California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.
High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.
Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.
California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.
As reported by AccuWeather:
In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.
For a deeper dive:
- Bond Fire South of LA Forces 25,000 to Flee - EcoWatch ›
- 'Explosive' Southern California Lake Fire Spreads to 10,000 Acres ... ›
- 10 Wildfires Ignite Around Los Angeles in Unseasonable Wind and ... ›
- Wisconsin Declares State of Emergency Due to High Wildfire Risk ›
- 5 Things to Know as Wildfire Season Heats Up ›
Three wildfires raging in South Dakota have shuttered Mount Rushmore and forced hundreds to flee their homes.
The largest blaze is the Schroeder Fire, first reported at 9:22 a.m. Monday one mile west of Rapid City, according to a Facebook update. It has since spread to 1,900 acres and forced up to 500 people to flee their homes, the Rapid City Journal reported Monday evening. Authorities attributed the fire to human causes, but its spread to environmental factors.
"We are at record-dry conditions along with high winds playing a major factor in this fight," South Dakota Wildland Fire Division Director Jay Esperance said in the Facebook update.
Today's Schroeder Fire Pictures https://t.co/I4eMcpp8MU— penncofire (@penncofire)1617080041.0
As of the most recent update, there were 250 firefighters battling the flames. The fire has destroyed at least one home and two pole barns, the Pennington County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Facebook. No injuries have been reported, The Associated Press said.
Meanwhile, Mount Rushmore National Memorial was forced to close because of two other fires, the Keystone Fire and 244 Fire, CNN reported. The 244 fire is located 1.5 miles southwest of Keystone. It spread to around 75 acres as of Monday afternoon, according to the interagency website Great Plains Fire Information. The Keystone Fire has successfully been reduced from 30 to 15 acres as of 7 p.m. Monday, the website said.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that the fires were not directly threatening Mount Rushmore, The New York Times reported. However, strong winds made the situation unstable.
"I do want to remind everybody that this is an incredibly fluid situation," CNN quoted Noem at a press conference. "That these winds are a major factor and that as they shift and change and we get those gusts, that's when the can jump and we're going to have to stay pretty mobile."
Parts of South Dakota are under a red flag warning for ideal fire conditions until 8 p.m. Tuesday, The New York Times reported. However, wind speeds are predicted to decrease on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Rapid City Journal reported.
"Humidity is going to be low so... we're going to stay dry, but the winds will be diminishing gradually so that's definitely good news," Matthew Bunkers, a National Weather Service Rapid City meteorologist, told the Rapid City Journal.
Wildfires are expected to become more frequent in South Dakota's Black Hills due to the climate crisis as temperatures rise and humidity declines, according to a study published in Ecology Evolution. South Dakota State Fire Meteorologist Darren Clabo told KOTA TV that this would have a profound impact on the state's landscape.
"I think the long-term effects of all these fires are there's going to be some places that have fundamental ecological shifts," Clabo said. "Which basically means that the ecosystems that are there currently aren't going to exist in those areas anymore, our climates shifted too far away from where those ecosystems can naturally exist and so I think we are going to start seeing some very large broad landscape-level changes out there."
Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider these vitamin supplements, and which brands we recommend.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil is made from a tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the ocean and usually serve as whale food. In fact, krill means "whale food" in Norwegian. These tiny organisms actually play an extremely important role in the food chains of marine ecosystems. The krill used to make krill oil are usually found in the waters around Antarctica.
Just like the fish oils found in supplements, krill oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that contain EPA and DHA, two compounds that are proven to have a number of health benefits.
But what makes krill oil better than fish oil?
It's believed that krill oil is better absorbed in the body than fish oil. Both derive most of their benefits through the EPA and DHA that are contained in their fatty acid stores. However, for the same dose, krill oil will result in more fatty acids in the blood than fish oil. A potential explanation for this is that while fish oil's fatty acids come as triglycerides, krill oil's come as phospholipids which are more easily processed by the body.
Additionally, krill oil contains astaxanthin which is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties that might have an enhanced positive effect on heart health. Studies have shown that krill oil is more effective than fish oil at lowering blood pressure and lowering bad cholesterol.
Our Picks for the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Best for Cognitive Health - Onnit Krill Oil
- Best for Heart Health - NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Best for Joint Health - Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Strongest - Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
How We Chose the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Here are the factors that we considered when comparing the best krill oil brands to create our list of recommended supplements.
Omega-3 Content - We looked to see the amount of omega-3 fatty acids contained in each krill oil softgel or capsule.
Astaxanthin Content - The best krill oil pills contain this naturally-occurring antioxidant.
Third-Party Lab Testing - For any nutritional supplement, we choose brands that guarantee the quality of their product through independent lab testing.
Krill Source - We also compared these supplements for the source of their krill oil, and only recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested krill.
The 5 Best Krill Oil Supplements
Best Overall: Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 3 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 150 mcg per 3 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: We love Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and choline to help promote brain, cardiovascular, and joint health, and because it is made with sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill. In fact, Vital Plan uses Superba krill oil, which is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and is 100% traceable.
