A small town in Wyoming is hoping that Bill Gates will pick it for his upcoming $1 billion next-generation nuclear power plant, which could save hundreds of local jobs.
TerraPower, Gates’ nuclear-power company, is considering Glenrock, Wyoming, for its first advanced Natrium reactor, per the Associated Press (AP). Gates has said the reactor would be safer and cost less than a traditional nuclear reactor.
A coal-fired power plant in Glenrock is due to shut in 2027, according to plans published by energy company PacifiCorp, the plant’s owner. The plant, called the Dave Johnston Power Plant, employs nearly 200 people from Glenrock and two nearby towns, Wyoming News reported.
Glenrock Mayor Bruce Roumell told Fox Business that the site could more than make up for lost coal jobs.
“We’ve been told it’ll be close to 250 people,” Roumell told Fox Business when asked how many jobs could be created. “They’ve also said there would be around 1,500 people in the construction phase. That’s a pretty good influx into this area for us.”
Gates said in a June press briefing that the Natirum reactor, which uses liquid sodium as its coolant instead of water, would be safer and cost less than a traditional nuclear reactor. In October 2020, the US Department of Energy awarded the project $80 million in initial funding, per a TerraPower press release.
In June, TerraPower said in a press release that it would select a town in Wyoming for its first reactor project, and that it would announce the site by the end of the year. Gillette, Kemmerer, and Rock Springs are the three other towns under consideration, per the AP.
TerraPower previously said the project would cost about $1 billion, Reuters reported.
Fox Business said that nearly all of Glenrock’s residents it spoke to were excited at the idea of TerraPower moving into town.
“We’ve got to do something,” resident Deb Schell told Fox Business. “I think it’s the wave of the future. Coal is on its way out so we have to do something.”
TerraPower and PacifiCorp did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
The extreme flooding in China killed 33 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more as residents were evacuated by rescue teams across the region. Historic floods also damaged several communities in Europe, with more than 200 people killed.
New drone footage from the BBC shows the flooding’s impact in Zhengzhou, a factory town known as “iPhone City.” An estimated 350,000 residents are employed here at the world’s largest iPhone-assembly plant, which produces almost half of Apple’s most popular products. Many of the workers live on factory campuses.
Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Twitter that the company “will be donating to support relief efforts” in Germany, Belgium, and Western Europe. Apple did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on how it is responding to the flooding in China.
The Zhengzhou iPhone factory is operated by Foxconn Technology Group, a company based in Taiwan. Foxconn did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Foxconn told The Wall Street Journal that it implemented a flood control emergency response plan. According to the Journal, water entered the factory and the power went out – other than that, the facility has not been impacted by the flooding.
Tragic videos show people stranded inside Zhengzhou’s flooded subway system, where 12 people died. Footage of rescue workers saving a 4-month-old baby girl has gone viral in China, the BBC reported on Friday. Nearby, the infant’s mother was found dead, “frozen in a position that seemed like she was lifting something up.”
Normally, the moon turns orange or red during an eclipse, when Earth blocks sunlight and our atmosphere reflects red light onto the lunar surface instead. But this time is unusual. Instead of being eclipsed by Earth’s shadow, the moon may be eclipsed in many places by layers of smoke.
Wildfires have exploded across the Pacific Northwest over the last month, fueled by dry vegetation and a series of heat waves made possible by the warming climate. The largest, Oregon’s Bootleg Fire, has grown to nearly twice the size of New York City and started generating its own weather.
The blazes are sending smoke roiling across the continent, prompting air-quality alerts from Minnesota to North Carolina and tinting skies orange as far east as New York and Washington, DC.
That’s because the particles in wildfire smoke block shorter wavelengths of sunlight – the blues and greens – and allow the longer, redder wavelengths to pass through. The moon will be no exception to this paintbrush of sweeping smoke.
“When you do have wildfire smoke, especially high up in the atmosphere, you typically do see your moon kind of turn reddish or orange,” Jesse Berman, an assistant professor in environmental health at the University of Minnesota, where he studies extreme weather and air pollution, told Insider.
If the smoke is low and thick enough, it could block out the moon entirely. But, Berman said, “it’s very likely that any area experiencing a wildfire-smoke exposure can see this red or orange moon.”
The moon will appear full Thursday night through Sunday morning, peaking on Friday night, according to NASA.
In the month of July, the full moon is often called the Buck Moon. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this name comes from the Algonquin peoples, who share a family of languages and originate from the area that today ranges from New England as far west as Lake Superior. The name refers to buck deer’s antlers emerging in summer.
