Peter Coy | ‘The Most Important Number You’ve Never Heard Of’ – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“There’s a good reason climate change is called the policy problem from hell. Several good reasons, actually, but let’s start with a big one: Fighting climate change forces society to spend real money today to reap benefits that will occur over hundreds or even thousands of years. We’re not set up to be that farsighted, either financially or mentally.

Ideally, we would know precisely how much damage each ton of greenhouse gas emissions does to the environment (we don’t). We would know how much each dollar of economic output contributes to emissions, now and in the future. We would know how quickly the population and the economy will grow, including how rich we’ll all be in the future. Does it make sense for us to deprive ourselves today in order to make the planet more habitable for our great-great-grandchildren? If you answer yes, how much should we tighten our belts — a little or a lot?

Trying to answer such questions is “totally ridiculous and no one in their right mind would attempt to do it,” James Stock, a Harvard University economist, said on Sept. 9 at a virtual conference put on by the Brookings Institution.

Ridiculous, yes, but also essential, as Stock recognizes. There is no alternative. Stock moderated a session on a new paper that attempts to calculate the social cost of carbon — that is, the economic harm done by each incremental ton of carbon dioxide. That paper, which draws on the wisdom of the world’s top experts in economics, climatology and other fields, aims to inform the Biden administration, which has promised to announce its own calculation of the social cost of carbon in January.”

Court Blocks a Vast Alaskan Drilling Project, Citing Climate Dangers – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Alaska on Wednesday blocked construction permits for an expansive oil drilling project on the state’s North Slope that was designed to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years.

The multibillion-dollar plan, known as Willow, by the oil giant ConocoPhillips had been approved by the Trump administration and legally backed by the Biden administration. Environmental groups sued, arguing that the federal government had failed to take into account the effects that drilling would have on wildlife and that the burning of the oil would have on global warming.

A federal judge has agreed.

In her opinion, Judge Sharon L. Gleason of the United States District Court for Alaska wrote that when the Trump administration permitted the project, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management’s exclusion of greenhouse gas emissions in its analysis of the environmental effects of the project was “arbitrary and capricious.””

Margaret Renkl | I Don’t Want to Spend the Rest of My Days Grieving – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — Sometimes I remember how I tried to comfort my children when they encountered a setback or were disappointed that a dream they were nurturing had not yet come true.

“Life’s a long process,” I would say, echoing my father’s reassurances. “There’s still time.”

But that was long ago, when I was still young enough to believe those words of comfort. Now my father is gone, and my mother too, and I know that life is not at all a long process. Life is the glint of light on rushing water, a flash of lightning. Life is a single wink from a single lightning bug.

How brief is the season of “splendour in the grass,” as the poet William Wordsworth put it, and surely summer is the time that brings such lessons closest to home. The dog days of August crisp the spring-green underbrush to crackling tinder. The children trudge back to school under a blistering sun. We wonder: What has become of the languorous summer we longed for back in the sadness of winter? Where did the endless, grass-fragrant days go?”

In Fighting Climate Change, What’s an Individual to Do? – The New York Times

“Watching deer forage for whatever bits of food they can find through the cold months of winter, I can understand why some people feel an urge to feed them. Only supplemental feeding isn’t helpful at all to deer. Instead, it’s detrimental to their digestive health, and it pulls them away from safer, more nutritious food sources.

“Supplemental feeding has little or no benefit to the overall health of deer,” said Nick Fortin, Deer Project Leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “Interestingly, northern deer will lose weight in winter no matter what or how much they are fed, even in captivity.”

Like virtually all animals living in climates where winter is cold and snowy, deer use a variety of adaptations to adjust and survive. In the northern part of the Northeast, they often gather in deer yards, where softwood cover offers shelter from wind and cold as well as decreased snow depth. As deer move to and through their winter shelter, they pack down paths, allowing for easier travel to food and quicker escapes from predators.

In winter, deer reduce their energy expenditures by hunkering down during extended cold stretches; this way they can focus their activity during times when temperatures are warmer. Similar to animals that hibernate, deer store fat – it can constitute up to 20 percent of their body weight, said Fortin – and they can use that fat as a sort of energy savings account.

A deer’s digestive system also goes through changes to cope with less abundant – and different – food sources. Deer are ruminants, which means they have a four-chambered stomach, like cows and sheep. Each chamber contains microorganisms to help with digestion. These microbes become tuned in to a winter diet of twigs and buds, nuts, any fruits and berries that persist, and whatever grasses they can find. A sudden change in diet – say to supplemental corn or rich hay – can wreak havoc on this system. . . . .

