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You can blame a “medicane” for this week’s deadly flooding in Greece.

Nope, a “medicane” is not a new type of health insurance. It’s a Mediterranean hurricane — such as the one currently developing in the Mediterranean Sea, where warming waters have produced a weather system with the characteristics of a subtropical cyclone.

Flash floods linked to moisture from the storm hit parts of Greece on Wednesday, killing 16 people and injuring dozens more. The storm is projected to skirt Sicily and head toward Greece this weekend, potentially inflicting more damage.

Medicanes are so uncommon that scientists have yet to establish a clear set of criteria for them. Weather systems like these are more typically found in the Caribbean, where warmer water temperatures feed tropical storms.

A Mediterranean cyclone generally counts as a medicane if it forms the characteristic hurricane-like “eye,” according to Emmanouil Flaounas, a meteorologist at the National Observatory of Athens who conducts research on medicanes through a European Commission-funded project.

His research suggests that Mediterranean cyclones will occur less frequently, but with more intensity, in the coming years. “Several future climate scenarios show a clear increase of the sea temperature, and this will be certainly related to an intensification of future cyclones,” he wrote in an email to Grist.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline You can blame a “medicane” for this week’s deadly flooding in Greece. on Nov 17, 2017. Source:

Nebraska’s Keystone XL decision won’t hinge on Thursday’s 210,000-gallon spill.

Oil gushed out of the Keystone pipeline in rural South Dakota on Thursday, 30 miles west of the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. Cleanup crews raced to the site, and TransCanada temporarily shut down the conduit.

So far, there are no reports of the oil entering water sources. But as local correspondent Kayleigh Schmidt said in a KSFY news segment on Thursday, you’ll get a nice “oil spill smell” nearby.

The leak occurred just days before Nebraska will decide whether or not to approve a route for the proposed northern leg of the long-disputed Keystone XL project, which would transport oil from the Canadian tar sands to the U.S.

Environmental groups said that Nebraska officials should consider the spill a “stark warning.” Just one problem: They can’t. A 2011 Nebraska law prevents state regulators from taking pipeline safety or possible leaks into account in their decisions — a rule that Nebraska’s Public Service Commission plans to abide by.

The spill is not Keystone’s first, but it is its largest — the 18th biggest spill in the U.S. overall since 2010, according to government data. And it’s possible the 210,000-gallon figure could still rise, given that oil companies often revise their initial estimates to be significantly higher.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Nebraska’s Keystone XL decision won’t hinge on Thursday’s 210,000-gallon spill. on Nov 17, 2017. Source:

Miles away from the U.N. climate talks, local movements demonstrate what’s really at stake

Atop a foothill on the southern edge of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, an indigenous community has held what is believed to be one of the longest sit-in protests in history, blocking a pipe at a silver mine. Their prerogative is simple and familiar, especially in recent months: Protect their source of water, keep the pipe shut.

I learned of the protest when I attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, last year. The atmosphere at the meeting was hopeful — the gathered were still on a high from the Paris Accord, which was agreed to at the previous year’s Conference of Parties (COP) in the French capital. Even Donald Trump’s election couldn’t dampen most participants’ optimism for a future that would better protect communities vulnerable to disastrous environmental impacts.

Yet just outside the official talks — where Morocco was being credited with building solar fields and green mosques — local activists criticized the conference for its official partnership with the company Managem, which operates the silver mine at Imider, 200 miles east of Marrakech.

Residents of the seven villages of Imider — mostly Amazigh people, an indigenous group across north Africa also known as Berbers — claim that the nearby mine has depleted their underground water reserves. And they worry that contamination is causing recent instances of cancer and miscarriages among villagers.

“This is a contradiction because it’s Managem,” Omar Ouadadouch told me at his hilltop camp next to the mine pipeline. “It’s part of polluting this earth by extracting and using many chemical substances — many things that impact the earth, humans.”

Ouadadouch and others, including activist groups protesting at this year’s COP in Bonn, Germany, say the climate conference has “greenwashed” environmental injustices — and that the struggles faced by communities just outside its doors can illustrate what’s really at stake when the world meets to decide how far we’ll go to hold polluters accountable.

In 2011, Imider residents shut off a main water pipe leading to the Managem silver mine, the most productive in Africa. Next to the pipe valve that’s chained shut, the Amazigh activists built tiny stone and plaster homes and took up residence. They’ve been there for seven years — long enough to set up a working solar panel donated by an NGO. Managem has since found another route to supply water to its mine and continues to ramp up its production of silver each year.

Ouadadouch and others say that the mine has pulled extensively from the underground canals that villagers rely on to supply water to their homes and farming. The silver mine reportedly uses up to 12 times as much water as the villagers consume daily. And this is all taking place in a region where one of the most dangerous effects of climate change is drought.

The pipe valve that the Berbers at Imider chained shut sits in front of several makeshift homes set up as part of a years-long protest. Justine Calma

Water contamination is also a worry. The mine at Imidir uses cyanidation — a process used to extract gold and silver from low-grade ore. It’s a controversial method that’s banned in some countries and U.S. states because of its potential to contaminate nearby water sources. It’s legal in Morocco, however, and Managem says it complies with national regulations. The company also maintains that it tests the water regularly and has never come across any problems.

When I visited Managem’s booth inside last year’s climate conference, I spoke with Ismail Akalay, the company’s general manager of mining. He claimed that Managem had gone through 17 rounds of negotiations with the activists — but that Omar and his fellow villagers weren’t interested in coming to a viable compromise.

Omar and other villagers refuse to abandon their sit-in until they are assured the mine will operate in a way that protects the area’s natural resources. They don’t actually want to shut the mine down. They want to coexist, and they hope the mine can operate safely and sustainably while providing more jobs for local youth.

An hour’s drive outside of Bonn, where this year’s U.N. climate talks are wrapping up, the entire village of Immerath — down to the bones in its cemetery — is being bulldozed over to make room for a coal mine.

Forty percent of Germany’s electricity is still generated by burning coal, and this year’s climate talks opened as thousands of protesters occupied the Hambach lignite mine. Hambach and nearby mines produce a yearly output of 30 million tons of brown coal, an even dirtier fuel than black coal.

“Mining and the use of brown coal is destroying people’s home,” Antje Grothus of the Climate Alliance Germany said in a statement released during the Bonn COP. “It is the most climate-damaging energy source fueling climate change. It cannot go on this way.”

Grothus used the occasion of the conference to try to bring attention to the damage coal mining wreaks on villages like Immerath. Imider’s residents took the same opportunity to tell their story to a global audience in Marrakech the previous year.

Fadma El Khalloufi made the journey from Imider to Marrakech to protest. “We discovered many kinds of allergies we never discovered until the mine was there. Cancer as well, five women died from cancer recently,” the then 57-year-old woman told me through a translator. “There is no hospital, there is no ambulance. And whenever a woman gets sick there they have to take her to a far big city.”

A year later, the Berbers near the silver mine are still demonstrating. On Sunday, roughly 400 people joined in a march with Imider’s activists. They are now concerned because Managem announced this year that it plans to up its silver production from 250 metric tons to 300 metric tons by 2020.

The Imider group claims to represent 8,000 residents among its seven local villages, but they’re now connected to movements around the world — including members of the Lakota Sioux, who left Standing Rock to attend the Marrakech summit and visited the mine demonstrations. Whether or not the decision makers whom activists from Imider to Immerath target turn a blind eye, the people involved in fighting for injustice globally do hear each other.

“For us, and toward other protests,” a spokesperson for the Imider camp told me Tuesday, “we declare our solidarity with all social movements and resistances.”

This story was reported with support from The GroundTruth Project, a media nonprofit dedicated to developing a new generation of journalists and to adding increased knowledge and understanding on critical global issues through enterprise journalism.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Miles away from the U.N. climate talks, local movements demonstrate what’s really at stake on Nov 17, 2017. Source:

It’s OK that Democrats don’t have a national climate policy

More than a year after the election of Donald Trump, the opposition Democratic Party still hasn’t found its voice on climate change.

That’s according to an essential overview of the situation from the Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer. Taken at face value, it’s not good news: Despite consistent rhetoric that climate change is among the most important challenges of the century, the Democratic Party has no large-scale cohesive plan to tackle it.

OK, that fact is worrying.

However, while Meyer is correct in his assessment of national politics, he makes one glaring omission: Climate action at the local and state level around the United States is, if anything, healthier and more ambitious than ever before. And it’s more often than not driven by Democrats. After a two decade-long quixotic quest for a unified federal climate policy, party members are finally willing to admit that their climate strategy can’t rest on economy-wide national legislation alone.

“We need to do everything we can to fight climate change,” says Keith Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota and deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. “That means having a bill ready for passage when we take power, and it also means pushing for more immediate wins to lower carbon emissions at the state and local levels by building upon the work of aggressive climate policy in states like Minnesota, California, and New York.”

In city halls, boardrooms, and statehouses across America, what’s (not) happening on climate in today’s Washington is mostly a sideshow. The science is clear, climate-related disasters are happening now, and in most cases, it makes economic sense to take action immediately. So on the front lines of climate change, from San Juan to San Francisco, Minneapolis to Miami, the message is clear: This problem is too important to wait for Congress and the president to get their act together.

Since President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement back in June, more than 2,500 local leaders from all 50 states have signed a pledge saying, “We are still in.” In aggregate, those leaders — mayors, governors, CEOs, university presidents, etc. — represent more than half of all Americans. As an independent nation, they’d rank third in the world in terms of share of total emissions—nearly 10 percent of the global total. But this collective is pushing some of the most ambitious climate policy anywhere on Earth.

And contrary to what you might hear in Washington, pro-climate efforts don’t come at the expense of the economy. In New York City, emissions are down 15 percent since 2005. In the same timeframe, the economy has grown by 19 percent. In Minneapolis, emissions are down 18 percent while the economy is up 30 percent.

Even in red states like Kansas and Texas, bipartisan coalitions are emerging to take advantage of tremendous renewable energy resources in wind and solar. In 2005, Kansas sourced less than 1 percent of its electricity from wind. Now, it’s at 25 percent and, like California, is on pace to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources in the next few years. There is now a nationwide job boom in construction and installation of renewable energy.

If you ask Democrats and advocates directly, this kind of progress has changed the prevailing wisdom of what effective U.S. climate policy looks like.

“We know it’s possible because we’re doing it,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement from Bonn, Germany. “The West Coast offers a blueprint: This is how you build a thriving, innovative economy that combats climate change and embraces a zero-emission future.”

Inslee is helping lead a sizeable, but unofficial, U.S. delegation at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn. Dan Firger of Bloomberg Philanthropies, whose boss, Michael Bloomberg serves as an outspoken U. N. special envoy for cities and climate action, calls it a “shadow climate government.”

“We’re less concerned about a silver bullet bill in Congress than we are about how best to get near-term carbon reductions done,” Firger told Grist, adding that the former New York City mayor believes in “bottom-up climate action.”

Lou Leonard, a senior vice president at the World Wildlife Fund, points to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a market-based approach to reducing carbon emissions among several northeastern U.S. states. Already, one of the largest carbon schemes in the world, it stands to expand after this month’s elections resulted in Democratic victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governor races. Those states are now set to join the initiative.

“We cannot put all our chips in a federal solution,” says Leonard from Bonn, where his organization is helping support the We Are Still In delegation. “That’s not the way the U.S. economy works, that’s not the way politics works, and it’s certainly not the most obvious path to success.”

Still, The Atlantic’s Meyer has a point: Democrats need to be able to combine all these local policy victories into a national and global win. After all, worldwide carbon emissions are on pace for a new record high in 2017. But this inside-out approach has precedents for yielding real results.

Climate change inherently is a problem that requires local action. And increasingly, those working for climate policy have shifted their efforts to support local early adopters. It’s a strategy specifically designed to build an eventual national consensus.

“There’s more happening than many people are aware of,” says Steve Valk, the communications director for Citizens Climate Lobby. “City and state initiatives — as happened with gay marriage — can drive a national policy.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline It’s OK that Democrats don’t have a national climate policy on Nov 16, 2017. Source:

Washington state gets another shot at the nation’s first carbon tax

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last November, some environmentalists in Washington state went to the polls hoping voters would back an initiative creating the nation’s first tax on carbon pollution.

Initiative 732 went down to defeat as the country’s attention focused on Donald Trump’s shocking electoral college win. But now, one year later and buoyed by the Democrats’ pick up of a state Senate seat in last week’s elections, Washington will get another chance to pass meaningful climate policy.

The victory not only gave the party control of the State Senate, it will, along with an already Democratic governor’s mansion and House of Representatives, turn Washington solidly blue. That clears the way for a “full-scale effort in the next session of the Legislature” on climate, as Governor Jay Inslee said before the election.

“2018 is the year we’re going to push for something big in Washington,” says Nick Abraham, communications director of the Washington Conservation Voters. “Whether that goes through the legislature or the ballot is still on the table.”

The coalition of groups spearheading the climate campaign, called the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, expects to make a more formal announcement about its plans before the end of the year. They are looking at a policy that reduces greenhouse gas pollution, but also redirects investment into a suite of programs to promote clean energy, electrifying the transportation sector, clean water, and communities of color. Their plan, similar to one that is under discussion by Democratic leadership, likely will include a tax on carbon.

