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Electric Vehicles

Rivian Just Unveiled 3 New Electric SUVs

On the R3 and R3X, the Great Barrier Reef, and Texas wildfires

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Will Climate Get a SOTU Shout Out?
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Most of Alabama is under a flood watch • It will be so hot in Southern Australia this weekend that special bins have been set up to collect dead bats • Hazardous smog choked 54 of Thailand’s 77 provinces this week.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden talks up energy and economic wins during SOTU

President Biden’s final State of the Union address before the November election represented as good a chance as any for him to make his pitch to the American people — and he did so without ever saying the name of his most significant piece of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, wrote Heatmap’s Jeva Lange. Biden repeatedly boasted about “clean energy, advanced manufacturing,” and creating “tens of thousands of jobs here in America.” He further referred to a Stellantis plant in Belvidere, Illinois, that reopened partly due to a federal grant made possible by the IRA. The economic upsides of the IRA were largely separated from Biden’s brief mention of “confronting the climate crisis” in the second half of his speech. His lone new climate announcement pertained to a rather minor piece in his more extensive agenda: Biden promised to triple the Climate Corps of young people working in clean energy in a decade.

“The Biden administration has consistently moved its climate goals forward by not calling attention to the fact that they are climate goals,” Lange continued. “At the same time, using the State of the Union to draw attention to specific economic accomplishments that just so happen to be in the clean energy space allows Biden to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump on the economy — an issue voters are more concerned about this election cycle than the climate — without letting such a talking point be dismissed as green liberal woo-woo.”

2. Rivian surprises with new R3 and R3X models

Rivian unveiled the much-anticipated R2 SUV yesterday, but surprised everyone with two other models, the R3 and the R3X. Here’s what we know about all three vehicles:

  • R2: A mid-sized, five-seat electric SUV with up to 300 miles of range. Launching in early 2026, starting at $45,000.
  • R3: An electric crossover “built on the same midsize platform as R2, but smaller and at a lower price point.”
  • R3X: “A rally-inspired crossover designed for whatever you throw at it.” Deliveries will begin “after R2.”

3. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffers mass bleaching event

Two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is showing signs of coral bleaching “consistent with patterns of heat stress that has built up over summer,” experts said today. This will be the fifth mass bleaching event in just eight years for the world’s largest living structure. Bleaching occurs when stressful conditions such as heat cause corals to expel the algae that lives in their tissues and turn white. “Bleaching of corals does not always result in coral mortality, with some corals being able to recover if conditions cool,” the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said. But Richard Leck, WWF-Australia Head of Oceans, warned that “unless we see a significant drop off in temperatures in the next few weeks, the risk of significant coral mortality is high.”

The Great Barrier Reef pictured off the coast of Australia in August of last year.MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will carry out aerial and in-water surveys to get a better understanding of the extent of the damage. Earlier this week the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned of widespread bleaching events in tropical reefs all over the world. Coral reefs support about a quarter of all marine life.

4. Utility company says it was ‘involved’ in Texas fire

The utility company Xcel Energy said yesterday that its equipment played a role in starting Texas’ Smokehouse Creek Fire. Fueled by strong winds, dry brush, and unusually high temperatures, the blaze has burned more than 1.2 million acres and is the largest fire in state history. Linda Moon, assistant director of the Texas A&M Forest Service, said power lines were to blame. The company faces nearly 300 lawsuits in Colorado for its alleged involvement in the 2021 Marshall wildfire.

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  • 5. Cherry blossoms get their own climate ‘hockey stick’ graph

    Following the news that Japan’s famous cherry trees have blossomed early, Our World in Data posted this graph showing the timing of peak cherry tree blossoms in Kyoto going back to the year 812. “We see that in recent centuries the peak blossom has gradually moved earlier in the year — due to higher temperatures from climate change,” the publication noted. Climate scientist Michael Mann, who popularized the “hockey stick” graph in 1998 that showed a spike in global temperatures, said “I recognize that shape, even when it's upside down…”

    Our World in Data

    THE KICKER

    “Women’s leadership is the key to successful action in tackling climate change. Without their leadership, knowledge, and engagement in the implementation of climate-resilient development paths, it is unlikely that solutions for creating a sustainable and healthy planet will be implemented.” Tomica Paovic from the United Nations Development Programme


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    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. Read More

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    Politics

    AM Briefing: Earth Day Edition

    On expanding solar access, the American Climate Corps, and union news

    Biden’s Big Earth Day Agenda
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Current conditions: Torrential rains forced Mauritius to shut down its stock exchange • “Once in a century” flooding hit southern China • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight.

    THE TOP FIVE

    1. Biden kicks off Earth Day with $7 billion for expanding solar access

    Today is Earth Day, but President Biden and his cabinet are celebrating all week long. Senior members of the administration have scheduled a national tour of events and announcements related to the president’s climate and environmental record. It starts with Biden’s visit to Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia, today, where he will announce $7 billion is being awarded to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Solar for All initiative, which aims to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. The average grant size will be more than $80 million, and the funding will be used to design new programs and bolster existing ones that subsidize the cost of rooftop solar installations, community solar projects, and battery storage.

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    Sparks

    Biden’s $7 Billion Solar Bonanza

    The Solar For All program is the final piece of the $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

    Solar panel installation.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    The great promise of solar panels — in addition to their being carbon-free — is the democratization of energy. Anyone can produce their own power, typically for less than the going utility rate. The problem is that those who stand to benefit the most from this opportunity haven’t been able to access it.

    That pattern could change, however, with Solar for All, a $7 billion program under the Environmental Protection Agency to support solar in low- to moderate-income communities. On Monday, the Biden administration announced it was awarding the funds to 60 state and local governments, tribes, and national and regional nonprofits, at an average grant size of more than $80 million.

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    Green
    Climate

    A Big Week for Batteries

    Texas and California offered intriguing, opposing examples of what batteries can do for the grid.

    A battery.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    While cold winters in the south and hot summers across the country are the most dramatic times for electricity usage — with air conditioners blasting as weary workers return home or inefficient electric heaters strain to keep toes warm from Chattanooga to El Paso before the sun is up — it may be early spring that gives us the most insight into the lower-emitting grid of the future.

    In California, America’s longtime leader in clean energy deployment, the combination of mild temperatures and longer days means that solar power can do most of the heavy lifting. And in Texas — whose uniquely isolated, market-based and permissive grid is fast becoming the source of much of the country’s clean power growth — regulators allow the state’s vast fleet of natural gas power (and some coal) power plants to shut down for maintenance during the mild weather, giving renewables time to shine.

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