. . . .Mr. Greenberg said some things mattered more than others. Using paper straws and LED light bulbs is not a huge way to reduce your carbon footprint. But steering clear of bottled water does help, since it takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce the world’s plastic water bottles each year.” . . . .

Ellen MacArthur on the Circular Economy | Morgan Stanley

Ellen MacArthur, the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, talks with Chief Sustainability Officer Audrey Choi about designing an economy that keeps materials in use to reduce waste.

How do some of the most influential figures in government and business imagine tackling the world’s major sustainability challenges?

In this series from the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, Chief Sustainability Officer Audrey Choi sits down with policymakers, CEOs and nonprofit leaders to talk about ideas for systemic change.

Source: Ellen MacArthur on the Circular Economy | Morgan Stanley

A Bet 20 Years Ago Made It the Exxon of Green Power – The New York Times

“MADRID — In the winter of 2015, three directors of a Connecticut electric company met with a potential acquirer: a determined Spanish utility executive named José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, who surprised them with a bold vision for America’s utility industry.

“He was very clear then that he saw the U.S. as having enormous potential in renewable energy,” said John L. Lahey, who was chairman of the company, United Illuminating. “This guy six years ago was already way ahead of where the U.S. was.”

Mr. Galán clinched that deal for United Illuminating for $3 billion. His company, Iberdrola, is now poised, with a Danish partner, to begin constructing the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the United States, in waters off Massachusetts. Over all, Iberdrola and its subsidiaries reach 24 U.S. states and have investments in countries from Britain to Brazil to Australia.

For the past 20 years, since he took over Iberdrola, based in Bilbao with 37,000 employees, Mr. Galán has been on a mission to upend the electrical utility industry, a fragmented collection of companies tied to aging coal- and oil-burning generators.  . . . “

Tesla’s Latest Solar Stumble: Big Price Increases – The New York Times

“On an October evening five years ago, Elon Musk used a former set for “Desperate Housewives” to show off Tesla’s latest innovation: roof shingles that can generate electricity from the sun without unsightly solar panels.

After delays, Tesla began rolling out the shingles in a big way this year, but it is already encountering a major problem. The company is hitting some customers with price increases before installation that are tens of thousands of dollars higher than earlier quotes, angering early adopters and raising big questions about how Tesla, which is better known for its electric cars, is running its once dominant rooftop solar business.

Dr. Peter Quint was eager to install Tesla’s solar shingles on his 4,000-square-foot home in Portland, Ore., until the company raised the price to $112,000, from $75,000, in a terse email. When he called Tesla for an explanation, he was put on hold for more than three hours.

“I said, ‘This isn’t real, right?’” said Dr. Quint, whose specialty is pediatric critical care. “The price started inching up. We could deal with that. Then this. At that price, in our opinion, it’s highway robbery.”  . . . :

Kate Aronoff | Biden’s Climate Summit Won’t Save the World – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/22/opinion/climate-pledge-summit.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

I do not endorse this op-ed, but find it has some good and perhaps some bad ideas. It will be worth studying, to determine which is which. The thesis, that the oil and gas establishments are embedded in our trade and policy laws is probably true, and will require serious attention and reform.

April 22, 2021

Credit…Illustration by Jim Datz/The New York Times; Photographs by Doug Mills/The New York Times and Charles O’Rear/Getty Images

” “We travel together, passengers on a little spaceship, dependent on its vulnerable reserves of air and soil … preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work and, I will say, the love we give our fragile craft,” Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in 1965. That ethos would inspire a generation of environmentalists to see the fates of this planet’s inhabitants as intertwined. By contrast, the ecologist Garrett Hardin, who was labeled a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in 1974 urged a “lifeboat ethics”: for rich countries to be “on our guard against boarding parties” in predominantly nonwhite countries whose residents he saw as an intolerable strain on the planet’s resources.

Racked by ever-worsening fires and floods, our little craft is not doing well. This week, the White House is welcoming world leaders to a virtual summit on curbing climate destruction. Countries will present their plans to meet the goal inscribed in the Paris Agreement to cap warming at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. President Biden has pledged to cut emissions at least in half from 2005 levels by 2030, aiming for “net zero” emissions by 2050.

But accounting for the United States’ outsize responsibility for the climate crisis requires much bolder action, according to a recent recommendation from several groups, including Friends of the Earth U.S. and ActionAid USA: “a reduction of at least 195 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” compared with 2005 levels by 2030 — 70 percent cuts within U.S. borders and “the equivalent of a further 125 percent reduction” by providing support for emissions reductions abroad.

