Could Scotland be the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, Australia refuses to set a net-zero emissions target, and how coronavirus is rewriting our imaginations
Picture of the week: Autumn leaves (again!)
Welcome to this week’s news roundup. As always we’ll be mixing it up - there’ll be some good news stories, some not so good news stories, and maybe some stories you won't have seen elsewhere!
Hope you enjoy!
“”As Saudi Arabia is to oil, the UK is to wind" - that's how Boris Johnson described the country's potential to capitalise on renewable energy recently. For Scotland, it's not the first time comparisons have been drawn with Saudi Arabia. Back when he was first minister, Alex Salmond said Scotland had the potential to be the "Saudi Arabia of renewables". With a year to go until Glasgow hosts COP26, a UN climate change conference, BBC Scotland considers how renewable energy has developed.”
Biden looks to restore, expand Obama administration policies (Associated Press)
“Stop and reverse. Restore and expand. Joe Biden is promising to take the country on a very different path from what it has seen over the past four years under President Donald Trump, on issues ranging from the coronavirus and health care to the environment, education and more. The Democratic presidential nominee is promising to reverse Trump policy moves on things such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and weakening protections against environmental pollution.”
“Young climate voters are turning out in large numbers, propelled by fears about the fate of the planet. They made a difference in several Democratic primaries earlier this cycle, and they helped make climate a front burner issue during the two presidential debates. Nov. 3 will show if they've matured into a significant voting bloc.”
The not so good:
“Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has said his government will not be dictated to by other countries over its perceived lack of ambition to tackle the climate crisis. His remarks on Wednesday follow a call with Boris Johnson, in which the UK prime minister urged Australia to take “bold action” on dealing with the crisis, and set out firm plans to reach net-zero emissions ahead of the Cop26 climate summit. Mr Morrison’s government has strongly resisted committing to a timeframe to reach the target, despite the country experiencing record temperatures and wildfires exacerbated by a changing climate. His administration has also promised a “gas-led recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic, which has been attacked as a “disaster” by those concerned about the environment, and inconsistent with the Paris climate agreement.”
“The US and UK produce more plastic waste per person than any other major countries, according to new research. The analysis also shows the US produces the most plastic waste in total and that its citizens may rank as high as third in the world in contributing to plastic pollution in the oceans. Previous work had suggested Asian countries dominated marine plastic pollution and placed the US in 20th place, but this did not account for US waste exports or illegal dumping within the country. Data from 2016, the latest available, show that more than half of the plastic collected for recycling in the US was shipped abroad, mostly to countries already struggling to manage plastic waste effectively. The researchers said years of exporting had masked the US’s enormous contribution to plastic pollution.”
Climate Helped Turn These 5 Places into Ghost Towns (Scientific American)
“Climate change is creating American ghost towns with a regularity not seen since the 19th century, when boomtowns sprouted and died as quickly as their resources could be devoured. Today, disasters are hollowing out more small communities and erasing important cultural, historical and religious sites, leaving only painful memories and sometimes nothing. Just this year, multiple hurricanes struck the Louisiana coast, including Zeta earlier this week. It remains a mystery whether Cameron and Creole, just 12 miles apart along the southwest Louisiana coast, will survive after back-to-back hits from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. Today, Cameron has more opened graves than open businesses, and most of its residents have evacuated to other places.”
And something a bit different:
It’s not as recent, but I stumbled upon something this week I thought worth sharing. Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson has written an article entitled ‘Coronavirus is rewriting our imaginations’ in the New Yorker about our response to the coronavirus and the parallels with the climate crisis. Some of the key extracts:
“People who study climate change talk about “the tragedy of the time horizon.” The tragedy is that we don’t care enough about those future people, our descendants, who will have to fix, or just survive on, the planet we’re now wrecking. We like to think that they’ll be richer and smarter than we are and so able to handle their own problems in their own time. But we’re creating problems that they’ll be unable to solve. You can’t fix extinctions, or ocean acidification, or melted permafrost, no matter how rich or smart you are. The fact that these problems will occur in the future lets us take a magical view of them. We go on exacerbating them, thinking—not that we think this, but the notion seems to underlie our thinking—that we will be dead before it gets too serious. The tragedy of the time horizon is often something we encounter, without knowing it, when we buy and sell. The market is wrong; the prices are too low. Our way of life has environmental costs that aren’t included in what we pay, and those costs will be borne by our descendents. We are operating a multigenerational Ponzi scheme.
And yet: “Flatten the curve.” We’re now confronting a miniature version of the tragedy of the time horizon. We’ve decided to sacrifice over these months so that, in the future, people won’t suffer as much as they would otherwise. In this case, the time horizon is so short that we are the future people. It’s harder to come to grips with the fact that we’re living in a long-term crisis that will not end in our lifetimes. But it’s meaningful to notice that, all together, we are capable of learning to extend our care further along the time horizon. Amid the tragedy and death, this is one source of pleasure. Even though our economic system ignores reality, we can act when we have to. At the very least, we are all freaking out together. To my mind, this new sense of solidarity is one of the few reassuring things to have happened in this century. If we can find it in this crisis, to save ourselves, then maybe we can find it in the big crisis, to save our children and theirs.”