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  1. Driving research opportunities at RAEL

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    April 4: for the orig­i­nal arti­cle, click here.


    Cal­i­for­nia pol­i­cy­mak­ers made head­lines in 2021  when they announced new emis­sions reg­u­la­tions that will ban the sale of new gas-​​powered vehi­cles by 2035. As the state inches closer to that date, researchers in UC Berkeley’s Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab­o­ra­tory (RAEL) are study­ing how an all-​​electric fleet will inter­act with California’s power grid.

    Late last month, the research team received a new tool to help their work: an elec­tric car donated by Viet­namese automaker Vin­Fast, a sub­sidiary of the Vin­group con­glom­er­ate. Energy and Resources Group pro­fes­sor Dan Kam­men, who leads the research team, said he con­nected with the automaker’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives last year while he was in Hanoi, Viet­nam, judg­ing the $3 mil­lion Vin­Fu­ture Prize.

    This was com­plete serendip­ity,” he said. “At the end of my trip, the com­pany asked if they could donate one of their first 999 U.S. vehi­cles to our lab.”

    Kam­men said the vehi­cle will be used by RAEL—a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary research group that focuses on design­ing, test­ing, and dis­sem­i­nat­ing clean and sus­tain­able energy systems—to study energy stor­age con­straints, how changes in tem­per­a­ture affect bat­tery per­for­mance, and other issues relat­ing to elec­tric cars, as well as the social and equity dimen­sions of EV infra­struc­ture devel­oped to sup­port mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. The lab also hopes to work along­side the man­u­fac­turer to explore the costs asso­ci­ated with mod­i­fy­ing vehi­cles to send power from their bat­ter­ies back to the elec­tric grid.

    Ser­vice, deliv­ery, and rideshare vehi­cles that might be dri­ven for work dur­ing the day could be used at night to shore up our grid and pro­vide dis­trib­uted energy stor­age for profit,” Kam­men said.


    The vehi­cle also offers RAEL researchers an oppor­tu­nity to con­duct com­mu­nity out­reach, par­tic­u­larly within low-​​income neigh­bor­hoods where access to elec­tric vehi­cles is low. “Elec­tric vehi­cles are now suf­fi­ciently inex­pen­sive that, if the upfront costs could be amor­tized, they would be cheaper than gas-​​powered vehi­cles,” Kam­men said. “Low-​​income com­mu­ni­ties, how­ever, might not be given the chance to drive a shared elec­tric vehi­cle because that’s not a stan­dard thing to loan out.”

    In the future, the car might be sta­tioned at pub­lic charg­ing loca­tions near BART sta­tions or inte­grated into the ongo­ing EcoBlock research project as a shared-​​mobility vehicle.

    Learn more about RAEL and the EcoBlock projects at their websites.

  2. Starting 2023 with new work on an integrated approach to river sustainability!

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    Click here for the new pub­li­ca­tion in Fron­tiers of Envi­ron­men­tal Science.




    Opper­man JJ, Car­vallo JP, Kel­man R, Schmitt RJP, Almeida R, Chapin E, Flecker A, Goi­chot M, Grill G, Harou JJ, Hart­mann J, Hig­gins J, Kam­men DM, Mar­tin E, Mar­tins T, New­sock A, Rogéliz C, Raep­ple J, Sada R, Thieme ML and Har­ri­son D (2023) Bal­anc­ing renew­able energy and river resources by mov­ing from indi­vid­ual assess­ments of hydropower projects to energy sys­tem plan­ning. Front. Env­i­ron. Sci. 10:1036653.


    Arti­cle DOI:




  3. COP27: Green hope growing in the desert

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    To read the orig­i­nal in the Novem­ber 5, 2022 Jor­dan Timesclick here.

    COP27: Green hope grow­ing in the desert

    World lead­ers gather anew in Egypt for COP27 to address the exis­ten­tial threat of the cli­mate cri­sis; while solu­tions exist, the world needs to see action and imple­men­ta­tion. To achieve this, the global com­mu­nity needs both grit and optimism.

    1120225212745865568544Screen Shot 2022-11-06 at 6.28.45 PM
    COP27 should be about col­lab­o­ra­tion, green accel­er­a­tion, and, most impor­tantly, bring­ing to life exist­ing con­cepts and solu­tions to scale and cre­ate much-​​needed green jobs. A metaphor­i­cal cross­ing of the Red Sea is needed to halt the cur­rent tra­jec­tory to 2.8°C or more of global warm­ing. It is time for finance to step up.

    In 2012, at COP18 in Doha, a pilot facil­ity for pro­duc­tion of food, energy, water, and reveg­e­ta­tion of desert areas was launched. Today, a few kilo­me­ters from where COP is tak­ing place, the Sahara For­est Project pro­duces tons of veg­eta­bles far into the Jor­dan­ian desert, in saltwater-​​cooled green­houses, with their own renew­able energy, plant­ing trees in the desert.

    Not every­one believed, back in 2012. But see­ing was believ­ing, and it still is.

    At the dawn of the 2000s the elec­tri­fi­ca­tion of trans­port seemed a vision more than a pos­si­ble real­ity. In 2009, when Bel­lona brought the first four Tesla Road­sters in Europe to COP15 in Copen­hagen, it all became a bit more real. Today, we can acknowl­edge mas­sive strides taken over the last 13 years.

    Not every­one believed, even in 2009. But the nee­dle was moved. See­ing is believing.

    The adage may be old and slightly worn out but has never been truer. Can a few elec­tric cars solve the prob­lem? No. But can it click the right gears into place? Absolutely.

    Renew­able energy has been doing this for years, with rapidly declin­ing costs for solar, wind, and stor­age tech­nolo­gies all trans­form­ing the energy sec­tor. Replac­ing fos­sil fuels in use has also become a no-​​brainer in many more appli­ca­tions, with heavy con­struc­tion machin­ery the lat­est addi­tion. Man­u­fac­tur­ers are increas­ingly becom­ing aware of the fact that not only is elec­tri­fi­ca­tion good for the envi­ron­ment, it is also good for worker health, noise lev­els, and the pock­et­book. In indus­try, car­bon cap­ture and stor­age is becom­ing viable as a large-​​scale solu­tion for process emis­sions that are dif­fi­cult to get rid of.

    And while dam­ages and losses of cli­mate change con­tinue to increase with each pass­ing year of inac­tion, the global com­mu­nity is still stuck try­ing to deliver on the 2009 pledge to mobi­lize the mere $100 bil­lion annu­ally from devel­oped to devel­op­ing countries.”

    But tempo is lack­ing. Imple­men­ta­tion is lack­ing. Scale is lack­ing. And not least, finance is lacking.

