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Politics

Will Climate Get a SOTU Shout Out?

On Biden’s big speech, February warmth, and Ikea’s EV chargers

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

Current conditions: Red flag fire warnings are in place across West Texas • Heavy rainfall caused extreme flooding in parts of West Java • Tourists in Morocco are disappointed to find the country’s public baths have been closed three days a week due to severe drought.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Biden urged to highlight climate wins in SOTU

Happy State of the Union day! President Biden will address Congress this evening, just as election season gets going in earnest, and some in his party are urging him to use the opportunity to make a Very Big Deal of his progress in the clean energy transition, reportedE&E News. “We have a great story to tell,” Environment and Public Works Chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) said. “He has to tell it. We have to tell it. Eventually it will break through.” Some recent polls suggest that most Americans aren’t aware of Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and may consider Biden’s likely rival, former President Donald Trump, to be best positioned on issues like energy and economy. “Climate voters could make or break Joe Biden in 2024,” Nathaniel Stinnett, executive director of the nonprofit Environmental Voter Project, told The New York Times. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the speech is “a chance for Biden to rally the nation around the climate progress of the past three years and show the way to build on those gains going forward.” Will he make the most of it? TBD.

2. New SEC climate disclosure rules blasted as both too harsh and too weak

As expected, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved a rule yesterday that will require companies to disclose information about their climate-related risks to investors. But the final rule differs dramatically from the proposal the Commission released two years ago, explained Heatmap’s Emily Pontecorvo, with significantly weaker provisions that leave it up to companies to decide how much information to share. Most of the climate-related disclosures the rule covers are now mandatory only if they’re considered “material.” Further, only about 40% of domestic public companies will even be required to consider whether their emissions are material. Smaller companies and emerging growth businesses — generally companies with less than $1.2 billion in annual revenues — are exempt.

Though the final rules are weaker than the original draft, they’re still too stringent for some. At least 10 Republican-led states are suing the SEC, accusing the Biden administration of playing “puppeteer” in using states to further a climate agenda. Meanwhile the Sierra Club environmental group might sue the SEC because it thinks the rules aren’t strict enough. An SEC spokesperson said the agency will “vigorously defend” the rules in court.

Also yesterday, 25 states, along with industry groups, filed three lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency for its recent crackdown on soot pollution.

3. February warmth breaks records

Last month was the warmest February ever recorded, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said today. This marks the 9th record-breaking month in a row, and the effects were felt world wide. Temperatures in Europe, for example, were 5.9 degrees Fahrenheit above averages seen between 1991 and 2020. But even more startling was the ocean temperature, which was higher last month than it was last August.


Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF

“Sea surface temperatures are at record levels over regions far away from the centre of the El Niño action, such as the tropical Atlantic and Indian Ocean,” said climate scientist Richard Allan of the University of Reading, suggesting climate change was playing a big part in heating the ocean heat.

4. Strong global gusts could set new wind-power records

Wind speeds in China, Europe, and the U.S. are expected to hit seasonal peaks in the coming weeks, which could result in record wind-power output, Reutersreported. In both the U.S. and China, last year’s spring wind power hit new highs in terms of share of total electricity generation. In the months since, both countries have added more wind generation capacity, which means new records are likely. Wind’s share of global electricity generation peaked at 9.59% in November of last year, and could jump beyond 10% “easily” in 2024, Reuters said.

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  • 5. Report: 1% of retail locations offer EV charging

    Consumer Reports examined 270,000 retail and fast-food locations across the country and found just 1% of them offer EV charging. The report looked at 75 of the largest retailers, including Target, Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and 7-Eleven and found that charging is available on average at 1 out of every 14 big box store locations, 1 out of every 15 grocery stores, and 1 out of every 40 department stores. “These results show that there is no retail category where a driver can be confident that an EV charger will be available,” the report concludes. This is despite the fact that installing EV chargers has been shown to increase both foot traffic and revenue for retail shops. Here’s a look at how charging availability breaks down by big box brands:

    Consumer Reports

    THE KICKER

    A new FEMA-backed video game called “Disaster Mind” is teaching teenagers how to stay calm during extreme weather events.

    Yellow

    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

    Are Pollsters Getting Climate Change Wrong?

    Why climate might be a more powerful election issue than it seems.

    A pollster on an ice floe.
    Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

    Climate change either is or isn’t the biggest issue of our time. It all depends on who you ask — and, especially, how.

    In March, as it has since 1939, Gallup asked Americans what they thought was the most important problem facing the country. Just 2% of respondents said “environment/pollution/climate change” — fewer than those who said “poor leadership” or “unifying the country” (although more than those who said “the media.”) Pew, meanwhile, asked Americans in January what the top priority for the president and Congress ought to be for this year, and “dealing with climate change” ranked third-to-last out of 20 issues — well behind “defending against terrorism,” “reducing availability of illegal drugs,” and “improving the way the political system works.”

    Keep reading...Show less
    Blue
    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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    Yellow
    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