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This Week in Climate: Reckoning with the past to push climate policy forward

Sunday, September 11th, 2022: This week we look at the places where climate change is forcing a reckoning with the past to make sense of the uncertain future.
Julian Moore
Sep 11, 2022 10 min read
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When it comes to clean energy, sometimes history is the best teacher.

This week California legislators approved a community solar law that may finally provide clean energy to communities most at risk when, say, the worst heat wave in the state’s recorded history threatens the grid.

The bill includes two rules meant to ensure climate justice where previous laws have failed:

  • 51% of subscribers will have to come from low-income communities. That way installers won’t exclusively prioritize businesses, which are seen as lower risk customers.
  • Workers on the projects will be paid prevailing wages, locking in guarantees on equitable pay for workers in the transition to a climate workforce.

Community solar typically works by a subscription model. Residents who can’t afford to install solar on their rooftops can pay for access to a nearby solar installation and receive credits when that system inevitably puts power back into the grid in the middle of the day.

Backed by the new guarantees, the revamped system is designed to be a win-win-win for consumers, installers and grid operators.

Beyond California, though, the burden of business as usual is complicating necessary steps to respond to the climate crisis.

This week we look at the places where climate change is forcing a reckoning with the past to make sense of the uncertain future.

White Flight

Long-running racial disparities in the American South need no introduction, and in recent weeks they have combined with climate impacts to create a water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.

Most residents of the state capitol have water again following a historic rainstorm that flooded the city’s water system, but what's coming out of the tap is still solid brown.

That is in part because of the twelve inches of rain that fell on the state in a space of 24 hours last month, prompting the city’s decrepit water system to flood and overflow. It's a likely sign of climate change, but according to officials in Jackson, the disaster points to systemic failures that have followed a decades-long demographic process of white flight from the city.

In 1980, more than half of Jackson’s population was white, a number that shrank to roughly 25% as urbanization drove more black people to the city and half of Jackson’s white population left for surrounding suburbs.

Since Mississippi has one of the highest income disparities between black and white households, the white exodus cratered the city’s tax base. Jackson’s public water system then decayed for years alongside the income decline, setting the state on a collision course with the emerging impacts of climate change.

Mississippi is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate impacts, albeit in unique ways.

Models indicate that the Mississippi delta region will see relatively small temperature differences compared to those predicted in the rest of the country. But cycles of drought and floods are expected to become much more exaggerated, presenting a distinct threat to the agriculturally dependent region.

That means this crisis is guaranteed to repeat itself in the future unless changes are made to adapt. The EPA launched an investigation into the crisis this week and is expected to hand down recommendations on those adaptations soon.

Poland Pulls the Plug

The war in Ukraine has caused unrelenting chaos to Europe’s energy supply, and now it’s pushing coal-hungry Poland to adopt clean energy measures faster than ever.

This year, Poland is installing heat-pumps at a higher clip than any other country in Europe, while policymakers have already surpassed a goal to install 10 gigawatts of solar.

Poland is one of the most unlikely places to host a clean energy transition.

Coal mining is ingrained in Polish national identity as a symbol of the country’s energy abundance and independence, a delicate point of pride for a society that spent most of the 20th century under various forms of foreign domination.

In 2018, Poland generated no less than 80% of its energy from coal. The sector still employs 100,000 workers, down from 400,000 a few decades ago.

That devotion to the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel ascended to shitpost levels of greenwashing at COP24 in the Polish mining town of Katowice, where the host country pushed “clean coal” and even curated a sleek exhibit to coal dubbed “Black to Green”.

In recent years, Poland's coal exports made the country more dependent on Russian coal than most Poles understood at the same time that Poland was diversifying with Russian gas. Now that Russia is pulling the plug on both fuels, Poland finds itself in the same precarious situation as the rest of Europe with winter bearing down on the continent.

Fossil fuels are still at the heart of Poland’s energy strategy, but rapidly changing circumstances may force a pivot toward wind and solar as electrified heating gains a foothold.