    Get­ting money to the right projects is with­out doubt one of the great­est chal­lenges in the fight against cli­mate change. Our cur­rent mea­sures for accel­er­at­ing fund­ing, both for adap­ta­tion and mit­i­ga­tion, are fail­ing. And while dam­ages and losses of cli­mate change con­tinue to increase with each pass­ing year of inac­tion, the global com­mu­nity is still stuck try­ing to deliver on the 2009 pledge to mobi­lize the mere $100 bil­lion annu­ally from devel­oped to devel­op­ing countries.

    We need to have a hard look at chal­lenges fac­ing the cur­rent cli­mate financ­ing. At the same time, we need to take a view beyond this one pledge, toward new mech­a­nisms for financ­ing a just and green transition.

    A par­a­digm shift is needed in cli­mate finance, a Cli­mate Finance 2.0. This new par­a­digm can focus on cer­tain key issues.

    One such issue is infra­struc­ture. Large-​​scale infra­struc­ture projects are hugely impor­tant to roll out much-​​needed renew­ables, as well as decar­boniz­ing harder-​​to-​​electrify indus­trial processes across the world. But project deploy­ment is slow, and projects suf­fer from lack of pub­lic fund­ing, long lead times, chal­lenges fac­ing per­mit­ting processes, admin­is­tra­tive hur­dles, and issues related to pub­lic acceptance.

    Another issue is defin­ing projects “of com­mon inter­est” eli­gi­ble for cli­mate financ­ing. An inter­na­tional mech­a­nism chan­nelling cap­i­tal to projects of com­mon inter­est could cre­ate a global stamp of approval, send­ing pos­i­tive mar­ket sig­nals and mobi­liz­ing addi­tional pri­vate cap­i­tal either into projects directly or to asso­ci­ated projects rely­ing on shared infrastructure.

    These are not just exam­ples, but a vision, and a pos­si­ble real­ity. Now more than ever we need action and lead­er­ship. This is why it is so impor­tant to show­case all the solu­tions that actu­ally exist today, high­light­ing their many ben­e­fits, and build­ing bet­ter sto­ries for cli­mate action as a pos­i­tive for the cli­mate but also for coun­tries, cities, com­mu­ni­ties. This is also why we are at COP27.

    We are on a tra­jec­tory for 2.8 degrees instead of 1.5. The slo­gan for COP26 in Glas­gow was “keep­ing 1.5 alive” — it is cur­rently on life sup­port. Still, every day we see new and inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to the cli­mate and envi­ron­men­tal crises that the global com­mu­nity is try­ing to solve.

    See­ing is believ­ing. Now let us get them some funding.

    Dan Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley.  He has served at the World Bank as chief tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ist for renew­able energy, and as sci­ence envoy in the Obama admin­is­tra­tion.  He has been a coor­di­nat­ing lead author of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change since 1999.

    Twit­ter: @dan_kammen.


    Fred­eric Hauge founded Bel­lona in 1986, at the age of 20. Through aca­d­e­mic work, legal action, and non-​​violent activism, Bel­lona has changed the opin­ion and set the agenda on envi­ron­men­tal issues in Nor­way for almost three decades. Hauge was elected in 2007 as vice chair­man of the Euro­pean Commission’s Tech­nol­ogy Plat­form for CO2 seques­tra­tion (ZEP). The same year TIME Mag­a­zine named him “Hero of The Envi­ron­ment”. In 2009 he became a board mem­ber of the EU Bio­fuel Plat­form (EBTP), and one of the found­ing part­ners of the Sahara For­est Project.

  4. Elon Musk says ‘population collapse’ is a bigger threat than climate change. Is he right?

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    Elon Musk says ‘pop­u­la­tion col­lapse’ is a big­ger threat than cli­mate change. Is he right?

    At the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val this sum­mer, many atten­dees rev­eled at the “Top Gun” reboot, a throw­back to the past. But on the side­lines a smaller crowd wit­nessed some­thing more solemn: the pos­si­bil­ity of a dark and tragic future.

    Plan 75,” a film by Japan­ese direc­tor Hayakawa Chie, explores the poten­tial dan­gers of her country’s aging soci­ety, where nearly one-​​in-​​three peo­ple are cur­rently 65 or older. Set in a near-​​future dystopia, the film depicts a nation whose health­care and pen­sions sys­tems have become so over­bur­dened by the elderly that the gov­ern­ment aggres­sively mar­kets a pol­icy to pay for final bucket list items and then euth­a­nize any­one over 75.

    While tech­ni­cally the stuff of sci­ence fic­tion, demog­ra­phers say the film arrives at a time when human­ity really is aging.

    The global fer­til­ity rate has decreased by half since 1960. In coun­tries respon­si­ble for 85% of the world’s gross domes­tic prod­uct – the United States, Ger­many, Japan, even China and India – births have fallen below the “replace­ment rate,” mean­ing that unless off­set by immi­gra­tion, pop­u­la­tion will begin to decline as older gen­er­a­tions depart.

    The United Nations cal­cu­lates the world pop­u­la­tion will now peak in 2084, before start­ing to fall by the century’s end.

    An elderly man walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. Japan is the world's oldest country, with 3-in-10 people over the age of 65.

    An elderly man walks by an elec­tronic stock board of a secu­ri­ties firm in Tokyo, Fri­day, Aug. 19, 2016. Japan is the world’s old­est coun­try, with 3-​​in-​​10 peo­ple over the age of 65.

    In a world where economies are designed around growth and social sys­tems depend on the young sup­port­ing the old, for­ward thinkers are begin­ning to won­der what comes next.

    Con­sider Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and busi­ness mag­nate, now most promi­nent among their ranks.

    Pop­u­la­tion col­lapse due to low birth rates is a much big­ger risk to civ­i­liza­tion than global warm­ing,” Musk wrote on Twit­ter this sum­mer. “Mark these words.”

    But is he right?

    Pop­u­la­tion con­cerns are noth­ing new

    For cen­turies, humans have pon­dered the ideal size of humanity.

    But experts warn such efforts usu­ally end in folly, and that our species has within its grasp solu­tions to pros­per whether pop­u­la­tions rise or fall.

    It’s up to us and how the world responds,” said Lau­ren John­ston, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney’s China Stud­ies Cen­tre and eco­nomic demographer.

    For much of the last few cen­turies, those fret­ting about over­pop­u­la­tion have had the spot­light. In 1798, Eng­lish scholar Thomas Malthus pub­lished an influ­en­tial essay that laid out an idea known as the “Malthu­sian trap,” which holds that pop­u­la­tion growth inevitably exceeds food and other resources, lead­ing to famine and poverty. The work inspired anx­i­ety in Eng­land and helped lead to the first national cen­sus of Eng­land, Scot­land and Wales.

