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
Everybody Is Mad About Biden’s Offshore Lease Plans
On two new lawsuits, solid-state batteries, and China’s emissions
Current conditions: New York City is expecting six inches of snow • Intense flooding has been recorded across Oman • Parts of southeastern Australia are facing the worst bushfires in four years.
THE TOP FIVE
1. Oil industry and environmentalists are mad about Biden’s offshore lease plans
The Biden administration’s decision to dramatically reduce the number of offshore drilling lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico is proving to be unpopular with the oil industry and environmentalists. The plan is to hold just three lease sales between 2025 and 2029, a record low and far below the 47 proposed during the Trump administration. This week both the American Petroleum Institute (the fossil fuel industry’s biggest trade group) and Earthjustice (an environmental group) filed separate lawsuits over the plan “in a sign of the political tightrope policymakers must walk when rulemaking in the U.S. climate and energy sector,” explained the Financial Times. The oil group wants more lease sales, and accused the government of forcing Americans to rely on foreign energy sources; Earthjustice wants fewer lease sales (or none at all) and said the administration was ignoring public health impacts for frontline communities. “The oil and gas industry is already sitting on 9mn acres of undeveloped leases. They certainly are not entitled to more,” said Brettny Hardy, an Earthjustice attorney.
Get Heatmap AM directly in your inbox every morning:
2. Chinese battery giants team up on solid-state commercialization
China’s leading carmakers and battery manufacturers are joining forces to turbocharge commercialization of solid-state electric vehicle batteries. The China All-Solid-State Battery Collaborative Innovation Platform (CASIP) includes six of the top 10 global battery makers, reported Peter Johnson at Electrek, including would-be rivals BYD and CATL. Solid-state batteries are “a kind of holy-grail technology,” explained Patrick George at Heatmap. They can cut charging times and increase EV range compared to lithium-ion batteries, so carmakers are eager to bring a solid-state battery to market. But mass production is still very difficult. The Chinese project “pools academia and industry leaders,” Johnson said, and “could revolutionize the EV market.”
3. Study chronicles 30 years of ice melt on Greenland
Over the last three decades, Greenland has lost about 11,000 square miles of its ice cover due to global warming, according to a new study published in Scientific Reports. The researchers, from the University of Leeds, analyzed high resolution satellite images to understand historical melting trends. They found that as the ice disappears, plants are spreading – the amount of land with some vegetation on it more than doubled in three decades. Greenland is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. The melting ice creates a feedback loop – exposed rock absorbs more heat, therefore raising the temperature of the land. And the permafrost is melting, too, releasing carbon dioxide and methane.
University of Leeds
4. China’s emissions could peak sooner than expected
Experts think China’s greenhouse gas emissions will peak earlier than originally anticipated, reportedThe Wall Street Journal. The turning point could even come this year. China is the biggest annual greenhouse gas emitter, but it is rapidly scaling up renewable energy. Just last year its solar power capacity increased by 55%, “more than 500 million solar panels and well above the total installed solar capacity of the U.S.,” the Journal report explained. And it installed more wind energy than the rest of the world combined. “An early peak would have a lot of symbolic value and send a signal to the world that we’ve turned a corner,” said Jan Ivar Korsbakken, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research.
5. Debate rages on over hypothetical Category 6 hurricanes
Two climate scientists have sparked debate in their field by suggesting the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale, which is used to determine a hurricane’s category, is insufficient in describing the risks posed by stronger storms in the age of climate change. The scale currently goes from 1 to 5, but Michael Wehner of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and James Kossin of the First Street Foundation pondered whether a Category 6 was needed. This was more than a week ago, and the debate is still going. The main objection from other climate experts is that adding a new category “increases the chance of people underestimating the risks from storms that are lower than the highest category,” ABC News explained. After all, the category only focuses on wind speed and doesn’t tell residents much about other deadly hazards like storm surge and rainfall, which account for most storm-related deaths. “It is not evident how having an additional category on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale would improve preparation or decisions,” said AccuWeather chief meteorologist Jon Porter.
882 private jets landed in Las Vegas for Super Bowl weekend, the second highest number ever for the event, and just below last year’s total of 931.