MORE THAN 50% OF BRITISH ELECTRICITY GENERATED BY WIND POWER FOR FIRST TIME
On December 29, 2020, the National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (NGESO) division announced that 2020 was a record-breaking year for UK renewables. In a statement, NGESO said, “2020 was the greenest year on record for Britain’s electricity system, with average carbon intensity — the measure of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed — reaching a new low.”
Perhaps equally importantly, over 50% of Britain’s electricity was generated by wind for first the time.The British government aims to have offshore wind farms delivering one-third of the country’s electricity by 2030 and has placed nuclear power at the core of its low-carbon energy program. These arrangements are all part of its ultimate goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to meet its Paris climate commitments.
The National Grid also added that on December 25, 2020, the UK electricity mix’s share of coal stood at zero for the first time, compared with 1.8% in 2019 and 20% in 2009. The excellent news comes ahead of the UN’s global climate change summit COP26, which will be held sometime this year in Glasgow.
DEEPER DIVE: Intelligent Living
NORWAY’S LOW CARBON PLANS
News from Norway. Prime Minister Erna SOL-berg announced a new plan to help the country reach their 2030 climate targets and transition towards a low-carbon economy.
Reported by the Barent Observer, the new initiative incorporates policies to cut emissions, enhance the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and fund the development of new technology. These policies would lead to a roughly 40% cut in domestic non-Emissions Trading System emissions by 2030, which includes the transport, waste, agriculture, and building sector.
In addition to Norway’s low-carbon efforts, electric vehicles hit record 50% sales in northern-most Norway. In 2020, Norway became the first country in the world to sell more battery-electric vehicles than gas, diesel and hybrids combined.
In an interview with the Barent Observer, a Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association representative said with increased accessibility to new models and charging infrastructure, electric vehicles should become the natural choice across the country going forward.
DEEPER DIVE: The Barents Observer: Norway takes aim at low-carbon society, The Barents Observer: Electric cars hit record 50% sales in northernmost Norway, mid-winter range no longer a problem
PIKAS DEFY EXTINCTION THREATS, CONTRARY TO PREDICTIONS
Climate change is harming many special places and iconic species around our planet, from Glacier National Park’s disappearing glaciers to California redwoods scorched by wildfires, to several wildlife species. However, for the American pika there’s actually some good news: It’s not as threatened by climate change as many studies have warned.
Pikas, are small cousins of rabbits. They are tailless, egg-shaped balls of fluff which live primarily in cool mountainous environments in piles of broken rock, called talus. Why Pikas? Pikas had been thought to be the furry mammal equivalent of the “canary in the coal mine”
That’s because the biology of pikas suggests that they are likely to be affected by a warming climate. Because their normal body temperature is high, this puts them at risk of overheating when active in warm environments. When temperatures are warm, pikas retreat into the much cooler depths of their talus habitat.
Temperature also plays a role in pikas’ ability to move from place to place. Warm weather inhibits their movements, while cooler temperatures allow them to more freely colonize new habitats.
Pikas originally came to North America from Asia and spread across the continent some five million years ago, during colder times. Their remains have been found in caves in the Appalachian Mountains and in the Mojave Desert – sites where pikas no longer live.
As the world’s climate warmed, pika populations retreated to the high mountains of the western U.S. and Canada. Today they occupy most of the available talus habitat in these areas – evidence that challenges the pikas-on-the-brink narrative.
However, pikas are still present in other remarkably hot places, such as the ghost town of Bodie, California, the nearby Mono Craters and Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument. At these sites, pikas retreat into the cool nooks of their talus habitat during the warmest part of the day and often forage at night.
The fact that pikas have also adapted to a number of marginal, hot environments suggests that they are more resilient to climate change than many past studies have concluded.
Climate change is the most critical issue facing the world today. That Pikas seem to be coping and altering their behaviors in response to changing conditions is encouraging news for future naturalists setting out to observe one of nature’s most charismatic mammals.
DEEPER DIVE: The Conversation
FIRST AMERICAN CITY TO REQUIRE CLIMATE CHANGE WARNING STICKERS ON GAS PUMPS
Do you feel bad every time you have to refuel your vehicle at gas stations, especially when you know the extent of which burning gasoline contributes to climate change? Well, you are about to feel worse… but this is good news!
Cambridge, Massachusetts becomes the first US city to require the placement of bright yellow stickers at gas stations to warn drivers about the threats of climate change. Reported by The Guardian, the stickers reference how burning gasoline, diesel and ethanol has “major consequences on human health and the environment including contributing to climate change”.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts from the largest portion of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions – 28% to be exact. And education can be a great step to reducing one’s carbon footprint.
The city of Cambridge plans to reach carbon neutral emissions by 2050 through reducing greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting the remainder…. And the yellow sticker initiative helps the city reach this goal. In an interview with the Guardian, a spokesperson said the initiative is working hard with their community to remind drivers about their impact on the environment and hopefully help them reconsider non-polluting options.
DEEPER DIVE: The Guardian, EPA