Best for Cognitive Health: Onnit Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 200 mcg per 2 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Onnit Krill Oil makes it easy to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients found in krill with just two softgels per day. The DHA and EPA fatty acids, plus astaxanthin, contained in these supplements can help support better cognitive, heart, and joint health. Plus, they source their krill from a Friend of the Sea certified supplier.
Best for Heart Health: NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 250 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 360 mcg per 2 softgels
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: NOW Neptune Krill Oil supplements use 100% Neptune krill oil, a patented oil derived from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Two softgels contain 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 360 mcg of astaxanthin that can promote better cardiovascular and joint health. We like NOW Neptune Krill Oil because they also get their krill oil from a Friend of the Sea certified source.
Best for Joint Health: Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 2 capsules
- Astaxanthin - 1.6 mg per 2 capsules
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Viva Naturals uses a trademarked Caplique capsulation to avoid any krill oil odor or potential fishy burps. WIth 90 mg of DHA and 165 mg of EPA per 2 capsule serving, this supplement will definitely give you your money's worth, as they pack more DHA and EPA than your average supplement. We like that these capsules contain a higher concentration of the antioxidant astaxanthin, and are designed to eliminate any fishy aftertaste.
Strongest: Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per softgel
- Astaxanthin - 500 mcg per softgel
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: IKOS certified and made with their proprietary Superba krill oil formula, Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil is an excellent choice if you're looking to enjoy the benefits that quality omega-3 fatty acids can provide. Every softgel capsule contains 1000 mg of krill oil, making it the strongest krill oil supplement on our list. We like that their krill oil is also certified as sustainably sourced by the MSC.
The Research on Krill Oil Supplements
Research has long demonstrated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in foods like fish, nuts, and certain grains like flax seed. Since krill oil naturally contains higher levels of these beneficial nutrients, it has also been found to provide a number of health benefits.
Numerous studies have linked the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil to cardiovascular health, finding that those who ingest higher levels of these nutrients are at lower risk for coronary heart disease, potentially lower risk of stroke, and have lower cholesterol levels. Another study found that krill oil supplements offer a safe alternative to fish oil for those seeking cardiovascular benefits in a smaller and more convenient form.
Krill oil supplementation has also been found to help reduce the symptoms of knee and joint pain.
Additionally, researches found that rats given krill oil supplements showed improved cognitive function and benefited from anti-depressant-like effects. However, more research on its effect for human brain development and function is needed.
How to Choose the Right Krill Oil Supplement
When shopping for a krill oil supplement, there are important pieces of information that you should always look for. Here are some tips on how to compare brands and how to read labels.
What to Look For
For any supplement, always check to see if it has undergone third-party lab testing for quality and safety. This is especially important for any fish or krill oil to make sure that it does not contain any harmful compounds like mercury.
Look for the amount of krill oil contained in each capsule and each serving (as these will sometimes differ). You should choose supplements that offer between 200 mg and 350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving for the best results.
Make it a priority to learn where the brand sources its supply of krill oil. We recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill oil because the process of harvesting is more tightly regulated by various groups.
This is good advice for all nutritional supplements, but be sure the krill oil you choose does not contain any unwanted or unnecessary ingredients. All of our recommendations contain just the krill oil and the capsule it comes in.
How to Read Labels
When you are comparing krill oil supplements, here are some key things to look for on any label:
- Supplement Facts - This is where you can find information on the amount of krill oil in each capsule, how many capsules make up one serving, and a breakdown of how many omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients are contained in the supplement.
- Other Ingredients - Listed at the bottom of the supplement facts table, this list will tell you what the capsule itself is made of and if there are any additional ingredients present.
- Certifications - Check the label for important certifications and seals of approvals that can tell you if a krill oil is IKOS-certified, third-party lab tested, or sustainably harvest.
How to Use Krill Oil Supplements
Krill oil supplements typically come in capsules that you swallow with water. For most brands, 2 to 3 capsules make up a single serving, and you can take a serving either once or twice per day. Some brands recommend their supplements be taken with food to aid in their digestion and absorption.
Safety & Side Effects
While krill oil supplements are generally considered safe for most adults, it is extremely important to note that you should not take krill oil if you are allergic to shellfish. The potential side effects for krill oil are considered mild and similar to fish oils, including:
- Upset stomach
- Fishy taste
By Kenny Stancil
Despite the difficulties associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world added a record amount of new renewable energy capacity in 2020, according to data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
IRENA's annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 shows that global renewable energy capacity grew by more than 260 gigawatts (GW) last year, beating the previous record set in 2019 by nearly 50%. Last year marked the second consecutive year in which clean energy's share of all new generating capacity increased substantially, with renewables accounting for over 80% of all new electricity capacity added in 2020.
Total fossil fuel additions, by contrast, fell by more than 6% last year—from 64 GW worth of new electricity capacity in 2019 to 60 GW in 2020.
"These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean, and just future," IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera said in a statement.
"The great reset," as La Camera called the coronavirus-driven economic slowdown, "offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it."
The growth of renewables in 2020 tells a remarkable story of resilience & hope. Despite the uncertainties,… https://t.co/PXycDqano8— Francesco La Camera (@Francesco La Camera)1617616331.0
Referring to 2020 as "the start of the decade of renewables," La Camera noted that "costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing, and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear."
Though hydropower—responsible for more than 43% of the world's total renewable energy generation capacity—still constitutes the largest global source of clean energy, other sources are catching up; solar and wind contributed 127 GW and 111 GW of new installations, respectively, together accounting for 91% of the growth in renewables in 2020.
🟢JUST RELEASED Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 report by @IRENA shows how #renewableenergy performed in 2020 - t… https://t.co/VPwW1snMcL— IRENA (@IRENA)1617612361.0
While La Camera described the widespread adoption of renewable energy sources as an "unstoppable" trend, he also emphasized that "there is a huge amount to be done."
Notwithstanding recent momentum in favor of clean energy, La Camera said that in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5ºC, "significant planned energy investments must be redirected to support the transition if we are to achieve 2050 goals" of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as outlined last month in IRENA's World Energy Transition Outlook.
La Camera's words of caution about the inadequate pace of the global energy transformation echoes a recent warning by Fatih Bitrol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, who said last week that even though the world's biggest economies have pledged to achieve net zero GHG emissions by mid-century, few have implemented the policies necessary to realize that objective.
Regarding the worldwide expansion of renewable energy capacity in 2020, La Camera stressed that "in this critical decade of action, the international community must look to this trend as a source of inspiration to go further."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Kids are the ones that will be inheriting the world from us. Getting them invested early in protecting the environment will ensure that their curiosity and interest will live on once they become adults.
Figuring out how to introduce the concept of renewable energy to kids can be tricky. The more significant challenge comes down to getting kids interested and excited versus putting them on the receiving end of another lecture.
It will take a bit of planning and creativity, but there are ways to get children interested in renewable energy even at a young age.
What to Explain
The concepts you plan on teaching children should be age-appropriate. An elementary schooler doesn't need to know the inner complexities of thermodynamics. Start small and slowly build into the topics you want to cover.
Start With Sustainability
Leaping straight into renewable energy is a quick way to lose a kid's interest. If you start throwing around terms they don't understand, they will quickly tune out. Depending on their age, you may even get an eye roll.
Sustainability means something can continue to exist for an indefinite amount of time. Gardening is an easy example to present to children for this concept. If a tomato is grown, that tomato contains seeds. Those seeds can be replanted, and the cycle will continue.
Once they understand the concept of sustainability, you can move on to the next step.
Continue With Energy Sustainability
Now that sustainability is a familiar concept, start leading them into how it applies to energy.
Most, if not all, children today know the basics of electricity as it applies to charging items they interact with, like tablets or even smartphones. Explaining to them that energy is where electricity comes from shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes.
If you want to continue the gardening analogy for continuity's sake, it's adaptable. Using energy sources like natural gas, fossil fuels, and oil, you will still get tomatoes. However, these tomatoes don't have seeds. Eventually, you won't even be able to grow tomatoes due to a lack of seeds.
Other ways of explaining it may be easier depending on the children. The key factor they need to learn is that the current energy sources are not sustainable.
End With the Types of Renewable Energy
There are five primary renewable energy types, but you don't want to introduce them all to kids in one go. Be sure to fully explore all of them so the kids can grasp how and why each one is an option.
The primary types of renewable energy to include in your discussion include:
- Solar - solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy and one of the easiest to teach kids about. Turning the sun's rays into electricity is sure to catch their interest. Teach them about how solar panels capture the heat and light (even on cloudy days) and convert all of that into usable energy. You can even describe how astronauts in space rely on solar energy on the International Space Station.
- Hydro - this is another easy renewable energy to explain. It's a rare child that hasn't interacted with a creek or river at some point. Explain that the constant movement of the water from the current can be converted into usable energy.
- Wind - show a child a picture of those massive wind turbines and they're bound to be curious. The wind turns the blades of the fan, much like a pinwheel, which then creates energy that we can use. Really get them thinking about the world around them and how something as simple as the wind can be turned into energy.
- Geothermal - geothermal energy may require a bit of extra explanation if the children haven't learned about the earth's core and how hot it is. If they already know about that, then you can show them how pipes that go deep into the ground run steam from this heat up into plants that turn it into electricity.
- Biomass - biomass renewable energy is as simple as burning a source of fuel, so most of this explanation will be what they set on fire and how do they get it. The fuel for these fires comes from byproducts of plants and animals. Manure, crops, and other waste can all apply here.
How to Explain It
Stanislaw Pytel / Stone / Getty Images
Now that you know the basics, it's time to pass that on to the kids. The big question is, how are you supposed to make all of this sound cool enough to get the kids interested in renewable energy?
Kids tend to be more into visual learning, so just telling them about these concepts isn't going to make anything stick.
There are a plethora of options online that can help teach children about renewable energy. Educational games are a great pick to get them interacting with the information, but YouTube videos or simple animations can do the trick as well.
You can use these resources to help kids understand the big picture. Or, you can find videos and games revolving around specific steps like how exactly river currents can provide energy or why fossil fuels aren't sustainable.