Widespread wildfire smoke could become common
Wildfires that produce continent-sweeping smoke clouds could become annual events, if not occurring “multiple times every single year,” Berman said.
“We do expect these events to become not only more frequent, but possibly more severe in the future as our climate tends to shift towards drier conditions, to hotter conditions, to areas where you have less frequent rainfall,” he added. “Every one of these wildfire events is an opportunity for that smoke to travel long distances and affect not only the people nearby, but also those very far away.”
If smoke stays high in the atmosphere, it probably won’t affect air quality for people on the ground. However, it sometimes falls back down and fills the air we breathe with hazardous particles – hundreds or even thousands of miles from the fire that created it.
The microscopic particles in wildfire smoke can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. Research has connected wildfire-particle pollution to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and premature death.
In healthy people short-term, it can irritate the eyes and lungs and cause wheezing, coughs, or difficulty breathing. Young children, the elderly, and people with preexisting conditions like asthma or COPD are particularly vulnerable to more serious effects.
As smoke wafts over his Minnesota home, Berman has had his two young children play inside instead of going to the park. The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping doors and windows closed when wildfire smoke is impacting air quality, and designating a “clean room” with a portable air cleaner and no cooking, smoking, or candle-burning.
“Right now, nothing has shown that the conditions are going to become markedly better in the future,” Berman said. “Instead, we’re really predicting that conditions are going to continue to get worse.”
“It doesn’t matter where you’re living,” he continued. “You can be affected by these events the same as anyone else.”
Emergencies can happen when you least expect them. Financial advisors recommend people save six to nine months’ worth of expenses in case of an emergency – but 25% of Americans say they have no emergency savings at all, according to a new study from Bankrate.
The survey results come as extreme weather sweeps across the world, with devastating floods and wildfires hitting 3 continents at once. Experts say the worsening extreme weather is a consequence of the climate crisis.
The smoke from western wildfires traveled all the way to the East Coast on Wednesday, causing air quality issues and hazy skies. In June, Washington grocery stores threw out food, covered aisles in plastic sheets, and ran sprinklers on store roofs as they battled a record-breaking heatwave. Tropical storm Elsa caused flooding from Florida to New York, with viral videos showing the areas of the New York City subway system underwater.
Businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic and climate emergencies may not have sufficient funds saved. Bankrate said financial instability is lingering as a result of the pandemic – last year, nearly 40% of the country’s poorest households suffered from unemployment as millions of low-wage positions were eliminated.
One-third of survey respondents said they have less emergency savings than they did before the pandemic, and almost half of Americans said they are not comfortable with their level of emergency savings.
“It takes time to accumulate a sufficient emergency savings cushion equivalent to at least 6 months of expenses,” said Bankrate.com chief financial analyst, Greg McBride. “This is why the habit of saving – via direct deposit or automatic bank transfer – is so vitally important, as it represents the pathway to accumulating a comfortable savings cushion over time.”
Smoke has covered cities and towns, and forced the airport to close.
One person living in an affected village told The Guardian: “Emergency workers have come and villagers are also fighting the fires but they can’t put them out, they can’t stop them. Everything is on fire.”
It is difficult to directly attribute individual weather events to the climate crisis. But experts are clear that longterm shifts in cliamte, caused by human activity, are making such events more frequent and severe .
A new report from Pacific Environment and Stand.earth reveals 15 major corporations that emit as much climate pollution from overseas shipping as 1.5 million American homes.
Retail giants Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Ikea, Amazon, and Nike are among the worst polluters, according to the report. Walmart tops the list, generating more greenhouse gas than a coal plant would in a year, The Verge first reported.
“There really hadn’t been an investigation into this pillar of companies’ emissions portfolio,” Madeline Rose, primary author of the report, told The Verge. “Quite frankly, with the climate emergency on our doorstep, we just feel like there needs to be disruption of the data system and there needs to be greater transparency.”
Right now, Americans are buying so many imported goods that shipping companies are racing to build more boats and brands are paying ten times typical shipping prices, Insider reported in July.
The study measures greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution released by the 15 retailers while importing goods overseas to the US.
To calculate the final rankings, researchers tracked cargo ships used by each company as a way of estimating fuel consumption and emissions. The results do not include the cargo ships’ return, meaning the pollution is probably even more severe than the study found.
