meeting the target before.

In 2016, the UK and Australia had a similar role to that which Germany and Canada have now.

In their 2016 “roadmap”, they said they were “confident” it would be met by 2020 but in reality rich nations mobilised just $83.3 billion that year.

The OECD is expected to release figures for 2021 before Cop28 in November, which is not expected to narrow the gap to $100 billion completely.

According to research from the ODI think tank, the US is responsible for the vast majority of the shortfall to $100 billion.

The post Rich countries ‘confident’ $100bn climate finance delivered in 2023 appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

¿Es posible dirigir una sociedad ingobernable?

Green European Journal - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 02:26

Las élites globales están amasando una cantidad de riqueza inconcebible, el consumo se ha vuelto insaciable y existe una sobreexplotación temeraria de los recursos naturales y una creciente insatisfacción social: el ‘statu quo’ actual es insostenible y está abocado al colapso. Tan solo unos modelos de liderazgo descentralizados, plurales y de base pueden ofrecer una alternativa al tecnopopulismo en alza y garantizar la cohesión de nuestras sociedades fragmentadas.

El capitalismo solo puede sobrevivir mediante el crecimiento ilimitado y, ahora que este no está garantizado, se está volviendo cada vez más y más salvaje. La desigualdad económica no para de crecer. La estimulación del consumo, camuflada a veces bajo el manto progresista de la realización personal o el Nuevo Pacto Verde, parece una necesidad vital del sistema, con la contaminación y la sobreexplotación de los recursos naturales que de ella se derivan.

Vemos cómo la propiedad de los medios de producción (las tecnologías de la información, la logística y la infraestructura financiera) se están concentrando en manos de una minúscula élite global, garantizándoles beneficios gracias a unas economías de escala sin precedentes. Si bien algunos de los visionarios hombres de negocios más famosos de nuestra época —Steve Jobs en el pasado, Jeff Bezos y Elon Musk más recientemente— parecen salidos directamente de una fantasía schumpeteriana, lo cierto es que la mayor parte de los mayores empresarios capitalistas de hoy en día son figuras anónimas, casi fantasmagóricas, que no provocan ningún tipo de oposición, más allá del vago sentimiento de paranoia que despiertan.

Peor aún, las estructuras destinadas a la representación y a la toma de decisiones políticas se están desmoronando. Las redes sociales están causando una transformación radical en los procesos de politización: la influencia de grandes agregadores de reivindicaciones sociales, como los partidos políticos, está en declive, dejando a su paso una mezcla fluida, inestable e interseccional de cuestiones políticas motivadas por la indignación.

Pero podría decirse que no todo son malas noticias: esta situación es insostenible y está abocada al colapso. Y este colapso no va a derivar necesariamente en una sociedad nueva y mejor, pero al menos existe esta posibilidad. Así que debemos poner el foco de acción en las grietas del sistema actual, en esta “crisis” que no es tal porque nunca va a concluir. Y si bien esta sociedad “ingobernable” debe ser regida de algún modo, ya no es posible “gobernarla” en base a los principios modernos de soberanía. Es necesario repensar de manera integral la relación entre sociedad y liderazgo político y administrativo.

Una crisis que no es tal

Desde hace aproximadamente medio siglo, el cambio político y social ha venido desafiando cada vez más claramente las predicciones de los paradigmas de conocimiento dominantes. Hablar de crisis, calificando implícitamente los fenómenos inesperados como alteraciones, excepciones, turbulencias, interrupciones o anormalidades, no es más que un intento de apuntalar estos paradigmas basándose en el argumento clásico de la “ciencia normal” . Hablar de crisis es sugerir que, en algún momento, habrá un retorno a un estado normal, una vez el sistema haya superado esta fiebre pasajera.

La noción de “crisis” se convierte así en un artefacto conceptual mediante el que nos negamos a aceptar el colapso de nuestras herramientas de conocimiento. Sirve también para que las élites políticas e intelectuales se protejan a sí mismas salvaguardando el conocimiento que sostiene su legitimidad, a pesar de los rendimientos decrecientes que este ofrece actualmente. Ante la falta de valentía para llevar a cabo una ruptura epistemológica, la búsqueda caótica de paradigmas alternativos continuará fomentando la pseudociencia y las teorías conspiranoicas.

La noción de “crisis” se convierte así en un artefacto conceptual mediante el que nos negamos a aceptar el colapso de nuestras herramientas de conocimiento.

Si bien es innegable que estamos viviendo una convulsión de niveles históricos, el uso de “crisis” para describirla no es una elección neutral. En este estado de crisis permanente todo se convierte en un problema técnico, una cuestión de gestión de riesgos, de gobernanza a gran escala. Es evidente que la mal llamada crisis climática no es una fiebre pasajera, sino un estado permanente que exige una adaptación radical de nuestros estilos de vida y, antes de esto, de nuestros valores.

Vemos así que zafarnos de esta crisis imaginaria es un requisito indispensable para analizar las transformaciones drásticas que estamos experimentando e imaginar el cambio necesario. La crisis imaginaria debe ser sustituida por imaginarios nuevos.

¿Podemos aun así gobernar nuestras sociedades?

En su importante libro La sociedad ingobernable. Una genealogía del liberalismo autoritario (2018), Grégoire Chamayou afirmaba que la preocupación en torno a la gobernabilidad era una pura fantasía neoconservadora que había surgido en la década de los setenta del siglo pasado. Pero se trata de una pregunta importante que se enmarca en un debate mucho más amplio.

En primer lugar, surge la pregunta en torno a la legitimidad de las instituciones democráticas modernas, una cuestión que ha obsesionado a los filósofos desde el fin del Antiguo Régimen y reaparece una y otra vez desde entonces. En el ámbito de la sociología, el funcionalismo ha mostrado que la sociedad debe satisfacer, además de las necesidades materiales, las condiciones ideológicas, culturales y morales necesarias para la integración; es decir, un imaginario. ¿Dónde puede la sociedad secular cimentar sus normas? ¿Debería conformarse con la fría solución de Kant y el imperativo categórico o con la todavía más fría “legitimación por procedimiento jurídico”? ¿Debería reinyectarse “lo político” en la sociedad, tal y como defienden los schmittianos progresistas al abogar por el populismo? Esta ha sido la estrategia de Podemos en España y de Jean-Luc Mélenchon en Francia. El Movimiento 5 Estrellas también ha intentado aplicarla en Italia, lo cual ha mostrado que cortejar a “la gente” a toda costa puede derivar en el avance de la derecha. Los Verdes, que atesoran el imaginario con más potencial radical, han sido incapaces de decidirse por alguna de estas opciones.

Las sociedades occidentales gozan todavía de un bienestar material extraordinario, pero adolecen de una enfermedad moral en expansión. Síntoma de ello parece ser el auge del populismo. La contradicción principal/clave puede resumirse del siguiente modo: el sistema capitalista, forzado a generar unas necesidades sociales a gran escala que sean capaces de producir la demanda necesaria para absorber el superávit productivo derivado del progreso tecnológico y la competencia de mercado, ha creado más necesidades sociales de las que puede satisfacer. El descontento que de ello se deriva, algo que probablemente no hará más que aumentar a medida que se acelere el declive, paraliza cualquier producción de legitimación política. Por consiguiente, una estrategia de planificación pública basada únicamente en la contabilidad, el comercio o las finanzas será incapaz de dar respuesta a una demanda política que trascienda estas dimensiones.

