Bulletin: A Ukrainian climate expert on the Zaporizhzhia situation and the winter energy outlook

Fear over a possible nuclear disaster at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine rose this week, as both Russia and Ukraine warned that the other side could be planning a “false-flag” attack. Russian forces—currently in control of the plant—have ordered many of the Ukrainian workers who continue to run and operate the plant to stay home from work; only those workers who work on the power units themselves have been allowed on the premises, according to Ukraine’s state-run energy firm, Energoatom.

Earlier this month, the European Union and the United States called for Zaporizhzhia and the surrounding area to be demilitarized, but Russia has rejected the suggestion, saying it would make the plant “even more vulnerable.”

Oleh Savitskyi, a board member of the non-governmental organization Ecoaction and a climate and energy policy expert with the Ukrainian Climate Network who worked in the ministry of energy and environment protection of Ukraine until June, has been following the situation closely. The Bulletin reached Savitskyi by phone in Kyiv earlier this week to discuss the escalating situation at Zaporizhzhia, what happens if the plant goes offline, and the outlook for Ukraine’s energy supply in the coming months and years.

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New climate bill: Look on the bright side, and (almost) everyone’s a winner

After more than a year of wheeling and dealing with resistant holdouts, the Senate Democrats finally passed a package of climate legislation on Sunday under the umbrella of the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill, if it passes the House as expected and is signed into law by President Biden, will be the country’s first major climate law.

The package earmarks $369 billion for energy security and climate change programs over the next 10 years, including: $44 billion in tax credits for wind, solar, and other renewable power sources like hydrogen and another $30 billion for investing in renewable energy technologies, including solar panels and wind turbines; $30 billion for nuclear power companies, to discourage existing power plants from shutting down; $9 billion to encourage investments in efficient heating and cooling systems; and $36 billion to encourage individuals to buy new or used electric vehicles.

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Audubon: The Foraged Wood Thrush

Like so many others, artist Jessica Maffia took refuge in nature in the earliest days of the pandemic. “I’d been thinking about our local nature for some years, but during quarantine, that’s all I wanted to do,” she says. “I wasn’t making art for a long time—I was just coming and getting to know who the more-than-human neighbors are.”

Although she took part in her first guided bird walk in 2016, it was only in the spring of 2020 that she began birding more seriously, taking classes on birdsong—Maffia can now identify more than two dozen birds by ear—and patch birding, revisiting the same place and learning its avian residents and visitors. Since then, Maffia has embraced Inwood Hill Park in uptown Manhattan as her patch. That’s where I reached her by video call in May, her face framed by trees, the birdsong in the background as clear as her voice. “I’m finding that my nature enthusiasm and art practice are very much merging,” Maffia says.

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Bulletin: How to not die from heat on a too-hot planet

Glen Kenny usually knows when someone is about to succumb to heat. He’s seen it a thousand times.

Workers may become less responsive than usual. They might struggle to stay focused on the task at hand, or forget to follow safety protocols. They might be short-tempered or aggressive when someone interrupts them. They might tell someone to back off, to leave them alone.

“Their body is under stress,” says Kenny, a professor of physiology at the University of Ottawa who studies the human heat stress response. “And for them, any voices, any distraction, that takes away their focus on themselves becomes an irritation for them. So you’re going to see irritability, you’re going to see loss of awareness of their surroundings, an inability to communicate effectively, all these become critical signs.”

The scary thing is, by the time an individual starts to feel unwell, they are already in the danger zone. Unlike strenuous exercise, heat stress is gradual. It builds, often without the individual noticing it—until all of a sudden, he or she does.

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‘Silent killer’: A Bulletin series on surviving the extremely hot future 

It’s getting hot out here.

Earlier this month, at least 10 cities in Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas broke high-temperature records, some by as much as six degrees Fahrenheit. Last week, Texas officials asked residents and businesses to conserve electricity during the hottest times of the day to help avoid overwhelming the grid, as temperatures climbed above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, reaching 113 degrees in Somerville, a small town about an hour’s drive northwest of Houston.

Significant parts of England and Wales are under a heat warning until Tuesday, and temperatures in London today are forecast to climb above 90 degrees Fahrenheit—about 18 degrees hotter than usual this time of year. The United Kingdom will be one of the hottest places on earth today, reaching temperatures more commonly seen in the Western Sahara and the Caribbean. Temperatures in Portugal and Spain soared to triple digits last week as wildfires ripped through both countries. The heat wave that has engulfed Western Europe could last for weeks; meteorologists say it could be the worst Europe has seen since 1757.

China, too, issued alerts to residents of nearly 70 cities as temperatures rose to 104 degrees Fahrenheit last week. According to a state news agency, Shanghai has only experienced temperatures greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit on 15 days since 1873. Last month was the warmest June on record in 60 years. Roofs have melted and roads have buckled in the heat.

And this is all happening nearly simultaneously—the new normal, brought on by global warming.

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