In 2019, Ikea announced an ambitious plan for the company to become “climate positive” – meaning it would reduce more pollution than it creates – by 2030. According to the study, shipping from the world’s largest furniture retailer is the seventh-biggest polluter, a ranking worse than Amazon’s.
Last year, Walmart said it will eliminate its carbon footprint by 2040. This goal does not encompass Walmart’s entire supply chain, and therefore does not calculate emissions released by overseas shipping.
Similarly, Amazon has pledged to be net-zero carbon across its business by 2040. An Amazon spokesperson told Insider that the company includes indirect emissions such as cargo shipping into its carbon footprint calculations, which are published online.
Target’s sustainability goals do take its entire supply chain into account – the company also aims to be net-zero by 2040.
“Major retail companies are directly responsible for the dirty air that sickens our youth with asthma, leads to thousands of premature deaths a year in U.S. port communities, and adds to the climate emergency,” Rose said in a statement. “We are demanding that these practices change.”
Walmart, Target, Ikea, and Amazon did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
President Joe Biden revealed that the US and Germany are planning to enter into a new climate and energy partnership, an announcement made during German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House on Thursday.
“Today, we’re launching a climate and energy partnership to support energy security and the development of sustainable energy,” Biden said at a joint press conference with Merkel.
According to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, the partnership will be co-chaired by John Kerry, the special presidential envoy on climate, and Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, as well as their German counterparts. It will focus on three areas of cooperation: developing joint plans to slash carbon emissions; collaboration on new green energy technologies; and assisting developing countries in addressing climate change.
Under the Paris Agreement, the US and Germany have committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest in an effort to avoid environmental catastrophe.
The partnership also aims to address the use of energy supplies as means of strong-arming nations, a topic Biden touched on at Thursday’s press conference.
Noting concerns about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which would transport natural gas from Russia to Europe, Biden said that Moscow “must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon.” Both leaders also addressed the extreme flooding in Germany that has left at least 45 people dead.
At the end, Biden was questioned by reporters about the protests going on in Cuba. “Communism is a failed system,” he said, “and I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute, but that’s another story.”
Narrator: Ninety-nine percent of all freshwater ice on Earth is sitting on top of Greenland and Antarctica, and each year, a little more of it melts into the ocean. Normally, it would take hundreds to thousands of years for it all to melt away. But what if something happened that caused a massive global melt overnight?
As we slept, sea levels would rise by a whopping 66 meters. Coastal cities like New York, Shanghai, and London would drown in the apocalyptic mass flood, forcing up to 40% of the world’s population out of their homes. While all this chaos ensues aboveground, something equally sinister is happening below. All that rising saltwater will infiltrate groundwater reserves farther inland, forcing its way into nearby freshwater aquifers. You know, the ones that supply our drinking water, irrigation systems, and power-plant cooling systems? All those aquifers would be destroyed. Not good.
On top of that, the ice on Greenland and Antarctica is made of freshwater, so when it melts, that’s about 69% of the world’s freshwater supply that’s going straight into the oceans. This will wreak havoc on our ocean currents and weather patterns. Take the Gulf Stream, for example. It’s a strong ocean current that brings warm air to northern Europe and relies on dense, salty water from the Arctic in order to function. But a flood of freshwater would dilute the current and could weaken or even stop it altogether. Without that warm air, temperatures in northern Europe would plummet, and that could spawn a mini ice age, according to some experts.
That’s not even the worst of it. Take a look at what will happen when that last 1% of freshwater ice that’s not part of Greenland or Antarctica thaws. Some of that 1% is sitting in glaciers farther inland. The Himalayan glaciers specifically pose one of the largest threats because of what’s trapped inside: toxic chemicals like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT. Scientists discovered that glaciers like this can store these chemicals for decades. But as they thaw, those glaciers release the chemicals into rivers, lakes, and groundwater reserves, poisoning each one as they go.
The rest of that 1% is hanging out underground, mostly in the Arctic tundra, as something called permafrost. Permafrost is organic matter that’s been frozen in the ground for two-plus years. Now, one of the most immediate problems with thawing permafrost would be mercury poisoning. That’s right: There are an estimated 15 million gallons of mercury stored up in the Arctic permafrost. That’s almost equal to the amount of mercury everywhere else on Earth. On top of that, the organic matter in permafrost is a tasty meal for microorganisms. After they digest it all, they fart out two of the most potent greenhouse gases out there, carbon dioxide and methane. Scientists estimate this could double the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and potentially cause global temperatures to rise by 3.5 degrees Celsius compared to today.