¿Debemos por tanto claudicar en lo referente a la gobernanza de nuestras sociedades? Esto no parece muy realista: no hay ninguna sociedad compleja en la que no se planee su dirección, directa o indirectamente, mediante la coordinación de los comportamientos individuales. Es necesario que haya planificación social; de lo contrario cada persona actuará de manera descoordinada y, frecuentemente, individualista. La producción masiva de riesgos fuerza al sistema neoliberal a reaccionar para mitigar estos riesgos, lo cual produce a su vez nuevos riesgos que requieren ser mitigados y deriva en un círculo vicioso infinito al que llamamos modernización. Pero una vez los rendimientos empiezan a decrecer, el manejo del riesgo se vuelve cada vez más caro e inefectivo. A medida que la legitimidad se va erosionando, el poder solo puede ejercerse mediante la coerción y el manejo brutal del orden público.

La teoría del fusible

Durante la última década, el liderazgo se ha concebido principalmente como algo catártico, como una manera de reciclar las demandas de cambio para legitimar nuevas fuerzas políticas. Así, el Movimiento 5 Estrellas abrió un camino que el macronismo ha imitado en sus propios términos. El liderazgo como mecanismo para el traspaso del poder que la primera ministra francesa resumió con acierto al admitir que se veía a sí misma como un “fusible”. Y es que esta es una función tradicional del liderazgo.

Según la Saga de los Ynglings, una hambruna terrible asoló Suecia durante el reinado del rey Domalde, lo que empujó a la gente a hacer numerosos sacrificios al dios Odín. El primer otoño le ofrecieron ganado, pero esto no surgió efecto. El segundo otoño le ofrecieron hombres, pero la situación no hizo más que empeorar. Así que el tercer otoño decidieron rociar sobre el altar sagrado la sangre de Domalde. El pueblo sacrificó a su rey y las cosechas que siguieron fueron buenas durante muchos años. En La rama dorada, Frazer relata un mito similar situado en el bosque de Nemi, cerca de Roma, en el que el rey sacerdote era sacrificado ritualmente. En esta confusión entre líder y chivo expiatorio, la antropología revela una verdad subyacente sobre la esencia de la soberanía.

Es evidente que la mal llamada crisis climática no es una fiebre pasajera, sino un estado permanente que exige una adaptación radical de nuestros estilos de vida y, antes de esto, de nuestros valores.

En la mitología de nuestros ancestros el liderazgo es una consagración previa al sacrificio simbólico o real. Esto no debería entenderse como una simple superstición, sino más bien como una intuición sobre qué elementos respaldan la legitimidad de un líder: la obligación de asumir las consecuencias. No necesitamos líderes para que nos gobiernen; necesitamos líderes para sacrificarlos en caso de una “mala cosecha”. Hoy en día las malas cosechas abundan más que nunca. Los dioses están sedientos y es necesario aplacarlos.

¿Qué liderazgo? ¿Qué imaginario?

En el paradigma schmittiano, la esfera política se encarga exclusivamente de la toma de decisiones. Los líderes son personas que actúan con decisión, tal y como hizo Alejandro Magno al cortar el nudo gordiano, y que luego asumen responsabilidad sacrificándose. La toma de decisiones entra en juego cuando existen diferentes soluciones racionalmente equivalentes y resulta sencillamente imposible escoger una de manera deductiva. Sin embargo, la toma de decisiones tiene menos que ver con la realidad (en el espectro de acierto vs. error) que con las necesidades del grupo (en el espectro de inadecuado vs. adecuado).

Las personas responsables de la toma de decisiones están ahí para guiar el proceso en una dirección general. Al determinar una línea de acción a pesar de la incertidumbre externa previenen la procrastinación y hacen que el colectivo se mueva, reduciendo la incertidumbre interna, que depende de la cohesión del grupo social. Esto es posible mediante la construcción de un imaginario que determine la jerarquía de los objetivos y los valores necesarios para garantizar el mayor uso posible de los recursos disponibles y la coordinación de las fuerzas de modo que el grupo no se desintegre completamente cuando tenga que hacer frente a eventos inesperados. Este es, más o menos, el paradigma tradicional.

Si bien la sociedad actual se coordina mediante un imaginario, esto no implica automáticamente que sea posible crear un imaginario que satisfaga a todo el mundo. De hecho, una sociedad fragmentada es incapaz de articular suficiente legitimidad alrededor de una única visión política. La “condición postmoderna” también aplica al liderazgo, que no tiene por qué ser homogéneo si es capaz de operar de manera descentralizada. La reemergencia de las organizaciones de la sociedad civil bajo la apariencia de minorías organizadas, por ejemplo, señala un cambio hacia el pluralismo político que no debe ser ignorado. Esta fragmentación tiene sus riesgos (en la narrativa republicana francesa, el riesgo de que el “separatismo” deriva de en una guerra civil), pero también sus oportunidades: ofrece un sistema descentralizado de gobierno que crea legitimidad política, a cada nivel, en torno a diferentes visiones que están más cerca de la cultura y las necesidades reales de los individuos.

La diversidad de las expectativas y las sensibilidades sociales hace necesario combinar diferentes modelos de liderazgo capaces de reflejar esta diversidad sin enredarse en un conflicto permanente. Ya hace unos años que vemos, especialmente en Italia y durante la presidencia de Trump en los Estados Unidos, una amalgama tecnopopulista que aúna líderes “populistas”, especialistas en conseguir consenso, y a administradores opacos, pero supuestamente “eficaces”. Este modelo ha resultado efectivo a la hora de preservar el statu quo. Pero para que derive en un cambio será necesario que las fuerzas sociales sean dirigidas en una misma dirección. Hasta hace poco este cambio podría haber surgido todavía desde arriba, pero hoy en día debe provenir de las bases: es aquí donde las organizaciones de la sociedad civil, como los sindicatos, tienen un rol importante. Estos espacios todavía generan legitimidad y tienen una capacidad genuina de influenciar las decisiones políticas. Deben defender reivindicaciones no solo materiales, como la extensión de la jornada laboral, sino cuestiones civilizatorias urgentes relacionadas con la esencia del trabajo, su significado, su razón de ser.

El orden político emergente es un sistema legal pluralista y multinivel basado en entidades colectivas cuya legitimidad deriva de su capacidad de proveer servicios sociales o “morales”. En realidad, el liderazgo, entendido como la capacidad de coordinar la transición hacia un nuevo modelo de sociedad, no puede más que ser plural; (tan) plural como la pluralidad de imaginarios que caracterizan a la sociedad posmoderna.

En este sentido, la ecología política pude jugar un papel metapolítico siempre que sea capaz de reconciliar las reivindicaciones laborales con las medioambientales. Las instituciones nacionales y supranacionales tienen el deber de garantizar las condiciones de interoperabilidad entre la pluralidad de imaginarios, los órdenes normativos y los niveles de poder por el bien de la única prioridad universal y transversal: garantizar la paz y preservar las condiciones de vida del planeta Tierra.

Categories: H. Green News

Will sweat help us survive climate change?

Grist - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 01:45

This story is part of Record High, a Grist series examining extreme heat and its impact on how — and where — we live. 

Under the relentless sun in Africa, the birthplace of humanity, every living thing had to find a way to beat the heat. Lions rested in the shade, termites built giant ventilation mounds, and elephants evolved giant ears that could flap like fans. Around 2 million years ago, our ancestors perfected the weirdest technique of them all: pushing water from inside our bodies to outside, a gift for enduring sweltering temperatures.

Other animals can sweat a bit, but not like us. Running around in the heat, a person can shed more than two gallons of water each day, draining one of life’s precious resources at a speedy pace. As the body tries to cool down, blood vessels widen, redirecting hot blood from the core of your body toward the surface. In tandem, sweat glands pump water, drawn from that blood, onto your skin. When those tiny beads evaporate, they carry heat off the body and into the air. 