    Such con­cerns echoed loudly in 1968, when Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor Paul Ehrlich and wife Anne Ehrlich pub­lished “The Pop­u­la­tion Bomb,” a book that pre­dicted global famine lead­ing to the deaths of hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple within decades.

    But most experts say such pre­dic­tions have not come to pass. Par­tic­u­larly in the past 50 years, a “Green Rev­o­lu­tion” in agri­cul­ture has used new farm­ing meth­ods to reap more calo­ries per acre of land, lead­ing world hunger to decrease even as the pop­u­la­tion doubled.

    Although stud­ies show such prac­tices have cre­ated addi­tional prob­lems – dri­ving water pol­lu­tion, con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change, and per­haps even decreas­ing the nutri­tional value of food – John­ston points out that many nations are now fac­ing the oppo­site of starvation.

    In most coun­tries there has been a suf­fi­ciently pro­duc­tive response to pop­u­la­tion growth that there hasn’t been a famine,” John­ston said. “Now there’s obesity.”

    Under­pop­u­la­tion on the horizon?

    As con­cern over hav­ing too many mouths to feed has waned, an oppos­ing one has risen: too few peo­ple to work.

    That’s an espe­cially obvi­ous worry in China, which infa­mously imple­mented a one-​​child pol­icy in 1980 to address expo­nen­tial pop­u­la­tion growth pro­jec­tions. Its cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of 1.4 bil­lion remains the world’s largest.

    But real­iz­ing the aging tra­jec­tory of its soci­ety, in 2016 China elim­i­nated the pol­icy and has also lim­ited pen­sions and social pro­grams for the elderly, John­ston said.

    Chinese children hold flags during a rehearsal prior to the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 Beijing Summit on Sept. 3, 2018 in Beijing, China.

    Chi­nese chil­dren hold flags dur­ing a rehearsal prior to the open­ing of the Forum on China-​​Africa Coop­er­a­tion (FOCAC) 2018 Bei­jing Sum­mit on Sept. 3, 2018 in Bei­jing, China.

    Many other nations are or soon will be fac­ing sim­i­lar challenges.

    To main­tain a steady pop­u­la­tion with­out immi­gra­tion, a nation has to achieve a fer­til­ity rate of 2.1 chil­dren per woman, experts say. But the fer­til­ity rate is just 1.7 in China and Brazil, 1.5 across the Euro­pean Union, and 0.8 in South Korea, the low­est of any coun­try, accord­ing to the World Bank. The rate is 1.6 in the United States, where the pop­u­la­tion is still ris­ing only due to longer lifes­pans and immi­gra­tion, which is pro­jected to out­pace nat­ural births by 2030.

    Glob­ally, it’s pri­mar­ily African nations like Nige­ria, where the fer­til­ity rate is 5.2, that are con­tribut­ing to pop­u­la­tion growth. But as those nations develop, some experts expect fer­til­ity rates to fall as well, con­tribut­ing to the pos­si­bil­ity of unprece­dented global pop­u­la­tion decline.

    There’s never been any­thing close to a par­al­lel,” John­ston said.

    Some experts are ring­ing alarm bells on what that could mean for societies.

    In their book “Rever­sal: Age­ing Soci­eties, Wan­ing Inequal­ity, and an Infla­tion Revival,” econ­o­mists Charles Good­hart and Manoj Prad­han warn of mount­ing fis­cal crises, “as med­ical, care, and pen­sion expen­di­tures all increase in our age­ing societies.”

    Nations could wind up burn­ing the can­dle at both ends: as a higher per­cent­age of peo­ple become retirees they require more pub­lic resources, while at the same time the tax­able work­ing pop­u­la­tion shrinks. Prob­lems could be exac­er­bated as rates of Alzheimer’s and other costly elder ill­nesses increase, while labor short­ages cre­ate infla­tion­ary pres­sures. As coun­tries face these chal­lenges, their soci­eties and pol­i­tics could destabilize.

    Our view of the future is not encour­ag­ing, but it is coher­ent and plau­si­ble,” Good­hart and Prad­han write.

    So Musk is right?

    Not so fast, says Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley and for­mer Sci­ence Envoy to the U.S. State Department.

    While aging soci­eties do pose pos­si­ble chal­lenges in the future, Kam­men says the world is fac­ing a cur­rent full-​​blown cri­sis right now: cli­mate change.

    And adding more peo­ple to the Earth’s pop­u­la­tion will only fur­ther com­pli­cate humanity’s lag­ging efforts to fight global warm­ing, experts say.

    There’s no ideal num­ber, but cer­tainly I would say there are too many peo­ple on our planet for our cur­rent lifestyle,” Kam­men said.

    Kam­men believes the entire con­ver­sa­tion about pop­u­la­tion is a red her­ring, a view com­monly held among pop­u­la­tion experts.

    Instead, he says the focus should be on whether or not coun­tries are wisely using resources. That’s when the wealth of nations like the U.S., and not their pop­u­la­tion, come into focus.

    A study in the jour­nal Nature Sus­tain­abil­ity this year found that the world’s wealth­i­est 10% of peo­ple pro­duce 47% of its car­bon emis­sions, com­pared to just 10% of emis­sions for the entire bot­tom half of the eco­nomic ladder.

    To put it another way, World Bank data shows the aver­age Nigerian’s car­bon foot­print is 0.6 met­ric tons each year. With the globe cur­rently emit­ting about 34 bil­lion met­ric tons of CO2 annu­ally, that means it could cur­rently sup­port 58 bil­lion peo­ple if they had a Niger­ian car­bon footprint.

    On the other hand, the aver­age Amer­i­can uses 14.7 met­ric tons of CO2 each year, mean­ing the world could sup­port just 2.3 bil­lion peo­ple if every­one had an Amer­i­can footprint.

    The same effect can be seen within coun­tries. While many Amer­i­cans believe that population-​​dense cities hold the most blame for car­bon emis­sions, work from Kam­men and his col­leagues show the car­bon foot­prints of urban Amer­i­cans are actu­ally sub­stan­tially less than rural res­i­dents, with sub­ur­ban res­i­dents sur­pass­ing both. That’s true both on a per capita basis and in total: about half of U.S. car­bon emis­sions come from sub­ur­ban set­tings, while less than a third come from urban.

    Ulti­mately, Kam­men said, the ques­tion is how to reduce resource foot­prints, espe­cially in wealthy nations. The smaller they get, the more peo­ple the planet can support.

    While it sure seems like there are a lot of peo­ple on our planet, our indi­vid­ual impact is much more mea­sured by the ways in which we amplify or min­i­mize our foot­print,” Kam­men said. “If you make it about pop­u­la­tion, you avoid how crit­i­cal our pat­terns of con­sump­tion are.”