Before climate advocates can see a carbon tax through, they will have to overcome the internal rifts in the progressive community that sunk the 2016 inititiave, which split environmentalists into two camps.

A small group called Carbon Washington sponsored the defeated initiative, which gained support from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Washington’s Audubon Society. Despite the high-profile backing, many Washington chapters of national environmental groups, like the Sierra Club and Washington Conservation Voters, declined to support the initiative, and activists Van Jones and Naomi Klein publicly campaigned against it. Their claim: The proposal didn’t generate funds to fight climate change, and was developed without the input of communities of color, and as a result, left those communities behind.

What the 732 initiative was designed to do, in essence, was return the money from its carbon tax through cuts in sales and manufacturing taxes and with tax rebates to low-income households. Carbon Washington boasted the plan was revenue-neutral; its founder, an economist who left the state for Utah after the 2016 election, argued the approach would appeal across party lines. But it angered environmental justice advocates and other local activists who favored steering the revenue into environmental initiatives and community reinvestment programs. After polluters and some environmentalists lined up against it, nearly 60 percent of voters opposed the initiative.

Washington environmentalists have regrouped and, while neither Democratic lawmakers nor members of the Alliance have the details hammered out, are gearing up to push a package of climate and energy efficiency measures next year. Having learned some hard lessons from the 2016 election, they might even put another carbon tax initiative on the ballot in 2018.

“If we figured out the exact formula in Washington State, we would have a bill by now,” says Kyle Murphy, executive director of Carbon Washington.

Instead of a revenue-neutral tax like the one proposed in I-732, the state’s Democrats are now considering plans that would generate revenue for climate related projects.

State Senator Reuven Carlyle is a Democrat who is poised to chair of the Senate’s energy and environment committee. While he’s not certain that any legislation will include a carbon tax, he tells Mother Jones that interest in one remains high. There’s “more enthusiasm for a responsible investment package” that would reinvest potential carbon tax revenue, Carlyle says, than in revenue-neutral proposals like the one that split environmentalists last year.

“There’s strong momentum around some element of carbon pricing in order to invest in clean energy,” Carlyle says. “We just need a little time to work in our governor and work in our House and Senate to determine what’s achievable.”

Environmentalists hoping to help the lawmakers draft a plan say that the idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax is now off the table.

“No, we’re not talking about a revenue-neutral carbon tax, let’s just say that,” says Aiko Schaefer, a coordinator with Front and Centered, a coalition of communities of color that are part of the Alliance. “We’re looking at strategies and approaches and policies that will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas pollution while also investing in solutions.”

There are other challenges to navigate: Democrats have slim majorities in the state legislature, meaning absent bipartisan support, a handful of defections could imperil any bill before it reaches the governor’s desk. Next year’s legislative session year is only 60 days, and climate will have compete with other priorities of the newly empowered Democrats. “There’s a backlog of a destructive trail,” warns Carlyle. “It’s a serious challenge to clean up some of the issues.”

And the same divisions that plagued I-732 could resurface again, as Democrats decide whose input to consider. Last year, Democrats introduced multiple bills to enact a carbon tax in the Republican-controlled chamber. One of them was from then-freshman State Senator Guy Palumbo, who now hopes to produce a bill that could attract colleagues from across the aisle.

“Republican leadership wouldn’t advance the policy over the last 5 years while they were in control,” he explained to Mother Jones. “Now that they are in the minority, the handful of Republican Senators who want to act on climate change are free to vote their conscience.”

Palumbo pointed to the carbon tax bill he introduced in 2017 as a proposal that might garner Republican support. His proposal includes a “Carbon Reduction Fund” to reinvest the tax’s revenue into grants boosting forest health and resiliency to drought and flooding, and as tax rebates for low-income people.

The plan, which carves out exemptions for fossil fuel exporters and some manufacturers, might not satisfy everyone in the environmental community. Palumbo’s bill would start the tax at $15 per ton and eventually rise to $30. Carbon Washington’s 2016 ballot initiative started higher at $25 and would have eventually risen to $100.

If the legislature doesn’t produce a bill, or introduces one that doesn’t go far enough to satisfy environmentalists, Front and Centered and other activists are eyeing a new ballot initiative in 2018. It’s early yet, but there are already signs of another split: Native American tribes who feel the Alliance’s new framework does not go far enough and that their input wasn’t considered warned in September that they may offer a competing carbon tax ballot initiative.