This is one of the best options you can choose to teach kids about renewable energy. Helping them create a science project to test out an aspect of renewable energy will be sure to hold their interest. A hands-on approach always helps with getting the information to stick.
Try these projects for an immersive adventure in alternative energy:
- Build a mini water wheel - the water wheel has been used throughout history, and having kids build their own is a great way to teach how hydropower is created. It can be as simple or as complex as you want, but used popsicle sticks can be turned into a wheel in a pinch. Having a nearby creek or river will be the most immersive way to test this project, but using the water in your sink will get the job done.
- Purify water - this is an effortless multi-day project to set up and will help you explain how versatile the heat from solar energy is. All you need is two containers (one smaller than the other), some water, food coloring, plastic wrap, and a rock. Long story short, the sun's heat will cause condensation and create a container of purified water. Bonus points if you can show the same results with your stove to show that the energy used naturally is more sustainable.
- Build a wind turbine - while you won't be able to make it as large as actual wind turbines, this is still a sure way to show how efficient it is to harness the wind's power. The items you use to build this can vary greatly but cut-up plastic water bottles tend to make solid fan blades. Once you and the kids have created the wind turbine just take it outside and watch the wind spin it around! A pinwheel works if you'd just rather explain with an example, but the act of building the wind turbine will work wonders.
- Cook using a campfire - this may sound more like a leisurely activity than a science experiment, but that was before you told the kids about using biomass for renewable energy. Unless you have casual access to manure, the fuel can just be dead branches and leaves you might find lying around. As you use the fire's heat to cook (something that requires electricity with the stove) you can show that the fuel to provide the heat came from dead plants that will eventually regrow the lost leaves and branches used. However, be sure to point out the smoke caused by the fire and how any fuel source that creates too much of that can be harmful to people and the planet.
Take a Field Trip
Field trips don't just have to be school-organized. See if you can find a day to take your child (or students) to a nearby renewable energy plant. Many of these locations are willing to give tours or educate interested people about what they do there.
This is also an excellent way to get free knowledge directly from the experts. They can answer any questions your kids may have that you would need some extensive researching to answer. It's also engaging for the children to directly see the process that they've been learning about.
Show the Impact of Non-Renewable Energy
This is far more effective when the children in question love animals and nature, but it can be useful regardless. Showing them videos of how things like pollution and global warming negatively impact nature can inspire them to start learning about renewable energy to help prevent it.
Be a Role Model
Kids do quite a bit of learning just from observing what the adults in their lives do. How you utilize energy in your day-to-day life can greatly help or hinder the learning process for the kids around you.
It's not an option for everyone, but many people are beginning to have solar panels installed on the roof of their house. Explaining to kids that their phones charge by way of the power of the sun is sure to get them interested in the overall process.
One way anyone can be a role model is to conserve energy where they can. Once your children know that most energy comes from non-renewable sources, they will realize why you always want lights off when not in use or when you try to keep your energy bills low (besides money).
How to Keep Them Interested
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images
Now that you have the children interested in renewable energy, you'll have to make sure that interest continues to grow as time goes on. Unless they completely fell in love with the concept, they may start to forget important information if you don't keep them engaged.
Have a Weekly Theme
This has the dual purpose of keeping children interested and getting them to look forward to learning.
Give each week a theme that you can base activities and games around. Wind Week could involve some time at the park messing around with kites, or Hydro Week could be learning new aspects of hydroelectricity like how the tides can be used as well.
Home Improvement Projects
You shouldn't trust a group of young ones to go and install solar panels on the roof, but there are smaller projects around the house or classroom that you can do with them so that they feel they are directly contributing to using clean energy.
These projects don't even have to be big ones. It could be as simple as swapping out your current light bulbs for more energy-efficient ones. The key is to make children feel involved in the process and let them know exactly how these projects are helping.
One of the best ways to get children interested in anything is to make a game of it.
Whether it's at home or in the classroom, a game will get them involved in an activity that could continue to teach them about renewable energy. It could be as simple as a made-up card game or as complex as setting up stations around the yard and have them decide which energy would work best at each station.
Some kids also enjoy incentives, so don't be afraid to offer some sort of prize or reward if they do well in the games.
Keep Your Kids Invested in Clean Energy
It can be a challenge teaching complex concepts to kids, especially if you want them to take an interest in it. Start by breaking down the basic concepts so that you can have good conversations with them about renewable energy.
Kids learn best from visuals and by hands-on learning. Showing them videos, designing and creating projects, and even taking them to a renewable energy plant are all great ways for them to learn. Just remember, they also need a role model to look up to if they are going to take a true interest.
They may stay interested on their own, but there are ways that you as a parent or teacher can help that along. Creating fun ways to bring the subject back around like setting up games, projects, or weekly topics can go a long way towards keeping them interested and invested in renewable energy.
An independent market monitor says ERCOT, the Texas grid operator, left wholesale electricity prices at the legal maximum for two days longer than necessary, and overcharged power companies $16 billion in the process during the winter storm that caused massive grid and gas system failures and left more than 4 million Texans without electricity.
