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Category Archives: Climate

Infographic: 5 Things to Know About Europe’s Scorching Heatwave

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

As a Heat Wave Grips the US, Lessons from the Hottest City in America

Julia Kane wrote . . . . . . . . .

Summer is not something to look forward to in Phoenix, Arizona. For many in the hottest city in America, summer is something to survive.

Masavi Perea, 47, knows this well. A former construction worker, he’s now the organizing director of Chispa Arizona, a grassroots group that fights for clean air and water, healthy neighborhoods, and climate action in Latino communities. One of his top priorities is to protect the people in West and South Phoenix who are most likely to suffer, get sick, and even die from extreme heat.

Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S. Last year, there were 338 heat-related deaths in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located — the most of any county in Arizona. Like many other aspects of climate change, extreme heat highlights inequities, such as who lives in a neighborhood with plenty of shade and green space, and who lives in a neighborhood with more pavement than parks.

In a recent study, Dr. Vivek Shandas, a professor of climate adaptation at Portland State University, analyzed temperatures in 108 different urban areas. He found that areas that underwent redlining — the government’s practice of excluding people of color from federally-insured mortgages — were consistently hotter than other areas. “For communities of color, immigrant communities, and lower income communities living in those historically redlined areas, disinvestment brought lots of concrete, asphalt in the form of highways and freeways, big box stores, industrial facilities,” said Shandas. The areas that were redlined are still the hottest areas within cities — sometimes by 18 degrees Fahrenheit, Shandas found.

And that’s outdoors. Within homes, the difference is often greater. On the same day during a heat wave, a home in a wealthy neighborhood with tree-lined streets and access to air conditioning might be 75 degrees, while a home a few miles away in a low-income neighborhood with lots of pavement and no access to air conditioning might be over 120 degrees. “That’s where we run into some pretty big disparities in terms of health outcomes,” Shandas said. “They end up getting exposed to temperatures that are lethal in terms of human health and wellbeing.”

In Phoenix and in other cities across the country, Perea and countless others have been working to help those who are the most vulnerable keep safe from the rising temperatures. “Phoenix is a bellwether,” said Dr. Melissa Guardaro, a research professor at Arizona State University. “People are still dying, and every heat death is an unnecessary death,” she said. But in many ways, the city is better prepared than others that are experiencing more and more extreme heat due to climate change. While more needs to be done, Phoenix does have protocols in place for when extreme heat hits, and was the first city in the country to fund an office of heat response and mitigation. These steps offer an example for other cities throughout the country that are grappling with deadly heat. “Right now it’s happening in Phoenix, but soon, it’s going to be happening everywhere,” Perea said.

Though it may sound basic, Perea says that the first step towards adapting to the heat is to talk with the people who are most at risk. Too often, Perea has seen government officials and nonprofit organizations come into neighborhoods like West Phoenix to try to tell people what to do without bothering to listen. “When people from the outside come to these communities, they already have the solutions. So people, community members, they don’t buy it. They don’t feel part of it,” he said. When outsiders try to communicate with them “from the top down,” it goes nowhere.

A few years ago, Perea participated in a project that took a different approach. A coalition of community based organizations, including Chispa, researchers from Arizona State University and the Nature Conservancy, and city and county officials came together to create hyper-local heat plans for the three neighborhoods most at risk in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

At first, people were distrustful. They could look around their neighborhoods and see streets and parks that had been neglected for years. “People were not expecting the government to do anything,” Perea said. But he and others with roots in the community were able to bring people into face-to-face meetings with local government officials and researchers. Once the people in power started listening to the community, “that’s when many solutions came up, many solutions from our own people,” he said.

At an individual level, people can keep their homes cooler by taking simple, low-budget steps, like using foam tape to seal gaps around doors, or making larger renovations, like installing insulation. At a community level, neighbors can check in on one another, paying particular attention to the elderly or those who might not have as many social connections. At a city level, governments can reverse decades of disinvestment by adding and maintaining green spaces and tree cover and targeting upgrades, like pavement that reflects the sun’s heat, to certain areas. Finally, at a state and federal level, policymakers can make electricity more affordable and offer assistance programs for people who struggle to pay their utility bills.

In the West Phoenix neighborhood that Perea worked with, some of the solutions people proposed included: adding shaded walkways for common routes (along with water fountains), expanding the warning system that lets residents know extreme heat is imminent, and offering first aid training so they could recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke to help each other.

When trying to protect people from extreme heat, “you really need to drill down to the local level in order to do effective interventions,” said Guardaro, who wrote a paper on the process of developing the heat plans in Phoenix. Locals were able to mark the routes children take walking to school and the bus stops that people without cars rely on the most so the group could prioritize where to plant trees or build shade structures. “There are limited funds, and we want to make sure that when we’re making investments, it’s the proper investment in the proper place,” Guardaro said. To do that, local expertise is essential.

Perea says he has seen some improvements as a result of the process. For example, the neighborhood he worked with prioritized renovating a local park. Green spaces help cool neighborhoods and provide a place for people to go when their homes are overheated. The city spent $500,000 to add a new playground (which is shaded), picnic areas with tables and grills (which are also shaded), a walking path, more trees, and a public restroom.

Before, “it was a very depressing park,” Perea said. Now, “that park in the evenings is totally different. You see it’s full of people playing and walking and enjoying their community.”

