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Climate

Canada’s 2023 Wildfire Season Was Horrible. This Year’s Could Be Worse.

On explosive blazes, Panama’s plan to keep cargo moving, and Tesla in India

Canada’s 2023 Wildfire Season Was Horrible. This Year’s Could Be Worse.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: A searing heatwave in Thailand means even nighttime temperatures won’t go below 86 degrees Fahrenheit for all of April • The streets of New Orleans flooded yesterday • Severe weather in Georgia delayed the start of The Masters golf tournament.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Canada expects another ‘catastrophic’ wildfire season

Canada is preparing for this year’s wildfire season to be “catastrophic,” following a warm and dry winter. “The temperature trends are very concerning,” said Harjit Sajjan, the country’s minister for emergency preparedness. “With the heat and dryness across the country we can expect that the wildfire season will start sooner and end later and potentially be more explosive.” Last year’s wildfire season was the worst ever: More than 37 million acres burned, 230,000 people were evacuated, and wildfire smoke drifted across large parts of the U.S.

2. Panama plans alternative cargo route as drought hits Panama Canal

Panama will create a new “special customs jurisdiction” to serve as a “dry” transport alternative to the Panama Canal. The canal serves as a key shipping channel between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and typically moves about $270 billion worth of cargo every year, but has had to limit its capacity due to severe drought in the region. Yesterday Panama unveiled plans for the Multimodal Dry Canal project, which will use existing infrastructure like roadways, railways, and ports to move cargo and relieve the shipping bottleneck. As AFPpointed out, Panama’s neighbors, including Mexico and Honduras, have seen opportunity in the canal’s plight and proposed transport alternatives.

3. AI data centers expected to drive huge growth in U.S. power demand

America’s utility companies think data centers will cause electricity demand to surge, Reutersreported. Nine out of 10 of the country’s top utilities said the centers, which power technologies like generative AI, are a main driver of customer growth. Power use from data centers is expected to triple globally this year, according to Morgan Stanley research. The question is whether utility companies can keep up. Growing electricity demand will “stress utility company balance sheets as capital spending escalates to upgrade the infrastructure and integrate renewable energy resources,” Morningstar analysts said recently. This week the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said the country’s power consumption was expected to grow to record highs in the next two years, and that renewables would make up 24% of the energy mix in 2024, up 3% from last year.

4. Musk eyes India expansion for Tesla

Tesla CEO Elon Musk yesterday teased an upcoming trip to India to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BBC reported the meeting is scheduled for the end of April in New Delhi. Two sources toldReuters Musk plans to announce a factory in the country and major investment. Earlier this week Musk posted on X that “India should have electric cars like every other country has electric cars. It's a natural progression to provide Tesla electric vehicles in India.” EVs make up about 2% of sales in India but the government wants to grow that to 30% by 2030. Tesla’s potential push into the country comes as EV growth slows in the U.S. and Tesla is struggling to meet expectations on sales and deliveries.

5. UN climate chief calls for ‘quantum leap’ in climate finance

The United Nations climate chief yesterday urged the leaders of G20 nations to abandon “business as usual” and take “bold climate action” before it’s too late. “For those who say that climate change is only one of many priorities, like ending poverty, ending hunger, ending pandemics, or improving education, I simply say this: none of these crucial tasks … will be possible unless we get the climate crisis under control,” Simon Stiell, who heads up the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told a crowd in London. He called for a “quantum leap” in climate finance commitments at this year’s COP29. “Sidelining climate isn’t a solution to a crisis that will decimate every G20 economy and has already started to hurt,” he said. Stiell finished the speech by urging “people everywhere” to raise their voices for climate action.

THE KICKER

Last month, Texas generated more electricity from solar than from coal for the first time ever.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

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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.

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