Potomac Economics, the firm hired by the state to assess ERCOT's performance, recommended to regulators that the charges be reversed. The move could help alleviate stress on Texas power providers facing shortfalls, default, or bankruptcy following the massive price spikes.
The "error" and potential reversal could also have major implications for the Texas wind energy industry. Due to the nature of the financial instruments used by Texas wind firms, those that were unable to produce power during the storm were forced to pay the legal maximum of $9,000 per megawatt hour (the average price in 2020 was $22.18) for four days. At that rate, wind companies could be forced into bankruptcy, owing their counterparties more than their entire wind farm is worth.
As reported by Reuters:
ERCOT's disclosure of those firms behind on their bills "is perfectly fair game," said Patrick Woodson, chief executive of retail power marketer ATG Clean Energy, whose company is not on the list.
"I hope they will apply the same standards to identifying the market participants who made massive profits during this disaster," he said.
For a deeper dive:
ERCOT error: Bloomberg, Texas Tribune, The Hill, FT, Politico Pro; Power companies: Reuters; Wind industry: Wall Street Journal; Climate Signals background: February 2021 polar vortex breakdown and central U.S. winter storms
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Beijing skies turned yellow Monday as air pollution reached hazardous levels after the worst sandstorm in a decade coincided with an industrial boom following last year's COVID lockdown.
The sandstorm clouded northern China from Xinjiang in the far west to the Bohai Sea in the east, canceling flights and closing some schools, The New York Times reported. In Beijing, the Air Quality Index (AQI) reached a hazardous 999 at one point, according to The Guardian.
"Beijing is what an ecological crisis looks like," Li Shuo of Greenpeace Asia wrote on Twitter. "After two weeks of smog and static air, strong wind carries a sand storm in, sending AQI off the chart. It's hard to claim we are moving forward when you can't see what's in front."
Beijing is what an ecological crisis looks like. After two weeks of smog and static air, strong wind carries a sand… https://t.co/SkIiTHJvJG— Li Shuo_Greenpeace (@Li Shuo_Greenpeace)1615770468.0
Beijing's air quality had already been poor due to a resurgence of industrial activity as China emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Li told The New York Times that industrial pollutants around the Chinese capital had surpassed the average for the last four years. Authorities in Tangshan, a steel-making city often responsible for pollution in Beijing and Hebei, said Saturday that they would punish companies for not carrying out anti-pollution measures, The Guardian reported.
Then came the sandstorm. It began as a snow storm in Mongolia over the weekend, where it cut power and led to at least nine deaths, according to The New York Times. At least 341 people in Mongolia were also reported missing, The Guardian reported.
The storm then sent the dust south, according to CNN. The concentration of larger PM 10 particles in Beijing passed 8,100 micrograms per cubic meter. The especially dangerous PM2.5 air pollutants, small particles that can infiltrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream and other organs, reached a high of 655 micrograms per cubic meter Monday. The World Health Organization has set the safe level at 25.
"In some places, there are strong sandstorms with visibility of less than 500 meters (1,640 feet)," the China Meteorological Administration said in a statement reported by CNN. "This is also the strongest dust and sand weather affecting China in almost 10 years."
This combination of smog and sandstorm returned Beijing to the type of "airpocalypse" common a few years ago, before the government stepped up anti-pollution efforts, The New York Times reported.
"I couldn't see the building across the street," Wang Wei, a 23-year-old college graduate, told The New York Times. "I didn't think the sky could be this yellow."
Normal vs. today #Beijing https://t.co/koo2f7NjSF— 霍炳宗 (@霍炳宗)1615766702.0
The sandstorm is also a blast from China's pre-regulation past, as they were common in the latter half of the 20th century, CNN reported. The storms used to occur twice in May, largely due to drought, a growing population and desertification in the country's north and northwest.
Beginning in 2000, the government made an effort to implement reforestation projects and improve warning systems. These efforts paid off, and the amount of sandstorm days in Beijing fell from 26 a year in the 1950s to three after 2010.
This round of storms is expected to last through Tuesday.
- Could Fracking Spark a Modern-Day Dust Bowl? - EcoWatch ›
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- A Massive Dust Cloud Is Moving From the Sahara to the U.S. This ... ›
This week, a relentless winter storm pummeled through parts of the southern and central U.S., causing people to crank their electric heating systems. In Texas, the energy demand became too high for its electric grid, forcing the state to begin rolling blackouts on Monday, leaving more than four million Texans in the cold and dark, The New York Times reported.
So far, analysts say the grid system failed due to high electricity demand, pushing grid operators into worst-case scenarios, The New York Times reported. Other causes for the failed grid included fuel shortages as gas-fired power plants went offline while demand increased, and frozen wind turbines.
Yet while some experts used the dire conditions to urge the state to adopt more climate-resilient energy systems, a few conservative commentators used the example of frozen wind turbines to encourage distrust of renewable energy systems in a state largely dependent on natural gas.
"Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm," Steve Daines, a Republican U.S. Senator from Montana, tweeted Tuesday. "This is a perfect example of the need for reliable energy sources like natural gas & coal."