People need to understand the risks associated with extreme heat and what can be done about them. That’s where Jessica Bueno’s work comes in. Bueno is director of the Urban Heat Leadership Academy, a program run by the Nature Conservancy and the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, a local nonprofit.

The Urban Heat Leadership Academy is a five-month program that meets roughly twice a month and teaches Phoenix residents about how to address the urban heat island effect. It also connects them with academics researching solutions and local government officials responsible for managing the problem.

“The city comes up with plans all day,” said Bueno. “But if residents aren’t implementing it and holding the city accountable, nothing happens.” The goal of the Urban Heat Leadership Academy is that residents learn how to hold the city accountable, advocate for themselves, and implement their own solutions.

In the long term, Phoenix would be in a much better position to protect residents from the heat “if we could figure out how to give safe, affordable, livable housing to everybody who needed it,” said Guardaro, the ASU researcher. In the short term, cooling centers can provide lifesaving relief. That’s where Rosalyn Gorden and other graduates of the academy chose to focus their efforts.

During the pandemic, a cooling center at the Wesley United Methodist Church, a predominantly Black church in South Phoenix, closed down due to staffing shortages. With a grant from The Nature Conservancy and the Phoenix Revitalization Corporation, the graduates reopened the church cooling center, providing an indoor, air-conditioned space, along with cool drinks and snacks, games and activities for children, and toiletries and other supplies for homeless people. It’s open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and it’s the only cooling center in South Phoenix that allows people to bring their pets. The facility is staffed by one full time employee, by nearby nursing students who require community health outreach hours to complete their degree program, and by volunteers from the church and surrounding community.

Gorden grew up in South Phoenix, raised two children there, and remembers serving meals to the homeless with her mother at the church, where her family have long been members. The Urban Heat Leadership Academy “opened the door for me to be able to start getting involved in the community, and to be a part of decision-making,” Gorden said. Reopening the cooling center was “a wonderful opportunity” to do something to help people in her neighborhood, she said.

Last week, the first heat wave of the summer hit the Southwest. In Phoenix on Saturday, temperatures climbed to 114 degrees Fahrenheit, tying the daily record. More extreme heat is coming, but that doesn’t mean that more people have to suffer or die.

Source : Grist

Increased Infectious Disease Risk Likely from Climate Change

Drew Costley wrote . . . . . . . . .

Climate change will result in thousands of new viruses spread among animal species by 2070 — and that’s likely to increase the risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans, according to a new study.

This is especially true for Africa and Asia, continents that have been hotspots for deadly disease spread from humans to animals or vice versa over the last several decades, including the flu, HIV, Ebola and coronavirus.

Researchers, who published their findings Thursday in the journal Nature, used a model to examine how over 3,000 mammal species might migrate and and share viruses over the next 50 years if the world warms by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), which recent research shows is possible.

They found that cross-species virus spread will happen over 4,000 times among mammals alone. Birds and marine animals weren’t included in the study.

Researchers said not all viruses will spread to humans or become pandemics the scale of the coronavirus but the number of cross-species viruses increases the risk of spread to humans.

The study highlights two global crises — climate change and infectious disease spread — as the world grapples with what to do about both.

Previous research has looked at how deforestation and extinction and wildlife trade lead to animal-human disease spread, but there’s less research about how climate change could influence this type of disease transmission, the researchers said at a media briefing Wednesday.

“We don’t talk about climate a lot in the context of zoonoses” — diseases that can spread from animals to people, said study co-author Colin Carlson, an assistant professor of biology at Georgetown University. “Our study … brings together the two most pressing global crises we have.”

Experts on climate change and infectious disease agreed that a warming planet will likely lead to increased risk for the emergence of new viruses.

Daniel R. Brooks, a biologist at University of Nebraska State Museum and co-author of the book “The Stockholm Paradigm: Climate Change and Emerging Disease,” said the study acknowledges the threat posed by climate change in terms of increasing risk of infectious diseases.

“This particular contribution is an extremely conservative estimate for potential” emerging infectious disease spread caused by climate change, said Brooks.

Aaron Bernstein, a pediatrician and interim director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the study confirms long-held suspicions about the impact of warming on infectious disease emergence.

“Of particular note is that the study indicates that these encounters may already be happening with greater frequency and in places near where many people live,” Bernstein said.

Study co-author Gregory Albery, a disease ecologist at Georgetown University, said that because climate-driven infectious disease emergence is likely already happening, the world should be doing more to learn about and prepare for it.

“It is not preventable, even in the best case climate change scenarios,” Albery said.

Carlson, who was also an author on the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said we must cut greenhouse gas and phase out fossil fuels to reduce the risk of infectious disease spread.

Jaron Browne, organizing director of the climate justice group Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, said the study highlights climate injustices experienced by people living in African and Asian nations.

“African and Asian nations face the greatest threat of increased virus exposure, once again illustrating how those on the frontlines of the crisis have very often done the least to create climate change,” Browne said.

Source : AP

What’s Really Holding the World Back from Stopping Climate Change

Rebecca Leber and Umair Irfan wrote . . . . . . . . .

The world is on track to shoot far past climate change targets unless countries make drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Fortunately, many of the tools to make these cuts are already here and are continuing to get cheaper. Yet the pledges to lower emissions that countries have made so far are nowhere near enough, and the world is drifting even further off course.