    Experts also say the chal­lenges of pop­u­la­tion decline are not insurmountable.

    John­ston says it will come down to smart plan­ning and coop­er­a­tion. If pop­u­la­tions do peak and fall, gov­ern­ments can mit­i­gate the reper­cus­sions by shar­ing resources more equi­tably. That will likely include sac­ri­fices among the older gen­er­a­tions. Not with their lives as “Plan 75″ depicts, but through higher retire­ment ages and adjust­ments to pen­sions and benefits.

    Other experts note that it may be pos­si­ble to main­tain pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els with fewer peo­ple, through increased edu­ca­tion or even pos­si­bly with the assis­tance of tech­nolo­gies like Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and automa­tion. In the end, peo­ple of work­ing ages may also need to sac­ri­fice in the form of higher taxes.

    But such a future will inevitably look dif­fer­ent than the world we live in now, and Good­hart and Prad­han warn a lot will be rid­ing on whether or not soci­eties accept such changes.

    We doubt that politi­cians, fac­ing ris­ing health and pen­sion costs, will be pre­pared or able to raise taxes enough to equi­li­brate the econ­omy via fis­cal pol­icy,” they wrote.

    Pop­u­la­tion ‘cures’ can be worse than pop­u­la­tion collapse

    While pop­u­la­tion decline comes with chal­lenges, experts warn that attempts to reverse course are often at best inef­fec­tual, and at worst hate­ful and destructive.

    After all, they note, the basis of pop­u­la­tion decline is per­sonal freedom.

    Reiner Kling­holz, a pop­u­la­tion researcher and author based in Ger­many, notes that smaller fam­i­lies and a more devel­oped lifestyle often go hand-​​in-​​hand. As a soci­ety becomes wealth­ier and more edu­cated, its fer­til­ity rate invari­ably falls.

    That’s par­tic­u­larly tied to women’s edu­ca­tion and empow­er­ment. When women become more edu­cated, both pro­fes­sion­ally and on sex­ual repro­duc­tion, they are pre­sented with life choices beyond home­maker and often choose to have less chil­dren, experts say. Devel­op­ment also brings increased wealth, which cre­ates soci­eties that are over­all health­ier and hap­pier, even if the fer­til­ity rate is lower.

    Look at Swe­den and Den­mark,” where fer­til­ity rates stand at 1.7, Kling­holz said. “Peo­ple are very happy in these countries.”

    Also trou­bling: Con­cerns about pop­u­la­tion decline often boost xenophobia.

    In the United States, “Great Replace­ment The­ory” – an unfounded con­spir­acy that polit­i­cal lead­ers are inten­tion­ally replac­ing white Amer­i­cans with non-​​white immi­grants –   has moved from extreme right-​​wing cir­cles into main­stream discourse.

    Per­haps nowhere is this ten­sion more appar­ent glob­ally than in Hun­gary, where the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban is now offer­ing about $30,000 and a raft of sub­si­dies on homes and cars for Hun­gar­ian fam­i­lies with at least four chil­dren, while oppos­ing new immigration.

    Instead of just num­bers, we want Hun­gar­ian chil­dren. Migra­tion for us is sur­ren­der,” Orban said in 2020.

    Such rhetoric stands in stark con­trast to most econ­o­mists, who accord­ing to Good­hart and Prad­han, value immi­gra­tion as a tool to off­set pop­u­la­tion decline and boost a country’s work­force and productivity.

    Attempts to instead fix pop­u­la­tion decline through eco­nomic poli­cies like tax incen­tives often fail due to the ties between women’s empow­er­ment and lower fer­til­ity rates, said Per Espen Stok­nes, direc­tor of the BI Cen­tre for Sus­tain­abil­ity and Energy at the Nor­we­gian Busi­ness School.

    Men can’t tell women how many chil­dren they should have,” Stok­nes said. “It’s not really about the issue of (resources). It’s really about what kind of life do women want for themselves?”

    A hap­pier future?

    John­ston says that in the end, pop­u­la­tion decline doesn’t have to be a cri­sis. Ulti­mately, as with cli­mate change, it comes down to wise resource allocation.

    If human­ity can coop­er­ate and effi­ciently dis­trib­ute resources through immi­gra­tion and eco­nomic poli­cies, it could build a world with where peo­ple are fewer but more edu­cated, and in which pro­duc­tiv­ity and inge­nu­ity still flourish.

    But that’s a big “if.”

    It might be so much health­ier if there’s a smaller pop­u­la­tion over­all, but much more coop­er­a­tion,” John­ston said. “If China goes from 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple to 800 mil­lion, but peo­ple go from peas­ants to mid­dle class, how on Earth is that going to be a bad shift?”

    Kyle Bagen­stose cov­ers cli­mate change, chem­i­cals, water and other envi­ron­men­tal top­ics for USA TODAY. He can be reached at kbagenstose@​gannett.​com or on Twit­ter @kylebagenstose.

  5. KPCC (NPR, Southern California): “CA Sets New Record For Power Use As Brutal Heat Wave Continues”

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    KPCC “Air Talk: with Larry Man­tle (89.3 FM, South­ern California)

    To lis­ten (25 min­utes, click here).

    Direct link:–09-07/ca-sets-new-record-for-power-use-as-brutal-heat-wave-continues-how-are-you-dealing

    Screen Shot 2022-09-07 at 11.01.28 PM

    CA Sets New Record For Power Use As Bru­tal Heat Wave Con­tin­ues. How Are You Dealing?

    Despite calls to con­serve power, California’s energy demands were at an all-​​time high Tues­day. The extreme heat wave is cre­at­ing a big need for power, so much that we blew past a record set dur­ing a heat wave 16 years ago. Cal-​​ISO, which oper­ates the state’s power grid, first reported that energy use in the state sur­passed more than 50,300 megawatts as of 3:09 p.m. Tues­day. That was 68 megawatts above the 2006 record. Ulti­mately it hit 52,061 megawatts. Cal-​​ISO typ­i­cally calls an alert when tem­per­a­tures are hot. Energy con­sump­tion runs higher dur­ing these times, so peo­ple need to cut down. But heat isn’t the only fac­tor. All of these issues can put a strain on our state’s power grid. Mean­while, the Fairview Fire in Hemet exploded over Labor Day week­end killing two res­i­dents as they were try­ing to flee. Today on AirTalk, we’re joined by Eric Boldtmete­o­rol­o­gist with the National Weather Ser­vice in Oxnard, Daniel Kam­men, pro­fes­sor of energy at UC Berke­ley, and Jon Heg­gie, bat­tal­ion chief with Cal Fire, to dis­cuss the lat­est on SoCal’s heat wave, the fire rag­ing in Hemet, and the new power use record set last night by Californians.