Texas is frozen solid as folks are left w/ no power to stay safe & warm. This is a perfect example of the need fo… https://t.co/Tktn0F89t4— Steve Daines (@Steve Daines)1613492364.0
According to The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which represents 90 percent of the state's electric load, wind turbine outages were responsible for less than 13 percent of Texas' lost generation. The majority of the power outages can instead be attributed to coal and gas, a local news outlet reported.
The Montana senator's tweet included a viral image of a helicopter spraying liquid to defrost a frozen wind turbine. According to the image's caption, fossil fuels powered the helicopter while the liquid it sprayed contained them. "Keep that in mind when thinking how 'green' windmills are," Rep. Lauren Boebert from Colorado tweeted, gaining thousands of retweets, Earther reported. This same image has been shared by Luke Legate, a prominent oil and gas consultant, Earther added, although it is misleading.
While helicopters are used to defrost wind turbines, the image is from Sweden in 2014, not present-day Texas, said Brian Kahn, managing editor of Earther. The photo is originally from a Swedish study on de-icing wind turbines using hot water. Now the image is being used "to argue against clean energy in the U.S," Kahn wrote. "It's a rather silly claim."
Wind turbines in Texas did indeed fail during the frigid winter temperatures, losing about 4.5 gigawatts of capacity according to The New York Times. But as of Monday afternoon, 26 of the 34 gigawatts of ERCOT's grid that went offline were from thermal sources such as gas and coal, The New Republic reported.
Cold temperatures are becoming less common due to climate change. But research suggests that as the Arctic warms, the jet stream will weaken, sending cold temperatures farther south, The New York Times reported. As a result, Texans are asking how their energy system can be more resilient to a changing climate.
Solutions include heaters that can help turbines operate in winter storms, on-site oil storage for gas plants and backup power plants for emergencies. These strategies could make Texas' electric grid more resilient to severe weather caused by climate change, The New York Times reported. But baseless skepticism toward renewable energy will not make the transition any easier.
"That type of work and serious conversations about how to end our grids' reliance on fossil fuels — which, just to be clear, are severely underperforming during the Texas blackout — are vital moving forward," Kahn wrote in Earther. "Misinformation and whataboutism to score lazy political points as a humanitarian emergency unfolds are not."
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By Andrea Germanos
A group of more than 500 international scientists on Thursday urged world leaders to end policies that prop up the burning of trees for energy because it poses "a double climate problem" that threatens forests' biodiversity and efforts to stem the planet's ecological emergency.
The demand came in a letter addressed to European Commission President Urusla Von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The signatories—including renowned botanist Dr. Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden—reject the assertion that burning biomass is carbon neutral.
"Regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change” Over 500 scientists tell world leaders, to st… https://t.co/kFt4ofX6l6— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1613065055.0
Referring to forest "preservation and restoration" as key in meeting the nations' declared goals of carbon neutrality by 2050, the letter frames the slashing of trees for bioenergy as "misguided."
"We urge you not to undermine both climate goals and the world's biodiversity by shifting from burning fossil fuels to burning trees to generate energy," the group wrote.
The destruction of forests, which are a carbon sink, creates a "carbon debt." And though regrowing "trees and displacement of fossil fuels may eventually pay off this carbon debt," the signatories say that "regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change."
What's more, burning trees is "carbon-inefficient," they say. "Overall, for each kilowatt hour of heat or electricity produced, using wood initially is likely to add two to three times as much carbon to the air as using fossil fuels."
Another issue is that efforts using taxpayer money to sustain biomass burning stymies what are truly renewable energy policies.
"Government subsidies for burning wood create a double climate problem because this false solution is replacing real carbon reductions," the letter states. "Companies are shifting fossil energy use to wood, which increases warming, as a substitute for shifting to solar and wind, which would truly decrease warming."
The letter denounces as further troubling proposals to burn palm oil and soybean, which would entail further deforestation to make way for palm and soy crops.
Merely making countries responsible for the emissions that stem from land use changes is insufficient, the scientists write, because that would "not alter the incentives created by [national] laws for power plants and factories to burn wood."
As such, the letter calls on governments to end measures including subsidies that advance the burning of biomass. More specifically, the group writes:
The European Union needs to stop treating the burning of biomass as carbon neutral in its renewable energy standards and in its emissions trading system. Japan needs to stop subsidizing power plants to burn wood. And the United States needs to avoid treating biomass as carbon neutral or low carbon as the new administration crafts climate rules and creates incentives to reduce global warming.
Simply put, "Trees are more valuable alive than dead both for climate and for biodiversity," the letter states.
The letter was released after groups including WWF urged the European Commission to change the Renewable Energy Directive so that the law would not classify as carbon neutral, and thus not subsidize, the burning of trees and crops for energy. The advocacy groups asked people to sign onto a petition by February 9 to "help end this madness."
"Fighting the climate emergency without changing the EU's biomass rules is like trying to bail out a boat with a hole in the bottom," Alex Mason, senior policy officer at WWF's European Policy Office, said in a statement Thursday.
"The revision of the EU renewables law is a crucial chance; the Commission must listen to scientists and citizens and stop trees being burned in the name of the climate," said Mason.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Many people expect the future of transportation to be electric, and that drivers will charge their cars with solar and wind power. Recently, scientists got a window into that future and saw what it could mean for the climate and people's health.