These are some of the conclusions in the latest report of the United Nations’ independent scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The massive 3,000-page document published Monday is a comprehensive review of the latest science on what it would actually take to mitigate climate change and avoid the most devastating scenarios of warming, and the ensuing chaos.

The report is the third installment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, coming eight years after the last round of research reviews. It zeroes in on a fundamental question: What’s in our power to stop the heat-trapping emissions that come from burning fossil fuels?

The answer: There is a lot in our power, even down to the individual level. Readily available technology across the economy could slash pollution in half by 2030, but it depends more on the level of political will to implement these changes.

The planet has already warmed by more than 1 degree Celsius from burning fossil fuels, enough to begin causing havoc in every part of the globe. These changes are already testing the limits of habitation for millions of people who now face unbearable heat, disaster, drought, and flooding. The actions we take now and over the next eight years will be key in deciding how much worse warming gets this century.

One way to look at the latest IPCC report is as a blueprint for how countries can shift course and aggressively tackle rising emissions across their economies. Another way to see it is as a reminder of broken promises from rich nations that promised ambitious action but are still doing too little to contain pollution. The report notes that as much as 45 percent of global emissions comes from the top 10 percent of households, while the bottom 50 percent contribute about 15 percent of emissions.

“It is a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a speech Monday.

The IPCC process reflects the consensus of thousands of scientists from around the world, but stops short of prescribing exact policies for lawmakers to follow. The report was delayed Monday because of political disputes over how to word the document’s stark findings and some of the language around drawing down fossil fuels.

Fractions of degrees — the difference between 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and 2 degrees Celsius — could make global warming far more destructive. Governments have promised to keep us under these levels, but the world is far away from these targets, and moving farther away every year.

In the most ambitious scenario of limiting warming to around 1.5°C, the report concluded, global carbon dioxide emissions would need to peak in the next three years, and fall by nearly half in the next eight. It means most of the world would need to start to abandon existing fossil fuel infrastructure in the next decade, and also nix any new and existing coal-fired power plants and plans to expand offshore oil drilling. And action must cut across sectors, addressing gas-guzzling transportation, heat-intensive manufacturing operations, and deforestation.

Over thousands of pages, the 278 IPCC authors look at an expansive range of places to tackle pollution, including the energy, transportation, and industry sectors, and examine how consumption patterns, technology, global finance, and politics can help and hinder global climate goals.

Continued fossil fuel infrastructure locks in the worst fate for climate change

In its most blunt terms ever, the IPCC warns that fossil fuels must be phased out to avoid worse warming. The report’s 64-page summary for policymakers concludes that projected carbon dioxide emissions “over the lifetime of existing and currently planned fossil fuel infrastructure” would ensure the world overshoots the 1.5°C target.

This is the closest the IPCC gets to a warning for policymakers about continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure. Containing global warming means that the world will have to leave substantial fossil fuel resources unburned. It translates into $1 trillion to $4 trillion in untapped infrastructure, and even more if the world were serious about limiting warming to 1.5°C.

Coal infrastructure and investments would be the worst off. By 2050, almost the entirety of coal use would need to be phased out. “Coal assets are projected to be at risk of being stranded before 2030, while oil and gas assets are projected to be more at risk of being stranded toward mid-century,” the report states.

Solar and wind investments are the least expensive and most effective action we can take

The power sector is the single biggest driver of global climate pollution. It’s also the most important part of the economy to decarbonize as fast as possible. As the power grid becomes cleaner, then the cars, buses, and buildings that are increasingly powered by electricity also run on renewables instead of running on coal, oil, and gas.

While wind and solar are still a relatively small portion of the power sector at 8 percent of installed electricity, their falling costs make renewables a bright spot in the IPCC report for cleaning up pollution from the power sector.

This is an important distinction from the last time the IPCC looked at this topic in 2014.

Back in 2014, when the IPCC last published a comprehensive report on climate mitigation, wind, solar, and lithium-ion batteries were all more expensive than they are today. The IPCC left room for a future that would include fossil fuels as a major part of the energy mix. The most controversial policy it suggested was the need for the power sector to use an expensive technology that captures carbon dioxide at the power plant to prevent it from heating up the atmosphere. This process, known as carbon capture and storage, is controversial because it gives fossil fuels a lifeline and prolongs the world’s dependence on them. There are also no cost-effective examples of CCS working at a large scale.

Since 2010, the costs for wind energy have dropped by 55 percent, and by 85 percent for solar energy and lithium-ion batteries.

In light of these falling costs, the IPCC notes that by the end of the decade, it would be possible to run a power sector almost entirely on clean energy instead of fossil fuels. It won’t happen on its own. Governments still invest more in fossil fuels than renewable energy. Ending fossil-fuel subsidies alone could reduce global emissions by as much as 10 percent by 2030, the report notes.

Agriculture, industry, and parts of the transportation sector remain toughest to decarbonize

While most greenhouse gas emissions come from energy production, the remaining sources are still significant and are among the most challenging to reduce. The report shows that in the scenarios that keep warming below 2°C, most fossil fuel-related emissions will come from outside of the power sector.

According to the IPCC, about 34 percent of global emissions currently come from energy producers, 24 percent from industry, 15 percent from transportation, and 6 percent from buildings. Agriculture, forestry, and changes in land use account for 22 percent of global emissions.

