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Mining for materials used in renewable power may harm biodiversity

Expanded mining for materials used in renewable power technologies and electric cars could harm vulnerable species and ecosystems absent better planning, according to a peer-reviewed paper in Nature Communications.

Why it matters: The tech needed to fight one threat to biodiversity — climate change — can create other big risks unless policymakers act "urgently" on the matter, the researchers found.


  • It's not a far-off threat either. A new Financial Times feature explores how increased mining in Indonesia for nickel, an electric vehicle battery component, will create more marine waste.

How it works: They looked at tens of thousands of "pre-operational, operational, and closed" mining sites for dozens of materials, many of which target supplies needed for clean energy applications.

  • It then draws a 50-kilometer radius around them to assess their "spatial coincidence with biodiversity conservation sites and priorities."
  • They find that mining "potentially influences" almost 50 million square kilometers.
  • 8% of that overlaps with "protected areas," 7% with "key biodiversity areas," and 16% with "remaining wilderness."

Yes, but: Simon Evans of the climate news and analysis site Carbon Brief cautions via Twitter that the analysis assumes an extremely wide potential impact radius (again, 50 kilometers) around mining sites.

  • "[O]f course it's possible to think of potential impacts that can extend a long way, but as a default for all mines I don't think it is that meaningful," Evans tweeted.

The big picture: Greatly expanding climate-friendly energy and transport means much higher demand for materials like lithium, copper, cobalt and more.

  • As the International Energy Agency puts it, rising deployment is set to "supercharge demand for critical minerals."
  • The paper's authors, writing in The Conversation, cite World Bank estimates that demand for a suite of critical materials could grow by 500% by 2050.

The bottom line: "Careful strategic planning is urgently required to ensure that mining threats to biodiversity caused by renewable energy production do not surpass the threats averted by climate change mitigation and any effort to slow fossil fuel extraction and use," the paper concludes.

  • Lead author Laura Sonter of the University of Queensland in Australia tells the Guardian that the "good news" is “many of the required materials also exist outside areas important for conservation.”

Pinpointing climate change's role in extreme weather

Climate scientists are increasingly able to use computer models to determine how climate change makes some extreme weather more likely.

Why it matters: Climate change's effects are arguably felt most directly through extreme events. Being able to directly attribute the role climate plays in natural catastrophes can help us better prepare for disasters to come, while driving home the need to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

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Big Tech takes the climate change lead

The tech industry is playing a growing role in fighting climate change, from zero-carbon commitments to investments in startups and pushing for the use of data to encourage energy efficiency.

Why it matters: Big Tech is already dominating our economy, politics and culture. Its leadership in helping to address climate change — and reckon with its role in contributing to it — could have similarly transformative impacts.

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Lindsey Graham says he will vote for Ginsburg's replacement before next election

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Saturday said he plans to support a vote on President Trump's nominee to fill the vacancy left by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday, before the election.

Why it matters: Graham in 2016 opposed confirming President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, because it was an election year.

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Schumer: "Nothing is off the table next year" if Senate GOP moves to fill Ginsburg's seat

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told fellow Democrats on a conference call Saturday that "nothing is off the table next year" if Senate Republicans move to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat in the coming weeks.

What he's saying: “Let me be clear: if Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year," Schumer said, according to a source on the call. "Nothing is off the table.”

ActBlue collects record-breaking $30 million in hours after Ginsburg's death

ActBlue, the Democratic donation-processing site, reported a record-breaking $30 million raised from 9 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday in the aftermath of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, NPR writes and ActBlue confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters via the New York Times: "The unprecedented outpouring shows the power of a looming Supreme Court confirmation fight to motivate Democratic donors."

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Trump says Republicans have an "obligation" to fill Ginsburg's seat "without delay"

President Trump wrote in a tweet Saturday morning that Republicans have an "obligation" to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat on the Supreme Court following her death Friday.

What he's saying: "We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices," the president said. "We have this obligation, without delay!"

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg along Supreme Court steps

At the Supreme Court steps Friday night hundreds of people gathered to pay tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — singing in a candlelight vigil, with some in tears.

Details: If there is a singular mood at the Supreme Court tonight, it’s some kind of a daze manifested by silence. 

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