Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnell

Climate Desk Associate Producer

Tim McDonnell joined Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine. He remains a cheerful guy despite covering climate change all the time. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.

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The World’s Largest Coal Company Just Filed for Bankruptcy

| Wed Apr. 13, 2016 11:04 AM EDT

These are truly dark days for coal. The year started off badly for the industry when Arch Coal, the second-biggest coal producer in the United States, filed for bankruptcy. That announcement was swiftly followed by more: China said it plans to close 1,000 coal mines, US coal production dipped to its lowest level in three decades, and the Obama administration laid out plans to raise the cost coal mining on federal land.

On Wednesday, the slow and steady die-off of coal claimed its biggest victim. Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US. The company won't close, but will have to reorganize and borrow new funds to pay off its existing debts. According to Reuters, the bankruptcy is the end result of crushing debt brought on by Peabody's multi-billion dollar acquisition in 2011 of a major Australian coal producer. That move was meant to offer Peabody greater access to Asian markets but, because of plummeting prices and demand, turned out to be a devastating financial burden.

Conditions at home in the US certainly didn't help. In addition to new climate change regulations from Obama that are designed to severely curtail the nation's coal consumption, coal has been getting hammered by competition from natural gas made cheap by the fracking boom. The Peabody announcement means that companies accounting for nearly half of the country's coal production have filed for bankruptcy in the current downturn, Reuters reported.

Of course, the coal industry isn't going away anytime soon:

While coal use has also stalled globally, largely because of China's economic slowdown and its efforts to protect domestic miners and rein in rampant pollution, most analysts expect consumption of the fuel to remain stable or rise in the future.

Some 500 coal-fired power stations are currently under construction, 80 percent of which are in the Asia-Pacific region, where emerging markets as well as developed economies such as Japan and South Korea are still seeing consumption grow.

In any case, the Peabody bankruptcy was quickly celebrated by environmentalists as a big win for the climate. Peabody came under fire late last year, when an investigation by the New York State Attorney General found the company had misled its shareholders about the risks climate change could pose to its bottom line.

"Perhaps if [Peabody] had spent more time and money diversifying their business rather than on lobbying against climate action and sowing the seeds of doubt about the science, they might not have joined the long (and ever growing) list of bankrupt global coal companies," 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said in a statement.

Here’s Something Else Donald Trump Is Totally Wrong About

| Tue Apr. 5, 2016 11:58 AM EDT

The only way to stop climate change is to drastically reduce, and ultimately eliminate, greenhouse gas emissions. If you want to know how well we're doing on that goal, a good place to start is the Environmental Protection Agency's official GHG database. And frankly, the picture isn't very pretty.

The total level of US emissions in 2014 wasn't very different than it was 30 years ago:

EPA

However, total emissions is a fairly misleading way to look at progress on climate change. Most of these emissions come from fossil fuels burned to make energy—either electricity from power plants or gas for cars and trucks. So emissions are heavily influenced by economic activity; a downturn in the economy would mean people drive less, factories use less electricity, etc., and the outcome would be lower emissions. At least, that's the way things used to be.

Over the last few years, the United States and many other countries around the world have seen an unprecedented disconnect between gross domestic product and emissions. Thanks to an increasingly large share of energy coming from renewables and vast improvements to energy efficiency, emissions can now be increasingly "decoupled" from economic activity. In other words, it's now possible to grow the economy without growing emissions.

A new analysis from the World Resources Institute illustrates how this trend is already playing out around the world. It's a bit of good news, and a solid rebuttal to anyone who says saving the climate means killing the economy—looking at you, Donald Trump:

WRI

Scott Baio Has Important Thoughts About Science

| Mon Apr. 4, 2016 12:50 PM EDT

You may remember Scott Baio from sitcom Happy Days and its spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, as well as the classic Charles in Charge. A few weeks ago, Baio endorsed Donald Trump to be America's next president because, as he told Fox News this weekend, Trump "is the only guy that has the will to attack and to fight." Also Baio thinks the US-Mexico border wall is a good idea.

On Saturday, Baio expressed his support for Trump in the form of a Starbucks coffee cup. On Sunday, he expressed it in the form of a tweet about climate change that is straight from the Trump playbook:

Reminds me of the classic:

Dear Scott Baio: The continued existence of weather—yes, including snow!—does not disprove climate change.  

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