Part of the challenge is that these other sources are often small, spread out, and owned by many individual private owners, while power plants are large, centralized facilities, governed by states and companies. That makes it harder to scale up interventions to cut emissions. In addition, making materials like chemicals and metals produces greenhouse gases beyond just the energy they use. Coal, for instance, is used to make coke, a vital fuel and reducing agent for making steel.

The report notes that for many of these industrial emitters, there are new low- and zero-emissions alternatives that are coming on the market, but they need a boost from policymakers.

At the same time, materials like cement also inherently produce greenhouse gases. Every pound of concrete made with cement emits about 0.93 pounds of carbon dioxide. That means the main ways to reduce emissions from making these materials is to use less of them, invent a new way of making them, or to soak up their equivalent emissions directly from the air. All of these pose huge technical and cost challenges.

In transportation, the world has made progress in decarbonizing cars and trucks, and now there are multiple technologies that pave the way toward zero-emissions versions of these vehicles. However, the largest vehicles on earth — ships and aircraft — remain a massive technical challenge. There are no alternatives to fossil fuels that provide the needed energy density to cross continents and oceans. And the demand for these forms of transport is poised to grow.

The IPCC report says that biofuels and hydrogen may be the most promising clean technologies for shipping and aviation, but also noted that some of these emissions may never be abated completely. That means some form of carbon dioxide removal would be necessary to zero out the remaining emissions from these vehicles.

There are other pollutants besides carbon dioxide we have to worry about

Keeping climate change in check demands solving several problems at once. It’s not just carbon dioxide that’s the main concern for scientists anymore, but also other powerful greenhouse gas pollutants that make up a smaller portion of the atmosphere. These include dangerous pollutants like hydrofluorocarbons, commonly used in air conditioning, and nitrous oxide, used in medical procedures. But the pollutant that’s rising the fastest and is the second-biggest contributor to warming behind carbon dioxide is methane, the main component of natural gas.

The IPCC report published last fall singled out methane for its role in speeding up global warming. This latest report singles out methane again, but this time focuses on how slashing excess methane emissions from the energy sector plays an important role in containing climate change.

Methane comes from a wide range of sources, like agriculture, landfills, and natural gas drilling. The IPCC notes that between 50 and 80 percent of methane coming from drilling operations and pipelines could be avoided by installing readily available, low-cost technology that monitors and contains leaks.

Politics, not technology, will determine the course of climate change

The IPCC likes to say that its reports are relevant to policymakers, but they aren’t prescriptive. Yet the latest report shows that if world leaders are serious about limiting warming this century, there are only a handful of options that will deliver results in time.

However, the biggest uncertainty isn’t what technologies will be most viable or cost-effective this decade, but what politicians will do with this information.

“Every country must move further and faster,” John Kerry, Biden’s top climate envoy, said in an emailed statement. “Faster means rapidly upscaling deployment of renewable energy. Faster means targeting methane emissions. Faster means reducing demand and focusing on efficiency. Faster means halting and reversing global deforestation. Faster means demanding more sustainable transit.”

The world isn’t moving faster, though. In fact, countries are retreating on climate pledges. Major polluters, including the European Union and the United States, are reconfiguring energy plans due to the disruption in supplies caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Russia has already indicated it will backtrack from its commitments to climate action in light of sanctions on its oil and gas exports. Meanwhile, the Biden administration and Europe are eyeing new gas terminals to make up for Russian exports.

But the impacts of climate change don’t break for war; in many ways, the effects of climate change compound the challenges. For example, a warming world risks widespread drought and crop failures. The war is likely only to exacerbate these effects. Russia’s exports of fertilizer may be affected, alongside Ukraine’s exports of grains.

The biggest question for climate change is not what technologies will break through, but what decision makers will do — not just national governments, but the response from cities and local leaders can shape the course the world takes.

In the run-up to last year’s global climate conference in Glasgow, “there was a lot of tremendous action,” said Pete Ogden, vice president for energy, climate, and the environment at the UN Foundation. “You need to then internalize it and realize it’s not enough. We are nowhere on a glide path here to successfully averting climate disasters.” At next fall’s UN conference in Egypt, countries will have another chance to follow through on the IPCC report, especially by ramping up global finance to fill the gap in funding for clean energy projects.

The latest IPCC report highlights that there are a variety of tools available to meet international climate goals. But they aren’t easy or cheap to deploy, and time is running out.

Source : Vox

Europe Saw Warmest Summer on Record in 2021

Scientists say last summer was the hottest summer on record in Europe, with temperatures a full 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than the average for the previous three decades.

A report released Friday by the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service found that while spring 2021 was cooler than average, the summer months were marked by “severe and long-lasting heatwaves” that saw numerous new temperature records, including an unprecedented 48.8°C (119.8°F) measured in Sicily last August.

The prolonged high temperatures contributed to wildfires such as those seen in Siberia, Greece and Turkey last year, and experts say it increased the likelihood of heavy rainfall of the kind that led to deadly flooding in Belgium and Germany last July more likely.

Sea surface temperatures last year were higher than at any time since at least 1992 in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and parts of the Baltic Sea, where the mercury rose more than 5°C (9°F) above average during the summer months.

Annual wind speeds in parts of western and central Europe were among the lowest since at least 1979, the Copernicus Climate Change Service said. This led to a reduction in the estimated potential for wind power — one of the main sources of renewable energy that European countries are banking on to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation.

