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Climate

What Electricity Providers Can Learn From the Eclipse

On solar power, Tesla’s wrongful death suit, and Elmer the elephant

What Electricity Providers Can Learn From the Eclipse
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Wildfire season has started one month early in Greece • A Russian oil refinery in Orsk paused operations after torrential rains caused a dam to burst • It will be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy in Glendale, Arizona, for the men's NCAA basketball championship game between Purdue and UConn.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Solar eclipse will offer power providers a ‘test run’

Happy eclipse day! The moon will block out the sun’s light for up to four minutes in some areas across the U.S. this afternoon. Millions have flocked to cities along the eclipse’s “path of totality,” which arcs diagonally across continental North America from Mexico’s Pacific coast up through eastern Canada, touching 15 states along the way. The eclipse is “offering power providers a test run for unpredictable sun-blocking events, such as winter storms and wildfire smoke so thick it blankets the sky,” Politicoreported. Texas, for example, could lose more than 90% of its solar capacity during the celestial event. But customers are unlikely to have any problems with their electricity as a result.

Eclipse cloud cover forecast. NWS

Unfortunately, the weather isn’t looking great for spectators. Most regions are expected to have at least some cloud cover. “Cloud cover is one of the trickier things to forecast,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Alexa Mainee. “At the very least, it won’t snow.”

2. European human rights court to issue precedent-setting climate rulings

The European Court of Human Rights will issue rulings on three major climate cases this week. “The verdicts will set a precedent for future litigation on how rising temperatures affect people’s right to a liveable planet,” reportedReuters. In all three cases, the plaintiffs claim governments breached their human rights by not protecting them from the damaging health effects of climate change. The three cases are all quite different: One involves a group of young people from Portugal, another is from older Swiss women, and the third involves a former French mayor. But “we all are trying to achieve the same goal,” said 23-year-old Catarina Mota, one of the Portuguese youths. “A win in any one of the three cases will be a win for everyone.” A ruling against even one government could put added pressure on all European countries to reconsider their emissions reductions schedules, and pave the way for similar cases.

3. Greta Thunberg arrested in The Hague

Greta Thunberg was detained again over the weekend. The 21-year-old climate activist joined about 100 people from Extinction Rebellion in blocking a highway in The Hague to protest fossil fuel subsidies. Dutch police lifted Thunberg from her seated position on the ground and dragged her to a bus. Photos circulating from the arrest show her grimacing while being carried away, but Thunberg described the arrest as “peaceful.” Thunberg was arrested in London last year for blocking the entrance of a hotel. In February a judge found her not guilty of breaking the law in that case, and said the police had imposed “unclear” and “unlawful” conditions on protesters.

X/XrItaly

4. Tesla wrongful death suit heads to trial

A wrongful death lawsuit involving Tesla’s Autopilot system goes to trial tomorrow. The jury will have to decide who is at fault for a 2018 crash that occurred while the driver, Walter Huang, was using the driver-assistance technology in his Tesla Model X. Huang died in the crash, and his family says the Autopilot feature was not safe and that Tesla oversold it in marketing materials. Tesla insists Huang is at fault for the crash because he was playing a video game. “If the Huangs prevail, the suit could represent a major financial liability for Tesla, potentially spurring additional cases that seek notable awards,” reportedThe Wall Street Journal. The ruling could also have ramifications for Tesla’s planned robotaxis, which would likely rely on Autopilot and Full Self-Driving tech. The company plans to unveil its robotaxi on August 8.

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  • 5. New ‘Elmer’ book will focus on climate change

    The creator of the iconic children’s book character Elmer the patchwork elephant was working on an Elmer book about climate change before he died in 2022. Author David McKee left behind an early manuscript and sketches of his book “Elmer + White Bear,” in which Elmer meets a polar bear that has floated to the jungle a melting piece of ice. “I love where I live,” the bear says, explaining that global warming is making the world warmer and caused him to become lost in the jungle.

    Andersen Press

    Before he died, McKee talked with his publisher about writing a book that helped parents talk to their kids about the climate crisis. “So many people have wanted to use Elmer as a mascot,” said McKee’s son, Chuck. “He never wanted that to happen, because Elmer belongs to everybody. So the idea of doing something, of making a statement with Elmer about climate change, was a first for him.”

    Elmer and the White Bear will be published by Andersen Press next year.

    THE KICKER

    “A surge in earthquakes should be the absolute least of your worries when it comes to the warming planet.”Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo investigates whether climate change causes earthquakes

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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.

    Climate

    AM Briefing: Displacement Fears

    On the Biden administration’s carbon removal investments, the climate refugees of Brazil, and more

    Wednesday sunrise.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: More storms and possible tornadoes are forecast to hit Texas and the Plains, where millions of people are still without power • Cyclone Remal, the first tropical storm of the season, killed at least 23 people in India and Bangladesh • Brazilian authorities are investigating up to 800 suspected cases of waterborne illness following unprecedented flooding over the past month.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Biden administration invests in carbon removal

    The Department of Energy on Tuesday gave $1.2 million to companies competing for a chance to sell carbon removal credits to the federal government. These 24 semifinalists, which were each awarded $50,000, include nine direct air capture projects, seven biomass projects, five enhanced rock weathering projects, and three marine-based projects. Up to 10 of them will be offered federal contracts amounting to $30 million. “The Department of Energy hopes that by selecting 24 companies that have been vetted by government scientists, it’s sending a signal to the private sector that there are at least some projects that are legitimate,” Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo writes, referencing struggles in the broader carbon credits marketplace.

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    Technology

    Carbon Removal’s Stamp of Approval

    The Department of Energy is advancing 24 companies in its purchase prize contest. What these companies are getting is more important than $50,000.

    Heirloom DAC.
    Heatmap Illustration/Heirloom Carbon

    The Department of Energy is advancing its first-of-a-kind program to stimulate demand for carbon removal by becoming a major buyer. On Tuesday, the agency awarded $50,000 to each of 24 semifinalist companies competing to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere on behalf of the U.S. government. It will eventually spend $30 million to buy carbon removal credits from up to 10 winners.

    The nascent carbon removal industry is desperate for customers. At a conference held in New York City last week called Carbon Unbound, startup CEOs brainstormed how to convince more companies to buy carbon removal as part of their sustainability strategies. On the sidelines, attendees lamented to me that there were hardly even any potential buyers at the conference — what a missed opportunity.

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    Economy

    Tom Steyer Is Baffled By Warren Buffett’s Oil Bets

    “In the case of fossil fuels, he doesn’t seem to recognize how quickly our ability to develop and deploy clean energy is growing — and how cheap that energy is becoming.”

    Tom Steyer and Warren Buffett.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    If you’re looking for a relatively optimistic read on the fight against climate change, Tom Steyer’s new book is out today. Called Cheaper, Better Faster: How We’ll Win the Climate War, it dives into the billionaire’s perspective on the state of the climate crisis and the clean energy solutions helping the world decarbonize. Steyer’s perspective is informed by the many hats he wears — investor, philanthropist, long shot 2020 presidential candidate, Yale man, and co-founder of the investment firm Galvanize Climate Solutions.

    I chatted with Steyer a few weeks ago about his book, his guiding investment principles, and how and why people become environmentalists. Here are three things I found noteworthy:

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