Situational awareness: 2018 will go down as the 4th-warmest on record, the World Meteorological Organization said Thursday morning, adding: "The 20 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 22 years."
Onto music. At this moment in 1991, P.M. Dawn was about to reach the top of Billboard's Hot 100 chart (edging Michael Bolton aside no less) with "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss." So let's get into today's edition by remembering that marionette strings are dangerous things...
The word "innovation" is having a Beltway moment, so it's worth reading two new substantive reports.
What's new: The reports offer a roadmap for expanding federal initiatives for developing improved and next-wave zero-carbon energy sources and getting them into commercial deployment.
Why it matters: The reports arrive on the heels of major UN and U.S. government projections about the highly damaging consequences of global warming if worldwide emissions are not cut extremely sharply in the next couple decades.
Buzz: "Innovation" is getting tossed around as Republicans are being asked to respond to the big federal climate report released on Black Friday. As my former colleagues at E&E News reported on Wednesday...
So the reports are well-timed in the event policymakers actually want ideas for breathing life into the term at a time when other climate policy avenues — like carbon taxes and regulations — are moribund among Republicans.
The big picture: Both reports call for a more robust federal role. That chart above, from the AEIC report, is part of their argument that U.S. R&D is too low.
The ITIF report, meanwhile, urges policymakers to bolster various areas that it calls underrepresented in the federal R&D and deployment portfolio.
Reality check: There's some GOP appetite on Capitol Hill for expanding Energy Department clean energy programs, and Congress has batted aside White House requests for deep cuts.
What's next: Members of the AEIC will be holding private meetings with lawmakers from both parties early next year, a representative of the group tells Axios.
Breaking Thursday: This morning U.S. oil prices traded below $50 per barrel briefly for the first time in 14 months. The price of West Texas Intermediate was $50.91 as we sent this newsletter.
Why it matters: The latest tumble raises the stakes of discussions at the G20 meeting and the Dec. 6 OPEC meeting when the cartel and Russia will decide on potential output curbs.
What's next: Per Reuters, potential progress on U.S.-China trade negotiations at G20 summit in Argentina that starts tomorrow could put upward pressure on prices again.
What they're saying:
One of the dire and costly damage scenarios in the Fourth National Climate Assessment — the report the Trump administration released on Black Friday — stems from rising sea levels that are already affecting coastal cities, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.
Why it matters: The report says the U.S. will have to ratchet up actions to adapt to global warming-related impacts at the same time that cuts to greenhouse gases are made.
Quick take: Some of those risks involve power and fuels infrastructure, according to the chapter of the report about energy, including...
The big picture: The charts above, adapted from the assessment, show possible trajectories that global average sea-level rise may follow. The outcome would depend on several factors, including greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels, as well as the response of the world's ice sheets and glaciers to increasing temperatures.
Go deeper: Read the full piece.
U.S. politicians are mostly sitting out next week's big United Nations climate conference in Poland, but at least one notable political activist is going: Tom Steyer, Axios' Amy Harder reports.
Why he matters: Steyer is under an increasingly bright light these days while he weighs a potential 2020 White House run. And the billionaire former hedge fund manager has made climate change a pillar of his activism and political giving for years.
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Speaking of UN climate conferences, Brazil's government says it will no longer host next year's United Nations annual climate summit, citing "budgetary and financial restrictions," Bloomberg reports.
The big picture: Experts have warned that the environmental policies favored by right-wing President-elect Jair Bolsonaro could cause a spike in greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest — which a recent report claims has reached its highest level in a decade.
Electric cars: via Reuters, the head of Volkswagen's U.S. operations said the company is planning to build a new U.S. factory to build electric cars.
FERC: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday approved Bernard McNamee for an open seat on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, voting 13-10 to send the nomination to the full Senate.
Coal: S&P Global Market Intelligence reports that more coal plants are slated to shutter despite White House efforts to bolster the industry. From their analysis of company plans...
The Coradia iLint hydrogen-powered train at Berlin's 2016 InnoTrans trade fair. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images
Axios Expert Voices contributor Luca Mastropasqua writes...
In September, Germany started operating the world's first hydrogen train, the Coradia iLint, which is powered by hydrogen fuel cells stored on top of its carriages. Like a conventional electric train, the Coradia iLint produces no direct air pollution, but it can operate without access to the electric grid.
Why it matters: Hydrogen-powered trains like the Coradia iLint could be built on un-electrified lines in areas where diesel engines are still used, which would greatly reduce harmful emissions typical of combustion technologies.
Background: Hydrogen is being studied extensively for its potential as a highly efficient, low-carbon energy carrier, with particularly significant applications in the transportation and electricity-generation industries.
How it works: Running in a 62-mile line between 4 towns in northern Germany, the Coradia iLint trains have a range of approximately 620 miles on one fill and a maximum speed of 87 miles per hour.
Yes, but: In order to allow for widespread use of hydrogen technologies in transportation, renewable hydrogen-production systems will have to be made available at lower costs.
Luca Mastropasqua is a research fellow at the Group of Energy Conversion Systems at Politecnico di Milano.