The agency’s findings are based on ground-based weather stations and satellite observations dating back to 1950.

Globally, the report showed that 2021 was ranked between the 7th and 5th warmest year on record, depending on the dataset used.

Source : AP

How to Make Snow for a Winter Olympics in a Dry City

Ye Ruolin wrote . . . . . . . . .

Wang Feiteng has spent much of his career keeping an eye on China’s glaciers, making arduous treks into the mountains every year to study how to slow their decline in a warming world.

More recently, however, his work has involved a different kind of ice formation. Wang and his team are in charge of the artificial snow needed for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, set to start on Feb. 4.

Beijing and the mountains to its north — where some of the events, including skiing and snowboarding, will be held — are notoriously arid and see very little snowfall in winter. Moreover, temperatures in February could rise below freezing, and there’s a risk of storms that will dust the top layer of snow in sand. As a result, the Beijing games will rely entirely on artificial snow.

As global snow coverage declines due to climate change, more winter sports events are adopting artificial snow. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, host city Vancouver experienced an unusually warm winter that forced organizers to bring in artificial snow. The Games in Russia’s Sochi and South Korea’s Pyeongchang also could not rely on natural snow.

A recent study, which assumed current global greenhouse gas emissions, concluded that only one of the previous 21 Winter Olympics host cities would have the right climate condition to host the games again by the end of the century.

China does not have a rich history in winter sports. They have only recently become popular among the wider public, picking up only after Beijing won its bid to host the 2022 Games, in 2015, and pledged to “motivate 300 million people to become involved in ice and snow sports.”

Two years later, in 2017, an expert team of the International Ski Federation — the organization responsible for several major Olympic skiing and snowboarding competitions — toured several ski resorts in China and found they didn’t have any pistes that met their standards.

Better artificial snow was needed for the Olympics. Wang, 32, is a glacier researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of a handful of people in China who study how snow changes over time after it falls to the ground. He has spent years observing snow on glaciers and researching how to best preserve snow to slow down glacier melt. But prior to joining the Olympics snow service team in 2016, Wang didn’t know much about making artificial snow — as did barely anyone else in China.

The Olympic snow service team has spent the past four years racing to figure out how to make snow good enough for world-class sporting events that will be held in climate conditions unlike others. Different competitions require various snow textures, and it took the team several winters, numerous experiments in frigid weather, and a trip to Pyeongchang to work out the recipes for the best artificial snow.

Since last November, Wang and his team had been loading cannon-like snowmaking machines with water. These cannons shoot out ice crystals and water droplets, which combine to form snow when it lands on the ground. Mounds of human-made flakes are now piled up near the venues that will host races such as big air, ski jumping, and alpine skiing. Over 70 gold medals will be handed out for games on snow during the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Wang’s work now consists mostly of meticulously checking on the snow piles, measuring their grain size, temperature, and density to make sure they are optimal for the Games ahead.

Speaking with Sixth Tone over the phone from Beijing, Wang discusses the technology involved in making snow for the Games, how climate change poses a challenge, and how his Olympic job compares to his usual research. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Sixth Tone: What do you need to make artificial snow?

Wang Feiteng: All that’s needed is water, which is put through the snow cannons where the water combines with air to make snow. But different games require different snow densities.

For games like cross country skiing and Nordic combined, we want snow that’s the most similar to fresh, natural snow, which has a density of around 200 kilograms per cubic meter. For big air events, we want less powdery snow with a density of around 400 to 500 kilograms per cubic meter.

Snow for alpine skiing events, including downhill and slalom, is the most difficult because its density has to reach 650 kilograms per cubic meter. We call this type “icy snow,” for it is almost as hard as ice so skiers can race at their top speed, but needs to remain snow so skis and snowboards can still carve into it.

To make icy snow, we use pumps to inject water into the artificial snow on the ground to produce snow grains of the right size to reach the desired snow slope density. The process is harder than it sounds because multiple environmental factors such as temperature and wind can affect the snow quality. We spent years running tests to figure out the optimal combination of parameters for the weather in Beijing, like water pressure and injection time.

Sixth Tone: Is all the snow for the Games already made?

Wang Feiteng: Yes. The games are about to start, so we had all the snow made last November and December, during the coldest time of the year.

One reason is that snowmaking cannons work the most efficiently when the temperature is below -10 degrees Celsius. More snow could be produced with the same amount of water compared to slightly warmer weather. Beijing is beginning to warm up, so running the cannons now would be more resource-intensive.

All the snow is stored outside in empty spaces near the venues and covered with large reflective pieces of cloth, so sunlight doesn’t melt the snow.

The snow density changes as the snow is piled up because of factors like changes in temperature and gravity. We have taken that into consideration when we make the snow. For example, if we’re making snow to be used in two months, we will make snow that’s lighter, which will become denser as it sits in a pile. I have studied how snow on glaciers changes over time for years, so this is where my expertise comes in.

Wang Feiteng’s team test creating most suitable snow conditions for alpine skiing at the National Alpine Ski Centre, Beijing, December 2021. Courtesy of Wang Feiteng
Wang Feiteng’s team test creating most suitable snow conditions for alpine skiing at the National Alpine Ski Centre, Beijing, December 2021. Courtesy of Wang Feiteng

Sixth Tone: Does Beijing’s climate pose a challenge to maintaining snow quality for the Games?

