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. Read MoreRead More
The Rising Threat of Really Big Waves
Plus: Biden's big LNG bet, Tesla's Q4 numbers, and IKEA's emissions
Current conditions: Colombia declared a natural disaster after unrelenting wildfires • Tropical Cyclone Kirrily poses a unique risk to Australia due to the storm’s “irregular shape” • Washington, D.C., could hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit in January for the first time in four years.
THE TOP FIVE
1. Report: Biden delaying approval of major LNG export terminal
The Biden administration has delayed approval of 17 new facilities for the export of liquified natural gas (LNG), according to a New York Times report. Officials are instead asking the Department of Energy to widen its review of the first of these 17 — known as Calcasieu Pass 2, or CP2 — to include effects on the global climate. Heatmap reached out to the White House and got a “no comment” in response. Such a decision, if confirmed, would be seen as a win for climate advocates who oppose the terminals due to their potential environmental toll: At least one analysis shows that, if all 17 export terminals were to be approved, the emissions related to the fuel that would flow through them would exceed the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the entire European Union. “Um, I think we all just won,” wrote Bill McKibben, who is perhaps the project’s staunchest foe.
Republicans would likely oppose the decision, and some already accuse President Biden of waging a war on affordable domestic energy. “What was never in question is that this would be a major campaign issue, no matter what Biden did,” wrote Heatmap’s Jillian Goodman. “It looks like he has cast his bet in favor of the climate crowd.”
2. Tesla reports underwhelming Q4 results
Tesla reported fourth quarter results yesterday, with earnings and revenue that missed expectations. Earnings per share came in at $0.71, slightly below Wall Street’s estimates. Revenue hit $25.17 billion, which was up 3% from a year earlier, but marked the slowest growth rate in more than three years. And CEO Elon Musk tempered expectations about the year ahead, saying sales growth would be “notably lower.” He confirmed plans to start production of a next-generation "Redwood" EV – likely to be cheaper than existing models – in 2025, but indicated this wouldn’t happen until late in the year.
The update likely did little to ease investors’ concerns about the company’s footing in the shifting EV landscape: Demand for EVs is still growing but at a slower pace than before, and competition is heating up at home and abroad. China’s BYD overtook Tesla at the end of last year as the world’s top-selling EV maker. During the earnings call, Musk took the opportunity to call for trade barriers, warning that without them, Chinese rivals “will pretty much demolish most other car companies in the world.”
3. Extreme waves bring chaos and flooding to Marshall Islands
A terrifying weather video has been making the rounds this week. Perhaps you’ve seen it? Freak waves burst through the glass doors of a restaurant on a U.S. military base in the Marshall Islands, flooding the building and sweeping people away. Here’s a quick still from the video, but it’s worth watching the whole thing to get a sense of the sheer force of the water as it slams into bodies.
The Marshall Islands are “at the very front lines of climate change,” reported ABC News, and one expert told the outlet that so-called extreme waves like these could become more common as sea levels rise. A separate study earlier this month found that storm waves hitting the Americas today are 80% bigger than they were 40 years ago. “Coastal towns and vessels urgently need to prepare better defenses – especially in the Americas – to avoid damage from these extreme waves," said tropical storm expert Dr. Xiangbo Feng, who co-authored the study.
4. Dengue cases soar in South America
In October of last year, scientists from the World Health Organization warned that cases of dengue fever would “take off” in the next decade as climate change accelerates. That timeline may have been far too conservative. Already cases of the mosquito-borne illness are rising dramatically in South America, Reutersreported. Argentina recorded more than 12,500 cases last month and stores are running out of bug spray. In Brazil, cases more than doubled in the first week of January compared to last year. Hospitals in Paraguay have set up night clinics to deal with a surge in patients. Dengue is often asymptomatic but can cause terrible joint pain in some patients and more than 35,000 people die from infections each year. “Climate change has expanded the range for mosquitoes to breed,” explained Thais dos Santos from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). A mass vaccination program is underway in Brazil.
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5. New Jersey approves 2 new offshore wind projects
New Jersey approved two offshore wind projects yesterday, just three months after Orsted delivered a major blow to the state’s clean power ambitions by canceling two major contracts. The new projects would produce about 3,470 megawatts of electricity, power about 1.8 million homes, and bring $6.8 billion in economic benefits. But the clean energy would come at a cost for customers: The average residential bill would go up by about $7 per month, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The operators of one of the projects promised to provide direct assistance to some low-income households to offset the increase. The wind farms are expected to start providing power to the grid by 2032.
IKEA has updated its emissions-cutting targets for 2030. The previous goal was to reduce emissions by 15% from 2016 levels. The new goal is to cut emissions in half.