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Climate

When Will Methane Emissions Fall?

On the IEA’s latest report, electric semi trucks, and bananas

When Will Methane Emissions Fall?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Storms dropped hail stones big enough to leave craters in the ground in Argentina • Denver is expecting more than a foot of snow • A wildfire outbreak is possible in Texas and Oklahoma.

THE TOP FIVE

1. IEA: Methane emissions from energy still high but could fall soon

Methane emissions from energy production around the world reached a record high in 2019, and have remained at that level ever since, with 2023 being no exception, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2024 Global Methane Tracker. Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps more heat than carbon dioxide, and is responsible for about one-third of the total rise in global temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels. Fossil fuel production is not the only source of methane emissions, but it is a big one, and it is within our control. Improvements to oil and gas infrastructure can reduce methane leaks, for example.

Energy production is the third largest source of methane emissions. IEA

Last year oil, gas, and coal producers added more than 120 million metric tonnes of methane to the atmosphere, a number that is “unacceptably high,” said the IEA’s chief energy economist Tim Gould. The agency called for a 75% reduction in methane emissions from fossil fuels this decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and said new policies, pledges, and methane-tracking satellites could bring emissions down soon. “If all methane pledges made by countries and companies to date are implemented in full and on time, it would be sufficient to cut methane emissions from fossil fuels by 50% by 2030,” the IEA said. “However, most pledges are not yet backed up by plans for implementation.”

2. Biden administration unveils infrastructure plan for electric freight trucks

The Biden administration yesterday released details of its plan to create the infrastructure needed to electrify the nation’s trucking fleet. “Heavy duty vehicles have a disproportionate effect on pollution, as large diesel engines release many more particulate emissions than light-duty vehicles do,” explained Jameson Dow at Electrek. Indeed the transportation sector accounts for about 30% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and more than a fifth of that comes from the biggest trucks. Phase 1 of the plan is to build out charging and hydrogen fueling hubs along some 12,000 miles of roads between 2024 and 2027, targeting some of the busiest routes first, including those around major ports. After the hubs are established, the subsequent phases would then connect those hubs to one another, and then expand the network. Here is a look at the hubs:

Joint Office of Energy and Transportation

3. Climate change threatens world’s banana production

Did you know there’s a World Banana Forum? The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FOA) hosts the annual gathering so the “main stakeholders of the global banana supply-chain work together to achieve consensus on best practices for sustainable production and trade.” This week the event took place in Rome, and climate change was top of the agenda. “Farmers are battling daily with unpredictable weather patterns, scorching sun, floods, hurricanes, and increased cases of plant diseases,” said Anna Pierides, a sustainable sourcing manager at the Fairtrade Foundation. She warned that farmers may go out of business if they do not get more support and see fairer prices. “There will be some price increases, indeed,” said Pascal Liu, senior economist at the FAO. “If there’s not a major increase in supply, I project that banana prices will remain relatively high in the coming years.” Bananas are the world’s most exported fruit.

4. Greta Thunberg hauled away from Swedish parliament

For the second day in a row, police forcibly removed Greta Thunberg from the entrance to the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. The 21-year-old climate activist and other protesters began their demonstration there yesterday, protesting against what they see as inaction from political leaders in addressing the climate crisis. After Thunberg refused to move, police lifted her by the arms and put her about 20 meters away from the building’s door.

5. Bezos Earth Fund invests in making meat alternatives taste better

Jeff Bezos’ philanthropic organization, the Bezos Earth Fund, is pouring $60 million into setting up hubs at universities where researchers will work to improve the texture, taste, and nutritional value of meat alternatives. We’re not talking about “lab grown” meat here, but plant products made to taste like meat. Animal agriculture accounts for up to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations, and meat consumption is expected to grow by 50% by 2050. Meat alternatives could reduce the environmental footprint of the food system, but only if they taste good enough to convert enough meat lovers. Last week Oscar Mayer announced it had partnered with a Bezos-backed food startup to create meatless hot dogs and sausages that “not only deliver on great taste, but also bring the smell, appearance, texture, and grill marks consumers desire and want.”

Oscar Mayer's plant-based sausges and hot dogs KraftHeinz

THE KICKER

Heatmap News has been named Hottest in Sustainability on Adweek’s 2024 Media Hot List for quickly becoming “a critical part of the climate news landscape.”

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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.

Politics

What the Conventional Wisdom Gets Wrong About Trump and the IRA

Anything decarbonization-related is on the chopping block.

Donald Trump holding the IRA.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration has shoveled money from the Inflation Reduction Act out the door as fast as possible this year, touting the many benefits all that cash has brought to Republican congressional districts. Many — in Washington, at think tanks and non-profits, among developers — have found in this a reason to be calm about the law’s fate. But this is incorrect. The IRA’s future as a climate law is in a far more precarious place than the Beltway conventional wisdom has so far suggested.

Shortly after the changing of the guard in Congress and the White House, policymakers will begin discussing whether to extend the Trump-era tax cuts, which expire at the end of 2025. If they opt to do so, they’ll try to find a way to pay for it — and if Republicans win big in the November elections, as recent polling and Democratic fretting suggests could happen, the IRA will be an easy target.

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Climate

AM Briefing: A Wind and Solar Milestone

On the rise of renewables, peak oil, and carbon capture

U.S. Wind and Solar Just Hit a Power Milestone
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: More than 10 inches of rain fell over nine hours in southwestern China • Wildfires are spreading in Canada, with at least 140 burning as of yesterday afternoon • The streets of Cape Town in South Africa are under water after severe storms caused widespread flooding.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Wind and solar surpass nuclear in U.S. electricity generation

More electricity was generated by wind and solar than by nuclear plants in the first half of 2024 for the first time ever in U.S. history, Reutersreported, citing data from energy think tank Ember. Solar and wind farms generated 401.4 terawatt hours (TWh) compared to 390.5 TWh generated from nuclear reactors, setting 2024 on pace to be the “first full year when more U.S. electricity will come from renewables than from any other form of clean power.” It’s helpful to compare these numbers to the same period last year, when nuclear generated 9% more power than solar and wind. Solar saw the greatest gains, with output 30% higher in the first half of 2024 compared to 2023; wind generation was up 10% and nuclear was up just 3.4%. Between 2018 and 2023, installed capacity grew by 168% for utility solar and 56% for wind. Meanwhile, nuclear generation capacity dropped by 4%.

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Politics

Trump’s Likely VPs All Have Different Bad Ideas About Climate

Though not, perhaps, the bad ideas you might expect.

Donald Trump and VP contenders.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Donald Trump will announce his running mate any day now, and according to multiple reports his choice has come down to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Ohio Senator J. D. Vance, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. All erstwhile critics of Trump, they now share a fervent admiration for the former president they once scorned. But where do they stand on climate change?

Opinions on climate within the Republican Party are complex, and these three men reflect the divisions. According to Pew Research Center polls, 47% of Republicans over the age of 65 believe that human activity contributes a great deal or some to climate change, but a full 79% of Republicans under 30 think so. Yet only a tiny number of them feel any urgency around climate: In a Pew poll earlier this year, only 12% of Republicans said climate should be a top priority for the president and Congress, the lowest score of the 20 issues they asked about. (59% of Democrats said it should be a top priority.)

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