Wang Feiteng: We have designed contingency plans for different weather events like snow, rain, and sandstorms. If any of that happens, it will change the snow condition on the slopes’ surface. We will need to scrape the top layer of snow off and replace it with a new layer of stored snow.

Fresh, natural snow isn’t actually good for the competitions except for events like cross-country skiing that use a more natural snow track. For high-speed alpine skiing, the fluffy natural snow is actually dangerous. Because of the differences in density, the natural snow layer would have low friction against the icy snow layer underneath, increasing the risk of an avalanche.

Sixth Tone: Does climate change bring challenges to snow service?

Wang Feiteng: Certainly. For one, a warming climate means there’s less time for snowmaking cannons to work efficiently. The majority of ski resorts in the world use artificial snow, so the impact is significant. Ski resorts would also have to shorten their open season, because snow melts quickly. It’s not great when we want to encourage more people to participate in these winter sports.

Sixth Tone: Is making snow for the Winter Olympics difficult work?

Wang Feiteng: It isn’t compared with glacier research. Even though we have to conduct experiments outdoors in winter, we usually work at ski resorts, which are very close to cities and have modern amenities.

When I go on expedition trips to glaciers in China’s northwest in the summer, which is also frigid cold, we go to regions that are usually uninhabited and undeveloped. Most of the time, we have to hike on ice for hours, sleep in tents, and spend days without a phone signal.

So, compared to that, working on snow service for the Winter Olympics is not very hard work.

Sixth Tone: What makes you proud?

Wang Feiteng: To be honest, before I’m tasked with snow-making for the Games, I simply assumed there would be no obstacles in hosting the Winter Olympics, especially considering our country’s economic strength. But after I started working in this area, I realized China had barely any experience, no talent, and no technology to provide snow service for the Games. We have institutions for training professional skiers and snowboarders, but no one researched snowmaking scientifically.

We had to start from scratch. But now, I’m proud to say that we are the first team in China to study snowmaking, including snow storage, for sporting events. We published the first scientific papers in this area in China and trained the first group of graduates to do research in the field.

Source : Sixth Tone

Infographic: Climate Hazards Reported by World Large Cities

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Business Week

Electric Cars Aren’t Just Vehicles. They’re Big Batteries.

Neel Dhanesha wrote . . . . . . . . .

Joe Biden is a self-professed “car guy.” As of late, he’s become an electric car guy. And he wants his fellow Americans to be electric car people too. Transportation is responsible for 29 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions, and Biden’s ambitious climate policy, which aims to create a net-zero economy in the US by 2050, partially hinges on Americans switching from gas- to electric-powered cars and trucks.

But Biden is running into roadblocks. While the bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law in November included funding to build half a million EV chargers across the nation, the Build Back Better bill that would have included thousands of dollars in tax credits to help Americans buy electric cars is currently stalled in the Senate as Democrats try to find a compromise that satisfies Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has refused to sign it in its current form. Another challenge is how Americans feel about EVs compared to traditional cars: A 2021 Pew Research Center report found that 51 percent of US adults oppose a proposal to phase out production of gasoline-powered cars and trucks.

So what will it take to convince more people to embrace EVs? One answer might be for everyone to rethink what EVs actually are. Most Americans, including Biden, talk about electric vehicles solely as modes of transport — which is understandable, given they have motors and wheels and get us around. But they are so much more than cars: they’re batteries, and batteries have uses far beyond transport. Done right, integrating EVs into American society could help prevent power blackouts, stabilize the US’s crumbling electric grid, and make solar and wind energy more reliable sources of power for more people. The first step is to stop thinking about electric vehicles as cars that happen to be powered by batteries, and instead see them as batteries that happen to be inside cars.

Getting there won’t be easy. “This sort of perception issue can be a challenge because it’s really a paradigm shift,” said Sam Houston, a senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science-focused nonprofit based in Massachusetts. Historically, vehicles have mostly had a singular use in American society: to get people and goods from one place to another. Outside of ride-sharing, cars only serve their owners. Most gas-powered cars spend the majority of the day sitting idle while we are at home or work. But electric cars can do a lot when they’re not moving.

“What we need to get to is not just thinking about vehicles for transportation and a grid to support those vehicles, but sort of a mutually beneficial relationship between grids and vehicles,” Houston told Recode. As an example, she pointed to renewable energy: One of the biggest challenges to integrating renewable energy into the grid is that it’s unpredictable. Sometimes there may be too much wind and solar energy, and there’s no good way to store the excess. Instead, extra renewable energy often goes to waste untapped. Electric vehicles, Houston said, could be a solution to this problem.

A car left at a charger in an office parking lot during the workday, for example, can optimize its charging schedule so that most or all of the power used to charge the car comes from renewable sources, making the most of clean energy that might otherwise go wasted.

An electric vehicle charges in a parking garage next to a parking space reserved for EV charging.
Widespread charging infrastructure could help make integrating EVs into the grid a reality. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
EVs can also be useful to the grid even if there’s no clean energy available. Utility engineers are continually making adjustments to the amount of power flowing through the grid to ensure electricity is being generated and delivered at a consistent frequency. Too little power generation to meet demand is one of the most obvious reasons for blackouts, but too much power is just as big an issue. Electric vehicles could act like sponges in those situations, explained Kyri Baker, an assistant professor of engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

“If you have a bunch of EVs just sitting in a parking lot, they can charge or stop charging in order to make small minute adjustments in the supply and demand balance to maintain frequency,” Baker told Recode. Instead of simply charging their batteries to full as soon as they’re plugged in, cars that are sitting at chargers for extended periods of time can wait to charge until the grid needs help getting rid of excess energy, or they can reserve a portion of their batteries for helping with frequency regulation.

