Climate Now

Climate Now

Explaining the key scientific ideas, technologies, and policies relevant to the global climate crisis. Visit climatenow.com for more information and our video series.

Episodes

November 21, 2022 36 min

Since its founding in 1952, the mission of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has been to meet urgent national security needs through scientific and technological innovation. Expanding from its focus on nuclear weapons science at the height of the Cold War, LLNL has become a national research leader in counterterrorism, intelligence, defense, and energy, with its emphasis in the latter being to advance national energy se...

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How many crises can we address at once?

In October of this year, headlines broke that the global animal population in 2018 is 69% smaller than it was a half century ago, in 1970. It is the latest bad news in a string of studies on biodiversity loss, which is happening at a rate not seen on this planet since the last mass extinction. It also follows on the heels of an analysis from the U.N. World Food Program, estimating that due to ...

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The side benefit of reducing building emissions? Increasing quality of life.

Building operations (heating, cooling and electrification) account for 27% of global CO2 emissions, but represent some of the lowest-hanging fruit in the challenge of global decarbonization. With efficient design and transitioning to cleanly-sourced electricity, like solar panels, building-related emissions could be decreased by as much as 80%.

Katy McGinty,...

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October 24, 2022 18 min

The global shipping industry emits ~1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, about as much as the sixth highest emitting nation in the world. In hopes of changing course, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has mandated that starting in 2023, most commercial vessels will have to document their CO2 emissions, and demonstrate progress towards reaching the IMO objective of an industry-wide 40% reduction in emissions by 2...

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For some sectors of our economy, electrification as a decarbonization strategy is a whole lot easier said than done. Take the steel industry - which is responsible for 11% of global CO2 emissions. A large part of those emissions come from the ‘coking’ process - where coal-fired furnaces burning at up to 1,100 degrees Celsius (2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) are used to break the bonds between iron and oxygen in the ore materials used to ...

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Mitigating climate change is a race against time, requiring “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” according to the IPCC, who says we need to halve global emissions by 2030. But Tom Dinwoodie of Epic Institute argues that this kind of rapid change actually isn’t unprecedented, when compared to technologies of the 19th and 20th centuries, which repeatedly went from expensive and obscure to globall...

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Calls for transparent information on the carbon footprint of a product, service, company or government are getting louder from consumers and investors, and will likely be soon codified in regulations like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed rule on climate risk reporting for publicly traded companies. But how do you actually account for all the emissions released in the production process or in a company activity...

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The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into U.S. law by President Joe Biden on August 16th, might be the biggest climate investment in history, but it does not look much like the kinds of policies that have been most championed by climate activists and economists. There is no carbon tax, no cap and trade program, no specific emissions targets. Instead, the law combines a slew of incentives like rebates and tax credits aimed to e...

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International waters don’t belong to anybody, but everybody is connected to them. Like the global burden created by greenhouse gas emissions from any one country, company or individual, what a single country or corporation chooses to put into the ocean as a climate change solution could be felt by the global community, if it turns out to have negative consequences on ocean chemistry or ecosystems.

In this final installment of our de...

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Did you know plastic bags were originally intended to be an environmental solution? The idea was to replace paper bags in an effort to reduce deforestation. In 1935, cane toads were another fix - they were introduced to Australian sugarcane plantations to control insect pests. But, the ecological disaster this invasive species created far outweighed their agricultural benefit. It is often hard to anticipate the downstream environme...

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More than 4 billion years ago, when Earth was still in its infancy, the atmosphere held more than 100,000 times the amount of CO2 it does today. Ever so slowly, that CO2 was absorbed into the oceans, where it reacted with rocks of the seafloor or was scavenged by organisms, eventually becoming trapped in sediment and slowly sequestered into Earth’s deep interior. This is the Earth’s deep-carbon cycle - nature’s way of regulating gr...

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On June 30, 2022, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision on the case “EPA v. West Virginia,” ruling in a 6-3 vote that the EPA exceeded its statutory authority by setting greenhouse gas emissions standards that would effectively require utilities to shift away from fossil fuel-sourced power generation to renewables.

At the time of the decision, it was met with a raft of alarmist headlines, forecasting that it would b...

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In 2017, the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant expansion - meant to hail the renaissance of nuclear power in the US - came screeching to a halt. The project, to build two new reactors at an existing South Carolina facility, was canceled after being delayed more than a year, costing $9 billion USD, and still being only 40% complete. Now, the only new nuclear project in the works in the U.S. is the Vogtle Plant expansion in Georgia; a projec...

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Heating, cooling and electrifying buildings produces nearly one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, but by employing existing energy efficient technologies and switching to renewables, we could cut 87% of building-related emissions by 2050. So, how do we get there?

Climate Now speaks with two companies working to eliminate the barriers to decarbonizing buildings. Andy Frank, founder of Sealed, explains how Sealed makes it easi...

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In the international carbon offset market, the average price of removing one tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere is still below $15 USD, nowhere near enough to cover the costs of carbon capture and storage (CCS). As Dr. Sheila Olmstead (University of Texas, Austin) explained in a recent Climate Now podcast episode, this is why CCS is one of the few climate technologies not experiencing exponential growth. “Unless there's a market ...

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Each year, we produce about 30 billion tonnes of concrete globally. That’s nearly 10,000 pounds, or more than 2 entire cars-worth of concrete, per person, per year.  We produce enough steel to build more than 2700 Empire State Buildings annually.  We produce more than 100 pounds of plastic per person, each year. And with all of this material production, we also produce a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly one-third of global GH...

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Are we underestimating the potential of increased efficiency? It wouldn’t be the first time.

In 2021, the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasted a 50% increase in global energy demand by 2050. Such forecasts have echoes of the 1970’s, when – in the middle of a global energy crisis – forecasters were anticipating as much as a 300% increase in energy demand over the next 3 decades. Those ...

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“Inertia is a hell of a thing. Inertia is there, and there is very little motivation for an incumbent to change course. So you have to have that disruption from the outside. The same thing with financial services.” - Marilyn Waite, Climate Finance Fund

In the 2019/2020 fiscal year, the global climate finance sector reached a record 632 billion US dollars. Unfortunately - that is a little short of the more than $3 trillion US dollars...

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Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Princeton University, and the IPCC have all published proposed climate mitigation pathways: strategies for economically reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century for California, the U.S., and the world, respectively. And they are not alone. Any given pathway to net-zero emissions offers some combination of efficiency improvements, expansion of renewable energy sources, and some amount of so-called ...

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For years we’ve been hearing that the clean energy transition is going to be expensive. But the recent working paper, Empirically grounded technology forecasts and the energy transition, suggests that the high estimates of the expense to transition to renewable energy have been inflated, and that it may in fact be cheaper to transition to renewables than to stay on fossil fuels, regardless of the costs of the changing climate. Usin...

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