Energy & Environment — New UN report sounds climate alarm
Today we’re looking at the new IPCC climate report, an estimate of financial climate risks and what could be next for the Biden administration’s use of the Defense Production Act.
Let’s jump in.
UN calls for ‘substantial reduction’ in fossil fuels
The United Nations’ climate change panel is calling for a “substantial reduction” in the global use of fossil fuels in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Warning there is limited time to act, the latest report from the panel says that by 2030, greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut by at least 43 percent to prevent 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming at the end of the century — a key threshold that would help the world evade much of the potential climate damage.
“We have a really, really stark task ahead of us,” said Stephanie Roe, a lead author of the report and global climate and energy lead scientist at the World Wildlife Fund.
Panel urges ‘large-scale’ action: “The amount of emission reductions that we need to achieve over the next decade is unprecedented and … it needs to be almost immediate, as soon a possible, and it needs to be at a very large scale,” Roe said.
The report also calls for emissions to reach their peak in the next few years, before 2025 at the latest.
Jim Skea, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which produced the report, warned that the next few years are critical.
“It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C,” Skea said in a statement.
Drilling down on the specifics: To make the necessary reductions, the report calls for limiting the use of fossil fuels.
Combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes are responsible for about 78 percent of climate-warming emissions over the past several decades.
In particular, the U.N. report calls for limiting the use of coal by 95 percent, oil by 60 percent and natural gas by 45 percent in 2050 when compared to their use in 2019.
To limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius — which would allow substantially more climate-caused harm — the use of these fuels would need to be cut by 85 percent, 30 percent and 15 percent, respectively, by 2050 compared to their 2019 level.
These declines factor in the use of carbon capture, a still developing technology that is used to capture and store emissions from burning fossil fuels and other emitting activities.
WH details climate change risks for federal budget
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Monday issued its first risk assessment for the impact of climate change on the federal budget, calling the fiscal risks associated with climate change “immense.”
OMB personnel cited estimates by the Network for Greening the Financial System, a network of dozens of central banks around the world that develops best practices for climate finance, which said the current trajectory of climate change could lead to a 3 to 10 percent drop in gross domestic product by the end of the 21st century.
Meanwhile, OMB analyses determined climate change could cost federal revenues of about 7.1 percent, or $2 trillion a year, by the end of the century.
What are the specific risks? Specific costs would include increases in crop insurance subsidies, which are projected to rise anywhere from 3.5 percent to 22 percent annually as a result of crop losses, while more frequent hurricanes could lead to up to $94 billion in annual spending on coastal disaster response by the end of the century. Meanwhile, under a 10-foot sea level rise, the replacement cost to more than 12,000 federal buildings would come to more than $43.7 billion.
The analysis calls for a number of the priorities outlined in President Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget to be enacted to counteract these risks, including more than $7 billion to reduce emissions from the power sector and more than $5 billion to transition the transportation sector to renewable energy.
The budget has no realistic chance of passing Congress but outlines the president’s priorities, particularly after ambitious climate provisions within the Build Back Better package stalled out in the Senate last year.
EV leaders want more from Defense Production Act
Industry figures and environmental groups are urging President Biden to go beyond his initial use of the Defense Production Act (DPA) and seize the opportunity to build out supply chains and infrastructure to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels.
The DPA, a Cold War-era law used by President Harry Truman, allows the president to prioritize the manufacturing of certain materials in the national interest.
The White House is using the law to promote the domestic production of rare-earth minerals used for electric vehicle (EV) batteries that would otherwise have to be imported from China. The White House announcement on the DPA this week specifically identifies minerals like nickel, lithium, cobalt and graphite.
Biden is leaning on the DPA amid growing fears about China’s economic power and supply chain problems that have contributed to inflation in the United States. It also comes as Russia’s war on Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Moscow have exacerbated a spike in gas prices, putting a pinch on U.S. consumers and adding to the political problems for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.
John DeMaio, CEO of EV battery materials processor Graphex Technologies, told The Hill the DPA would be of limited use to the industry without further adjustments.
“The DPA should be used to provide grants, tax breaks and facility construction incentives to all players in the EV battery space. It’s important that these economic supports are extended throughout the industry — including raw materials companies, materials processing companies, EV battery producers, and automakers,” DeMaio said in an email.
“A disjointed domestic supply chain does us no good — more available battery materials don’t aid EV automakers unless there is a matched increase in processing and battery production.”
CLIMATE CHANGE PROTESTORS BRIEFLY SHUT DOWN DC HIGHWAY
A group of climate change activists managed to temporarily shut down a section of I-395 in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall on Monday in an environmental demonstration.
Supporters of the environmental group Declare Emergency were seen in photos and videos that circulated on social media holding up traffic on the interstate in D.C. near the 3rd Street Tunnel. The group said in a Facebook post that multiple protesters were arrested following the incident.
The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) told The Hill that the demonstration lasted “less than 1 hour,” with police confirming that seven individuals were arrested for allegedly “crowding, obstructing or incommoding.”
Declare Emergency posted photos of people in bright green vests lying on the ground and holding signs with traffic behind them.
The Washington Post reported the group was demonstrating to discourage the Biden administration from expanding drilling or mining for fossil fuel on federal and Indigenous land.
Read more here.
ON TAP TOMORROW
- The House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on the benefits of challenges of electrifying the Postal Service fleet. The Postal Service’s Inspector General is slated to appear.
- The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee will hold a hearing to examine implementation of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act, focusing on stakeholders’ needs and experiences.
- The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the Farm Bill and renewable energy opportunities in Rural America
- The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on wildfire management, ecosystem restoration and resilient communities
- The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on high gasoline prices
- Biden administration announces $500M for energy efficiency in public schools
- 99 percent of people worldwide breathe air that doesn’t meet WHO standard
- Native American tribe reacquires hundreds of acres in Virginia
- Explainer: What is the strategic petroleum reserve?
- Rubio, Lummis call on Biden admin to allow farming on conserved land to help global food shortages
WHAT WE’RE READING
- No obituary for Earth: Scientists fight climate doom talk (The Associated Press)
- Joe Manchin opposes SEC climate disclosure rule (CNBC)
- Inside The Contentious Leadership Battle At The Nation’s Biggest Environmental Group (HuffPost)
- ‘Ineligible’ flood projects get millions in earmarks (E&E News)
And finally, something offbeat but (somewhat) on-beat: Signed, sealed, delivered
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