Climate activists argue that that Trump era voters in Washington are more likely to back a ballot measure to fight climate change, especially because its local impact has grown clearer over the past year. In 2017, Seattle’s air quality suffered from the ash and smoke from especially bad Pacific Northwest wildfires. Many parts of the state faced an unprecedented heatwave. “This is really visceral for people right now,” Abraham says.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Washington state gets another shot at the nation’s first carbon tax on Nov 16, 2017. Source:

Security firm TigerSwan was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters.

Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, brought on the paramilitary outfit to surveil pipeline opponents with the intent of mounting a racketeering case against Greenpeace and other activist organizations, say three former TigerSwan contractors who spoke to The Intercept.

The lawsuit alleges that environmental groups engineered the #noDAPL movement in order to garner donations by paying protestors and inciting them to commit criminal activity and domestic terrorism.

Greenpeace general counsel Tom Wetterer told the Intercept the lawsuit “grossly distorts the law and facts at Standing Rock.” While he’s certain Energy Transfer Partners won’t win, he notes that “what they’re really trying to do is silence future protests.”

Earlier this year, Grist and the Intercept independently reported on leaked TigerSwan documents that revealed its targeting of activists as jihadists in an intrusive military-style surveillance campaign. Within a month, a North Dakota state agency filed a complaint against the firm for operating there without a license. And Louisiana later denied TigerSwan permission to work there.

A lawyer representing DAPL opponents suing law enforcement, alleging police brutality and civil rights violations, told the Associated Press that online reports about TigerSwan’s operations are only strengthening her clients’ case.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Security firm TigerSwan was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters. on Nov 16, 2017. Source:

The U.N. climate talks have a gender gap. Women plan to fix it.

Since women are disproportionately affected by climate change, it’s about time they get a bigger seat at the negotiating table.

The Women and Gender Constituency, a group that works to ensure women’s rights are embedded in U.N. negotiations, is pushing for a new gender action plan set to be approved on Friday at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Little progress has been made since negotiators proposed a “gender balance” goal to boost female participation five years ago. (The U.N. process initially failed to include gender in its agenda.) A recent paper from the U.N. climate change secretariat shows that women made up 32 percent of conference delegates in 2015 and 2016, up only one percentage point from 2012.

In addition to meeting the goal of gender balance among climate change decision-makers, the new plan aims to allocate more funding to women (particularly in developing nations), create a rights-based platform for indigenous peoples and local communities, and ensure climate solutions are “gender-just.”

That would be progress. Assessments based on 2015 U.N. global population projections suggest that increased access to education and family planning for women and girls is the No. 1 method of reducing global emissions.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The U.N. climate talks have a gender gap. Women plan to fix it. on Nov 16, 2017. Source:

Another side effect of Puerto Rico’s power problems: Scientists struggle to do their work.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.

Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.

Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.

Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Another side effect of Puerto Rico’s power problems: Scientists struggle to do their work. on Nov 16, 2017. Source:

The shipping industry needs to clean up its act. Here’s where it can start.

Just north of the U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany, a group of shipping industry leaders gathered — well, where else? — on the water.

An elegant river cruise ship, the Rhine Fantasy, was transformed Monday into a floating command center, where more than a hundred executives, policy experts, and environmentalists debated how to slash the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Vessels carrying heaps of coal and steel containers glided by the cruise throughout the day. Inside the ship’s ballroom, a giant mural illustrated the event’s central theme: What can the industry do to play its part in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels — the most ambitious goal laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement?

To meet that target, all cargo ships will need to be “zero-emissions” by 2050. That requires ditching cheap, but noxious, bunker fuel and replacing it with promising — though still early-stage — alternatives such as battery storage, sustainable biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells, and wind-sail technology.

To nobody’s surprise, the day-long river summit didn’t resolve any fierce policy disputes or yield unanimous decisions on how to decarbonize cargo ships. But it did illuminate some steps that companies could actually take today to steer the industry onto a cleaner course while messier regulatory decisions are hashed out.

While they’re not radical overhauls, measures the sector could adopt now include:

‘Slow steaming’

Cargo ships can instantly lower their fuel consumption — and thus their emissions — by simply slowing down. As a rule of thumb, a 10-percent drop in speed will reduce power demand by nearly 30 percent.

Shipping companies have used slow steaming on and off for decades in response to rising fuel prices or economic downturns. But the maneuver can require complex mechanical or operational adjustments. Plus, customers want their goods delivered as quickly as possible, so cargo companies often see little incentive to stay in the slow lane when the cost of fuel is low or transport services are in high demand.

By requiring ships to reduce speeds no matter the market, the industry could instantly cut its toxic air pollution — and, potentially, extend the deadline for delivering cleaner vessels, according to the European nonprofit advocacy group Transport & Environment, as well as other proponents aboard the Rhine Fantasy. Unlike carbon emissions, ship speeds are relatively easy to regulate, since individual countries or economic zones can set their own limits in waters they oversee.

Better data and transparency

It’s likely not surprising to learn that the shipping industry isn’t on the cutting edge of data analysis and cloud computing. On many vessels, information about speed, fuel use, and location is still manually punched into computer spreadsheets and sent via maddeningly slow communications systems. Gathering multiple data points and sharing those in real time could enable fuel-saving steps such as helping ships devise shorter routes, arriving when ports are less crowded, and avoiding unfavorable wind conditions.

Tech startups are cropping up to supply ships with data-collecting sensors and to improve the speed and quality of their communications. Mainstream maritime companies are already on board: Wärtsilä, a major Finnish manufacturer, recently acquired the cleantech software company Eniram for more than $50 million. Shipping giant Maersk is partnering with IBM to digitize its supply chain and track the paper trails of millions of shipping containers.

Better data is not just low-hanging fruit for the shipping industry, it could empower businesses that send their goods on cargo ships to learn more about their own supply chain emissions, and to advocate for cleaner options.

New financing approaches

Banks today have little appetite for backing energy-efficient retrofits or cleantech pilot projects. Such endeavors are generally more complicated and expensive than conventional builds and, in the case of newer technologies, there’s a risk companies will lose lots of money. But dirtier vessels are a financial risk, too.

Cargo ships built today will likely eventually have to comply with stringent regulations on carbon emissions and energy efficiency. Those vessels might seem like safe bets now, but what if the owners have to borrow more money to pay for future upgrades? A recent report by the nonprofit Carbon War Room found that the $400 billion in total global shipping debt actually represents “unassessed climate risk exposure” for banks.

Financiers should consider the risk of climate policies when pricing out their loans, which would give an advantage to cleaner projects while adding scrutiny to run-of-the-mill constructions. Government and regional banks can also step in and assume some of the risk if cleaner ships lose money. The European Investment Bank, for instance, is partnering with a private Dutch institution to encourage lending for efficiency retrofits and clean vessel construction.

Local action to drive global change

A big challenge to the zero-carbon shipping movement is that none of the technologies on the table — batteries, biofuels, etc. — have proven to make technical or financial sense at a large scale. To show how alternatives work in real-world conditions, we’ll need more demonstration projects taking place in various parts of the globe for a wide range of ship types.

Local and national governments can support this effort by creating initiatives across entire ports or countries. Norway, for example, has become a hub for battery-powered ferries, in part thanks to funding derived from a tax on ships’ emissions of nitrogen oxide, a greenhouse gas linked to climate change and a key component of acid rain. In the Netherlands, port authorities are using more biofuels in patrol vessels and have plans to become refueling centers offering lower-carbon fuels.

Maria Gallucci is the 2017-2018 Energy Journalism Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline The shipping industry needs to clean up its act. Here’s where it can start. on Nov 16, 2017. Source:

Jerry Brown said some kinda weird things on his Europe tour.

The California governor is currently touring Europe to talk about his pet cause: climate action. He’s representing multiple coalitions of state and local governments — the international Under2 Coalition and U.S. Climate Alliance — that are trying to push for the social reform and clean energy infrastructure that would achieve the climate goals put forward by the Paris Agreement.

Anyway! Brown’s tour — throughout which he’s taken a strong, critical stance against the type of lifestyle that’s put us in a climate crisis — culminated in the U.N. Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany. He sounds … in a bad way.

The Huffington Post reported that Brown insisted on some extreme soul-searching at the Vatican at the beginning of the month: “At the highest circles, people still don’t get it … We need a total, I might say ‘brain washing.’ We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world.”

In the most recent days of the tour, things have gone a bit off the rails. Brown has declared that he does not “conceptualize the world” in terms of “joy,” conceded — after some harassment — that he enjoys the occasional bite of cheeseburger, and had to apologize for Donald Trump.

Governor … we relate.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Jerry Brown said some kinda weird things on his Europe tour. on Nov 15, 2017. Source: