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Climate

Climate Change Made Dubai’s Deluge Worse

On a new World Weather Attribution report, falling battery prices, and another energy milestone for California.

Briefing image.
Biden’s Plan to Jumpstart Offshore Wind
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Current conditions: Flash floods killed at least 155 people in Tanzania • Dry conditions are spawning dust devils in western Canada • Ongoing thunderstorms are set to pummel the central U.S. with hail and possible sporadic tornadoes through the weekend.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Climate change worsened Dubai flooding

Rising global temperatures due to carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere exacerbated the deadly flooding in Dubai earlier this month, scientists at the international research initiative World Weather Attribution concluded. Much of the United Arab Emirates lacks drainage infrastructure because rain there is so infrequent, and the unrelenting downpour that inundated the country on April 14 and 15 — toppling its 24-hour rainfall record — came on the heels of a stormy March. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that bouts of intense rainfall are likely to become more common in the Arabian Peninsula.

While the researchers evaluating April’s flood event weren’t able to determine the precise extent to which it had been influenced by climate change, they’re confident that rising temperatures in the ocean and the atmosphere played a role. “While multiple reasons could explain the absence of a trend in our model results,” they wrote, “we have no alternative explanation for a trend in observations other than the expectation of heavy rainfall increasing in a warmer climate.” Experts have challenged early reports that cloud seeding efforts in the UAE were responsible for the unprecedented amounts of rain, and the WWA researchers concluded they did not have “significant influence.”

People walk along an flooded highway on April 18, 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. People walk along an flooded highway on April 18, 2024 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

2. California achieves new battery milestones

California has officially surpassed 10,000 megawatts of battery storage capacity, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Thursday. The state, which leads the nation in installed battery storage, has added almost 4,000 megawatts of storage capacity to the grid in 2024 alone. And it set another storage record last week when batteries briefly became the state’s top source of power. Though Newsom celebrated the progress California has made in building out battery capacity, he also acknowledged that the current level of storage won’t be enough to fully prevent blackouts during heat waves. California aims to install another 42,000 megawatts of battery storage to meet its goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. “We have a lot of work to do still in moving this transition, with the kind of stability that’s required,” Newsom told reporters on Thursday.

3. Battery storage is on pace to become more accessible

Speaking of California, the International Energy Agency expects the cost of building battery storage to plummet in the coming years, aiding the global transition to renewable energy. In its Batteries and Secure Energy Transitions report, released Thursday, the IEA projects that the price of lithium-ion batteries will decline 40% by 2030, and will continue dropping beyond that point thanks to a combination of innovation and the adoption of cheaper grid-scale battery technologies. For the world to meet its renewable energy targets while maintaining the reliability of the grid, energy storage capacity will need to increase six-fold by 2030, according to the report. Decisions made by policymakers and regulators will also shape the rate of battery adoption worldwide.

“The combination of solar PV and batteries is today competitive with new coal plants in India. And just in the next few years, it will be cheaper than new coal in China and gas-fired power in the United States. Batteries are changing the game before our eyes,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

4. Biden takes aim at fossil fuels in federal buildings

In a move that was mostly overshadowed by its new emissions limits for coal and gas power plants, the Biden administration this week also established new standards intended to eliminate fossil fuels from federal buildings. The Department of Energy will require agencies to reduce fossil fuel use in new buildings and major renovations by 90% from fiscal years 2025 to 2029, and bar such projects from using fossil fuels at all starting in 2030. The rule is part of the administration’s push to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across all federal buildings by 2045. “The Biden-Harris Administration is practicing what we preach. Just as we are helping households and businesses across the nation save money by saving energy, we are doing the same in our own federal buildings,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

5. Conservation is working to preserve biodiversity

Conservation measures are successfully slowing the rate of global biodiversity loss, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday. The metaanalysis of previous research on the impacts of conservation found that establishing and maintaining protected areas, removing invasive species, preserving ecosystems and combatting habitat destruction led to a significant decline in biodiversity loss, and sometimes an improvement in total biodiversity, even amid the worsening effects of climate change. The study also indicated that conservation actions are frequently “highly effective.” The results suggest that ecosystems around the world could benefit from scaling up conservation efforts.

“If you look only at the trend of species declines, it would be easy to think that we’re failing to protect biodiversity, but you would not be looking at the full picture,” said Penny Langhammer, an adjunct professor of biology at Arizona State University and the study’s lead author, in a news release. “What we show with this paper is that conservation is, in fact, working to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.”

THE KICKER

“We want China’s economy to grow,” but “the way China grows matters.” — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to reporters after a meeting in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday. While’s China’s support for Russia in its war with Ukraine was top of the agenda, the two also discussed what the Biden administration sees as unfair trade practices that flood the market with cheap electric vehicles and solar panels.

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Nicole Pollack

Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.

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