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Climate

Summertime, and the Weather Is Crazy

On the start of a new season, Mississippi’s wind farm, and Stonehenge

Summertime, and the Weather Is Crazy
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: A dust storm is headed for New Mexico • Torrential rains flooded the French city of Nantes • Tourists are being turned away in Sicily due to water shortages and extreme heat.

THE TOP FIVE

1. U.S. plagued by wild weather as summer officially begins

The U.S. (along with the rest of the world) is experiencing a bunch of different extreme weather events all at the same time: an early and unusually long heat wave through the Midwest and East Coast, a tropical storm and the potential for 20 inches of rain in Texas, massive wildfires in New Mexico followed almost immediately by heavy rain and flash flooding, late-season snowfall in the Rockies. Oh and don’t forget that last week parts of Florida were under two feet of water. Almost every corner of the country has been subjected to some kind of weather-related threat in recent days. Of course, America is a big place, with lots of different landscapes and microclimates, and pinpointing the exact role climate change plays in extreme weather events can be hard. But there’s just no denying that things feel … strange. And, as I seem to keep hearing, “it’s only June!

Flooding in Surfside Beach, Texas, from Tropical Storm Alberto.Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Today marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere and the official start of summer 2024. With global temperatures still at record highs, what we’re experiencing now is probably just a preview of what’s to come in the following months and years. “These days I think it’s much more appropriate to call it ‘global weirding’” than global warming, climate professor Katharine Hayhoe told Bloomberg. “Wherever we live, our weather is getting much weirder.”

2. Warm temperatures send U.S. power generation soaring

The warm temperatures across the U.S. are driving up power generation and putting a strain on the grid. Natural gas-fired power generation is up 6% so far this year compared to 2023, and in fact is at its highest since 2021, Reutersreported. While clean power output is also set to rise, natural gas is expected to remain the top fuel source in the U.S. “In turn, U.S. power sector emissions from gas use will likely also climb to new highs in 2024, potentially accelerating the climate warming trends that are fuelling increased higher gas demand in the first place,” Reuters added. The heat wave sweeping east prompted New England’s power grid operator to declare a level 1 emergency this week, and briefly pushed electricity prices up near $2,000 per megawatt-hour, “more than 10 times the day-ahead cost for the hour,” Bloombergreported. Back-up oil generation came online Tuesday.

3. Fossil fuel use and emissions reached record highs in 2023

Global fossil fuel use hit a record high last year as energy consumption rose, according to a report from the Energy Institute. Coal demand rose, oil consumption “rebounded strongly” after a pandemic dip, and crude oil consumption exceeded 100 million barrels per day for the first time ever. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions increased 2.1% and broke the record set the year before. Emissions from energy have increased by 50% since the year 2000, the report found. At the same time, renewable power generation reached a record high last year and accounted for about 15% of the global energy mix, and fossil fuel consumption for energy dropped ever so slightly (by 0.4%). The report sheds light on huge regional contrasts: “In advanced economies, we observe signs of demand for fossil fuels peaking, contrasting with economies in the Global South for whom economic development and improvements in quality of life continue to drive fossil growth,” Energy Institute Chief Executive Nick Wayth said.

Energy Institute

4. Utility-scale wind farm opens in Mississippi

Mississippi’s first utility-scale wind farm got up and running this week, marking a point of progress in the Southeast, where “wind energy development has long been stuck in the doldrums,” said Maria Gallucci at Canary Media. The 184-megawatt Delta Wind farm will provide power to Amazon for its regional data centers. One interesting detail is that this farm features some of the tallest onshore turbines in the country, manufactured to make the most out of the top wind speeds. Developers hope this will be “a catalyst for accelerated renewable energy and economic development throughout the South.”

5. Climate activists target Stonehenge

Activists from Just Stop Oil sprayed parts of the ancient Stonehenge monument with orange cornflour powder yesterday and called for an end to new fossil fuel use and extraction. Their actions were immediately and widely condemned and have sparked a national conversation about just how far climate protesters should go for their cause. The group said the powder will wash away with the rain, “but the urgent need for effective government action to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the climate and ecological crisis will not.” This morning the group also spray painted private jets at a London airport.

X/JustStop_Oil

Meanwhile, also in the UK, the Supreme Court there today ruled that, before new oil drilling projects can commence, companies must disclose and consider the environmental impacts of the resulting emissions. The decision “could put future UK oil and gas projects in question,” reported the BBC.

THE KICKER

A new UN climate survey covering more than 70 countries representing most of the global population found that 80% of people worldwide want their governments to do more to address the climate crisis.

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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

Energy Is a Culture War

JD Vance is making the conversation less about oil vs. solar and more about us vs. them.

JD Vance.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

“We need a leader,” said JD Vance as he accepted the Republican nomination for vice president, “who rejects Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s Green New Scam and fights to bring back our great American factories.” The election, he said, is “about the auto worker in Michigan, wondering why out-of-touch politicians are destroying their jobs,” and “the energy worker in Pennsylvania and Ohio who doesn’t understand why Joe Biden is willing to buy energy from tinpot dictators across the world, when he could buy it from his own citizens right here in our own country.”

This is the tale Vance tells about energy and climate — one of contempt and betrayal, elitists sacrificing hard-working blue-collar Americans on the altar of their alien schemes. On the surface it may sound like it’s about jobs and economics, but it’s really about the eternal culture war that divides us from them.

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Politics

AM Briefing: A Quick RNC Energy Recap

On Doug Burgum’s speech, green steel, and electric jets

What Republicans Have Been Saying About Energy at the RNC
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: The Acropolis in Greece was closed yesterday due to excessive heat • The Persian Gulf International Airport recorded a heat index of 149 degrees Fahrenheit • Recent flooding in Brazil exposed a 233-million-year-old dinosaur fossil.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Republicans slam Biden energy policy at RNC

Energy hasn’t dominated the conversation at the Republican National Convention this week, but it’s certainly been a talking point. Last night North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum gave a speech focusing on the topic. “Teddy Roosevelt encouraged America to speak softly and carry a big stick,” Burgum said. “Energy dominance will be the big stick that President Trump will carry.” He accused President Biden of making Russia and Iran “filthy rich” with his energy policies, blamed him for higher electric bills and grid problems, and said “four more years of Joe will usher in an era of Biden brownouts and blackouts.” Oh, and he promised that Trump would “let all of you keep driving your gas-powered cars.” CNN called the speech “Burgum’s audition to be energy secretary.”

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Technology

Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

A Florida postcard.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

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