Ronald Cohen is a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. For years, his team has been using low-cost sensors to monitor and map carbon emissions and air pollution in the Bay area.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he saw a unique opportunity. Shelter-in-place orders effectively simulated a future with fewer gas-powered cars.
"We had a brief moment, two or three weeks in every city that shut down, where passenger vehicles dropped to almost half of their normal driving miles," he says.
Cohen's team found that during the first six weeks of the shelter-in-place order in the San Francisco Bay area, carbon dioxide emissions fell by about 30%. Other air pollution improved, too.
"And that was almost entirely due to a decrease in passenger vehicles," Cohen says.
So he says the data demonstrates the benefits of moving away from gas-powered cars.
"We can reduce CO2 emissions and reduce health impacts at the same time," he says.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
By John Rogers
The Polar Vortex hitting much of the US has wreaked havoc not just on roadways and airports, but also on our electricity systems, as plenty are experiencing first-hand right now. Households, institutions, and communities across the region — and friends and family members — have been hit by power outages, and all that comes with them.
Here are six things to keep in mind as we make it through this.
1. Restoring power (safely) is Job 1.
First: Some things about all this we won't know until we have the benefit of a few days — or months — of hindsight, and data. But one thing we do know right now is that electricity, which we so often take for granted, is crucial to so many aspects of our lives.
For some, power outages are an inconvenience. For others, they're life-threatening. So keeping the power flowing, or getting it back up as quickly as possible, is key. Grid operators need to avoid affecting vulnerable populations and critical infrastructure as much as possible when they're implementing rolling blackouts, and need to prioritize them when they're restoring service.
While all confronting power outages or near misses are indebted to those working around the clock to keep things from getting worse, keeping crews safe is also key. Weather like this, combined with the ongoing pandemic, sure doesn't make for the easiest working conditions, so utilities and grid operators will need to use really solid judgement about where they can safely focus people, and when, for any needed repairs.
2. The power outages are about both supply and demand.
Utilities and grid operators have been hit by the double whammies of unprecedented demand and big challenges on the supply side. On the demand side, for example, Texas on Valentine's Day shattered its previous winter peak record by almost 5%. The peak was 11,000 MW above what ERCOT, Texas's electric grid operator, was projecting and planning for as of November — some 15-20 good-sized power plants' worth.
And on the supply side, power lines taken out by the weather are a piece of it, as you'd expect. But it also turns out that all kinds of power plants have gone offline, for a range of reasons. Take natural gas, for example:
3. Natural gas plants have been hit hard.
Gas plants suffer from their own supply-and-demand issues. One piece of it is the fact that the same gas that supplies them is also needed for heating homes and businesses. And if a power plant doesn't have firm contracts to get gas when it needs it, the way gas utilities would, the power plant loses out. The laws of physics may also be coming into play, as any moisture in the gas lines succumbs to the extreme cold and gums up the works—valves, for instance.
And indeed, initial indications are that a lot of the lost capacity is natural gas-fired. Data from Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the grid operator for much of the Great Plains, show that 70% of its "outaged" megawatts (MW) were natural gas plants.
ERCOT, which is powered primarily by natural gas and wind, was warning yesterday that "Extreme weather conditions caused many generating units — across fuel types — to trip offline and become unavailable." It clarified elsewhere, though, that the majority of the capacity it had lost overnight was "thermal generators, like generation fueled by gas, coal, or nuclear". In all, Texas was out more than a third of its total capacity.
4. Don’t think an “all of the above” strategy would have saved the day.
As ERCOT's messages suggests, this isn't just a gas issue, and these last few days should in no way be fodder for the type of fact-free "all of the above" pushes favored by the prior administration.
For example, many power plants, including all nuclear plants, virtually all coal plants, and a lot of natural gas plants, depend on water to cool the steam that drives the electricity-producing turbines. Any power plant dependent on cooling water will run into trouble if that cooling water is actually frozen solid. And they can have their own troubles with fuel availability during extreme cold.
(While we're on the subject of fossil fuels: Note that the extreme weather has also hit oil production, with the Permian basin, for example, down an estimated 1 million barrels a day.)
5. Wind turbines can be winterized (but Texas…?).
Wind turbines aren't immune to extreme cold, and initial reports show that they, too, have been hit by this wave. In SPP, wind was the #1 source of electricity last year, and initial data from yesterday suggested it accounted for almost a fifth of the capacity taken offline.
ERCOT also mentions wind turbines going offline; one source suggests 4,000 MW of wind was offline yesterday morning, compared with 26,000 MW of downed thermal capacity (mostly gas). Wind is ERCOT's second-largest supplier of power, accounting for 23% of its electricity last year (from a nation-leading 33,000 MW).