“It is crucial to being human,” said Yana Kamberov, a geneticist studying the evolution of sweat at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s something that differentiates us from every other animal on the planet” — right up there with our oversized brains. The average person has between 2 and 4 million sweat glands in their skin, at 10 times the density of a chimpanzee’s, one of our closest living relatives. For humans, sweat proved even more useful than protective fur; our thick coat dwindled into peach fuzz to allow water to evaporate more efficiently.

Our biological sprinkler systems are now being put to the test. This summer was not just the hottest three consecutive months on record, but the hottest on Earth in 125,000 years. Phoenix spent 31 days in a row with a high of 110 degrees F or above. Across the Northern Hemisphere, from continent to continent, heat records fell at an alarming pace, with Morocco and China setting all-time highs above 120 degrees F. The swampy Gulf Coast heat soared as high as 115 degrees F, rewriting records for Houston and New Orleans. Even South America, in the throes of winter, saw unbelievable heat: A town in the Chilean Andes topped 100 degrees F — another all-time high.

It is getting to the point that life is dangerous without air-conditioning. If a widespread power outage hit Phoenix during a heat wave and lasted for days, it could kill thousands and send half the city to the emergency room, according to a recent study. And the soupy heat in the Gulf Coast comes with a challenge of its own: Super hot and humid air makes it hard for sweat to evaporate, because the environment is already thick with water molecules, which means more heat stays trapped inside the body, raising the risk of getting cooked from the inside out. 

“Dying from a heat wave is like a horror movie with 27 endings that you can choose from,” said Camilo Mora, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, who has cataloged 27 different ways that heat can lead to organ failure and death. 

As blood gets shunted toward the skin, for instance, it strains the heart and deprives the brain and gut of oxygen, leading to heart attacks and other grisly outcomes from widespread inflammation and clotting. Prolonged sweating can also cause dehydration, sometimes inducing kidney failure. Heat has so many ways to kill you that it’s easily the deadliest of all weather disasters Americans face. In 2017, Mora and colleagues found that 30 percent of the world’s population was already exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days or more each year.

Given how crucial perspiration is for survival, you’d think that researchers would have the science of sweat all figured out by now, but there are still open questions. Exactly how hot is too hot for the human body? How important is humidity? And why aren’t we more grateful for sweat? Its nasty reputation for making you stink belies the fact that it’s essentially a built-in life jacket to help you ride out record-breaking heat waves. 

Feeling moist and sticky is much better than the alternative — death by heat stroke. “I think it’s funny that humans have this enormous taboo about a biological function that’s ultimately going to help us survive climate change,” said Sarah Everts, the author of The Joy of Sweat.

Deadly heat can hit basically anywhere, catching people off-guard. Take the record-breaking temperatures that swept over Europe last summer, sending the thermostat soaring above 100 degrees F across the continent, resulting in more than 61,000 deaths. Our bodies can acclimatize to heat over a period of weeks, giving us the ability to sweat more. But temperatures can skyrocket quickly — in February this year, thermostats in Washington, D.C., jumped almost 30 degrees in a day, from a high of 53 degrees F one day to 81 the next. These kinds of leaps are a lot for our bodies to handle, making heat waves in cooler climates especially deadly.

Even in countries like Pakistan, where people are well-adapted to heat, sweltering temperatures are taking casualties. “With climate change, things are just going beyond limits of adaptation,” said Fahad Saeed, a scientist with the global climate policy institute Climate Analytics, who is based in Islamabad. “When you’re witnessing that in this part of the world, it really kind of tells you something is going beyond normal, because the people are acclimatized to this kind of weather, and still they are dying.”

A measure called the “wet-bulb temperature,” which combines heat and humidity with sunlight and wind speed, is used to calculate the threshold at which a healthy human body can no longer survive. Invented by the U.S. military in the 1950s after recruits kept collapsing from heat illness at a camp in South Carolina, it’s determined by covering a thermometer in a damp cloth and swinging it through the air to speed up evaporation. The theoretical point at which no amount of sweating can help you is thought to be six hours of exposure to a wet-bulb temperature of 35 degrees Celsius, or 95 degrees Fahrenheit. That translates to 95 degrees in complete humidity, for example, or 115 degrees at 50 percent humidity.

In recent years, parts of Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula have already briefly crossed this scary threshold. And more heat will come, bringing parts of Mexico’s coasts and more of South Asia into the danger zone. Worryingly, climate change is also driving up the moisture content of the air, especially in the tropics.

Newer research suggests that the limit might be even lower than 35 degrees C. In a study last year at Penn State University, young people volunteered to subject themselves to uncomfortably hot conditions in a lab. Participants swallowed telemetry pills that monitored their core body temperature and sat in a controlled chamber, moving just enough to mimic everyday activities like cooking and eating. When the body fails to stabilize its core temperature, things start to spiral out of control: In extreme conditions, heat stroke can set in within 10 to 15 minutes. The researchers found that the upper limit of safety, based on when the participants’ core temperatures started rising, was likely closer to a wet-bulb temperature of 31 degrees C, or 88 degrees F.  

And that’s for healthy people. Factors like age, illness, and body size change the math. People over the age of 60, who account for an estimated 80 percent of the 12,000 heat-related deaths in the United States each year, often have health conditions that make heat more dangerous. What’s more, as people get older, their sweat glands deteriorate, undermining their ability to cool down. Some antipsychotic medications have a side effect of suppressing sweating, possibly one of many reasons why those diagnosed with schizophrenia are particularly vulnerable to dying in the heat.

The reality is that most people don’t take all the necessary steps to stay cool during a heat wave, like seeking shade or drinking lots of cold water — another reason that a pragmatic “danger zone” for temperatures starts well below 35 degrees C. Earlier this month, researchers from the University of Oxford and the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts analyzed the hot and humid conditions under which the human body starts to overheat unless specific actions to cool down are taken. They found that under our current climate, 8 percent of the land on Earth will meet this threshold at least once a decade. That would increase to a quarter if global temperatures warm 2 degrees C above the preindustrial average, the amount we can expect if existing and planned fossil fuel projects are carried through.

An AmeriGas propane truck drives past the World’s Tallest Thermometer landmark, which displays a temperature above 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) in Baker, California, on August 30, 2022. Patrick T. FALLON / AFP via Getty Images

Still, there’s a debate around how much humidity matters in health outcomes, said Jane Baldwin, an Earth systems science professor at the University of California, Irvine. Humidity isn’t showing up as a key driver of deaths in real-world epidemiological data like you’d expect based on theories about wet-bulb temperature. Baldwin recently coauthored a study trying to explain this discrepancy. One explanation could be that epidemiological data tends to come from cooler parts of the world, like Europe and the United States, whereas data is limited from tropical countries like India, Ghana, and Brazil, where the link between humidity and death would likely be strongest. Nailing down an answer to this question would help scientists make more accurate predictions about how climate change will affect health, Baldwin said. 

The opposite extreme — dry air — could present its own set of problems. In arid conditions, sweat evaporates very quickly. That’s great for cooling off, but sweat production has a limit, said Ollie Jay, a health professor at the University of Sydney in Australia. At rest, it’s hard to sweat more than a liter per hour, he said, but when you’re exercising, closer to three liters can pour out of your body in an hour. If you managed to reach that point of maximum sweatiness in dry heat, then you wouldn’t be able to sweat enough to cool down. “Most climate models for assessing future heat-stress risk assume that the body has an unlimited capacity to produce sweat,” Jay said, almost certainly leading to overestimates for what humans can handle in hot, arid climates.

Another unknown is just how much early exposure to heat changes our ability to sweat. One theory is that being exposed to high temperatures in the first two years of life can activate more sweat glands; we’re born with roughly the same number of sweat glands, but not all of them turn on and start pumping water. As a result, people born in hot places might have more active sweat glands than those born in cold climates. 

