Sports and plague; 'hydrogen rocks' in Europe; the $50 trillion climate moment

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

SAN FRANCISCO (Callaway Climate Insights) — There is a must-read piece of journalism by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci in the latest edition about baseball and pandemics and war in the time of the Spanish flu pandemic. Written in a series of imaginary letters, it tells the true story of a Boston sportswriter covering the Red Sox and Babe Ruth in the 1918 World Series as the pandemic hits.

My synopsis won’t do justice to this story of sports, war and the horror of the Spanish flu, so I won’t try. Except to say that it covers all the death, politics, stupidity, and heroism of the world we live in now. Including a spectacular scene in which Boston medical authorities are racing to build outdoor hospital tents for dying patients just two miles from Fenway Park as Ruth pitches against the Chicago Cubs.

I mention this as it’s the best story I’ve read about the coming together of the twin horrors of war and plague with our daily lives, and it springs to mind as I read today’s report from the World Meteorological Organization that there is a 20% chance of the world exceeding the 1.5°C. global temperature increase limit target in at least one of the next five years. And a 70% chance of exceeding it in one or more months before 2025.

It comes on the heels of a report that while we’ve all been binge-watching Peaky Blinders and guzzling pinot noir, the U.S. has already had 10 billion-dollar weather disasters so far this year, mostly in the form of storms. And that’s before the first hurricane of the season!

My ZEUS column this week is about the cost of dealing with climate change by 2050. It’s clear that the costs and the change are already happening, and that we’re going to have to deal with it at the same time Covid-19 ravages the planet, baseball or not. Verducci notes at the end of his piece that they never did come up with a vaccine for the Spanish flu. It just disappeared after killing at least 50 million. We might get lucky with Covid-19, but there is no quick fix for climate change.

ZEUS: The $50 trillion opportunity

. . . . Estimates for the cost to humanity of adapting to (not solving) climate change are all over the map. But they all end with “trillion.” Most assume we can spend our way out of this; a tall order given the state of the global economy. So why are some investors, entrepreneurs and innovators so positive? Part of it is the very nature of what defines their success.

More of it is because each day we are discovering and investing in more ways to reduce our carbon footprint, such as this crazy story this week about how spreading rock dust — rock dust — on crops can remove up to two billion tons of CO2 per year. Savings, such as energy efficiency, are going to be as important as spending. And we are making progress. . . .

Read the full ZEUS column

‘Hydrogen rocks’ — Europe makes its case

. . . . EU Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans showed no shortage of enthusiasm for Europe’s hydrogen bet in a Covid-19-inspired virtual press conference this week, but Stephen Rae argues he’ll need more than his own ample energy to create a European market for hydrogen in the next four years. Getting the steel and chemicals industries on board is crucial, as are storage and distribution plans.

But there are issues which won’t go away, including the fact that Brussels is already spending less in this area than Asia or the U.S. The draft of the strategy leaked in June was candid: “EU lags behind in terms of public support to hydrogen per capita” pointing to the bigger budgets of China, Japan and the U.S. Timmermans himself admitted the Saudis were now talking in megawatts compared to Europe’s gigawatts ambitions. . . .

Read the full story

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