UK Achieves First Coal-Free Week Since Industrial Revolution
All coal generators were offline from 1:24 p.m. May 1 through 1:24 p.m. May 8, The Guardian reported. The record follows closely on a five-day coal-free stretch over the Easter weekend, The Independent noted.
"As more and more renewables come on to our energy system, coal-free runs like this are going to be a regular occurrence," National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) director Fintan Slye said, according to ITV News.
The UK government has promised to phase out coal entirely by 2025.
"Going a week without coal for the first time since the Industrial Revolution is a huge leap forward in our world-leading efforts to reduce emissions, but we're not stopping there," Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said, as ITV News reported. "To combat climate change growth, we're phasing out coal entirely by 2025 and building a cleaner, greener energy system."
The UK has broken its record and gone a whole week without using coal for power - over 1,000 total hours so far this year!— Dept for BEIS (@beisgovuk) May 8, 2019
We’re phasing out coal entirely by 2025 and on a path to become the first major economy to legislate for #netzero emissions.#cleangrowth #climatechange pic.twitter.com/mJcGvacMGN
However, Slye said he believed the country's entire electricity system could be run without carbon by that time, though it would require work.
"Zero-carbon operation of the electricity system by 2025 means a fundamental change to how our system was designed to operate — integrating newer technologies right across the system — from large-scale offshore wind to domestic-scale solar panels to increased demand-side participation, using new smart digital systems to manage and control the system in real time," he said.
In 2018, the UK got a record 27.5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy. Low-carbon energy, which includes nuclear, accounted for 49.6 percent of the country's supply the same year, also a new high. Natural gas accounted for 43.9 percent of electricity and coal only six percent, a new low.
Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr. Doug Parr said that the country now needed to move beyond eliminating coal to ban diesel and gas vehicles, improve building efficiency, reduce meat consumption and plant millions of trees to fight climate change.
"Just a few years ago we were told Britain couldn't possibly keep the lights on without burning coal," he said, according to ITV News. "Now coal is quickly becoming an irrelevance, much to the benefit of our climate and air quality, and we barely notice it."
The coal-free milestone comes a little less than a week after the UK's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) released a report saying the country both should and could achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, The Guardian reported.
The UK can get to net-zero emissions by 2050 by using known technologies alongside improvements to quality of life pic.twitter.com/BRkj25USxW— CCC (@theCCCuk) May 2, 2019
But CCC Chief Executive Chris Stark said some government policies were still hampering renewable energy development, among them a proposed hike to VATs on solar panels and a failure to fully back onshore wind power.
"We will need to throw everything at this challenge, including onshore wind and solar," Stark told Members of Parliament on the business committee Wednesday, according to The Guardian. "Anything that makes it harder is really not in line with the net-zero challenge overall."
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.