But wind farms going offline appears to be a much smaller piece of the picture than detractors will suggest. And wind power has played an important role in keeping the lights on in past extreme cold events (remember the Bomb Cyclone?). They can also be at least partially winter-proofed — by hardening the control systems, using the right fluids, and de-icing the blades. But if you don't see weather like this coming…
6. We need to be ready for more extreme weather.
And that's one of the lessons to learn from this episode, once we get beyond the immediacy of it all: Past performance is no indication of what's going to be coming at us. We know that climate change is bringing not just overall warming, but also more extremes at both ends. We also know that there are all kinds of ways that climate change affects our ability to keep the lights on.
So we need to be ready, or readier, for situations like this. And it turns out that there are a lot of ways we can be. Stronger transmission links can allow regions to back each other up when they aren't all facing the same challenges at the same time. A diversity of (clean) power options can mean some might be available even when others aren't. (ERCOT anticipated yesterday morning being able to reconnect customers later that day in part because of "additional wind & solar output".)
We also don't have to take electricity demand as a fixed, can't-do-anything-about-it quantity. Utilities (including mine, a few days ago) called on customers to be as efficient as possible to get us past the latest crunches. Programs put in place ahead of time can reward customers for delaying or shifting their electricity use.
And energy storage can be an important middleperson between supply and demand, from the large scale all the way down to battery packs in our garages and basements.
Getting through this, and beyond
Right now, the task is getting the power back on. Longer term, the goal shouldn't be about ensuring 100% reliability (because of the prohibitive cost of removing that last fraction of a fraction of a possibility of a blackout), but to make them as infrequent and as limited in duration as possible. It should, though, be about making sure we make decisions that serve us well in the short term and, in the face of climate change, in the long term.
Blackouts will happen; that doesn't mean we're powerless against them. The need is there, but so are the tools.
John Rogers is a senior energy analyst with expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and policies.
Reposted with permission from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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By Mark McCord
- An academic paper suggests key tipping points can significantly reduce carbon emissions, which would help to slow global warming.
- Government policies are making coal uneconomical.
- Electric vehicle pricing structures have helped reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the world's roads.
There may be light at the end of the tunnel in the battle to reduce carbon emissions.
Governments and institutions could help halt carbon emissions with just a few carefully selected policy measures, according to a new paper, which looked at the experience of the energy industry and changing trends in road vehicle purchases.
If chosen properly and applied internationally, such "tipping points" could set off a series of other changes that snowball into a movement with enough critical mass to slow global warming and reduce natural disasters.
The paper, published in the journal Climate Policy, argues that actions taken within each industry created a cascade of further developments that helped reduce their carbon footprints.
"In complex systems – including human societies – tipping points can occur, in which a small perturbation transforms a system," wrote the paper's authors, Professor Tim Lenton, director of the Global Systems Institute (GSI) at the University of Exeter and Simon Sharpe, a deputy director in the UK Cabinet Office 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 26) unit.
"Crucially, activating one tipping point can increase the likelihood of triggering another at a larger scale, and so on."
Towards the Paris Agreement Targets
Such tipping points are hoped to help the world meet the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which 196 heads of state agreed to reduce global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a preferred target of 1.5 degrees. Were they achieved, experts say the positive impacts would be felt within two decades.
The accord strives for a climate-neutral world by the middle of this century. It's expected to be built upon at the United Nations Climate Change conference, or COP26, which is due to take place in November. The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative strives also to offer globally linked solutions.
The report in Climate Policy explains how a combination of factors led to the tipping point that prompted the UK to decarbonize its power industry. They included the creation of a carbon tax, an EU scheme that made gas cheaper than coal and an investment strategy for renewable energy that made coal less economical.
"The power sector needs to decarbonize four times faster than its current rate, and the pace of the transition to zero-emission vehicles needs to double," Lenton said.
"Many people are questioning whether this is achievable. But hope lies in the way that tipping points can spark rapid change through complex systems."
Wind and solar accounted for a third of the UK's energy generation in 2020. Statista
Positive Tipping Points
Besides the UK, the authors of the paper cited Norway as an example of the nations that have acted to reduce greenhouse gases pumped out by motor vehicles.
Through government incentives, new electric vehicles (EV) in Norway are priced similarly to petrol and diesel cars. This has boosted sales of EVs to more than 50% of new car purchases, compared with 2%-3% worldwide.
China, the European Union (EU) and California are responsible for half of global car sales. Professor Lenton suggests that if they formed an international effort to redirect investment from conventional cars to EVs they could reduce costs, boost production and create a broader tipping point that would accelerate the reduction of fossil fuel use.
Lenton argues that if government action can lower the cost of financing renewables to below that of excavating coal, industries linked to transport, heating and power could all rapidly decarbonize.
That's good news because a new, more urgent, approach is needed to reduce the rate at which the global climate is warming, according to scientists.
2020 and 2016 Hottest Years on Record
Earlier this month, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service said 2020 had equaled 2016 as the hottest year on record.
A study published in Climate Dynamics said the planet could breach the threshold for global warming between 2027 and 2042, a decade earlier than previously thought.
"If either of these efforts – in power or road transport – succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change," Lenton said.
Reposted with permission from the World Economic Forum.
By Tara Lohan
Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.
Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.
"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."
Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.
It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.
Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.
Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.
One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.
The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.
They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.
"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."
That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.
And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.
"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."
Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.
"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.
The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.
"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."
Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.