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Climate

Will 2024 Be Hotter Than 2023?

On weather trends, China’s climate envoy, and fixing the world's farming sector

Will 2024 Be Hotter Than 2023?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Tornadoes terrorized Oklahoma overnight • Flash floods killed two people in China’s Guangxi region • It is 75 degrees Fahrenheit and clear in Rafah, where Israeli troops have seized the Gaza side of the border crossing with Egypt.

THE TOP FIVE

1. April broke heat records, but wild temperatures could moderate slightly soon

Temperature data for last month is rolling in, and the takeaway is that it was the hottest April on record for planet Earth. That marks 11 straight months of record heat, and researchers are starting to do some informed analysis on whether 2024 will displace 2023 as the hottest year. El Niño’s retreat could bring slightly cooler temperatures, and the data suggests that, while temperature records are still being broken, they’re not being absolutely shattered, which I suppose is good news? For example, September last year was 0.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the previest hottest September. Last month was only 0.1 or 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than the previous hottest April. “If 2024 continues to follow its expected trajectory, global temperatures will fall out of record territory in the next month or two,” wrote climate scientist Zeke Hausfather. Still, he puts the chances that this year will be hotter than last at about 66%. “If the latter half of 2024 ends up similar to 2023, we may end up closer to 1.6C for the year as a whole.”

X/hausfath

2. China and U.S. climate envoys to meet in Washington

Coming up this week: Climate envoys for China and the U.S. will meet in Washington Wednesday and Thursday to discuss solutions for “accelerating concrete climate actions this decade,” the State Department announced. Liu Zhenmin and John Podesta will discuss topics like the energy transition, methane emissions, resource efficiency, and deforestation. The U.S. and China are the world’s top two greenhouse gas emitters, and the sit-down marks the envoys’ “first formal face-to-face summit before global negotiations in Azerbaijan this November,” Bloombergreported. China’s dominance in cheap green technology manufacturing will no doubt loom large over the talks, as well. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has criticized the country’s excessive output of products like solar panels, and recently called for “constructive” discussions to encourage China to reduce its manufacturing subsidies.

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  • 3. World Bank recommends rich nations stop subsidizing livestock farming

    The World Bank published a new report this week examining how countries can cut emissions from their food sectors. “Simply changing how middle-income countries use land, such as forests and ecosystems, for food production can cut agrifood emissions by a third by 2030,” said World Bank Senior Managing Director Axel van Trotsenburg. One recommendation, spotted byBloomberg, is that high-income countries stop subsidizing livestock farming and shift that financial support over to more environmentally friendly foods like fruits, vegetables, and poultry. “Globally, one-third of agricultural subsidies were directed toward meat and milk products in 2016,” the report said. But subsidies mask the true costs (environmental or otherwise) of these products. Cutting them could “lead to significant changes in consumption patterns and large emissions reductions.”

    World Bank/Recipe for a Livable Planet report

    Investment in overhauling agrifood will need to rise by $260 billion annually to halve emissions by 2030, the World Bank report said. But the cost benefits in terms of health, economic, and environmental outcomes are projected to surpass $4 trillion in 2030, which the report noted is a 16-to-1 return on investment costs.

    4. Lula calls for national climate disaster plan after floods devastate Brazil

    The flooding in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state has prompted President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to call for a national plan to be put into place for preventing and dealing with climate disasters, The Washington Postreported. He instructed top environmental lieutenant Marina Silva to start putting together a strategy. “We have to stop just running after disaster,” Lula told the Post. “We have to start preparing for what can happen from disasters. … We and the world need to prepare every day with more plans and resources to deal with extreme climate occurrences.” At least 83 people are known to have died in the floods but the death toll is likely to climb. More than 20,000 people have lost their homes. Hospitals are without power. Inmates have been released from flooded prisons. Looting has begun. “This is war; that is the word,” said journalist Kelly Matos. “It’s hopelessness, civil unrest. … The tsunami is here.”

    A flooded hospital entrance in Porto Alegre Max Peixoto/Getty Images

    5. Texas grid begins drawing power from new large solar and storage facility

    A large solar farm capable of powering 41,600 homes has been completed in Texas. The Zier facility in Brackettville, developed by Cypress Creek Renewables, has 208-megawatts of solar capacity and 80 megawatt hours of storage, and it’s already connected to and being used by the Texas grid “to ease supply strain in a time of increased demand,” Cypress Creek said in a news release. The company has 24 projects in construction or development in the state, one of which is a 100 megawatt hour battery storage facility that should be up and running next month.

    Cypress Creek Renewables

    THE KICKER

    “The worst thing for the energy transition is that it is perceived as being done by and for the elites.”Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency

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    Jessica  Hullinger profile image

    Jessica Hullinger

    Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London.

    Bitcoin becoming the sun.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Categorizing Crusoe Energy is not easy. The startup is a Bitcoin miner and data center operator. It’s a “high-performance” and “carbon-negative” cloud platform provider. It’s a darling of the clean tech world that’s raised nearly $750 million in funding. The company has historically powered its operations with natural gas, but its overall business model actually reduces emissions. Confused yet?

    Here are the basics. The company was founded in 2018 to address the problem of natural gas flaring. Natural gas is a byproduct of oil extraction, and if oil field operators have no economical use case for the gas or are unable to transfer it elsewhere, it’s often simply burned. If you, like me, have spent time sourcing stock images of air pollution, you’ve probably seen the pictures of giant flames coming out of tall smokestacks near oil pump jacks and other drilling infrastructure. That’s what flaring natural gas looks like, and it is indeed terrible for the environment. That’s largely because the process fails to fully combust methane, which is the primary component of natural gas and 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.

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    Climate

    AM Briefing: Displacement Fears

    On the Biden administration’s carbon removal investments, the climate refugees of Brazil, and more

    Wednesday sunrise.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: More storms and possible tornadoes are forecast to hit Texas and the Plains, where millions of people are still without power • Cyclone Remal, the first tropical storm of the season, killed at least 23 people in India and Bangladesh • Brazilian authorities are investigating up to 800 suspected cases of waterborne illness following unprecedented flooding over the past month.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Biden administration invests in carbon removal

    The Department of Energy on Tuesday gave $1.2 million to companies competing for a chance to sell carbon removal credits to the federal government. These 24 semifinalists, which were each awarded $50,000, include nine direct air capture projects, seven biomass projects, five enhanced rock weathering projects, and three marine-based projects. Up to 10 of them will be offered federal contracts amounting to $30 million. “The Department of Energy hopes that by selecting 24 companies that have been vetted by government scientists, it’s sending a signal to the private sector that there are at least some projects that are legitimate,” Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo writes, referencing struggles in the broader carbon credits marketplace.

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    Technology

    Carbon Removal’s Stamp of Approval

    The Department of Energy is advancing 24 companies in its purchase prize contest. What these companies are getting is more important than $50,000.

    Heirloom DAC.
    Heatmap Illustration/Heirloom Carbon

    The Department of Energy is advancing its first-of-a-kind program to stimulate demand for carbon removal by becoming a major buyer. On Tuesday, the agency awarded $50,000 to each of 24 semifinalist companies competing to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere on behalf of the U.S. government. It will eventually spend $30 million to buy carbon removal credits from up to 10 winners.

    The nascent carbon removal industry is desperate for customers. At a conference held in New York City last week called Carbon Unbound, startup CEOs brainstormed how to convince more companies to buy carbon removal as part of their sustainability strategies. On the sidelines, attendees lamented to me that there were hardly even any potential buyers at the conference — what a missed opportunity.

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