Peak Natural Gas coming To US early, New Proposal to Protect More of Southern Arctic Ocean, Hydrogen-Powered Airliners by 2035? Big News from Comer Climate Conference

by | Feb 12, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Peak natural gas is coming to the United States earlier than expected, and the renewable energy sector couldn’t be any happier! And a new proposal to protect 25% of the southern arctic ocean. Airbus announces plans to fly hydrogen-powered airliners by 2035, and big news from the Comer Climate Conference.



Five years ago, chief executive officer of Southern Co., One of the largest utilities in the U.S. put $8 billion into a bet that natural gas would dominate American electricity much like coal had before because that company believed gas would be a growth play.

 Now those expansive time horizons are in deep doubt. In fact, there are flashing signs that the U.S. power sector is approaching peak gas, with demand topping out decades ahead of schedule. Devin McDermott, an analyst at Morgan Stanley indicated in a recent interview that the era of robust growth in the U.S. natural gas market is likely coming to a close. He also projected that U.S. utilities will rapidly need less new supply soon.

Part of that reason is more than half of U.S. states have enacted mandates that require utilities to reach majority or 100% renewable or carbon-free electricity by 2050, further pushing U.S. electrical power generation away from gas. In fact, latest research by Morgan Stanley indicates renewables will overtake natural gas as the primary form of electrical power generation in the United States by 2028.

 DEEPER DIVE: Bloomberg Green, Grist



Countries around the world had the opportunity to enact the largest conservation action in human history for the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica.

Reported in Forbes Magazine, the conversation proposal would offer new massive protections for the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, a continent nearly twice the size of the United States. An ocean filled with some of the world’s most vibrant marine ecosystems, only about 5% of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean is currently protected. Antarctic wildlife including seal, penguin, and whale populations have been vulnerable to hunting and overfishing.

However, the Commission on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an organization created to establish international fishing rules, considered three new Marine Protected Areas, which would expand the Southern Ocean’s protection by 20%. The conservation proposal would be a step toward reducing ecosystem destruction and provide meaningful protection for many marine species vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

However, during a virtual meeting in early November the members of Commission’s international committee could not come to an agreement on the conservation proposal. While the protections would have been a huge step towards environmental conservation, advocates for Southern Ocean protection remain hopeful for progress next year.

DEEPER DIVE: Forbes, Scientific American



The aerospace giant Airbus hopes to put a hydrogen-powered commercial airliner in the sky that will release zero carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. The company says it is studying three designs for commercial air travel, but a host of complex problems remain related to producing “clean” hydrogen fuel.

 While 15 years might seem like a long time for research and development given the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris climate agreement, processing and storing “clean hydrogen” requires solving an array of complex technical challenges. Three early design concepts the company is studying would run off of hydrogen and oxygen fuel and have no carbon exhaust. 

A spokesperson for the Earth Defense Fund, said she thinks it’s crucial that Airbus is giving engineers a goal and a commitment. For these technologies to progress companies and policymakers need to set targets, then solve the technological hurdles to meet them, rather than the other way around.

 Airbus has previously made public forays into zero carbon flight, beginning with a small electric aircraft unveiled in 2010. The company’s main competitor, Boeing, tested a small hydrogen powered aircraft in 2008—the first manned flight of its kind—and test flew a hydrogen drone in 2012, but hasn’t announced plans for hydrogen-powered passenger flights.

 Airbus plans to have several hydrogen-powered planes flying by the mid-2030s, and from there the company will gradually grow its fleet.

DEEPER DIVE: Inside Climate News, BBC



Let me introduce you to Yuxin Zhou. He is among the next generation of climate scientists studying the Earth and its responses to rapidly rising temperatures. As a fifth-year Ph.D. student at Columbia University’s Lamont-DOE-erty Earth Observatory, Zhou is researching how Earth’s climate behaved in the past to understand the effects of climate change today. Earlier this year, Zhou presented his new research at the Comer Climate Conference, an annual summit where climate scientists from around the world gather to present emerging research.

 Zhou’s presentation focused on his new method to track and measure the amount of freshwater released by melting icebergs following Heinrich events, a natural occurrence in which icebergs break off from glaciers and travel to the North Atlantic ocean. Unlike existing research on iceberg melting in the North Atlantic, Zhou’s new method measures the amount of freshwater and the location of freshwater released.

The correlations of past ice ages, warm spells and sediment changes can help predict the pace of climate change today. Zhou hopes his new method will contribute to scientist’s global efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change.

DEEPER DIVE: Comer Climate Conference