Sep 3, 2018

What we're reading: Climate threats to energy infrastructure

An oil refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas shortly before Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A pair of analyses explore how rising heat, rising sea levels and powerful storms are threats to energy infrastructure.

Why it matters: There's justifiably lots of attention on fossil fuels' outsized contribution to global warming, but another crucial topic is how climate change is already affecting everything from power grids to refineries.

1. Over at UPenn's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, Christina Simeone writes that companies with operations along the Gulf Coast energy belt are failing to adequately describe climate-related risks in disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That's important, because companies with refineries, petrochemical plants, liquefied natural gas facilities and more face risks from sea-level rise and storm surges.

  • "I’m not sure any rational investor would read these disclosures and understand the gravity of the Texas coastal situation, or the need for an enormous taxpayer investment to protect Gulf Coast assets from climate-related impacts," she writes.

2. International Energy Agency analyst Caroline Lee connects the dots on how the brutal summer of 2018 has affected energy systems, such as . . .

  • Forcing temporary closures of several French reactors, which occurred, per AP, to prevent discharges of cooling water from overheating nearby rivers.
  • Low water levels on the Rhine river disrupting barge traffic of oil products.
  • Scorching heat has caused blackouts and power interruptions in California, Pakistan and elsewhere.

What's next: Lee says governments must play a "central role" in making the energy sector more resilient to climate change.

That means toughening codes for infrastructure, "establishing an enabling financial environment that encourages climate-resilient investment," and more. Companies, she writes, need to factor climate change into their planning and operations, and develop emergency response measures for "extreme events."

Go deeper: All the heat records broken this summer on one map

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Scoop: Census Bureau is paying Chinese state media to reach Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The 2020 Census Paid Media Campaign, which sends U.S. taxpayer dollars to community media outlets to run ads about the upcoming census, is including a Chinese state-run broadcaster as one of its media vendors.

Why it matters: After China's yearslong campaign to co-opt independent Chinese-language media in the U.S., Washington is now paying Beijing-linked media outlets in order to reach Chinese Americans.

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Live updates: Coronavirus spreads to Latin America

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Brazil confirmed the first novel coronavirus case in Latin America Wednesday — a 61-year-old that tested positive after returning from a visit to northern Italy, the epicenter of Europe's outbreak.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 81,000 others. By Wednesday morning, South Korea had the most cases outside China, with 1,261 infections. Europe's biggest outbreak is in Italy, where 374 cases have been confirmed.

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GOP congressman accuses California pension official of working for China

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The latest season of Red Scare has come to Sacramento.

Driving the news: Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) has repeatedly accused Ben Meng, chief investment officer of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS), of tacitly working on behalf of the Chinese government. Banks also says that, were it up to him, Meng would be fired — and has questioned the patriotism of California Gov. Gavin Newsom for not at least investigating Meng.

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