Climate hawk King Charles takes throne
As King Charles III takes the British throne, he brings with him a longstanding commitment to combatting climate change.
Known for advocating environmental protection, Charles delivered his first speech on the subject in 1970, warning against various forms of pollution.
Ever since, he has championed forests, soil, conservation and the ocean, while pushing investors to prioritize nature, E&E News reported.
“In many ways, he has been ahead of politicians in his appreciation and concern for the issue,” Bob Ward, of the London-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told the outlet.
Last year, Charles delivered the opening remarks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, where he called for a "warlike" effort to combat climate change and warned that time to address the issue has "run out."
As Britain confronts other major changes — including the recent swearing in of a new conservative prime minister, Liz Truss — Charles will contend with many thorny challenges.
While Truss has espoused strong climate action, some environmental advocates have voiced concerns that she is less committed to those policies and that some of her cabinet picks are climate skeptics, E&E reported.
Meanwhile, Britain is also bracing for a cold winter, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made energy prices skyrocket and natural gas supplies plunge.
Describing climate change as Charles’s “main priority” issue, The Guardian recalled the opening sentence of the king’s 2010 book, "Harmony":
“This is a call to revolution,” he wrote. “The Earth is under threat. It cannot cope with all that we demand of it. It is losing its balance and we humans are causing that to happen.”
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Today we’ll finish out our week of U.S. West coverage with a look at a frightening combination of fire and flood striking California. Then we’ll see why Tesla is considering getting into the lithium business and India’s tech heartland is underwater.
Southern Californians are preparing for an alarming combination of wildfire, winds and possible flash floods as they head into a weekend of weather extremes.
Fatal fire: As of Friday morning, the Fairview Fire — which began Monday east of Los Angeles — had burned nearly 27,500 acres, according to Cal Fire.
The rapidly spreading blaze was only 5 percent contained, and two people have died in the fire.
- Cal Fire warned Thursday that “the fire will continue to spread in all areas due to shifting winds ahead of Hurricane Kay’s arrival.” On Friday, the agency said that “winds will increase from the east.”
Emergency alerts: Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency on Thursday evening for Riverside County, as well as for El Dorado and Placer counties — near Lake Tahoe — due to the Mosquito Fire.
Emergency officials were on alert on Friday in Southern California amid a high wind warning as Kay — now a tropical storm — approached Baja California, in Mexico, The New York Times reported.
Dual crises: These overlapping weather extremes could “set off a chain reaction that makes the response to each event more difficult,” local officials told the Times.
- The rain could suppress some fires, but the storm could also bring lightning, triggering new blazes.
Strong winds, at up to 75 miles per hour, could also accelerate the fire’s spread.
Flash floods, mudslides: With the National Weather Service forecasting up to 7 inches of rain for Riverside County, firefighters were also preparing for flash floods and mudslides, according to the Times.
“We could go from a fire suppression event into significant rain, water rescues, mudslides, debris,” Deputy Chief Jeff Veik of Cal Fire’s Riverside unit said at a Thursday news conference, covered by the Times.
“We have challenging days ahead,” Veik added.
A RETURN TO PRESCRIBED BURNS
While Californians fled the flames, the U.S. Forest Service announced on Thursday that it was resuming its prescribed burn program, in which intentionally lit fires serve to clear brush and small trees, The Associated Press reported.
The Forest Service had paused the program for several months after a prescribed burn in New Mexico led to the outbreak of a devastating wildfire in May.
Boosting burns in a changing climate: Despite the May incident, Forest Service Chief Randy Moore stressed that intentional burns help decrease the accumulation of combustible material on forest floors, the AP reported.
“Our climate is changing and we have the science to back that up,” Moore told the AP. “We need to increase the amount of work that we’re doing by up to four times.”
Tesla mulls Texas lithium refinery as shortages loom
A new Tesla refinery on Texas’s Gulf Coast could start sending lithium to the company’s U.S. factories by the end of 2024 — if CEO Elon Musk gets the property tax breaks he’s demanding, Reuters reported.
The facility would turn "raw ore material into a usable state for battery production" and ship it by train or truck to company factories that produce electric vehicles (EVs).
Dropping prices, printing money: Tesla’s proposal is part of a drive by carmakers and battery suppliers to find new sources of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt and nickel.
