Articles You Might Have Missed

Around the world people are taking the initiative to mitigate climate change. Here are some good news briefs compiled by the Climate Issue group of the LWV of Bellingham/Whatcom.

We hear a lot about switching to electric cars, but anyone who has traveled by air lately can see how big the fleets are. While we are nowhere near seeing the system electrified, there are some promising first steps.

      It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s an Electric Helicopter

We hear a lot about switching to electric cars, but an even bigger challenge is electrifying aircraft. There are some promising first steps. Not only do batteries end air pollution from jet engines fueled by fossil fuel, but just imagine the quiet … from take-offs to landings and even in the air, we will really have “friendly skies.”

These electric planes are designed to produce no emissions, be simple to operate and maintain, and have the potential to open up new transportation opportunities. The development of electric planes represents a significant step toward reducing the aviation industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are a major contributor to climate change.  

(Beta is not the only firm designing electric planes. An Arlington, WA-based manufacturer of electric aircraft, Eviation Aircraft, announced in September another order for its all-electric commuter aircraft known as Alice, bringing the total order for Alice to $5 billion, according to a news release … 425, 9/16/23, John Stearns)

In early October, for 16 days, Chris Caputo, a former military pilot, and his colleagues flew a battery-operated CX300 built by their employer, Beta Technologies, down the East Coast. They made nearly two dozen stops to rest and recharge, flying through congested airspace over Boston, New York, Washington and other cities. When the journey came to an end in Florida, Beta handed the plane over to the Air Force, which will experiment with it over the next few months. The trip offered a vision of what aviation could look like years from now.

The CX300 is a sleek, futuristic plane with a 50-foot wingspan, large curved windows and a rear propeller. It is designed to carry about 1,250 pounds of cargo and will be followed soon after by the A250, which shares about 80 percent of the CX300’s design and is outfitted with lift rotors to take off and land like a helicopter. Both aircraft, which Beta markets as the Alia, will eventually carry passengers, the company says. Mr. Caputo says that the airplane is incredibly quiet and responsive, making it a pleasure to fly. “You’re almost one with the plane,” Mr. Caputo said, adding later: “You can kind of hear and feel the air going across the flight control surfaces. We wear helmets right now because it’s experimental and safety is paramount, but we can literally take the helmets off in the aircraft and just talk to one another.”  

Beta is establishing a network of chargers that can power its aircraft as well as cars, trucks and other vehicles. More than a dozen have been set up, including one at the Air Force site in Florida, making it the military’s first electric aircraft charging station. So far, the Beta has flown just 386 miles without a charge.  

The company also built a prototype landing site for aircraft capable of vertical flight, which sits atop repurposed shipping containers, which house energy storage and a small living space for pilots to rest between trips. 

The Beta planes won’t take over the industry just yet — the infrastructure has to be built to accommodate them as well as a reduction in battery weight so they can carry more human and other cargo. Still, it is not that far away to imagine Amazon landing in your yard with that Prime package.

NYTimes, Nov. 2023 by Niraj Chokshi

Endangered Turtles Fly First Class

After being rescued from the frigid waters of Cape Cod, 52 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were flown down to Florida last week for a mandated holiday vacation.

Fresh off a private plane coordinated by the nonprofit Turtles Fly Too, the sea turtles were divided among four Florida aquariums: Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Clearwater, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, and the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota.

“Up in the New England Aquarium, they’ve had over 200 sea turtles stranded so far this year,” Marika Weber — a vet technician at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center — told the Associated Press. “What happens when the water temperature drops, the weather changes, and  a lot of these turtles don’t make it out in time and they become cold-stunned.”

When turtles become “cold-stunned” in rapidly cooling waters, they float at the water’s surface, unable to eat, swim, or dive. After they wash ashore, turtles have a narrow time window to receive warmth and rehabilitation or risk dying from pneumonia and dehydration.

“This is a regular occurrence each winter, and we’ve participated in the continued care of these turtles since 2016,” Clearwater Marine vet Shelly Marquardt said in a statement. “We know that their time in rehabilitation here makes a difference for the future of this endangered species, and we are proud to be able to contribute to their conservation efforts.”

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are the smallest and most critically endangered species of sea turtles. Conservationists estimate that only 7,000 to 9,000 nesting females remain in the wild, a slim number compared to other turtle species like the green sea turtle, whose population is 10 times bigger.

As the turtles recover in warm water tanks and eat special diets to rebuild their strength, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center dubbed them with new names for their stay.

“They always come around the holiday times — it’s either going to be around Thanksgiving or later in December — so we did a holiday theme this year,” Weber said. “We have some of the reindeer, we have Grinch, we have Elf, and we also have Dreidel and Zawadi for all the holidays.”

After rehabilitation and recovery, the juvenile Kemp’s sea turtles will return to their natural habitat to thrive and reproduce on their own.

“It’s important to get them back in the wild where they can help future generations of sea turtles,” Weber said., Meghan Cook, December 13, 2023

Clean Energy Is Attracting Nearly Twice as Much Investment as Fossil Fuels

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook has highlighted a notable shift in global investment trends: Clean energy projects now attract almost double the funding compared to fossil fuels.

In 2023, clean energy projects are expected to receive over $1.7 trillion in investments, a stark contrast to the roughly $1 trillion directed toward fossil fuels, marking a significant change from just five years ago when the investment ratio was one to one  This encouraging trend reveals a growing financial commitment to sectors like low-emissions power, energy efficiency batteries, and electrification. Notably, most energy investment is directed toward low-emissions power (encompassing renewables and nuclear energy). But for the world to meet its climate goals, the money needs to stop flowing to fossil fuels — and flow even faster into clean energy.

Canary Media, Nov. 2023 by Dan McCarthy


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