It raises questions of whether those who spend their youth avoiding sweat-soaked clothes by hiding in artificially cooled buildings could be less prepared for life on an increasingly hot planet. “Imagine, if you raise your babies purely in air conditioning,” Kamberov said, “then in a warmer world, how capable of adapting will they be?”

Sweat is essentially saving our lives all summer long — though you probably don’t enjoy it. Everts, the author of The Joy of Sweat, speculates that it violates our desire to be in control. Sweat pours out of us involuntarily: We can’t hold it in or delay it with willpower, unlike burps or farts. “When your body gets the cooldown directive, those pores open, and the sweat pours out,” Everts said, “and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to control that, right?” 

It doesn’t help that a sweaty person is often a stinky one, the curse of locker rooms everywhere. Sweat itself is odorless — it’s mostly just water — but when it mixes with bacteria on your skin, it can raise a stench. There are two types of sweat glands: Eccrine glands, the most prominent, are responsible for keeping your temperature in check and found all over the body — particularly on your forehead, palms, and the bottoms of your feet. Apocrine glands in hairy areas like the armpits and groin become active during puberty, secreting a thicker, protein-rich sweat that bacteria convert into that embarrassing aroma. Plugging your armpit pores with antiperspirant, then, won’t affect your ability to cool down: There are plenty of other escape routes on your skin.

In the olden days, people applied perfume and talcum powder to try to cover up the smell of B.O. But they were so used to it that by the time antiperspirants and deodorants came onto the market around the turn of the 20th century — the former aimed at blocking sweat pores, the latter at fighting odor-producing bacteria —  hardly anyone wanted to buy them. That posed a problem for the manufacturers. So in 1919, a copywriter named James Young who was working for the antiperspirant company Odorono (odor, oh no!) “put the fear of sweat in Americans,” Everts said. One magazine ad with the headline “The most humiliating moment in my life” featured a young woman overhearing that no one would dance with her because she suffered “frightfully from perspiration.” The idea was not just to make people aware of their stink, but to make them afraid it would stop them from finding love or a decent job. “I just wish people were less mortified by sweat,” Everts said.

The marketing campaign was a lasting success, even a century later. Last year, the global deodorant market was valued at $24 billion, and it’s on track to grow to $37 billion by the end of the decade, in part because of global warming, according to the market research firm Fortune Business Insights.

A drugstore employee restocks deodorant and antiperspirant in Miami in March 2023. Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Today, some cultures are more matter-of-fact about sweat than others. In Pakistan, it’s simply a fact of life, Saeed said. Still, excessive sweating is frowned upon basically everywhere. “What can save you is not culturally accepted,” said Mora, the University of Hawaiʻi scientist. “I cannot imagine anywhere in the world where you would like to be hugged by a sweaty person.”

How sweaty you are isn’t in your control — but what you wear is. Hot, humid climates call for more exposed skin, making it easier for your sweat to evaporate; perhaps counterintuitively, loose, long sleeves and pants help you reap the benefits of sweat in arid climates, keeping the water from evaporating too quickly and at the same time blocking sunlight. Konrad Rykaczewski, a professor of engineering at Arizona State University, is researching how to help design clothing that maximizes the effectiveness of sweating. He says that scientists still don’t understand a lot about sweat on the scale that really matters for clothing design.

“The question is, how much of the sweat we produce actually goes to cooling us?” Rykaczewski said. Sweating profusely isn’t helping anyone — sweat that drips off your forehead is essentially wasted water, since it didn’t evaporate off you. By the same token, trapping a bunch of sweat underneath a hazmat suit could leave you susceptible to heat illnesses. Counterintuitively, even fabrics that wick sweat can end up stealing it away from your skin and wasting it, Rykaczewski said. When that water evaporates, it’ll cool the fabric and the air between the fabric and your skin, instead of your body directly.

Rykaczewski’s research is focused on understanding how heat affects the human body in the real world, something that’s difficult to study. “No one’s measuring someone that’s going to get heatstroke, right?” Rykaczewski said. “That’s not ethical.” 

Arizona State University associate professor Konrad Rykaczewski points to the pores on ANDI, an Advanced Newton Dynamic Instrument that beads sweat like humans. Researchers are using ANDI to learn more about the effect of heat exposure on the human body. Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

So, in place of live humans, he and his colleagues at Arizona State have developed a sweating robot, technically called a “thermal mannequin,” that simulates human responses to super-hot temperatures. The robot — named ANDI for “Advanced Newton Dynamic Instrument” — takes frequent trips into the sizzling Arizona heat, equipped with sensors, an internal cooling system, as well as pores for sweating. One unique thing about ANDI is that it can represent anyone. Rykaczewski can modify the program to simulate how a person might weather the heat, calculating how factors like age, body size, or drug use might affect the body’s response in different situations. And it all comes at the low cost of $650,000. “We basically are developing the most expensive way to measure heat impacts on humans,” Rykaczewski joked.

ANDI is essentially a crash test dummy for a hotter planet. Our bodies are up against heat that threatens to render our dampness useless. Humans have been sweating for hundreds of thousands of years, and it’s core to who we are. But to truly understand it? For that, we needed to build a robot.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Will sweat help us survive climate change? on Sep 19, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

'The climate crisis is not unstoppable'

Ecologist - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 01:37
'The climate crisis is not unstoppable' Channel Comment brendan 19th September 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News

New battery recycling rules could be a game-changer in the EU’s search for EV minerals

Grist - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 01:30

The clean energy transition will require lots of batteries — primarily to power electric vehicles and to store renewable energy that can be dispatched to the electric grid on demand. European Union policymakers are growing more concerned about where the bloc will get all the metals required to build those batteries. One potential source? Dead lithium-ion batteries from EVs, e-bikes, and consumer electronics, which contain lithium, cobalt, nickel, and other ingredients needed to make new ones.

Recycling the metals used in batteries has the potential to limit the need for environmentally damaging mining while also reducing electronic waste. But Europe’s lithium-ion battery recycling industry is in its infancy. While manufacturers sold nearly 700,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries into the European market last year, recyclers only had the capacity to process about 17,000 tons of battery waste, according to Circular Energy Storage, a data analysis firm for the battery industry.

New rules that entered force last month could help change that. After years of negotiations, the EU just adopted a comprehensive battery regulation that could spur battery recycling at a scale never seen before outside of China. Battery industry experts say the policy has the potential to supercharge lithium-ion battery recycling across the bloc. 

The EU’s new battery rules “will make a very big impact for the whole supply chain not only in Europe but also globally,” Xiao Lin, CEO of the Chinese battery metal recycling consultancy Botree Cycling, told Grist. 

Used batteries sit in a battery recycling plant in Montreal, Quebec on January 17, 2023. MATHIEW LEISER / AFP via Getty Images

The battery regulation replaces a 2006 policy that focused on minimizing the health risks caused by hazardous battery ingredients like lead and cadmium. The new rules reflect the larger role that batteries, particularly lithium-ion ones, play in society today, and the EU’s desire to ensure they are sustainable throughout their entire life cycle, from manufacturing to disposal. The regulation requires manufacturers to collect waste lithium-ion batteries for recycling and, in the case of EV, e-bike, and energy storage batteries, incorporate recycled materials into new ones. The battery regulation also includes ambitious metals recovery targets, pushing recyclers to use technologies that do a good job reclaiming critical resources like lithium.

The regulation comes at a pivotal moment. EV sales are booming in Europe and around the world, causing demand for the metals inside their batteries to skyrocket. Hundreds of new mines may be needed to supply those metals by the mid-2030s. But mining takes a significant toll on the environment, and often, local communities. Most EU nations have limited battery metal resources, forcing them to rely on imports from countries with poor environmental and human rights track records.

