Waterways across Europe are running dry, and on the River Elbe that means the return of the hunger stones.
Dating as far back as 1115, hunger stones are river-bed rock carvings found in German-speaking areas of Europe where victims of past droughts commemorated the starvation that followed from times when the rocks were visible.
Some of the etchings are still legible, and they’re mostly ominous.
One simply offers: “if you see me, weep.”
It’s a warning for anyone tempted to dismiss the suffering brought by droughts all too similar to those currently wracking parts of Europe, China, Africa, South America and North America, to say nothing of the mega-droughts promised by climate models.
The stones are also a ready-made metaphor for the times of climate change: the consequences of our actions won’t stay submerged and out of sight forever.
Weeping won’t get us to a carbon-negative economy any time soon. But this week, legislators and grassroots movements across the world took a handful of actions that just might.
France’s transport minister announced this week that he is preparing a plan to tax private jet flights for their carbon emissions.
The French Green Party has sought to ban all private flights, but transport minister Claude Beaune tempered that with a proposal for a “carbon quota”. The idea is to apply the principles of a cap-and-trade regime to individuals by establishing an emissions maximum to all citizens, and taxing those who surpass their cap.
The private aviation industry is, predictably, pushing back, pointing out that private aviation only accounts for 4% of total flight emissions, which themselves are only 2.4% of global emissions.
Seen in terms of per capita carbon footprint, however, private flights strike a wildly outsized pollution profile. A European Union study found that private jets emit more than 14 times per mile as much as commercial flights, and 50 times more than trains.
The French government has taken aim at carbon pollution from aviation before. Last year, it passed a law to ban short-haul flights if an alternative bus or train route exists and would take less than 2.5 hours. That law is still under review at the European level and hasn’t gone into force yet.
France has seen a kaleidoscope of early-onset climate impacts this summer in what Le Monde speculates could be “the summer that indifference ended”. Dizzying heatwaves have parched multiple regions of the country, unleashing wildfires, accelerated glacial melts, diminished crop yields and stretches of the Loire River running almost completely dry. Thunderstorms are forecast for next week, all but guaranteeing floods over the impenetrable drought-stricken soil.
California regulators voted this week to ban the sale of all gasoline-powered cars in the state by 2035, shifting the United States’ largest car market away from fossil fuel transport long before the rest of the country.
Washington, Oregon and New York are among 13 states that have historically taken policy cues from California when it comes to tailpipe regulations, and Washington governor Jay Inslee announced his state would soon follow suit.
California is the cradle of American car culture, and the size of its automotive market often gives it the power to sway industry decision-making. Even if the state acts on its own, most car manufacturers don’t want to complicate their production chains by selling different cars in different states
That history got a little complicated with the infamous Dieselgate scandal. Federal regulators introduced tighter emissions standards for diesel cars from 2004-2009, with the state of California adding its own limits shortly. Volkswagen appeared to produce compliant vehicles until a 2014 investigation by California regulators showed they were just rigging the emissions reporting software in their cars.
That type of juking will be harder to pull off with fake EVS, but the car industry is still expressing some skepticism about the 2035 plan. EVs still only make up less than 6% of new sales, giving the industry just over a decade to fill in the remaining 94%.
Inflation, scarcity of metals, labor shortages and charging station infrastructure each promise to present obstacles to the law’s implementation. But last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill included millions in funds for building out charging stations across the country, putting necessary changes in motion that have also begun this month.
Bad Bunny made his debut in the energy debate earlier this month when he called out Puerto Rico’s electricity grid as the “worst energy system”. He was echoing the frustration of thousands of protestors who swarmed the governor’s mansion this week, pushing the government to adopt measures that will provide a jolt to clean energy on the island.
The Puerto Rico Power Authority (PREPA) signaled it will approve the island’s first virtual power plant (VPP) in the coming weeks.
VPPs are distributed networks of battery-paired solar systems connected and managed by software that optimize energy supply throughout the day.