That’s just the beginning. One of the most ambitious uses of EV batteries comes from a concept called bidirectional charging, or sending electricity back out of an EV to charge things ranging from power tools at construction sites to entire homes during blackouts.

This is particularly alluring in an era of more frequent and more severe blackouts caused by extreme weather: EV owners could conceivably get power at home during blackouts by plugging their car into a charger in their home — and this would eliminate the need for the sometimes deadly, carbon monoxide-spewing diesel generators many people currently rely on.

Electric vehicle manufacturers are starting to use this idea as a selling point. Volkswagen’s electric vehicles will support bidirectional charging starting this year, and Ford’s upcoming F-150 Lightning, an electric version of the country’s most popular pickup truck, is designed to be able to power an entire home for up to three days. An early ad for the F-150 Lightning, released about three months after a series of winter storms in Texas knocked out power for millions and killed hundreds across the state in 2021, showed off the truck’s credentials: It can “help build your house,” the ad’s narrator said, “and if need be, power that house.”

The marketing seems to be working; as of December, nearly 200,000 people had preordered the F-150 Lightning. “Ten years ago I never would have thought that Ford would have put out an electric F-150, and I would have also never predicted how many people would have preordered it, especially in rural and conservative areas,” said Baker. “Climate change is hitting everywhere in the US, and so whether you believe in the science behind it or not, you want to protect your family. Having a large battery that can be a backup generator is just one way to do that.”

Not every carmaker is as open to bidirectional charging as Ford and Volkswagen, though. The batteries in electric vehicles are larger versions of the lithium-ion batteries used in phones and laptops, and they degrade over time just as the batteries in our phones do — which means the range of an EV will reduce over time. Most electric vehicles come with battery warranties that are voided if the batteries are discharged to power something else, in part because constantly charging and discharging a battery can make it degrade faster.

Baker isn’t quite as worried about degradation as some others in the industry. “Every time I have these conversations with people about bidirectional charging, the pushback is always that it’ll degrade the battery,” Baker told Recode. “But if you take a look at how often people in the US replace their cars, I don’t think that’s going to be a roadblock. In terms of the car’s lifespan, I feel like we’re blowing this out of proportion.” Americans tend to keep their cars for 12 years on average, and electric vehicles often enter the used car market long before their batteries see major degradation.

And batteries can still be useful even if they’re too degraded for use in cars. Houston told Recode they tend to be considered too degraded once they can only hold about 80 percent of the original capacity, which is still a significant amount of energy. “We really need to figure out the reuse and recycling angle for after the vehicle is done and the battery may have a lot of capacity left,” Houston said.

One possible solution — and another reason to see EVs as more than vehicles — is that old EV batteries can be removed from cars and used to store solar and wind power. This idea is already seeing some traction: A startup called B2U Storage Solutions has set up an energy storage facility in California that stores enough energy in an array of 160 used Nissan Leaf batteries to power more than 90 homes a day. And Hyundai is partnering with a solar energy developer and a utility company serving San Antonio, Texas, to set up a similar facility.

The obvious next step, Baker says, is to solve the degradation and recycling problems at the same time by setting up processes that would allow EV owners to easily swap out their old batteries in much the same way you can replace the battery in your phone. Those degraded batteries could then be sent to energy storage facilities like the one in California.

On a technical level, repurposing EV batteries for non-transport uses is fairly easy to set up, explained Mike Jacobs, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. The same cable that delivers energy to an EV can be used to draw energy out of the battery and use it to power a home. But it’s more complicated when it comes to energy policy and logistics in the US. Most homes aren’t wired for receiving backup power in blackouts — Ford’s own website includes the caveat that backup power would only work “when home is properly equipped” with a switch that disconnects the house from the grid. And just as many parts of the US power grid aren’t set up to integrate solar and wind power into regular operations, it’s not equipped to draw on energy from electric cars when needed.

The main problem, Jacobs told Recode, is that utility companies have historically had a monopoly on energy generation in the country, and they’re unwilling to let go of their literal and metaphorical power. “It really comes down to the enthusiasm of the utility to sort it out,” Jacobs said. “And whether there’s any value for them to spend the time on it.” Profit-wise, there doesn’t seem to be a reason why a utility would want to do that.

One of the starkest examples of the hold utilities have over energy generation in the US comes from solar panels, Baker told Recode. For the safety of their linesmen, utilities set up the circuits in most homes to simply shut down in a blackout, even if backup power is available. “If you have rooftop solar, chances are, during a grid outage, your rooftop solar won’t be able to power your house,” Baker said. “This is a huge issue because people buy solar thinking they’re going to power their houses during an outage.” To make rooftop solar — and backup power from EVs — work during a blackout, Baker explained, homeowners would have to wire their panels and EV charger on a separate circuit from the energy provided by the utility, which is a costly proposition that also undoes the benefits of integrating EV batteries into the grid.