  6. The Inflation Reduction Act and CHIPS could kick US climate policy back into action

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    For the orig­i­nal link, August 8, 2022, click here.


    Bt Thor Ben­son, for Pop­u­lar Science

    For the past few weeks, cli­mate action in the US appeared to have a bleak out­look. But things are look­ing to change with the pas­sage and intro­duc­tion of two new ground­break­ing bills.

    Con­gress passed a bill called the CHIPS and Sci­ence Act on July 28th to boost domes­tic semi­con­duc­tor pro­duc­tion and fund sci­en­tific research. The Sen­ate also just passed an expan­sive bill called the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act (IRA).

    Both bills would do quite a bit to help the US fight cli­mate change—much to the relief of many Democ­rats in Con­gress wor­ried about get­ting cli­mate leg­is­la­tion passed before the midterms. But with so much leg­is­la­tion float­ing around, keep­ing track of each bill’s actions can be tricky.

    Here’s what you need to know about cli­mate change poli­cies in the IRA and CHIPS act.

    Direct cli­mate action from the Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act

    Screen Shot 2022-08-08 at 8.48.34 AM

    The Infla­tion Reduc­tion Act includes roughly $369 bil­lion for cli­mate pro­grams, mean­ing, if passed, it could be the most sig­nif­i­cant cli­mate bill Con­gress has ever passed. The bill offers tax incen­tives to com­pa­nies to increase the pro­duc­tion of wind, solar, and bat­tery tech­nolo­gies. Addi­tion­ally, the bill lim­its the amount of methane a US com­pany can emit, which is cru­cial because methane is a potent green­house gas.

    As for ordi­nary folks, the bill offers a $7,500 tax credit toward pur­chas­ing a new elec­tric vehi­cle and a $4,000 tax credit toward pur­chas­ing a used one and more. This is impor­tant because elec­tric cars are bet­ter for the cli­mate than gasoline-​​powered vehi­cles. But, it may have the bonus of con­vinc­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers to keep build­ing more elec­tric vehi­cles and could increase the build­ing of charg­ing stations.

    Whether you’re on the EV side, whether you’re on the sta­tion­ary green power side, see­ing them all in the same bill is crit­i­cally impor­tant,” Daniel Kam­men, a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. “It mes­sages that $369 bil­lion is being spent in a holis­tic way.”

    report from the Rhodium Group, an inde­pen­dent research firm, found the IRA would reduce green­house gas emis­sions by 31 to 44 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030. Green­house gas emis­sions peaked coun­try­wide in 2005, but since then, car­bon emis­sions have shrunk by 20 per­cent. The Biden admin­is­tra­tion has set a goal of reduc­ing emis­sions by 50 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2030—so the IRA would pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cant boost.

    Cur­rent pro­jec­tions show the IRA wouldn’t get us to the Biden administration’s cli­mate goals by itself, but Kam­men feels that the effects of it pass­ing could “snow­ball.” He says that the ini­tial invest­ment could spur fur­ther invest­ments and break­throughs to help us reach or exceed planned emis­sion reductions.

    The CHIPS bill ups fund­ing in sci­ence and technology

    The CHIPS and Sci­ence Act mainly focuses on increas­ing the domes­tic pro­duc­tion of semi­con­duc­tors used in com­put­ers, phones, vehi­cles and more. That being said, the bill con­tains other impor­tant pro­vi­sions. It includes roughly $200 bil­lion of fund­ing for sci­en­tific research, which is a sig­nif­i­cant increase in fund­ing. That money could be crit­i­cal in devel­op­ing new technologies—from arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence to nuclear fusion—and could help the US reach its cli­mate goals. Kam­men says the bill’s fund­ing could be ben­e­fi­cial as the US tries to build more renew­able energy.

    The more we think about what has dri­ven the remark­able cost declines in solar, in bat­ter­ies and wind, it’s cer­tainly man­u­fac­tur­ing, but it’s also sys­tems inte­gra­tion,” Kam­men says. “That’s a place where the US is bet­ter poised than it may think it is to be a real leader. Clean energy sys­tems require as much smart inter­con­nec­tion as they do great pieces of indi­vid­ual hardware.”

    The fund­ing in the CHIPS bill could help the US fur­ther inte­grate its energy sys­tems, mak­ing for more effec­tive and effi­cient energy use in towns and cities. “Assum­ing we get a ver­sion of the Schumer-​​Manchin IRA bill and [CHIPS], it actu­ally sets the US up pretty well,” Kam­men says, “because you get both upstream, smart inte­gra­tion devel­op­ments and $369 bil­lion of deploy­ment money from tax cred­its, so I think they do work together.”

    Together, these two bills work to fund urgently needed change in cli­mate pol­icy, con­sid­er­ing there’s only so much time to do some­thing. The CHIPS bill’s invest­ments could also bring us the next gen­er­a­tion of climate-​​fighting tech­nolo­gies and bet­ter inte­grate our exist­ing and devel­op­ing energy sys­tems. The US looked poised to fail in its attempts to fight cli­mate change, but these bills are cre­at­ing some hope.

  7. How data-​​driven research partnerships deepen energy access across supply chains

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    For the Green­Biz arti­cle, click here.

    Offgrid Box in the field

    An unpacked “Box” in the field, pro­vid­ing power for water fil­tra­tion and clinic elec­tri­fi­ca­tion. Photo by Sam Miles



    Access to reli­able, afford­able and clean energy is increas­ingly rec­og­nized as the “golden thread” tying together and enabling many other Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs). Despite progress over the last decade in mak­ing solu­tions to energy poverty more acces­si­ble to the more than 800 mil­lion peo­ple cur­rently with­out elec­tric­ity (and the many more with inter­mit­tent or unaf­ford­able energy) many gaps remain. In par­tic­u­lar, the COVID-​​19 cri­sis has dis­rupted sup­ply and demand for energy, both of which are nec­es­sary to meet SDG 7.

    At the same time, tran­si­tion­ing to more renew­able energy-​​based elec­tric­ity sys­tems requir­ing bat­tery stor­age, whether in emerg­ing mar­kets or devel­oped ones, will require mas­sive amounts of min­eral resources with sig­nif­i­cant human and envi­ron­men­tal foot­prints. A paper pub­lished by USAID in late 2021under­scores the urgency of address­ing min­ing in the con­text of the green energy transition:

    Recent global stud­ies pre­dict demand increases of up to ten times cur­rent pro­duc­tion lev­els for min­er­als like cobalt, graphite, and lithium. No mat­ter the mix of alter­nate energy sources the world turns to, the min­ing sec­tor will be a key player in the years ahead.