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🌎 Climate Jobs

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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Dispatch Goods

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  • Head of Operations (San Francisco, CA, USA)

Brimstone Energy

"Cement is responsible for about the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as all of the cars on the road today worldwide. Cement has been widely considered one of the most difficult materials to decarbonize and has even been called out as the reason why we need point-source CCS. We have invented a way to make carbon-negative Portland cement that ..."

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Salo Sciences, Inc.

"Salo Sciences is a climate technology company. We work to implement natural climate solutions like forest conservation, restoration and improved land stewardship by helping quantify environmental change, understand climate risks, and adapt for the future. Our Forest Observatory technology is a satellite-based forest monitoring system that delivers precision insights into environmental change. Using cutting-edge satellite constellations combined with AI and ecological modeling, ..."

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" is a technology company on a mission to decarbonize mobility. Recently named “World’s Best Energy Start-up,” we are a team of former management consultants, data scientists and software developers working on an industry-leading algorithm that obtains real-time data from utilities to charge electric vehicles with the cheapest, greenest energy available while supporting the long-term stability and resilience of the ..."

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EVmatch, Inc.

"EVmatch is an early-stage cleantech startup that is revolutionizing electric vehicle (EV) charging through a reservation-based EV charging network. EVmatch’s app-based service allows homeowners, businesses, and multi-family properties to rent out private charging stations and supports widespread EV adoption. The EVmatch platform supports residential and commercial charging hosts who leverage the platform for management services, power sharing, and access controls ..."

  • Full-Stack Senior Software Engineer (Remote (California, USA))

Antora Energy

"Antora Energy is electrifying heavy industry with zero-carbon heat and power. We make it possible and profitable to fully rely on renewable energy for industrial processes. Antora Energy's thermal energy storage soaks up excess solar and wind electricity and uses it to heat blocks of carbon so they glow like inside a toaster (but very bright!). This thermal energy is then delivered to ..."

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"Edacious is on a mission to build a new food system based on quality. To that end, we are building technology to differentiate food quality from farm to fork with the goal of nourishing people and planet. We are working to establish linkages between our agriculture system and human health. Our company consists of chemists, engineers, producers, and systems-thinkers that have ..."

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"Forerunner builds intelligent tools that help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. We empower government agencies to access, understand, and mobilize local-level flood risk data at scale. This data, in turn, allows them to better communicate potential futures to residents and plan for a dynamically changing world."

  • Marketing Manager (Remote (USA))
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Headway Cooperative

"Headway Cooperative is the world's first climate tech co-op. We are 100% developer owned and operated, providing mission-driven software development for data-centric businesses solving climate change. Specializing in utility-scale energy and grid analytics, we partner with high-impact, high-growth companies like GridX that trust us to provide access to exceptional engineering talent and industry expertise."

  • Software Engineer (Remote (Denver, CO, USA))

Mad Capital

"Mad Capital is a Boulder Colorado based company established to accelerate the regenerative and organic revolution in agriculture! We are working to transition 10M acres of farmland to regenerative and organic production in the next 10 years by providing farmers with strategic financial products and resources..."

  • Chief Financial Officer (Remote)
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OpenEarth Foundation

"Open Earth Foundation is a California-based research and deployment non-profit. We create Open Source technology to increase planetary resilience and avoid a catastrophic climate crisis. We operate at the intersection of emerging technology and climate science, with a special focus on distributed ledgers, open source Web3, and fueled by a restless environmental urgency. We are building open infrastructure for the Paris Agreement ..."

  • Development Manager- Climate Solutions (Remote)
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"Voltus is a fully remote clean energy technology platform. Our mission is to be the Distributed Energy Platform that fulfills the promise of the energy transition. The Voltus Platform connects any distributed energy resource to any energy market across the US and Canada, providing flexibility, reliability, and resilience to the grid..."

  • Sales Productivity Intern (Remote)
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Octopus Energy

"We’re a leading energy technology company providing a better experience for our customers through transparency, automation and simplicity. Better for the planet, through real long-term investment in renewable generation and a low CO2 future. We make energy green and flexible for consumers, with fair and transparent pricing. Through our home developed platform, cloud-based billing, ..."

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The Author

Julian Moore