Jul 10, 2019

Axios Generate

By Ben Geman
Ben GemanAmy Harder

Coming today: We're launching Axios Cities, a once-weekly newsletter penned by Axios' Kim Hart.

  • Expect news and analysis of tech and demographic trends shaping cities. Sign up here to receive the first edition in your inbox.

Situational awareness: Gulf of Mexico operators Chevron, Shell and BP are "evacuating workers from most of their deepwater platforms in response to this hurricane season's first looming disturbance in the area," The Houston Chronicle reports.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,267 words, <5 minute read.

Finally, this month marks 45 years since Parliament released "Up For The Down Stroke," so the title cut is today's intro tune...

1 big thing: The climate politics moment

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

1. Billionaire Democratic activist and environmentalist Tom Steyer launched his White House run yesterday with an emphasis on climate change.

"Steyer's campaign will focus on solving two major crises — reforming our broken political system and saving our planet from the ravages of climate change," the announcement stated.

Why it matters: Steyer has lots of money to throw around. He's reportedly planning to spend $100 million on the race.

So if he indeed emphasizes heavily on global warming, it will further raise the profile of a topic that's unexpectedly become a big political focus, in stark contrast to prior cycles.

2. Bernie Sanders is big on ambition and short on details (for now).

Yesterday the Democratic 2020 hopeful spoke to reporters about his new resolution to declare a "climate emergency" that demands a massive mobilization.

The intrigue: Sanders deflected questions about the specifics and substance of his yet-to-surface climate platform.

  • Sanders, who has released major climate legislation is past sessions of Congress, said only that he believed his plan would be the "strongest" among the candidates.
  • It will involve "massive" investments in sustainable energy and efficiency, he said, but did not offer details.
  • Among the top-tier of Democratic hopefuls, neither Sanders nor Sen. Kamala Harris has yet released a detailed policy.

Speaking of Harris, she's a co-sponsor of the climate "emergency" resolution, along with 4 other senators running for president: Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar.

One more 2020 thing: The head of the United Mine Workers of America tells Reuters that at least half the Democratic field has expressed interest in his invitation to tour mines and speak with miners about the future of coal.

Why it matters: "The invitation could heap pressure on the nearly two dozen Democrats vying for the White House to explain how their plans to combat climate change — most of which call for an end to fossil fuels use — will impact mining jobs," Valerie Volcovici reports.

2. The global spread of climate change litigation
Expand chart
Data: London School of Economics and Political Science; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

Climate litigation is spreading to more countries even as U.S. remains the epicenter, but there remains "insufficient evidence of the impacts," according to a recent London School of Economics analysis.

The big picture: Climate lawsuits of various stripes have now been brought in at least 28 countries, in addition to multilateral venues like the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.

Why it matters: The courts are an important battleground over global warming in the U.S. and other countries.

  • "Climate change litigation is increasingly viewed as a tool to influence policy outcomes and corporate behaviour," notes the July 4 report released by the London School's Grantham Research Institute.
  • The cases are wide-ranging, spanning efforts to force governments to enforce or toughen policies to cases against companies seeking compensation for climate-related damages, and a lot more.

Where it stands: The report explores U.S. cases, which are the majority, and lawsuits in other countries. We recently looked at the U.S. state of play, but internationally...

  • 43% of 305 cases brought over the last 25 years "have led to an outcome that is considered favourable to advancing climate change efforts," while 27% have "hindered" efforts.

One reason you'll hear about this again: "New lawsuits are also drawing on advancements in attribution science to establish a causal link between a particular source of emissions and climate-related harms," the study notes.

But, but, but: Evidence of the effect of the various cases remains "mostly anecdotal."

"In part, this reflects the more general challenge of assessing the impact of any litigation beyond the courtroom, especially given that many cases are still ongoing," the report states.

3. Tesla and BMW make new EV moves

Tesla is planning to expand production at its Fremont, California, factory, according to an internal email to employees Tuesday that Bloomberg obtained.

Why it matters: The revelation, which didn't provide details, arrives a week after the electric automaker reported record Q2 production and deliveries.

The company's stock is up slightly in pre-market trading. The news arrives ahead of Tesla's upcoming Q2 earnings report that's coming within weeks.

The big picture: Despite the higher-than-expected deliveries, the Silicon Valley electric automaker is struggling to become profitable, and more competitors are entering the market.

Still, per Bloomberg, Tesla's automotive president Jerome Guillen said in the email that employees will be "delighted with the upcoming developments."

Yes, but: While the company's 95,200 deliveries in April–June were a bright spot amid questions about long-term demand, Tuesday also brought signs of how the EV market is getting more crowded.

BMW announced that it's now selling a fully electric version of its Mini Cooper with a 146–168 mile range that goes from 0-62 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds.

  • Per CNN, "Powered by a 181-horsepower electric motor that's located under the hood, the front-wheel-drive Mini Cooper SE will deliver the sort of 'go-kart handling' Mini promises in its other models, the company said."

The intrigue: TechCrunch explains why the new car both is and isn't a Tesla competitor.

  • "[T]hese performance numbers don’t match up to something like the Tesla Model S (or even the Model 3, for that matter) and the range likewise isn’t quite on par, which may be its biggest challenge," writes Darrell Etherington.
  • "But the classic three-door Mini Cooper design is a draw in itself, and the pricing on the vehicle is around $36,400 U.S. when converted from the €32,500 starting cost, which could make it attractive for buyers at the entry-level of the luxury scale," he adds.
4. Report: WH shelves climate science challenge

E&E News reports...

"The proposed White House panel that would conduct an 'adversarial' review of climate science is dead for now, as President Trump grapples with negative perceptions of his environmental record at the outset of his reelection campaign."

Why it matters: The move suggests the White House isn't interested in a head-on attack on mainstream climate science before the election — even as the administration's dismantling of Obama-era emissions rules continues apace.

That's also how conservative activist Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is reading it.

What they're saying: "The reelect campaign has been completely taken over by the usual cast of Republican establishment consultants who are primarily concerned with making very large amounts of money on the campaign," Ebell, who rejects the scientific consensus on human-cased warming, told E&E.

Where it stands: The White House declined to comment on the report. The review was reportedly slated to be undertaken via the National Security Council, which would have enabled a broad challenge to the science on security risks from extreme events, sea-level rise and more.

5. Catch up fast: Crude, LNG, climate

Money: "Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company Aramco has awarded $18 billion in contracts to expand oil and gas capacity at two of its fields," the Associated Press reports.

LNG: Per S&P Global Platts, "US regulators warned Cheniere Energy on Tuesday that they will not allow the operator to return two LNG storage tanks to service that have been offline at its Louisiana export terminal since an inadvertent release of gas more than a year ago until promised corrective actions are completed."

Climate: Via Reuters, "Only one in eight of the world’s most-polluting companies are on track to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with global temperature goals, a study funded by investors with $14 trillion under management found on Wednesday."

Ben GemanAmy Harder