That might not sound like much, but say goodbye to that mini European ice age, and even rivers and lakes around the world. They’d evaporate from the higher temperatures and cause mass droughts and desert-like climates. And all that extra water vapor in the atmosphere would fuel more frequent and stronger storms, floods, and hurricanes. So all of that newly established coastline on the eastern US would be one of the last places you’d want to live. Instead, there would be mass migrations to Canada, Alaska, the Arctic, and even what’s left of the Antarctic.
And you’re right, this is probably never going to happen. After all, there’s enough ice right now to cover the entire continent of North America in a sheet a mile thick. So the next time you hear about record-breaking heat or ultra-powerful hurricanes, at least you know that it could be worse. But scientists estimate that if we don’t take action and global temperatures increase by just 1 degree Celsius, the effects of climate change we already see today will be irreversible. So yes, it could be worse, and it will be if we’re not careful.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in September 2019.
Boats sit on dry land. Once-lush palm trees are now brown and shriveled. And waterways that were formerly deep and flowing have been reduced to puddles of toxic residue.
This is the landscape in parts of California, which is experiencing a historic mega-drought that is expected to strain the state’s electrical grid and dry up water supplies – water levels are 50% lower than normal at more than 1,500 reservoirs statewide, Jay Lund, codirector of the Center for Watershed Sciences at University of California, Davis, told Morning Brew. Given that 25% of the nation’s food is grown in California, extreme droughts could decimate crops like avocados and almonds.
“This current drought is potentially on track to become the worst that we’ve seen in at least 1,200 years. And the reason is linked directly to human-caused climate change,” Kathleen Johnson, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California, Irvine, told The Guardian.
On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked residents to cut back on their water usage by 15% by taking shorter showers and running dishwashers and washing machines more sparingly.
Amid the devastating conditions, Reuters photographer Aude Guerrucci captured aerial photos of the impacts of the drought on California’s landscape. Take a look:
Inside Shadow Lake Estates in Indio, California, an artificial lake glistens despite the scorched landscape surrounding it. Reservoirs and lakes are drying up statewide, with some turning completely to dust with no rain expected until later this year.
Elsewhere, dropping water levels have forced houseboat owners to remove their vessels from the water. These boats are anchored in Laka Oroville, the second-largest reservoir in the state, which is at less than 40% of its normal capacity.
This canal in Salton City, California, is almost completely evaporated, leaving being only toxic residue. Salmon that typically swim in rivers and canals like this one between California’s Central Valley and the Pacific Ocean have had to be transported to the ocean via truck as those waterways become shallower and shallower.
Heat waves are sending temperatures into the triple digits. As another heat wave arrives, the Central Valley could see temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, while Southern California, where this boat became beached, could reach 117 degrees.
These heat waves are occurring more often, starting earlier, and continuing later into the year now than they did in the 1960s, according to Environmental Protection Agency records. At the Salton Sea, docks sit on dry land, hundreds of feet from the water.
The extra-dry, extra-hot conditions are obliterating vegetation like these palm trees, and taxing power grids. As temperatures rise, people tend to turn up air conditioning units, increasing the potential for rolling blackouts.
In Mecca, California, in the Coachella Valley, agricultural fields reside amid a parched landscape. Agriculture is a roughly $50 billion business in California, and the severe drought could hamper the industry for years to come.
The conditions mean this year’s wildfire season could surpass the record-breaking devastation of 2020. “Much of the western United States will continue the trend of hot and dry weather, much like the summer of 2020,” Brandon Buckingham, a meteorologist at AccuWeather, recently told Insider. “Each and every western heat wave throughout the summer will only heighten wildfire risks.”
The toll of the climate crisis on daily life has become increasingly clear. Just ask President Joe Biden.
“Interesting to me – I didn’t raise it – but how many of the survivors and how many of the families talked about the impact of global warming,” Biden told reporters after meeting with the families of victims in the Surfside, Florida condo collapse.
The tragedy in Southern Florida that killed at least 18 people and left as many as 145 missing wasn’t the only sudden catastrophe with climate at its root this summer. Just days earlier, temperatures reached record-breaking highs in the Pacific Northwest amid a deadly “heat dome” that local medical officials eventually declared a “mass casualty event.” Then, New York City’s streets and subways flooded during a tropical storm that recalled Hurricane Sandy’s devastation not too long ago.