Waste batteries are pooled for recycling at a facility in Jieshou, China, in July 2021. Liu Junxi / Xinhua via Getty Images

Battery recycling is often touted as a more sustainable way to ease long-term supply pressure. Spent EV batteries, as well as the smaller batteries inside e-bikes, power tools, smartphones, and more, are rich in the metals needed to make new ones. Today, China leads the world in lithium-ion battery recycling, thanks in part to policies that have encouraged it in the EV sector, specifically. In 2018, China’s government stipulated that EV makers are responsible for collecting dead batteries, and it set ambitious metals recovery rates that recyclers must meet to be included on a government white list.

The EU is now following in China’s footsteps by directing manufacturers to ensure that batteries are collected for recycling at no charge to consumers. For consumer electronic and “light means of transport” batteries — those used in e-scooters, e-bikes, and the like — collection rates will gradually increase over the next decade. In the EV and energy storage sectors, meanwhile, manufacturers are required to take back all batteries for recycling. Bosch, which manufacturers batteries for the European e-bike industry, told Grist in an emailed statement that bicycle makers have “either already successfully introduced or are currently working on collection systems” to meet the new requirements, with e-bike battery take-back programs currently up and running in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

Recyclers, meanwhile, are required to hit stringent metal recovery targets, including 80 percent of the lithium contained in a battery, and 95 percent of its cobalt, copper, nickel and lead, by the end of 2031. Alissa Kendall, a battery recycling expert at the University of California, Davis, says that these recovery rates will push recyclers away from pyrometallurgy, an older technique in which batteries are smelted in a furnace to produce a low-quality metal alloy. Instead, Kendall expects the new rules will accelerate the industry-wide shift toward hydrometallurgy. Hydrometallurgical recyclers typically shred batteries to produce a powder called “black mass,” then separate and purify individual metals using chemical solvents. While pyrometallurgical recycling often results in significant lithium losses, recyclers using hydrometallurgy claim they can recover lithium at high rates. There are also environmental benefits: While pyrometallurgy uses considerable energy and produces toxic gases that must be captured or remediated, hydrometallurgy requires less energy and generates lower emissions (although the strong acids involved require careful disposal).

A scientist poses with a beaker filled with aluminium foil, copper foil, casing particles, and a “black mass” made of used graphite, cobalt, nickel, and manganese from old lithium-ion batteries. JENS SCHLUETER / AFP via Getty Images

“Our industry-leading, sustainable lithium-ion battery recycling technology is geared towards meeting lithium, cobalt, and nickel recovery targets set forth in the Battery Regulation,” a spokesperson for Canada-based battery recycler Li-Cycle told Grist in an email, adding that Europe’s regulations are “very positive for the growth of the industry.” Li-Cycle is one of several hydrometallurgical recycling companies in the process of massively expanding its presence in Europe: Last month, it opened a black mass facility in Germany and announced plans for a future recycling hub in Italy. 

Recycling doesn’t have to take place in Europe as long as it meets EU standards. Lin says that many Asian recyclers are already meeting or exceeding the metal recovery rates in the European battery regulation. But Lin expects established recyclers will run into trouble with other EU standards, such as a requirement that 70 percent of the weight of batteries be recycled by the end of 2030. In China, about 65 percent of EV batteries sold today are lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, a chemistry that contains no nickel or cobalt. Aside from lithium, there’s very little in these batteries worth recycling. As a result, Lin says, recyclers are used to recovering about 3 percent of their materials by weight.

“It’s very different to reach 70 percent,” Lin said. Recyclers outside of Europe that want to cater to the EU market, Lin says, may have to set up new European facilities with more advanced technologies. 

In addition to mandating efficient recycling, the new battery regulation seeks to ensure that recycled materials get incorporated into new batteries. By 2031, the EU will require that new EV and storage batteries contain at least 6 percent recycled lithium and nickel, 16 percent recycled cobalt, and 85 percent recycled lead. These figures will rise to 12 percent recycled lithium, 15 percent recycled nickel, and 26 percent recycled cobalt by 2036 (at which point they will also apply to “light means of transport” batteries). But while the intent of the recycled content standards is to promote the reuse of critical resources, experts warn that they could have unintended consequences.

Andy Leach, an energy storage analyst at consultancy BloombergNEF, says that if the recycled content standards are higher than what the recycling market can deliver on its own, companies might be forced to recycle batteries prematurely in order to reach them. Overly ambitious targets could also encourage battery makers to be wasteful, since the standards can be met with either end-of-life batteries or battery production scrap, which consists of cuttings and leftovers from the battery manufacturing process, as well as battery components that didn’t meet quality control standards. If there aren’t enough end-of-life batteries to meet the requirements, battery makers may be encouraged to keep generating large volumes of scrap, rather than implement efficiency improvements that reduce manufacturing waste over time. 

“Recycling’s important, but we also shouldn’t rush into it if the materials aren’t there to be recycled,” Leach said. 

An employee of European Metal Recycling disassembles a car battery pack into recyclable parts in Hamburg, Germany. Markus Scholz / picture alliance via Getty Images

Bosch, the e-bike battery manufacturer, called the recycled content targets “very ambitious,” adding that “the availability of recycled raw materials is the biggest challenge” to meeting them. 

In particular, the achievability of the recycled content standards will depend on the return of heavy, mineral-rich EV batteries for recycling. But these batteries are long lived, and they are often repurposed for a second application like grid storage, meaning it could be years before large numbers of them are ready to be recycled. Li-Cycle told Grist that the company expects manufacturing scrap to represent “the bulk of our feedstock” over the next few years, with end-of-life EV batteries becoming more important in the 2030s. BASF, a German battery materials maker that is expanding its battery recycling operations, told Grist that it also “plans to recycle scrap” from battery production until more dead EV batteries are available.

While recycled content standards may encourage waste if they’re too aggressive, Kendall of UC Davis emphasized the importance of these standards for improving the economics of recycling. By placing a premium on recycled lithium and other metals, the standards could “increase the value globally for recycled materials,” she said. In a best-case scenario, that might help other emerging battery recycling markets become more economically viable over the long term. Those include the United States, where several companies are now building huge new plants to recycle EV batteries despite no federal mandates. (U.S. recyclers are, however, being supported by big federal loans.)

Despite uncertainties, many in the industry are hopeful that the new EU regulation will help battery recycling reach the scale needed to ease future mining pressure. Kurt Vandeputte, senior vice president of battery recycling solutions at the Belgian-based metals company Umicore, called the regulation “a smart way of saying that we have to be careful and we have to create a closed loop of critical materials.”

“It’s going to be the blueprint for many other industries,” Vandeputte said.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline New battery recycling rules could be a game-changer in the EU’s search for EV minerals on Sep 19, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

The West’s overlooked rainforests can address climate change

High Country News - Tue, 09/19/2023 - 01:00
A new book advances the idea that protecting old-growth forests is better for the climate than planting new trees.
Categories: H. Green News

Road Hazard: Evidence Mounts on Toxic Pollution from Tires

Yale Environment 360 - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 23:44

Researchers are only beginning to uncover the toxic cocktail of chemicals, microplastics, and heavy metals hidden in car and truck tires. But experts say these tire emissions are a significant source of air and water pollution and may be affecting humans as well as wildlife.

Read more on E360 →

Categories: H. Green News

How the shift to electric vehicles is fueling the UAW strike

Grist - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 16:15

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, in three automotive factories across the Rust Belt, night shift workers left their posts and poured out onto the streets to join whistling, cheering crowds. TV news footage from the night showed picketers intermingled with cars honking in support as R&B blared from sound systems on the sidewalks in front of the factory gates. For the first time in history, the United Auto Workers union, or UAW, initiated a strike targeting all of the “Big Three” automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, which owns brands like Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge. 