The question, then: Does the White House want to helm a spaceship or a lifeboat?  . . . “

Biden’s American Jobs Plan Prioritizes Renewable Infrastructure Investment Opportunities | Locke Lord LLP – JDSupra

“The American Jobs Plan and Made in America Tax Plan (the “Plan”), announced by the Biden Administration on March 31, 2021, place heavy emphasis on renewable energy, electrical grid improvements, and climate change-related carbon reductions. In addition to transportation infrastructure repairs, the Plan prioritizes investment in renewable and clean energy technologies.

Roughly $800 billion of the $2 trillion plan directly or indirectly increases investment in renewable energy, electric grid improvement, and climate change mitigation through investments in:

  • Electric vehicles and associated Infrastructure ($174 billion)
  • Public infrastructure resilience to withstand climate disasters  ($50 billion)
  • Clean energy research and development ($180 billion)
  • Electricity grid improvements ($100 billion)
  • Advancement of clean energy manufacturing and technology ($300 billion)

The Plan also proposes a ten-year extension and phase down of an expanded direct-pay production tax credits (“PTCs”) and investment tax credits (“ITCs”) for clean energy generation and storage, continuing the federal incentive to continue solar and wind development through 2031.” . . .

Source: Biden’s American Jobs Plan Prioritizes Renewable Infrastructure Investment Opportunities | Locke Lord LLP – JDSupra

Margaret Renkl | Even for Bargain Hunters, Green Cars Make Sense – The New York Times

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald, via Getty Images

“NASHVILLE — In this family, we are not new-car people. My husband and I buy used vehicles, and we keep them until the cost of patching them up far exceeds their value, a time-honored practice known as driving a car into the ground. We don’t drive a lot, either: My husband works a mile and a half from our house, and I work from a home office. I kept thinking about electric cars anyway.

We didn’t actually need a new vehicle when we started shopping. My 2006 minivan was working fine, and my husband’s 2001 minivan was working fine, too. But it was 2019, and our youngest child was a junior in college. We had long since aged out of the minivan cohort.

Meanwhile, evidence of the growing climate calamity was becoming clearer and grimmer with every new study — and with every wildfire, every drought, every hurricane — even as the Trump administration kept rolling back environmental protections at a breathtaking rate. I felt a rising desperation to do everything possible to reduce my own carbon footprint, to foster as much biodiversity as I could on my own little half-acre plot of ground.

The earth cannot be saved by personal actions alone, but there are many practical ways a person can help the environment anyway: lowering the thermostat, buying organics, eating less meat, skipping the lawn-care chemicals, planting native shrubs and trees, buying carbon offsets, subscribing to a renewable energy program, eliminating single-use plastics and other disposables. All of those changes, and many others, are important because they mean treading a bit more lightly on a suffering earth.

But the single greatest change we can make is to change the way we get around. “Transportation is the largest source of planet-warming greenhouse gases in the United States today, and the bulk of those emissions come from driving in our cities and suburbs,” as Nadja Popovich and Denise Lu noted in a feature for The Times last fall. According to their interactive map, total greenhouse emissions rose 88 percent in Nashville from 1990 to 2017, and that’s not simply because of population growth. Per-person emissions were up 9 percent in the same time frame. Never mind the environment: At this rate, Nashvillians will soon find it difficult to breathe.”

“. . . Biking and walking are the most ecologically sound ways to get around, of course, and taking public transportation is second best. But if, like my family, you live in a place with a profoundly limited public-transportation system and few pedestrian-friendly streets, driving is a necessary evil. If you have to go somewhere, an electric vehicle is the third-best way to get there.”  (They bought an electric Nissan Leaf. It drives like a sports car.)

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
 
Thank you Margaret Renkl, and welcome to the club of extremely happy Nissan Leaf drivers. We have the 2018, with only a range of about 150 miles, but we use it for everything but long out of state trips, which are on hold under covid. We told our salesman we were too poor to use the $7500 federal tax credit, and the dealership suggested a lease, where Nissan would take over the tax credit and reduce the cost by $7500. We discovered by talking to the Green Bank, that this was legal and legitimate. Since I put 54 solar panels on the roofs of my house, we are now a 15 kW per year power plant, running the Leaf, and a used Prius Prime, also all electric for almost 25 miles. We have also added LG ductless splits to most rooms of the house, so we are also now heating and air conditioning with our solar electricity, and the natural gas furnace is relegated to pilot mode, as our emergency or extreme cold weather back up. An electric, heat pump hot water heater also replaced its gas run predecessor. Thanks to writers like you, Margaret, we have started a pollinator garden in the back, and now we are eying our gas stove. Now, if we can pass a carbon tax, . . .