In a July earnings call, Musk urged entrepreneurs to start new lithium refining companies, in a move he described as “a license to print money,” Business Insider reported.
While raw lithium is extraordinarily plentiful, it has to be processed to “extremely high purity” to be usable by batteries, Musk added.
Breaking into the market: Tesla’s preliminary announcement is a sign that U.S. companies are looking to break China’s “stranglehold” on world lithium refining, according to Investor’s Business Daily.
The surging prices of those minerals endanger company attempts to create EVs cheap enough to drive mass adoption — and it’s something U.S. policymakers have struggled to fix.
- The price of lithium has jumped 120 percent this year alone — enough to add $1,000 to the cost of a new EV, Investor's Business Daily Reported.
The move comes as General Motors this week unveiled its new electric Chevy Equinox.
The SUV will be assembled in Mexico and likely draw batteries from one of GM’s new domestic battery factories.
- With a list price of $30,000 and a range of 250 miles per charge, that would put it in striking distance of the “sweet spot” for mass adoption, experts told the AP.
Anti-ESG investment fund raises $315 million
A new “anti-woke” fund has raised $315 million in the past month to invest in companies explicitly opposed to environment, governance and sustainability (ESG) objectives, the Financial Times has reported.
The new fund from Strive Asset Management, which goes by the code DRLL, and has outperformed other anti-ESG funds, which have rarely surpassed $25 million, the Times reported.
- “We are representing the voices of a lot of everyday citizens who have their money invested by other asset managers used to advance social and political agendas that they do not agree with,” Strive executive chair Vivek Ramaswamy told the Times.
Existing push: The fund’s launch has coincided with a concerted push by Republicans in states like Georgia and Florida to bar banks that consider ESG factors in their investment decisions, as we reported.
Last month, Republican attorneys general from 19 states accused such companies — like BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager — of sacrificing investor returns for political motives, the Times reported.
A choice of values: In creating anti-ESG funds, conservatives are falling into the same trap of putting politics over profits, economists Robert Eccles and Jill Fisch wrote earlier this week in an article in the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance.
“This is simply swapping out one set of values for another,” Fisch and Eccles concluded.
India's tech capital recovers from devastating floods
Residents of India’s tech capital Bangalore were recovering on Friday from floods that inundated homes throughout the week.
- “I stay alone and my entire house was flooded,” one resident told the Indian Express. “The beds have broken ... Water went inside the cupboards and sofas are broken. The water supply is not regular."
From high-tech to ‘Lake City’: Earlier in the week, lifeboats rescued residents as India’s “Silicon Valley” became “Lake City,” India’s Economic Times reported.
Low-lying areas bore most of the damage, as lakes overflowed and sent water into homes. Many areas were so waterlogged that tractors and boats helped ferry students and workers.
The latest crisis: The floods in Bangalore — a metropolis of 13 million in the southern Indian state of Karnataka — was just one of many such extreme rain events this summer, The Washington Post reported.
One-third of Pakistan was submerged last week.
- U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres recently described Pakistan’s crisis as “a monsoon on steroids.”
- In the U.S., Jackson, Miss., declared a health emergency after rains battered a water treatment facility.
Real estate moves make city flood prone: An influx of white-collar tech workers has helped make Bangalore's real estate industry one of India’s most profitable, the Post noted.
But feudal landowners in the formerly agrarian region have been capitalizing on a growing need for housing, according to the Post. They have been “able to cash in on rapid urbanization by converting farmland and wetland into urban real estate.”
- Developers have grabbed parcels of watery land and covered it, but residents are often unaware that their homes are blocking storm drains.
Revisiting stories we covered this week.
EU energy ministers meet to strategize on gas pricing
Russia’s Gazprom halted gas flow through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Europe last week, with resumption of service uncertain. EU energy ministers gathered for emergency talks in Brussels on Friday to explore common measures that they hope could minimize a gas and electricity price crisis, The Guardian reported.
Rising seas will swallow 650,000 properties by midcentury
California keeps the lights on — barely
California’s power grid has narrowly avoided rolling power outages this week as it enters its 10th day of voluntary electricity conservation — likely the last of this particularly brutal heat wave, Reuters reported. While some officials blamed electric vehicles for straining the grid, these cars have actually made it more resilient by adding a network of decentralized batteries, according to Axios.
Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you next week.
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