Michigan's Black terns at risk; Consumers Energy aims to decarbonize with methane + offsets

CO2 2022/2021 420.63 ppm / 421.21 ppm


‘Now or never’: A recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report stresses that emissions must peak by 2025 and be halved by the decade’s end to stave off catastrophic warming. “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5C. Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible,” said Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and co-chair of the working group behind the report. Wealthy nations and individuals drive the bulk of this warming, with the wealthiest 10 percent of households creating between a third and half of all greenhouse gas emissions. The report finds that although prices for renewable energy are falling, the planet needs to invest three to six times its current spending on climate mitigation. More energy-efficient buildings, remote work, and public transit could also help reduce emissions at a minimal cost. And while individual choices could make minor differences, a piece in the New York Times argues that individuals need to organize to create the more significant, systemic changes necessary. (Guardian, NY Times)

Magic: Consumers Energy is pledging to achieve “net-zero” emissions with its “natural gas” energy production by 2050. (“Natural gas” is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas.) If Consumers’ pledge sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it likely is. Among other things, the company plans to use carbon offsets and “emerging technologies.” Carbon offsets include tree planting, which can employ dodgy accounting to show that a polluter has “offset” their carbon emissions. These offsets can also catch on fire. As for “emerging technologies,” this includes carbon capture tech that sucks carbon dioxide out of the air. Proponents have yet to prove they are an economically feasible and scalable climate solution. Consumers' pledge also includes sensible solutions like heat pumps to reduce emissions. Yet, while the company promises us “net zero” methane, the cost of renewable generation has plummeted, and it won’t break your brain to figure out how that reduces emissions. (MI Radio, Vox, CNN, Yale 360, Conversation, Guardian)

See @MichiganRadio's post on Twitter.

Community power: Highland Park was one of 22 cities chosen for a federal program promoting community-controlled clean energy. The city lost around 1,400 streetlights in 2011 as part of a settlement with DTE Energy over unpaid bills. The group Soulardarity replaced some of these with solar-powered streetlights that provide Wi-Fi access for the community. Part of the Highland Park Community Crisis Coalition, Juan Shannon built on the community’s experience with community solar to secure the federal grant. “It was like the absolute model of what most of these initiatives are looking for,” he said. Shannon said the program could help build a community micro-grid, supplying local, renewable energy in the city. (Michigan Radio, MLive)

Kids are alright: A short documentary by Shannon Germaine, an Ann Arbor high school student, won second prize in C-SPAN’s 2022 StudentCam competition. Her video, “Code Red: The Clean Air Act’s Battle Against Climate Change,” draws attention to the law that the nation depends on to fight climate change, using new and archival videos from several lawmakers and environmental policy experts. The Clean Air Act, which is over 50 years old, is adaptable to deal with threats like climate pollution. But it’s also vulnerable to lax implementation and enforcement and could also be undermined by a pending Supreme Court decision. “To be an effective weapon, we need it to be strengthened to stand up to the changing climate and the constantly changing political climate of Washington, D.C.,” Germaine said in the video. (MLive, Guardian)

Your friends in the swamp: The numbers of Black terns, a migratory bird that summers in northern wetlands, have been in steep decline in Michigan. Their numbers have dropped by 98% in the state since 1966, and climate change could be adding to their troubles as increasingly powerful storms, and flooding disrupt the habitat where they breed. "These wetlands are favored by them for nesting because it gives them opportunities to avoid predators," said Don Lyons, director of conservation science at the National Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute. "It's hard for things like raccoons or mink to get to them. That's why they use wetlands.” Both rising and falling lake levels, as well as the presence of invasive phragmites, can disrupt the areas where the terns prefer to nest. Lyons said that protecting the birds will require “carefully managed wetlands” and a strong climate plan to reduce emissions. (Detroit News)

MPGs: By 2026, new cars sold in the United States will need to average a minimum of 40 miles per gallon, up from the roughly 28 miles per gallon standard enacted during the Trump administration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the new requirements are the maximum the auto industry can achieve over the period in question. The change will result in a 220 billion gallon reduction in gasoline consumption for these vehicles. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says the changes will make the country less dependent on foreign oil and lower prices for consumers. However, some have criticized the new standards for doing too little to rein in the production of inefficient SUVs. “The Biden administration’s weak gas mileage standards do little to alleviate consumers’ pain at the pump since they don’t push GM and Toyota to shift from hawking gas guzzlers that fill the coffers of their golfing buddies at Exxon," said Dan Becker, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Safe Climate Transport Campaign. (Freep, Axios)

What questions do you have about the environment and climate change in Michigan? Please let us know by reaching out to me at nina@planetdetroit.org or hit reply!


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