The strike marks a breaking point after months of negotiations failed to result in a deal to renew the union’s contract with Big Three automakers, which expired on Friday. For now, the strike covers only 13,000 workers at a General Motors plant in Wentzville, Missouri; a Stellantis plant in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford assembly plant in Wayne, Michigan. But the three closures could be just the beginning. UAW president Shawn Fain has warned that all 146,000 union workers are ready to strike at a moment’s notice. “If we need to go all out, we will,” said Fain Thursday night on Facebook Live. “Everything is on the table.” 

If the work stoppage goes on for more than 10 days, analysts estimate it could cost automakers over $1 billion and hurt plans to push new electric vehicles, or EVs, onto the market.

EVs, and what they mean for the future of union labor in the automotive sector, loom large over the picket line. Automakers say meeting the union’s demands would threaten their ability to compete with non-unionized EV producers like Tesla, adding burdensome labor costs just as they’re making expensive investments in EVs. Workers, meanwhile, worry that billions in EV investments aren’t translating into good-paying, union jobs.

Employees work at the assembly line of the Volkswagen ID 4 electric car in northern Germany on May 20, 2022. David Hecker/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s our job to organize,” Tony Totty, president of UAW Local 14 in Toledo, Ohio, told Grist. “These corporations don’t wanna share in our sweat equity with the profits we provide them.”   

Collectively, the Big Three have committed to investing well over $100 billion in EV manufacturing over the next few years. The companies have also proposed 10 EV battery plants owned jointly with companies including South Korea-based LG Energy Solution and Samsung. Most new EV and battery plants are located in a growing “Battery Belt,” with Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee leading the charge alongside the traditional automotive heartlands of Michigan and Ohio. Many of those states have “right to work” laws that curtail collective bargaining, leading to lower union density and lower pay grades overall. Indeed, the vast majority of the Big Three’s proposed battery plants are nonunion

To keep union membership strong, protect worker safety, and prevent the EV surge from undermining their bargaining power, the union has asked to include EV battery workers in their national contracts. “Now is really the moment, as the industry starts to take off, to ensure that those jobs can be union jobs,” J. Mijin Cha, an environmental studies professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz who studies labor issues and climate justice, told Grist. 

Ford and Volkswagen have estimated that 30 percent less labor is required to build an EV compared to an internal combustion engine car, since EVs don’t require the complex parts needed to build engines and transmissions. Meanwhile, non-union automakers like Tesla and Toyota are gaining an edge in the EV space, and offering substantially lower compensation than the Big Three. Ford has estimated the Big Three’s average hourly labor costs, including benefits, amount to around $65 per worker, compared to about $55 for foreign non-union automakers in the U.S. like Toyota and Nissan. Tesla’s labor costs are even lower — at around $45 to $50 per worker per hour, according to industry analysts. 

Auto workers are watching this change with some trepidation, according to Marick Masters, a professor of management at Wayne State University who studies the auto industry and labor. “The shift to electrification both threatens jobs and it also threatens to establish another lower tier of wages in the industry,” he said. The UAW has so far had a string of organizing failures in the South, mostly associated with the region’s large number of foreign automakers, like Volkswagen and Nissan. 

Totty, the Toledo-based UAW local president, has advocated heavily for union contracts at new battery plants. He personally welcomes the EV shift. His plant, Toledo Propulsion Systems, received $760 million in federal funding to transform the transmission plant into a plant that makes EV parts. Totty doesn’t believe it’ll take much extra training, or that anyone at the plant will lose their job. “We’re embracing it,” he said. What’s more concerning to him is the power and income imbalance between the people who do the backbreaking work at the plant, and the people who own it. 

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Among the UAW’s demands for its new contract is a 40 percent raise over the next four years, which it says is equal to the collective rise in CEO compensation at the Big Three over the past four years. The union has also asked for cost of living adjustments, the reinstatement of pensions, a 32-hour work week, and the elimination of a tiered wage system that pays newer employees less for the same work. So far, the three companies have countered with a 20 percent raise. As of Monday, the companies had not agreed to most of the union’s other demands

In an interview with the New York Times, Ford CEO Jim Farley claimed that meeting UAW demands would prevent the company from investing in EVs. “We want to actually have a conversation about a sustainable future,” he told the Times, “not one that forces us to choose between going out of business and rewarding our workers.”

According to the union, the companies continue to make record-breaking profits, netting over $21 billion in just the first six months of 2023 and $250 billion over the last 10 years. Though the vast majority of those profits come from internal combustion engine cars, with EVs still a relatively small market, the auto companies are already tapping into billions of dollars in federal investments to electrify their fleets. 

EVs are central to President Joe Biden’s climate agenda. Through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration has authorized nearly $100 billion in funding dedicated or availables to support growth in the industry’s domestic supply chain. It’s part of Biden’s plan to, according to a recent Department of Energy EV funding announcement, “Create Not Just More Jobs But Good Jobs, Including Union Jobs.” More than $15 billion of that number is intended to support existing factories in the EV transition, in hopes of keeping manufacturing jobs in communities that rely on them. The administration has also made aggressive regulatory moves to push for EVs — under vehicle emissions standards released by the Environmental Protection Agency in April, EVs would need to make up two-thirds of all car sales in the U.S. by 2031.

Masters says that auto companies are responding to this pressure. “The companies,” he said, “are on board, and their train has left the station. They’re going out of the internal combustion engine business.”

Read Next Biden’s EV charger rollout has begun. Will it deliver on environmental justice?

Some are calling the UAW strike the biggest labor crisis of the Biden presidency so far. The UAW has not yet endorsed Biden as a presidential candidate, citing inconsistencies between the administration’s push for EVs and its close ties with the labor movement. The union has previously criticized the president for lending billions to auto companies for EV manufacturing without requiring protections for union labor. UAW leaders have asked Biden to hold firm on his promises to deliver union jobs with clean energy investment, or else risk the energy transition exacerbating economic inequality.

The strike will continue, UAW has said, as long as parties fail to reach a consensus. Workers are organizing at Big Three factories across the country, preparing to shut them down if the moment calls for it. Experts say that a long-term strike could seriously hurt sales at the Big Three, possibly giving companies like Tesla a competitive edge.

“The UAW supports and is ready for the transition to a clean auto industry,” Fain said in a release. “But the EV transition must be a just transition that ensures auto workers have a place in the new economy.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline How the shift to electric vehicles is fueling the UAW strike on Sep 18, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Deprived of Colorado River water, an oil company’s plans to mine in Utah may have dried up

Grist - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 15:22

The Uinta Basin in northeastern Utah is one of the richest oil shale deposits in the country. It is estimated to hold more proven reserves than all of Saudi Arabia. Enefit, an Estonian company, was the latest in a long line of firms that hoped to tap it.

It’s also the latest to see such plans collapse — but perhaps not yet for good.

The company has lost access to the water it would need to unearth the petroleum and relinquished a federal lease that allowed research and exploration on the land. The two moves, made late last month, appear to signal the end of Enefit’s plans to mine shale oil in the Uinta Basin. 

“If they’re getting cut off from this water, it’s kind of the nail in the coffin for this whole project,” said Michael Toll, an attorney for the Grand Canyon Trust, a conservation nonprofit that opposed the project. “Just ensuring that this water won’t be used for oil shale is a major win for the Colorado River Basin.”

Still, the company may develop other assets in the Basin. In a written statement, Ryan Clerico, Enefit American Oil’s chief executive officer, said that the company holds “extensive private lands and mineral resources in the Uinta Basin” and that it “is currently evaluating a number of different business cases, including some that are unrelated to oil shale.” The company currently leases its private land for grazing, but it has considered solar, wind, and energy storage projects on it, he said. 