    To meet the ambi­tious goal of uni­ver­sal mod­ern energy by 2030 — while grap­pling with the con­se­quences of crit­i­cal min­er­als demand growth — har­mo­nized poli­cies, coor­di­nated invest­ment and inno­v­a­tive research are urgently needed. Equally or even more impor­tant, how­ever, are the under­stud­ied and under­sup­ported part­ner­ships that can cat­alyze and scale these efforts to make SDG7 both a life­line and a means of eco­nomic empow­er­ment and equity.

    The Congo Power alliance rep­re­sents one such inno­v­a­tive coali­tion approach. Ini­tially launched by Google’s Sup­plier Respon­si­bil­ity team in 2017 to rein­force respon­si­ble min­er­als trade and expand eco­nomic oppor­tu­nity through clean energy, the ini­tia­tive sup­ports com­mu­ni­ties com­mit­ted to the respon­si­ble sourc­ing of min­er­als that are ubiq­ui­tous in elec­tron­ics and his­tor­i­cally tied to con­flict and human rights abuses. This min­eral trade focuses on tung­sten, tin, tan­ta­lum, gold and cobalt, mak­ing this issue par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal in the African Great Lakes Region, where much of the world’s sup­ply of these min­er­als’ stock lies underground.

    A graphic of the Africa Great Lakes region

    The African Great Lakes region includes Angola, Burundi, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, Repub­lic of the Congo, Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Repub­lic of South Sudan, Sudan, Tan­za­nia and Zam­bia. Image cour­tesy of Google, USAID





    As part of its over­ar­ch­ing sus­tain­abil­ity strat­egy, Google com­mit­ted to max­i­miz­ing our use of finite resources, which includes sup­port­ing in-​​region pro­grams that rein­force respon­si­ble sup­ply chains, and increas­ing the use of recy­cled mate­ri­als. These pro­gram com­mit­ments are also part of meet­ing the expec­ta­tions of Sec­tion 1502 of the Dodd-​​Frank Act, which man­date that all pub­licly traded com­pa­nies com­plete due dili­gence on their sup­ply chains, and report on those measures.

    In line with these com­mit­ments, the Congo Power team has invested in 14 com­mu­nity projects since 2017 and has brought a broad group of stake­hold­ers along. On a Public-​​Private Alliance for Respon­si­ble Min­er­als Trade (PPA) del­e­ga­tion with the U.S. State Depart­ment in late 2019, for exam­ple, Google, Nokia, Intel, Apple, Global Advanced Met­als, USAID, U.S. Depart­ment of State, GiZ, the Respon­si­ble Busi­ness Alliance and RESOLVE vis­ited the Idjwi Island min­i­grid and spent time with the Panzi Foundation’s Denis Muk­wege dis­cussing the inter­sec­tion of human rights and respon­si­ble sourc­ing in the region.

    As a result of that trip, the Congo Power team focused on build­ing a deeper rela­tion­ship with the Panzi Foun­da­tion and put com­mu­nity health clin­ics at the cen­ter of address­ing power, gen­der, energy equity along with rein­forc­ing respon­si­ble sup­ply chains. The team also con­tin­ues to expand col­lab­o­ra­tions with con­ser­va­tion areas such as Garamba National Park, which is deploy­ing clean power sys­tems to sup­port local eco­nomic activ­i­ties (both min­ing and non-​​mining) in ways that reduce threats to the park’s con­ser­va­tion and bio­di­ver­sity goals.

    Four artisanal gold miners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at a site visited by the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade delegation in 2019.

    Four arti­sanal gold min­ers in the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo at a site vis­ited by the Public-​​Private Alliance for Respon­si­ble Min­er­als Trade del­e­ga­tion in 2019. Photo Credit: Alyssa Newman





    The program’s launch high­lighted the impor­tance of deep rela­tion­ships between devel­op­ment part­ners, con­sumer brands and NGOs with deep in-​​country oper­at­ing exper­tise, such as Give­Power and Resolve. This multi-​​sector approach is crit­i­cal for draw­ing in fur­ther “down­stream” con­glom­er­ates whose cus­tomers increas­ingly demand end prod­ucts made with respon­si­bly sourced materials.

    This strat­egy has suc­cess­fully brought on some of the world’s largest man­u­fac­tur­ers to the alliance’s com­mit­ment to respon­si­ble sourc­ing. Intel has funded two addi­tional phases, and other part­ners are in the process of mak­ing fund­ing com­mit­ments. The alliance col­lab­o­rates with plat­forms such as Cobalt for Devel­op­ment (BMW, Sam­sung, BASF, GIZ, Volk­swa­gen, Good Shep­herd Inter­na­tional Foun­da­tion and oth­ers) and the Fair Cobalt Alliance(Tesla, Fair­fone, The Impact Facil­ity and oth­ers) to rein­force mutual objec­tives in respon­si­ble sourc­ing, and sup­port orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing on the ground.

    Beyond pub­lic and pri­vate part­ners, acad­e­mia plays an impor­tant role within this con­sor­tium. Through a col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Renew­able and Appro­pri­ate Energy Lab (RAEL) at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, the Congo Power ini­tia­tive explores how inno­v­a­tive energy solu­tions can improve liveli­hoods and resilience across com­mu­ni­ties in East and Cen­tral Africa. Pre­vi­ously funded research has explored the inter­sec­tion between energy poverty and con­flict, the evo­lu­tion of real-​​time mon­i­tor­ing of decen­tral­ized energy sys­tems, oper­at­ing mod­els for mini-​​grids in urban infor­mal set­tle­ments, the impact of solar-​​home-​​systems on energy, gen­der and social jus­tice, and frame­works for under­stand­ing com­mu­nity participation’s role in mini-​​grid projects.

    This is just the begin­ning, how­ever. Many ques­tions remain for the RAEL/​Congo Power col­lab­o­ra­tion to uncover in improv­ing the deliv­ery of sus­tain­able and appro­pri­ate energy solu­tions across the var­i­ous sup­ply chains that con­sti­tute the lifeblood of vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties around the world.

    Chief among the initiative’s research ambi­tions is devel­op­ing a deeper sense of how to make $1 of invest­ment in renew­able energy “go fur­ther.” Bench­mark impact met­rics for inno­v­a­tive energy projects are lack­ing in the empir­i­cal lit­er­a­ture, par­tic­u­larly for mini-​​grid tech­nolo­gies, increas­ingly rec­og­nized as the least-​​cost way to elec­trify hun­dreds of mil­lions of those with­out power. Devel­op­ing and doc­u­ment­ing enabling part­ner­ships also offers a key resource for nations, busi­nesses, multi­na­tional aid /​ devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions and civil soci­ety to inter­ro­gate poten­tial solu­tions and scale up win­ning con­cepts that can help meet goals set in the Paris Cli­mate Agree­ments and other SDGs.