The climate crisis – long a far-off warning or even political talking point – is suddenly a deadly reality. And it’s starting to have what one expert called local effects, meaning it’s really changing the way people live, hitting the food they eat, places they live, and especially their health. Climate change is an economic issue, now more than ever.
“People are talking about it as if it’s now something we should be considering when talking about the risks that we face as a society – risks to infrastructure, risks to human life,” Amir Jina, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, told Insider.
Going outside will look different. UCLA environmental law professor Sean Hecht said the climate crisis changes “the parameters that have defined our built environment.”
The climate crisis is already in your backyard, or your local store
In the Pacific Northwest, some grocery stores stopped selling perishables, and restaurants and other businesses temporarily shuttered due to the heat. Globally, a UN report finds that the world’s food supply will be gravely impacted by the climate crisis without intervention, and that extreme weather could disrupt food supply chains.
“We are going to be seeing roads that aren’t placed in places that make sense,” Hecht said. Communities might not be equipped for less beach or snow, and farmers may need to adjust the crops they’re planting. For instance, California’s booming $6 billion almond industry was hit hard by a historic drought this year, The Wall Street Journal reported, with many farmers forced to simply raze trees they can no longer water.
“When the world changes around [climate change], these basic legal and then really human expectations start to not match the physical environment. And that creates a lot of conflict,” Hecht said.
That was apparent for the New Yorkers wading through several feet of water to finish their commutes. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a video of the flooding and said it makes the case for her Green New Deal, which hasn’t yet become law: ‘The Green New Deal, which is a blueprint to create millions of good jobs rebuilding infrastructure to stem climate change & protect vulnerable communities, is unrealistic. ‘Instead we will do the adult thing, which is take orders from fossil fuel execs &make (sic) you swim to work.'”
The economic impacts have already started, and they’ll be unequal
While these extreme weather events illustrate the larger-scale impact of the climate crisis, the smaller-scale impact will hit your wallet soon.
On a macro scale, climate change cost the US economy $500 billion over the previous half-decade, according to a Fed official, and potentially over $1.775 trillion since 1980, according to the NOAA. Research by Tatyana Deryugina in the American Economic Journal found that the economic costs of hurricanes may be greater than previously thought – since the distribution of measures like unemployment insurance goes up.
On the individual level, Jina said the costs add up, too. “There’s a set of risks involved in anywhere we choose to live or any economic activity we choose to engage in that we need to start thinking about a little bit more,” he said.
And, of course, the costs aren’t felt equally. As Hecht said, whenever there’s disruption, people with more resources can better afford to address the disruption.
Hecht says research “very consistently” shows that disruptions are harder on communities with fewer resources, which creates inequity by class, something that “also is correlated in large part with race.” Research from Jina and other members of the Climate Lab finds that the poorest counties will take the largest income hit from the crisis.
As Healthline reports, the climate crisis disproportionately impacts people of color, such as comorbidities linked to racism exacerbated by rising temperatures, to being redlined into areas more likely to be impacted.
Infrastructure spending is (maybe) on the horizon
Meanwhile, climate measures – or lack thereof – have come to the forefront in President Biden’s infrastructure proposals.
The bipartisan deal that the president struck with a group of senators omits some of his original climate proposals, and pares down spending on others. Democrats have already sent a list of climate demands for inclusion in a reconciliation bill, including equity for low-income communities and communities of color impacted by pollution, along with a carbon-free grid.
The federal government can be instrumental when it comes to addressing how we produce and consume energy, the experts said. Actually creating that infrastructure is one important step.
“We gotta make lemonades out of lemons here,” Biden has said. “We have a chance to do something that not only deals with the problem today, but allows us to be in a position to move forward – and create real good jobs, by the way, generate economic growth.”
Even though Biden has proposed spending up to $4 trillion on rebuilding infrastructure, not all of that is focused on climate initiatives. Meanwhile, although Ocasio-Cortez did not initially put a price tag on the Green New Deal, she later clarified its cost would be much higher. “It’s not a fun number to say, I’m not excited to say we need to spend $10 trillion on climate, but … it’s just the fact of the scenario,” she said in 2019.
“Let’s make sure that when we build a house or rezone an area, that it’s not just going to be repeatedly flooded every single year – where the potential insurance costs or the reconstruction costs are going to completely dwarf the construction costs,” Jina said. “That just makes simple economic sense.”
A big part of addressing the situation is in more “mundane” aspects, like updating building codes, Jina said.