“There is no active development or construction on the property, but there are also no definitive or imminent plans to terminate our operations in the U.S.,” Clerico said.

Enefit had over at least the last 15 years secured that federal research and development lease, along with rights to billions of gallons of water and the right of way needed to build the infrastructure for such a massive project. The company hoped to produce 50,000 barrels of oil daily for the next 30 years — almost double the Uinta Basin’s current production. 

The environmental and public health consequences of that would have been staggering. The carbon emissions from burning all that oil is equivalent to the emissions of 63 coal plants, and the water required would serve nearly 60,000 homes for a year. As a result, Grand Canyon Trust has for years fought the project by challenging the water rights and suing the Interior Department for improperly granting the rights of way to build a pipeline and transmission corridor on federal land. 

Enefit’s plans hinged on the ability to access 10,000 acre-feet, or 3.2 billion gallons, of water from the White River, a tributary of the Green River that flows into the Colorado River. Because Utah is not allocating new water rights, Enefit purchased a water right from a public utility called Deseret Generation and Transmission Cooperative in 2011. 

However, Enefit quickly ran afoul of state water laws. Because that resource is scarce in the West, most states, including Utah, require rights holders to “use it or lose it.” Once rights are granted, the recipient must put the H2O to “beneficial use” within a certain time — 50 years, in Utah’s case. Any rights that aren’t exercised in that period revert to the state to prevent water hoarding. 

In Enefit’s case, its right was appropriated in 1965 and due to be returned to the state in 2015. The only exception to the 50-year rule is for public utilities. Since Deseret Generation could apply for a 10-year extension, Enefit transferred the right back to Deseret, which then applied for an extension. Once received, Deseret leased the water to Enefit again. 

The Grand Canyon Trust claimed the move was illegal and raised the issue with the state Division of Water Rights, which approved the transfer and extension. The Trust requested an administrative hearing, which eventually led to a settlement under which Deseret agreed not to use the water for anything other than generating electricity. The agreement, reached late last month, explicitly “prohibits Deseret Power and all other entities or persons from using the water right for fossil fuel mining, extraction, processing, or development.”

“Although the water right is not going to be forfeited, the most important thing for us is that there is a guarantee that this water will not be used for fossil fuel development,” Toll said. 

Enefit has also relinquished a 160-acre federal lease for research and development on the land. Last month, it sent a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees drilling on public lands, noting that it does not plan to convert the research lease into a commercial lease. The Trust’s lawsuits against the Bureau and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are pending in federal court. 

“The Basin already has some of the least healthy air in the country, and this project would have just made it much, much worse,” said Toll. “It’s a win for the environment. It’s a win for public health.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Deprived of Colorado River water, an oil company’s plans to mine in Utah may have dried up on Sep 18, 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Lula scraps Bolsonaro’s cuts to Brazilian climate target ambition

Climate Change News - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 09:10

The Brazilian government has agreed to cancel former president Jair Bolsonaro’s cuts to its climate ambition and to work on a new improved climate target.

The moves were agreed by a group of government ministers at the Interministerial Committee on Climate Change last week.

The government will change Brazil’s climate plan, resuming the level of ambition presented in 2015 “in terms of absolute values ​​of greenhouse gas emissions”, it said.

President Lula Da Silva is expected to officially announce this at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

EU uses pollution tax funds to back Romanian gas pipeline

Izabella Teixeira, Brazil’s former environment minister and Lula advisor, welcomed the decision saying “Brazil finally recognises the mistakes made by the previous government”.

“We have again a baseline pointing in the right direction from whom to discuss the future,” she told Climate Home News. “Brazil has the ambition to do more in the future. It can move from green-wishing to green-doing”.

Claudio Angelo from the Observatorio Do Clima says it is an important first step, but bolder commitments are needed.

“We are finally burying Bolsonaro’s toxic climate governance legacy,” he said. “But this is nowhere near the ambition we need to show in a country whose president says he wants to lead on climate”.

Bolsonaro’s cuts

In its first UN climate plan in 2015, the Brazilian government led by Lula ally Dilma Rousseff pledged to cut emissions by 37% between 2005 and 2025 and by 43% by 2030.

Under UN rules, governments are supposed to progressively increase their ambition but the Bolsonaro administration twice used accounting tricks to weaken its climate goals.

In 2020 it reiterated the same targets but tweaked the baseline emission data, allowing for more emission than the previous version in absolute terms.

The Brazilian climate target in 2015 was more ambitious than its 2020 or 2022 ones. Source: Observatório do Clima

Following pressure from civil society and the international community, the government made a new update in 2022, raising the 2050 target to 50%.

But the proposal still permitted the emission of 70 MtCO2e more than what was first proposed in 2015.

Ana Toni, national secretary for climate change at environment ministry, said the return to stricter targets is “very important symbolically because it helps to end the evil things that the Bolsonaro government did”.

More ambition needed

Toni added that the government will now get to work on a new climate plan, which “will logically be more ambitious than that”. But she did not announce a timeline for its development.

The government has set up two working groups on the new plan – one for emissions-cutting and one for adapting to climate change.

Subgroups will be cretaed to draw up eight emissions-cutting plans for different sectors and 14 adaptation plans.

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Observatorio Do Clima’s Angelo does not expect the new plan to be released before Cop30, which Brazil will host in the Amazonian city of Belém.

Halting deforestation

Brazil is the world’s seventh-largest carbon dioxide emitter, according to Climate Watch, much of it driven by the clearing of trees in the Amazon rainforest.

Deforestation reached record levels under the government of Bolsonaro, who slashed environmental protection programmes.

Before coming back into office, Lula promised to reverse that trend and combat deforestation.

His efforts are achieving some initial results: tree loss has fallen  by nearly a half between January and August, compared to the same period of 2022.

The article was amended on 18/9 after publication to add a comment from Izabella Teixeira and on 19/9 to say that Lula is expected to announce the policy on Tuesday, rather than Wednesday.

The post Lula scraps Bolsonaro’s cuts to Brazilian climate target ambition appeared first on Climate Home News.

Categories: H. Green News

Africa Climate Summit: Historic Turn or Wasted Opportunity?

Green European Journal - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 06:46

After much fanfare, thousands of delegates and dignitaries from around the world descended on Nairobi for the first-ever Africa Climate Summit and first UN regional climate week of 2023. The co-hosts, the African Union and Kenya, chose the theme “Driving Green Growth and Climate Finance Solutions for Africa and the World”.

In the context of broken promises and a deepening climate crisis on the African continent, the bar was set high for an Africa-focused and –led climate summit. While some pinned their hopes on the summit breaking the deadlock on climate finance, others saw it as an opportunity to put African solutions to the climate crisis on the map. Others still expected African leaders to advance the critical look at their climate action thus far ahead of negotiations at COP28 in Dubai. Civil society already critical and mobilised against corporate influence over the meeting certainly expected more accountability, even as they organised a People’s Summit on the sidelines.

With such high expectations, the summit could not afford to under-deliver. On the sidelines of the summit, Jennifer Kwao asked climate justice researcher Roland Ngam whether the meeting lived up to expectations and what the alternatives to the green growth model it promoted are.

Jennifer Kwao: What does the Africa Climate Summit mean for Africa?

Roland Ngam: Coming decades after the Rio Summit, and other similar gatherings, the inaugural edition of the African Climate Summit (ACS) was really long overdue. We are a continent beset by climate crises. We face the biggest impacts of climate challenges caused by others, and we do not have the capacity to respond quickly to many of these issues. So it is an important event that should have happened a long time ago in terms of consolidating African positions in UN COP negotiations and in negotiations with highly industrialised nations and blocs like the European Union.

