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Climate

A Climate Database Melts Away

On the new stove efficiency rules, a Swiss glacier, and more

Briefing image.
EV Earnings on Deck
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Current conditions:Light snow is still falling in parts of Massachusetts after a storm brought 8 inches of snow to parts of the state on Sunday and Monday. Residents in Queensland, Australia, are evacuating as thunderstorms inundate towns on the coast. California is still waiting for an atmospheric river to dump rain on the state, which should start tomorrow.

THE TOP FIVE

1. U.S. finalizes stove efficiency rules

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy finalized energy efficiency rules for both gas and electric stoves that the agency says will save consumers around $1.6 billion in energy costs over 30 years, according to Bloomberg. The standards, which are scheduled to take effect in 2028, won’t ban gas stoves, but should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 4 million metric tons over three decades.

2. A vast archive of climate data literally melts away

Glaciers are treasure troves of information for scientists studying climate change. Ice core analysis can often give researchers a detailed look at the composition of the atmosphere over time, which in turn tells us just how human-caused pollution affects the climate. The problem, of course, is that climate change also makes glaciers melt — and now one of them, the Corbassière glacier in Switzerland, has degraded so much that it’s no longer viable for research, its ice cores a muddled mess of meltwater.

“The climate archive is destroyed,” scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute wrote in a statement. “It is as if someone had broken into a library and not only messed up all the shelves and books, but also stole a lot of books and mixed up the individual words in the remaining ones, making it impossible to reconstruct the original texts.”

3. Sustainable foods could have a $10 trillion upside

Global food systems are “destroying more value than they create” and in dire need of an overhaul, according to a new assessment from the Food System Economics Commission (FSEC). By rethinking the way we approach food, the authors say, we could create up to $10 trillion in health and economic benefits around the world.

As Justine Calma writes in The Verge, that would mean both a tweak to our diets — the report doesn’t call for a worldwide shift to vegetarianism, but does advocate for a reduction in meat consumption — and a proper accounting in food prices of all the costs of production that we currently sweep under the rug. That latter bit could be an especially tough pill to swallow, and the study authors caution there would have to be institutional support for lower-income sections of society for fear of protests like the petrol price protests that gripped France in 2018, or the farmer protests ongoing in Europe.

Still, the report states, the benefits would far outweigh the costs, with undernutrition potentially eradicated by 2050, 174 million premature deaths from diet-related chronic disease prevented, and the environmental impacts bringing countries closer to their Paris Agreement goals.

4. Avian flu comes for birds of all feathers

Avian flu is devastating California’s “egg basket,” sweeping through Sonoma and Merced counties a year after a similar outbreak in the Midwest caused egg prices around the country to soar, according to the Associated Press. Over the past two months, commercial farms have had to slaughter nearly a million birds to contain the outbreak. The loss of those birds caused a temporary spike in the price of eggs in the Bay Area before more were brought in from outside the region; it remains to be seen if this outbreak will become big enough to affect prices in other parts of the country as well.

Further afield, at least two penguins in the Antarctic have died from bird flu, writes Phoebe Weston in The Guardian. One gentoo penguin is confirmed to have died from the virus, and scientists suspect it also took out one king penguin — if confirmed, that would be the first of its species to be killed by the deadly H5N1 variant. Last year, scientists warned about “one of the largest ecological disasters of modern times” if the virus reached Antarctic penguin populations; the birds are currently clustered for breeding season, which means it could soon turn into a superspreader event.

5. GoFundMe for climate disasters is helping the wealthy most

A new report analyzing post-disaster crowdfunding campaigns has found that cash raised through sites like GoFundMe disproportionately benefits the wealthy. The main reason, Christopher Flavelle writes in The New York Times, appears to be social networks: Wealthy people are more well-connected, particularly to other wealthy people, and so inevitably get more money. It’s a showcase of why we need to prioritize governmental support for disaster victims; as one of the study authors told Flavelle, “we cannot count on this form of private charity to fill funding gaps.”

THE KICKER

Scientists have, for the first time ever, captured footage of a newborn Great White Shark. The finding means researchers could, finally, figure out where the sharks birth their young — and in turn lead to greater environmental protections in previously unprotected patches of ocean.

baby shark photo.Carlos Gauna

Neel Dhanesha

Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan. Read More

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Electric Vehicles

AM Briefing: Volkswagen’s Nostalgia Push

On Volkswagen’s Scout revival, an IRA status report, and carbon removal rules

Can Nostalgia Help Sell EVs?
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Current conditions: Canada’s Alberta province has declared an early start to wildfire season • The air quality is “unhealthy” today in Milan, recently named the world’s third most polluted city • It will be 50 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny in National Harbor, Md., for the kickoff of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

THE TOP FIVE

1. New report finds the IRA is starting to work, but not exactly as expected

A year and a half ago, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which will spend an estimated $500 billion in grants and tax credits to incentivize people and businesses to switch from burning fossil fuels to using cleaner, zero-carbon technologies. Is it working? In the third episode of Heatmap’s podcast “Shift Key,” hosts Robinson Meyer and Jesse Jenkins dive into a new report from a coalition of major energy analysts — including MIT, the Rhodium Group, and Jenkins’ lab at Princeton — that looks at data from the power and transportation sectors and concludes that yes, the law is starting to decarbonize the American economy. But it isn’t working in the way many people might expect. While the transportation sector came in at the upper end of what modelers projected for this year, the power sector is lagging behind largely because of a drop in new onshore wind projects. As a result, the power sector is not on track to cut emissions 40% by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels, as the bill’s supporters have hoped.

“Unfortunately, we're just not building out at the pace that would be economically justified,” Jenkins told Meyer. “And that is really an indicator that there are a substantial number of other non-economic frictions or barriers to deployment of wind in particular at the pace that we want to see.”

Subscribe to “Shift Key” and find the episode on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Podcast

Is Biden’s Climate Law Actually Working?

Inside episode three of Shift Key.

President Biden.
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A year and a half ago, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, the biggest climate law in American history — and arguably in world history. The law will spend an estimated $500 billion in grants and tax credits to incentivize people and businesses to switch from burning fossil fuels to using cleaner, zero-carbon technologies.

That’s the goal, at least. But is the IRA actually working? Now, 18 months after its passage, we’re starting to be able to answer that question. A new report from a coalition of major energy analysts — including MIT, the Rhodium Group, and our cohost Jesse Jenkins’ lab at Princeton — looks at data from the power and transportation sectors and concludes that yes, the law is starting to decarbonize the American economy.

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Sparks

Trump Thinks EV Charging Will Cost $3 Trillion — Which Is Incorrect

Nor will charging infrastructure ”bankrupt” the U.S.

Electric car charging.
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Shortly after being fined $350 million (more than $450 million, including interest) over fraudulent business practices and then booed at Sneaker Con, former President Donald Trump traveled to Waterford, Michigan, where he said some incorrect things about electric vehicles.

Even by Trump’s recent standards, Saturday’s Waterford rally was a bit kooky. During his nearly hour-and-a-half-long speech, the former president claimed that his opponents are calling him a whale (“I don’t know if they meant a whale from the standpoint of being a little heavy, or a whale because I got a lot of money”) and, improbably, claimed not to have known what the word “indictment” meant.

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