    Fun­da­men­tally, such a private-​​public-​​academic part­ner­ship boils down to explor­ing what kinds of impact — described both quan­ti­ta­tively and qual­i­ta­tively — dif­fer­ent energy deliv­ery mod­els can achieve across insti­tu­tional and geo­graph­i­cal scales. And beyond the eval­u­a­tion of impact: Which nar­ra­tives can most effec­tively com­mu­ni­cate these insights into action­able sup­port for promis­ing solu­tions and their developers?

    Guided by such aca­d­e­mic research ques­tions, these part­ner­ships are able to fund imple­men­ta­tion part­ners as well. Nuru, Equa­to­r­ial Power and Off­Grid­Box are three such part­ners in East and Cen­tral Africa, whose oper­a­tions are pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal insights into key techno-​​economic and oper­a­tional chal­lenges to scal­ing energy access.

    These orga­ni­za­tions have a wide and diverse foot­print. Nuru builds and oper­ates mini-​​grids across remote, rural, and urban areas of the Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of the Congo (DRC). Their prin­ci­pal instal­la­tion is one of the largest mini-​​grids in Africa, sup­ply­ing more than 1,800 cus­tomers through a 1.3 megawatt solar-​​hybrid instal­la­tion in peri-​​urban neigh­bor­hoods in Goma, DRC. Congo Power sup­ported Equa­to­r­ial Power’s very first instal­la­tion mini-​​grid, a 20 kilowatt-​​peak (kWp) instal­la­tion on Idjwi Island on Lake Kivu (sep­a­rat­ing the DRC and Rwanda) sup­ply­ing over 300 con­nec­tions, includ­ing sev­eral small-​​to-​​medium enter­prises. Off­Grid­Box has deployed one of its 3.4 kWp con­tainer­ized power and water instal­la­tions in Walikale (a min­ing cen­ter in east­ern DRC), with more than 80 iden­ti­cal such deploy­ments around the world.

    OffGridBoxes (“Boxes”) ready for deployment at the Rwandan headquarters.

    Off­Grid­Boxes (“Boxes”) ready for deploy­ment at the Rwan­dan head­quar­ters. Photo by Sam Miles





    To gain deep yet broad insights into the chal­lenge of strength­en­ing the “golden thread,” RAEL researchers within the Congo Power alliance aim to be both method­i­cal yet prac­ti­cal in devel­op­ing research themes from these ini­tial project foci — par­tic­u­larly impor­tant given the chal­lenges of doing in-​​person research through a pandemic.

    One theme that con­sis­tently emerges through and across such projects is the impor­tance of “pro­duc­tive” uses of elec­tric­ity — most sim­ply defined as the abil­ity of elec­tric­ity users to gen­er­ate addi­tional income on the basis of improved energy access. When, where and how are infor­mal arti­sans, entre­pre­neurs and labor­ers able to con­vert renew­able elec­tric­ity into improved eco­nomic out­comes for them­selves, their home­steads and their com­mu­ni­ties? These ques­tions have proven par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing to answer, despite over two decades of schol­ar­ship describ­ing pro­duc­tive uses of elec­tric­ity as a cor­ner­stone under­pin­ning the finan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity, and thus scal­a­bil­ity, of energy access solu­tions with high upfront invest­ment costs and low margins.

    RAEL researchers have brought novel eval­u­a­tion approaches to tackle this prob­lem, includ­ing live-​​monitoring of elec­tric­ity con­sump­tion of pro­duc­tive use pilots across the region, geospa­tial and remote sens­ing tech­niques lever­ag­ing satel­lite imagery and machine learn­ing, as well as pilot­ing new power qual­ity and reli­a­bil­ity mea­sure­ment method­olo­gies for eval­u­at­ing the state of elec­tric­ity for health ser­vices, includ­ing cold stor­age, through col­lab­o­ra­tions with infrastructure-​​monitoring startup nLine.

    Many impor­tant ques­tions beyond how to cat­alyze income gen­er­at­ing uses of elec­tric­ity remain, how­ever. Does street light­ing reduce crime in remote vil­lages or rapidly urban­iz­ing envi­ron­ments? Can decen­tral­ized energy solu­tions bridge the gaps in Africa’s vac­cine cold chains? How can project fun­ders best col­lab­o­rate with pri­vate sec­tor imple­menters, NGOs, and pol­i­cy­mak­ers to opti­mize the impacts of a given energy project, tar­get­ing out­comes as dis­parate as sup­ply chain trace­abil­ity, pro­duc­tive end uses, con­ser­va­tion or women’s empowerment?

    Public street lighting provided by Nuru in a community near Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.
    Pub­lic street light­ing pro­vided by Nuru in a com­mu­nity near Garamba National Park, Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic of Congo. Photo by Esther Nsapu 

    These and many other research ques­tions will guide RAEL researchers as the Congo Power ini­tia­tive con­tin­ues to gain momen­tum and part­ners. A much wider con­sor­tium of part­ners, how­ever, is still needed to con­front the mag­ni­tude of the chal­lenges ahead, and data-​​driven research is crit­i­cal to har­ness the dis­parate per­spec­tives, resources and objec­tives such a big tent approach entails.

    For cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity pro­fes­sion­als, join­ing coali­tions such as Congo Power is one way to con­nect many dis­tinct pieces of the chal­lenges that lie ahead: con­fronting cli­mate change by sup­port­ing cleaner energy pro­duc­tion in com­mu­ni­ties at the very start of their sup­ply chains, tack­ling the human rights impli­ca­tions of expo­nen­tial demand growth for min­er­als required for elec­tron­ics infra­struc­ture includ­ing renew­able energy equip­ment and bat­tery stor­age tech­nolo­gies, and ensur­ing the equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of poten­tial ben­e­fits from the global energy tran­si­tion are dis­trib­uted equi­tably. No one com­pany or orga­ni­za­tion can move the nee­dle on their own, but it is increas­ingly clear that share­hold­ers, con­sumers, employ­ees and reg­u­la­tors are plac­ing greater respon­si­bil­ity on global brands to step up to the challenge.

    Part­ner­ships such as Congo Power pro­vide a clear path­way for private-​​public part­ner­ships to explore and sup­port cutting-​​edge projects, tech­nolo­gies and infra­struc­tures, guided by the most recent empir­i­cal evi­dence of impact. With rig­or­ous, inter­sec­tional and action­able research guid­ing such a pow­er­ful coali­tion of com­mit­ted part­ners, a truly just energy tran­si­tion is possible.