What is your assessment of the summit so far?

Unfortunately, the organisation seems to have been a bit hasty. The planning is not so well done. It’s clear that those most coordinated and coming here with a clear agenda are organisations, corporations, and partners from the Global North.

To echo the UNHCR African chief’s statement at the summit: “When you come to these gatherings, do not just show up to meetings. You need to hold people to account”. Unfortunately, I have not seen a clear questioning of the system or of Africa’s political economy and its future in the global constellation in the meetings I have followed. A lot of the discussion seems more concerned with what people can capture and accumulate. Just looking at the agenda, many of the discussions are about carbon markets. It is about Africa as a carbon sink, but we are not getting enough money for that. What are we planning to do in terms of the global stocktake? How do we plan to hold the highly industrialised nations to account for historic pollution?

We know that the pollution that is already locked in is causing serious harm to African countries. We’re talking major droughts in the Sahel, famine in Madagascar, massive rains in Cote D’Ivoire, DRC, and so on. Like HOMEF’s Nimo Bassey said last year, “COP is lost and damaged”. And the African Climate Summit is unfortunately starting off just like COP, and it could very quickly also become lost and damaged.

There’s been a lot of talk about growth and investment, which sounds exactly like the EU’s Green Deal and green growth agenda. Where are the African solutions? What would those look like?

African solutions really would be radical in terms of demanding reparations – not just adaptation and mitigation finance – for the Global North’s historic pollution and continued damage to the environment. It would be demanding also reparations for the offshoring of the Global North’s extraction, which has damaged our environment and really impoverished our people. We make some of the cars and that are used in the Global North. Our children are pulled out of classrooms to dig up the transition minerals that they use in their electric cars. Every day, there are massive dumps of pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers to produce citrus fruits, avocados, bananas, strawberries, nuts, grapes and so on for the EU. A few people get rich off of that, but the majority inherit only poverty and toxic chemicals, some of which are banned in the EU. And of course we have to remember that the EU dumps a lot of its electronic waste in Africa.

Reparation is really the number one thing we should be demanding. The second one is that we need to be demanding massive transfers of technology and resources to improve all Africans’ lives, not to get government officials to buy bigger cars. We are here to improve the lives of all African citizens and we should be working towards that objective.

Could our leaders not argue that the discussion on expanding energy production and access, for example, is precisely about helping the ordinary African?

Well, it clearly isn’t. Just look at the hydrogen corridor between South Africa and Namibia, for instance. South Africa’s Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said very clearly that the solutions that are on the table right now are market-based, that is policies developed to incentivise private-sector participation. In other words, they are going to create a framework and they will let private investors come in and leverage the 9-billion-euros opportunity that Germany is offering for green hydrogen projects for example. In addition, African governments want to liberalise energy markets, which would mean companies like Electricité de France take up massive 20 to 30-year contracts. Things like what we’ve seen, for example, in Zimbabwe with the upgrades to a power plant in Hwange, which were done by China through concessional and non-concessional loans. What are we doing to transform energy markets in such a way that the grid, or at least power generation, is owned by African citizens? We are not seeing it. Ordinary Africans are locked out of the negotiation rooms at a time when people-owned and managed grids are more possible than ever before.

Do you think the case for climate reparations for Africa is dead given that this conference is almost not speaking about that?

Unfortunately, too many governments are afraid to bring up this topic because they do not want to rub their partners the wrong way. It is about politeness. It is about kowtowing as usual to former colonial powers. It is about staying within the same paradigm. It is shocking that the person who made the statement: “Who put the CO2 up there that is causing the problem? I’m sorry: PAY UP! You need to pay up!”  is a billionaire, Mo Ibrahim. It is by and large activists who have always pushed governments to achieve the small wins that we are getting. If we look at the language used, it is activists around the world who pushed for “loss and damage” and won that victory at COP 27. It was not governments. But loss and damage is just an insignificant achievement compared to the trillions of dollars that were stolen from the Global South through exploitation of our peoples and environment. And we need to keep up this fight. We have to drag our governments kicking and screaming to the table, just like we did with loss and damage.

African leaders are singing a new song; they are talking about what Africa has to offer and presenting Africa as a business opportunity rather than a burden. Do you find this an appropriate framing, given the historical context of Africa’s resources benefitting everyone but its people and economies?

I think that, like South Africa’s President Ramaphosa said during the recent Summit for a New Global Financing Pact convened by French President Macron, Africa is often treated like a beggar. The number one thing we should understand right now is that it is thanks to the environmentalism of the poor that the planet is still livable. It is thanks to the majority that the planet does not exhaust its carbon credit within the first couple of months every year. The world really needs to understand that to keep that trend, Africa needs financial support as well as technological support so that the majority can live decently while helping the planet stay within its remaining carbon budget.

We are here because of the few in the highly industrialised nations who cause the extractivism, pollution, productivism, hyper-consumerism, and supermarketisation that has driven the world to the brink.

Remember that Africa does not appear on the map in terms of carbon emissions. Every year we are somewhere at 3.9 per cent or less, which tells you that if we were to change course and start polluting like the others, then the risk of three, four, five degrees warming or even higher is much greater. So African countries should be using their negligible contribution to the climate crisis as major leverage – more assertively and aggressively than what we are seeing now.

If not a business opportunity, what should Africa’s climate action be about?

A transformation opportunity. Decency. Quality of life. Happiness. We do not want the 7 billion majority to remain poor. Our aim should be to enable most people on the planet to live sustainable lives with access to universal basic infrastructure: decent housing, education, hospitals, roads, internet, resilient communities, etc. Most people do not want to live in 18-bedroom mansions, neither do they want to drive luxury cars. And so what we have to try and do is to ensure that these people are comfortable in their communities. Give them access to internet, health, schools, hospitals, good roads. Tthis is the ideal that every person seeks. And giving people those basic comforts within their communities should be the absolute priority of COP processes.

What new path could Africa chart without taking on this growth blueprint from the Global North? Are there models that we’re not hearing of, that we should be pursuing?

We need to understand that modern capitalism is a relatively recent invention. The Rostovian social Darwinist development model with its Fordist production system is not more than a century old. The orgy of advertising that we see on our screens every day, which gives us a warped understanding of what development should look like, what self-actualisation should look like, what women should look like – all of those things have really damaged the human psyche. But at the same time we still have alternatives, healthy circular ontologies that still exist and in which many people still live, in harmony with nature. And these communities exist all over the world. Whether we talk about buen vivir in Latin America or we look at different ontologies in Africa, – for example Ubuntu of the bantu ontologies, Voodoo of the Yoruba–  –all these are secular, very healthy ontologies based around respect, conviviality, happiness, fairness, honesty, mutual respect, ecology, only using according to one’s needs, and so on. And that is the kind of model that we should be taking forward. Because when everybody is happy and satisfied, when we are able to share the earth’s resources and carbon budget amongst everybody in an honest, democratic way, then we can finally bring global emissions under control.

The economy on steroids that we have right now works only for a tiny minority, and this is what we should try and dismantle. That would be climate justice.

This interview was conducted at the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi on 5 September 2023.

Categories: H. Green News

Germany to Surpass 50 Percent Renewable Power This Year, Official Says

Yale Environment 360 - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 06:33

Germany is on track to generate more than half of its electricity from renewables this year, an official said Monday.

Read more on E360 →

Categories: H. Green News

Tax the rich, says Oxfam

Ecologist - Mon, 09/18/2023 - 05:56
Tax the rich, says Oxfam Channel News brendan 18th September 2023 Teaser Media
Categories: H. Green News


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