Puerto Ricans have been subjected to persistent rolling blackouts in the five years since Hurricane Maria wracked the U.S. territory (or colony?) as the public utility there has struggled to rebuild its centralized grid.
Many Puerto Ricans have taken the crisis as an opportunity to gain energy independence from the troubled central system. A year prior to Maria, only 5,000 rooftops in Puerto Rico had solar panels. That number has leapt to 50,000 today, putting the island in a more resilient position against both tropical and political storms.
In 2019, Puerto Rico’s government passed an energy law known as Act 17, requiring 40% of the island’s supply come from renewables by 2025, and 100% by 2050. Even if their efforts to stabilize the grid while privatizing it fail, grassroots movement toward clean energy might come through to save them.
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From our friends at The Nest Summit Campus.
Taking place September 19 - 23, 2022 at the Javits Center, a symbol of sustainability in New York City, The Nest Summit Campus will feature thematic Main Stage programming, Co-located workshops/educational sessions, and Community Engagement activities to inspire climate action amongst businesses, government officials, academia, NGOs, and consumers.
Leading the Summit on the 21st and 22nd will be Master of Ceremonies, Bonnie Schneider, who has worked as a national tv meteorologist for most of her career and now focuses her work on the intersection between climate change and health. Dr. Jonathan Foley, Executive Director at Project Drawdown, will also be in attendance, opening the event with an impactful keynote address.
To register for the event, click here.
Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.
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"Workshop is a venture studio that partners with founders to build startups in climate and education. We work at the intersection of purpose and profit, driven by our belief that many of today’s most pressing problems require scalable, self-sustaining enterprises with the returns to attract high-quality talent and growth capital. We partner with 2-4 companies at a time, including both early-stage companies ..."
"Ajax Strategies LLC is a venture capital firm investing in entrepreneurs who are solving climate change. ..."
"Gradient’s mission is to cool the world by transforming every home to be more comfortable and healthy for the people who inhabit it — without compromising the environment. Today, heating and cooling equipment emit more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, and expansion in the use of cooling is projected to double these emissions in the next 30 ..."
"The City of Austin's Office of Sustainability briefs and advises across the City of Austin's department directors, the City Manager, Boards & Commissions, the Mayor, and City Council about sustainability aspects of City policies, programs, and initiatives."
"The Department of Ecology is Washington's environmental protection agency. Our mission is to protect, preserve and enhance Washington's land, air and water for current and future generations. We support environmental work throughout Washington. Nearly 70 percent of our budget is passed through to local communities to pay for projects that benefit the environment. We invest in our employees to create ..."
"The California Data Collaborative (CaDC) is a nonprofit organization and network of water professionals collaborating on the creation of open-source software, data, standards, and applied research that support the informed planning and analysis needed to ensure a reliable and sustainable water supply in California into an uncertain future. We build tools and community to empower local water suppliers on the ..."
"Heirloom is on a mission to restore balance to our atmosphere. We are removing 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2035, using natural processes to engineer the world's most cost-effective Direct Air Capture solution. Naturally occurring minerals - alongside forests, soils, and the ocean - are one of our planet's most vital carbon sinks. Over geological timescales, carbon dioxide ..."
"Equilibrium Energy is a well-funded, Series A clean energy startup backed by some of the most prominent institutional investors in climate. We are building a digital native power company operating at the intersection of grid variability, market volatility, economic optimization, commercial structuring, and risk management, across the end-to-end power value chain. Our mission is to accelerate our collective path to ..."
"Founded in 2014, Project Drawdown is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. Since the 2017 publication of the New York Times bestseller, Drawdown, the organization has emerged as a leading resource for information and insight about ..."
"Climate modeling at the speed of energy markets"
"We believe in the power of technology to improve communities and our planet. Since 2001, we have been stretching the possibilities of geospatial technology to enable our clients to answer complex questions in a wide range of domains: urban ecosystems, water, infrastructure planning, economic development, public transit, elections, public safety, energy, and cultural resources management, to name a few"
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