But we don’t have to make a choice between the grid and backup power from EV batteries: They can coexist, and effectively integrating them could have a significant impact on emissions. “The technology is here,” said Houston. “It’s a matter of breaking down the policy and administrative barriers.”

Breaking down those barriers would help create a paradigm shift in how we think about electricity generation, just as using our cars as batteries would be a paradigm shift. Electric vehicles are by no means a magic fix to our climate woes — there are plenty of sources of greenhouse gas emissions outside of cars, and a reduction in transportation emissions will only go so far if our EVs get their energy from fossil fuel-powered plants. But their potential stretches far beyond their wheels, and more Americans recognizing that could mean more will decide to make the switch to electric. Saving our planet is going to require big, bold changes; buying a battery that just so happens to provide transportation is the rare tangible contribution regular folks can make to help solve the climate crisis.

“And in reality,” said Jacobs, “when we’re talking about giving up fossil fuels, this all counts.”

Source : Vox

China Directs State Firms to Make Deep Cuts to Energy Use to Meet Emissions Goals

China’s top state assets regulator urged major state companies to do more to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions as part of efforts to help Beijing realize its climate pledges.

By 2025, the country’s central government-controlled state-owned enterprises must slash their energy consumption per unit of output value by 15% and carbon dioxide emissions by 18%, compared with 2020 levels, according to guidance published Thursday by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) of the State Council, China’s cabinet.

Source : Caixin

Read more at 国务院国资委

关于推进中央企业高质量发展做好碳达峰碳中和工作的指导意见 . . . . .

COP26 Ends in Humiliating Failure

Paul Homewood wrote . . . . . . . . .

The UN’s climate agenda has finally hit the buffers in Glasgow.

It almost happened in Copenhagen 12 years ago, when developing nations refused to limit their economic growth to satisfy the West. It was only the promise of hundreds of billions of dollars that persuaded them to come along for the ride.

The can was kicked down the road again in 2015 at Paris, when developing countries were given carte blanche to carry on increasing emissions.

But sooner or later, the time would come for action, not talk. And when it came to the crunch, the developing nations rebelled, led by India, China, South Africa and Iran. The touchpaper was this clause in the Draft Agreement, which was presented to the conference yesterday:

India along with a host of like minded countries knew that they could not run their economies without coal and other fossil fuels, never mind grow them and relieve poverty. Faced with the whole Agreement being lost, Alok Sharma and the UN organisers backed down, and replaced the words “phase-out” with “phase-down”. Just one word changed, but its effect was devastating for the Agreement.

Given that there is no obligation to do any of this (hence the term “Calls”), and no timescales are mentioned, India and the rest can interpret this clause any way they want. (Unabated coal, by the way, means where the carbon is not captured). In short, they will be able to carry on burning all the coal they want, for as long as they want.

The rest of the Agreement is pretty weak and ineffectual as well. It is full of terms such as “urges”, “requests” and “invites”, which mean there is no obligation on anybody to do anything.

And all COP26 has really agreed on is to meet up again next year and discuss things again.

In terms of Mitigation, ie reducing emissions, countries who have not yet submitted new plans are requested to do so next year. But if they have not done so yet, it is hardly likely they will come up with anything meaningful next year.

The Agreement inevitably “reaffirms” the 1.5C target. It would have been politically impossible to do otherwise. However, 1.5C was never an option, and was effectively kicked into touch at Paris, when it was acknowledged that emissions would carry on rising till 2030. According to the science, emissions would need to be cut in half in this decade to hit 1.5C, something which is clearly not remotely possible now.

Parties are also requested to come back next year with strengthened targets. But again, are countries that have just submitted new targets this year going to propose anything significantly different next year?

Then, of course, there is the money. There is a lot of “urging” and “requesting” developed countries to cough up:

But already the bar is being raised, with the third world demanding ever more. One significant item introduced at COP26 is the demand by developing nations that finance for adaption to climate change should be ramped up at the expense of mitigation.

In other words, they don’t want money for solar panels. They’d rather have it for building resilience against climate change (by which they mean weather!).

One further blow to those demanding western money has been the neutering of their Loss and Damage agenda. This is the ludicrous claim that all weather disasters are due to global warming, and that rich countries should therefore pay poor ones every time there is a bit of bad weather.

That was too much for even Joe Biden to accept, as it would leave the West on the hook for ever. The Glasgow Pact has effectively kicked this into touch, just promising more talks at some time in the future.

Naturally supporters of the UN agenda, such as the BBC, have tried to make the best of a bad job, claiming that “progress has been made”. The absurd Matt McGrath calls it “ambitious” and “progressive”.

Some have even claimed that the 1.5C target is still alive. Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change, for instance stated:


This shows just how out of touch he is with reality. Living in his little bubble, he seems to think the rest of the world shares his obsession with climate change.

But as the Climate Action tracker reaffirms, emissions will carry on growing, despite the new plans submitted to COP26:


The end of the road.

In my view, we have seen the beginning of the end for the UN’s climate agenda.

There will no doubt be many more COPs to come. And there will be annual warnings from Prince Charles that we have 12 more months to save the planet.

But the writing is now on the wall. Developing countries around the world are standing up and refusing to cut back on fossil fuels, because they know they have no alternative if they want to grown their economies and give their people a better life.

They have got off the Climate Train.

So should we.

Source : Not A Lot Of People Know That