Why Biden's climate plans hang in the balance in Georgia; Trump's Arctic drilling no-shows

Plus, how women are making a mark in Latin America's climate battle

Climate change wasn’t much of a factor in the campaigns for Georgia’s Senate runoffs today. The vast majority of the state’s 11 million people live hours from the rapidly rising seas along its coastline. The candidates stuck to predictable national playbooks, arguing about the Green New Deal, which none of them support.

But the results will have a great impact on Georgia, as well as the entire country. With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, much of President-elect Joe Biden’s $2 trillion climate policy is on the line. From reducing emissions in the power sector, to encouraging the transition to electric cars and other transportation, a hostile Senate could thwart some of the highlights of the policy.

Georgia itself is in the eye of a climate threat that includes stronger hurricanes, soaring heat, water supply issues, and seas that could rise several feet in the next 75 years, by some estimates. Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — like all of us — will find out tonight what the future holds for Georgia and the country.

The impact of the vote will then be ignored tomorrow while Congress descends into chaos over the U.S. election certification and Washington D.C. faces violent protests spurred by President Trump’s refusal to go quietly. With luck, those will end and Biden will become president in two weeks.

Only then will we realize the scale of the climate threat over the next four years, and whether we have the will and the leaders to fight it.

NOTE: The photo above is from the World Meteorological Organization’s 2021 annual calendar competition, which attracted more than 1,000 entries. Here are the 13 winners, based on photographic merit, meteorological interest and geographic balance, showing the beauty and the power of our weather and oceans.

More insights below. . . .

Don’t forget to contact me directly if you have suggestions or ideas at dcallaway@callawayclimateinsights.com.

. . . . Water’s Enron moment? We wrote last month about the start of futures trading in California water, and the implications for making water a tradable commodity. Now, the New York Times is out with an exhaustive report on the Colorado River, which provides water to some 40 million people in seven states. The piece highlighted attempts by other countries, such as Australia, to create water markets, including concerns that professional investors could threaten the integrity of the water system. One source compared it to California’s deregulated energy system in the late ‘90s, which led to abuses from energy trader Enron Corp., among others. A strong, if long, read about what is certain to be a major battle for the Colorado River in coming years. . . .

. . . . Bids for the Trump Administration’s sale of drilling leases on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are due to be unsealed Thursday, and all indications are the leases will be as popular as a stocking stuffer at a Covid Christmas dinner party. Analysts expect few — if any — oil companies to make offers, given the bad publicity, expected lawsuits, and determination of the incoming Biden Administration to scuttle the sale in a few weeks. One theory is that the state will step in to buy them as a backstop for future use, though no one is quite sure whether that is legal. What is known is that the government won’t get anywhere near the $900 million it originally estimated for the leases. With minimum bids at $25 an acre, and maximum land to sell placed at 1.5 million acres, that suggests something closer to $37.5 million as a minimum, though one taxpayers group told The New York Times it could be closer to $15 million. . . .

In Latin America, sustainability means gender equality

. . . . Women like Denise Hills are leading the way on climate change solutions in Latin America, writes Michael Molinski. While global numbers show roughly equal numbers of number of men and women in sustainable finance, in many Latin American countries women are showing sharp gains in environmental, social and governance positions. Hills, who overseas sustainable progress at Brazilian cosmetics giant Natura & Co., is one example of women executives fighting not just for more responsibility, but for better environmental performance as well.

Latin American women have been closing the gap compared to the rest of the world when it comes to gender equality. For example, Latin American women have the highest percentage of women in scientific research at 44%, versus 28% for the rest of the world. And an increasing number of those researchers are entering environmental fields. . . .

Read the full story

Save the date: Callaway Climate Insights and Frans Timmermans

. . . . In an exclusive for Callaway Climate Insights subscribers, European Union Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans will participate in a webinar this month to discuss Europe’s energy transition goals for 2030 and how it is working with the incoming Biden Administration on the climate emergency. Timmermans is one of the most influential climate leaders on the globe — a straight talker who will share his insights on transatlantic deals, how corporations can respond to the climate crisis, and public-private partnerships. The webinar on Jan. 21 will also feature a Q&A session for subscribers to ask their own questions. Read more. . . .

Data driven: Countries with near-zero emissions

. . . . The only countries that have emissions that are close to zero are those where the majority of people suffer from energy poverty, according to The World’s Energy Problem, by Our World in Data. The countries that are closest are the very poorest countries in Africa: Malawi, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But, says OWID, this comes at a large cost: In no poor country do people have living standards that are comparable to those of people in richer countries. And since living conditions are better where GDP per capita is higher, it is also the case that CO₂ emissions are higher where living conditions are better. Emissions are high where child mortality is the lowest, where children have good access to education, and where few of them suffer from hunger. . . .

News briefs: New national park named, Hawaii’s beaches threatened

West Virginia’s New River Gorge has become America’s 63rd national park, with the passage of the year-end omnibus spending bill. It’s also West Virginia’s first national park and preserve. Photo: NPS.

Editor’s picks:

  • Hawaii has lost about a quarter of its beaches

  • Climate strategy investments seen doubling

  • Danish climate minister optimistic for the new year

Read all the news briefs

Latest findings: New research, studies and projects

NOAA’s satellites use the moon’s reflected sunlight to “see” Earth’s weather features at night and they use its orbital position for calibration. Although not specifically designed to do so, NOAA satellites also occasionally catch breathtaking glimpses of the moon from their perspective in space. In this image from GOES-16 in 2017, the satellite captured the waning gibbous moon over the horizon as it was monitoring the weather below.

Global projections of local urban climates

Urban regions around the world are likely to see a near-universal decrease in humidity as the climate changes, a study has found. According to a report from The Guardian, the research suggests that building green infrastructure and increasing urban vegetation might be a safe bet for cities looking to mitigate rising temperatures. Half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, but cities only account for about 3% of global land surface. Lei Zhao, a scientist from the University of Illinois and the lead author of the paper, titled Global multi-model projections of local urban climates and published in Nature Climate Change, says this has meant that previous climate models have not produced data specific to cities. Zhao said he hopes data from the research will allow urban planners and policymakers to make more informed decisions about mitigating rising temperatures in their cities.

More of the latest research: