https://thehill.com/policy/equilibrium-sustainability/3705618-equilibrium-sustainability-midterm-races-put-state-climate-action-in-jeopardy/

State-level races in multiple parts of the country could help determine the fate of the clean energy industries in several battleground areas.

As states have led the charge on climate action — particularly in contrast to the slower-moving federal government — their energy policies have increasingly become points of contention between Democrats and Republicans, according to Reuters.

In Oregon, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Christine Drazan wants to “tear up” the state’s emission reduction program. Democratic candidate for governor Wes Moore has promised to implement plans to bring 100 percent clean energy to Maryland by 2035, Reuters reported.

And in Arizona, two seats on the state’s utility regulator — the Arizona Corporation Commission — are up for grabs. The Democrats hoping to flip those seats say they would use their new majority to increase the state’s renewable power generation, according to Reuters.

On the federal level, these kinds of climate-forward policies are broadly popular. Nearly two-thirds of Americans want to see more climate action from the federal government, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll this week.

But the poll also carried some worrying news for Democrats.  

The AP found that while most Americans wanted more climate action, nearly two-thirds of Americans said they knew little to nothing about Democrats’ signature climate legislation — the Inflation Reduction Act. 

That package contains nearly $375 billion in clean energy incentives. In a marker of how polarizing the issue is on a national level, the bill passed in August without a single Republican vote. 

Action item: For a look at how new provisions from the legislation can save your household money on electric upgrades, solar panels and more, check out this tool from nonprofit Rewiring America. 

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin.

In today’s issue: Saudi Arabia is telling Western nations to solve energy issues on their own and invest more in fossil fuels. Plus: UNICEF warns that nearly all kids on the planet will face frequent heatwaves by 2050. 

Saudi Arabia to West: Solve your own energy issues

Saudi Arabia is recommending that Western nations solve their energy problems on their own, in a fierce follow-up to the kingdom’s recent decision to cut global oil production, The Wall Street Journal reported.  

That move has rattled both the U.S. and Europe, which have been calling for a boost in supplies to help quell elevated oil prices.  

Touting fossil fuel investments: Top Saudi leaders warned at a Wednesday conference in Riyadh that the world hasn’t invested enough in fossil fuel generation, according to the Journal.

More investments in fossil fuel could have helped prevent another energy crisis related to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Saudi officials said. In some cases, the kingdom accused Western governments of making things worse.    

A fraught history: Earlier this month, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) — led by Saudi Arabia — decided to slash oil production, drawing fierce criticism from the U.S. and other countries worried about high prices.

  • The OPEC+ coalition of 13 member nations and 11 non-members, including Russia, declared it would reduce supplies by 2 million barrels.
  • The move was particularly contentious because President Biden had visited Riyadh in July in part to convince the kingdom to increase production.  

Ongoing embarrassment: U.S. officials said that just days before the OPEC+ decision, they had received assurances from the crown prince that there would be no such cuts, The New York Times reported.  

“There’s now a level of embarrassment as the Saudis merrily go on their way,” Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Times.  

Lashing out at the West: Amin Nasser, chief executive of the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil Co., slammed global plans to decarbonize at the Wednesday conference, the Journal reported. 

He said that such programs focused too much on investing in renewables and not enough on fostering a transition from coal to cleaner fuels, according to the Journal.  

A different perspective: “We’re looking at it from a Western point of view and the rest of the world needs to adapt,” Nasser said, per the Journal.  

“No, it doesn’t work like that,” he added. 

Almost all kids to face frequent heatwaves by 2050

Nearly all the world’s 2 billion children will be exposed to frequent heatwaves by 2050, according to a new report from UNICEF. 

  • Already today, around 559 million — or 24 percent — of the world’s children are exposed to high heatwave frequency, or an average of 4.5 or more heatwaves annually, the report found.
  • About 624 million children encounter one of three other high heat measures: high heatwave duration, high heatwave severity or extreme high temperatures, per the report.  

“The mercury is rising and so are the impacts on children,” UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said in a statement.  

How does UNICEF define a heatwave? As any period of three days or more in which the maximum temperature each day falls in the top 10 percent of the local 15-day average.  

Heatwaves are also getting longer: High heatwave duration, when the average heatwave lasts 4.7 days or longer, today impacts 538 million — or 23 percent — of kids worldwide, according to the report.

  • This figure is poised to rise to 1.6 billion children in 2050 if the planet warms by 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.06 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial averages. 
  • In a scenario of 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.32 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, 1.9 billion children could be facing high heatwave duration.

And they’re getting more severe: Millions more children will also be exposed to high heatwave severity — in which the average heatwave event is 2 degrees Celsius or more above the local 15-day average, according to UNICEF.

Also on the rise are extreme high temperatures, when more than 83.54 days a year exceed 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), per the report.  

Which locations will be worst? Children who live in northern parts of the world, particularly in Europe, will experience the most dramatic surges in high severity heatwaves, the authors noted.

By 2050, almost half of all children in Africa and Asia will face sustained exposure to extreme high temperatures, per the report.  

To read more of the report’s findings, please click here for the full story. 

National emissions cuts insufficient, UN says

Current national climate plans are cutting emissions neither at the scale nor the speed needed to avert severe climate change, according to a United Nations study released on Wednesday.

But even as extreme weather rises, national subsidies for fossil fuels are increasing — the kind of support that indicates a global “addiction” to fossil fuels, a leading medical journal reported the same day.  

What’s the damage? The U.N. projected that emissions in 2030 will be about 10 percent higher than they were in 2010, as our colleague Rachel Frazin reported.

  • This is an improvement compared to a similar assessment last year, which predicted that emissions would increase by 13.7 percent.
  • But it’s nowhere near the 45 percent cuts in emissions that the U.N. believes must take place by 2030 to keep heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — the threshold agreed upon by countries in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.  

Key timing: The progress report comes less than two weeks before national leaders will convene in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh for this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP-27). 

How hot are we talking? Even if countries meet their national targets, global heating will likely reach about 2.5 degrees Celsius in this century, according to the U.N.

  • That’s a slight decrease from the 2.7 degrees Celsius predicted based on agreements at the previous climate summit in Glasgow (COP-26).
  • However, it is far exceeds the threshold set in Paris.

What happened? While 193 countries agreed in Glasgow last year to ratchet up their climate ambition, only 26 actually did so, according to The New York Times.

  • U.S. passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, with it’s $375 billion in clean energy stimulus spending, represents the biggest move by a major emitter this year, Niklas Höhne of Germany’s New Climate Institute told the Times. 
  • But the act is both “30 years overdue” and gets the US only 80 percent of the way towards its emissions reduction targets.

DIAGNOSING FOSSIL FUEL ‘ADDICTION’

Air pollution from the burning of carbon-dense fuels like coal, oil, gas and wood kill about 1.2 million people a year — and about 12,000 in the U.S. alone, according to a study published in the Lancet on Tuesday.

  • The world’s “persistent addiction to fossil fuels” is worsening the impact of climate change — and exacerbating other crises, coauthor Manna Romanello, of University College of London, said in a statement. 
  • Romanello singled out ” “the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the cost of living crisis, energy crisis and food crisis that were triggered after the war in Ukraine.” 

All these health impacts “are rapidly increasing,” she noted. 

Naming a behavior: By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the world’s governments are “continuing individual behavior despite known harms,” Courtney Howard, a University of Calgary medical professor and emergency room physician, told The Associated Press

That is the literal definition of addiction, Howard noted. 

Doubling down: Instead of cutting fossil fuels, the world’s wealthiest countries are continuing to increase support for them, even as they roll out renewables, according to a report from Climate Transparency, a network of research groups and nonprofits.

  • The share of renewables in the power mix of the world’s 20 wealthiest countries — the G-20 — has steadily increased over the past five years.
  • But while G-20 fossil fuel subsidies dipped in 2020, they rose by more than a quarter in 2021 to 190 billion, and are expected to keep rising through 2022. 

Global impacts: “The G20 is responsible for three-quarters of the world’s emissions,” noted Bill Hare, chief executive of member organization Climate Analytics. 

“We are now in a moment where geopolitics and energy security issues are combining to really hammer home the benefits of cheap renewables,” Hare said.

“Yet we are still seeing many of these governments turning to fossil fuels as the solution,” he added.

Wednesday Wildlife

Sensor mimics sea turtle egg to anticipate hatch times, feds grant Endangered Species Act protections to emperor penguins and California’s migratory birds face a tough journey. 

Sensor disguised as sea turtle egg helps predict hatching times 

A low-cost sensor designed to mimic a sea turtle egg — presented in PLOS One on Wednesday — is enabling scientists to monitor nests from afar and forecast when hatchlings will emerge. The sensor can help inform conservation initiatives and turtle nest management, according to the authors, from the University of Virginia and Nerds Without Borders.  

Government grants Endangered Species Act protections to emperor penguin 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted the emperor penguin “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act on Tuesday, our colleague Zack Budryk reported. The agency cited the impacts of climate change on sea ice, which is a critical component of penguin habitat. 

The rest stops are dry as fall bird migration begins

Migratory birds heading north across Western flyways will find that climate-driven drought has turned once-hospitable rest stops like marshes and ponds into lifeless dirt, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. While Western birds have adapted thus far, a persistent, long-term drought could “outpace the ability of the birds to respond,” Jeff McCreary of hunting and conservation group Ducks Unlimited told the Chronicle. 

While we’re talking drought: Texas, New Mexico and Colorado have proposed a deal that they hope will end years of political fighting over management of the vital, dwindling Rio Grande, the AP reported.  

But while New Mexico’s Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) called the proposal “a comprehensive resolution of all the claims in the case,” the federal government isn’t sold — and the Department of Justice is fighting the plan, according to the AP.  

For more on solving the West’s water issues, check out our Dried Up series, produced with our colleagues in Energy and Environment. 

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for more coverage and explore more newsletters here. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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