    Editor’s note: Ser­ena Patel (MIT), Hilary Yu, Joyce­line Mare­alle (both UC Berke­ley) and Alyssa New­man (Google and UC Berke­ley) also con­tributed to this article.

    Author Biog­ra­phy Links:


  8. California can do better than carbon neutrality by 2045

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    Opin­ion piece in the Los Ange­les Times, May 17, 2022

    To jump to the news­pa­per, click here.


          Cal­i­for­nia can do bet­ter than car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2045


    Ten years ago, many Cal­i­for­ni­ans could not have imag­ined the cli­mate night­mare we are liv­ing today — dark orange skies dur­ing wild­fire sea­son, heat waves in the dead of win­ter, manda­tory water restric­tions amid crip­pling drought.

    With­out urgent action, we may well look back on this moment as the calm before the storm. Over the course of the next decade, California’s biggest cli­mate chal­lenges — hot­ter sum­mers, a shorter rainy sea­son and more destruc­tive wild­fires — could dou­ble in intensity.

    It’s against this back­drop that the Cal­i­for­nia Air Resources Board (CARB) last week released a draft of our state’s scop­ing plan, a blue­print for com­bat­ing cli­mate change that will guide California’s pol­icy for years. Despite the stakes for Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and although my research indi­cates the state could actu­ally become car­bon neg­a­tive by 2030, the draft pro­posal would delay reach­ing car­bon neu­tral until 2045. The bar­ri­ers to a tar­get of 2030 are polit­i­cal, not technical.

    The draft plan calls for invest­ment in new fos­sil fuel elec­tric­ity resources, and it relies on unproven and costly car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that would lock in fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion. Adopt­ing this approach would be lazy, non­sen­si­cal and racially unjust. Dur­ing the cur­rent 45-​​day period for pub­lic review of the plan, Cal­i­for­nia has the chance to choose a smarter path.

    An aerial view of wetlands next to a power station

    The Hunt­ing­ton Beach Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion includes a nat­ural gas gen­er­a­tor that began oper­a­tion in 2020.

                                                                         (Allen J. Sch­aben /​ Los Ange­les Times)

    Renew­able energy, even when cou­pled with energy stor­age, is cheaper than fos­sil fuels. California’s own state laws say that renew­able energy must be pri­or­i­tized before build­ing out expen­sive and pol­lut­ing gas power plants. Instead, Cal­i­for­nia must set ambi­tious tar­gets that imme­di­ately cut pol­lu­tion through no-​​regrets strategies.

    If we fall short of the cli­mate action that sci­ence demands, Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and espe­cially lower-​​income Cal­i­for­ni­ans and com­mu­ni­ties of color, will pay the price. What’s more, we could see this failed model repli­cated across other states and nations. It’s not hyper­bole to say bil­lions of peo­ple could be worse off if Cal­i­for­nia fails to lead.

    By the same token, if our state sets an ambi­tious but achiev­able goal — like car­bon neu­tral­ity by 2030 or 2035 — the ben­e­fits rip­ple widely. Other states and nations are look­ing to Cal­i­for­nia. If we set an ambi­tious tar­get and focus future pol­icy toward meet­ing it, oth­ers are more likely to adapt as well. Even when cli­mate goals are not reached, they keep poli­cies and invest­ments mov­ing in the right direction.

    Last sum­mer, when he directed CARB to exam­ine accel­er­at­ing California’s cli­mate tar­gets to 2035 or sooner, Gov. Gavin New­som said “sci­ence demands we do more.” Hav­ing just announced a his­toric $32-​​billion invest­ment in cli­mate pro­grams over the next five years, he must now step in and ensure that reg­u­la­tors live up to his call to increase cli­mate ambi­tion across the board.

    To get this plan­ning process back on track, reg­u­la­tors must start by cor­rect­ing the flawed method­ol­ogy that is the under­pin­ning of their cur­rent pro­posal. CARB’s eco­nomic and jobs mod­el­ing fails to incor­po­rate both the true cost of delay­ing emis­sions reduc­tions and the full health and soci­etal ben­e­fits from more ambi­tious emis­sions reduc­tions. Put sim­ply, Cal­i­for­nia can cre­ate more jobs and more pros­per­ity with renew­ables than we can with fos­sil fuels.

    In devel­op­ing the scop­ing plan, CARB staff used a mea­sure called the social cost of car­bon, which puts a dol­lar value on the dam­ages cre­ated by addi­tional green­house gas emis­sions. The prob­lem is, these esti­mates vastly under­es­ti­mated the costs of delay­ing cli­mate action.

    If we don’t begin to rapidly reduce fos­sil fuel pol­lu­tion, the impacts on California’s health­care sys­tem, our econ­omy, our food sup­ply and our com­mu­ni­ties will be orders of mag­ni­tude greater than what CARB has accounted for. Reg­u­la­tors can cor­rect this by align­ing with experts’ lat­est analy­sis, which cal­cu­lates the true social cost of car­bon at $50 per ton of pol­lu­tion emit­ted.

    As a next step, reg­u­la­tors need to acknowl­edge it is far too late in the game to gam­ble our state’s future on unproven car­bon cap­ture tech­nolo­gies that may never mate­ri­al­ize. CARB’s draft scop­ing plan projects that Cal­i­for­nia will use 100 mil­lion met­ric tons (MMT) of direct air cap­ture in 2045. Glob­ally, only 0.01 MMT of annual direct air cap­ture is hap­pen­ing today. It is unre­al­is­tic to assume we can scale up this tech­nol­ogy so much overnight, and fool­ish to direct invest­ment to unproven exper­i­ments when afford­able nat­ural car­bon removal solu­tions like com­post­ing and tree-​​planting are read­ily avail­able now.

    We have afford­able renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies avail­able today that not only cut car­bon emis­sions but also tackle our state’s air pol­lu­tion cri­sis. California’s scop­ing plan should mobi­lize a vast expan­sion of renew­able energy tech­nolo­gies. Instead, the cur­rent pro­posal calls for 10 gigawatts of new nat­ural gas gen­er­at­ing capac­ity — the equiv­a­lent of 33 large new gas plants.

    There is still time for CARB and New­som to deliver a bold cli­mate blue­print that cen­ters equity and pub­lic health and focuses on a no-​​regrets approach of renew­able energy invest­ment. It’s California’s legacy and lives around the world that are at stake. We can­not afford to fall short.

    Daniel Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of sus­tain­abil­ity at UC Berke­ley. He is a for­mer coor­di­nat­ing author of the Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC),  Kam­men in cur­rently serv­ing in the Biden-​​Harris Admin­is­tra­tion as Senior Advi­sor for Energy & Inno­va­tion at the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment (USAID) 


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