Today is Friday. Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.
Alaska’s iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins Saturday, with teams of “mushers” and their dogs embarking on a 1,000-mile journey across “jagged mountain ranges, frozen river, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast.”
But just how long that historic route from Anchorage to Nome will remain “frozen” or feature “desolate tundra” remains uncertain. Alaska has warmed at more than twice the global rate, making the state “a poster child for global warming,” Rob Urbach, chief executive of the Iditarod, told Reuters.
Rain has replaced fluffy snow amid record warmth this year, leaving streets coated in ice, Reuters reported. Temperatures, meanwhile, are expected to stay above freezing.
At the same time, the Iditarod has undergone intense criticism from animal-rights activists, who have pressured sponsors to stop backing a race that they say is cruel to the dogs, according to Reuters.
As climate change transforms Alaskan landscapes, on the other side of the country, New York City is taking steps aimed at mitigating warming — by turning a Brooklyn port into an offshore wind hub. And in Australia, climate change and an unusually wet summer are driving a dangerous tropical disease into a new frontier.
For Equilibrium, we are Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Please send tips or comments to Saul at email@example.com or Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter: @saul_elbein and @sharonudasin.
Let’s get to it.
NYC mayor to turn port into offshore wind hub
New York City will be transforming a major warehousing and manufacturing port into a hub for offshore wind production, Mayor Eric Adams (D) announced on Thursday.
The wind farm, to be built at the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, will be one of the largest offshore wind port facilities in America, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). Construction of the site will help achieve New York City’s goals of producing 100 percent clean electricity by 2040, a news release from NYCEDC said.
First words: “With this investment, the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will soon be transformed into one of the largest offshore wind port facilities in the nation,” Adams said in a statement, noting that offshore wind in New York is expected to support 13,000 local jobs and generate $1.3 billion in average annual investment.
“This is a transformative moment for New York City and our clean energy future — a future of sustainable power, good-paying jobs, and climate justice,” Adams added.
From container terminal to renewable energy hub: The South Brooklyn port — built in the 1960s as a container terminal — will host power interconnection infrastructure for New York’s Empire Wind 1 project, an 816-megawatt site being built about 14 miles offshore from Jones Beach State Park, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Empire Wind 1, a project of Norway-based Equinor subsidiary Equinor Wind U.S., is slated to be complete in 2026.
Future connections: In the coming years, the port will also serve as a support hub for Equinor projects Empire Wind 2 and the Beacon Wind, the NYCEDC news release said.
The 1,260-megawatt site Empire Wind 2, adjacent to Empire Wind 1, is expected to be complete in 2027, according to NYSERDA. The 1,230-megawatt Beacon facility, about 60 miles east of Montauk Point, is scheduled to be operational by 2028.
The South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will also house heavy lift platforms on the 39th Street Pier for wind turbine staging and installation for Equinor and other developers, the NCYEDC news release said.
EQUITY, LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY FOR ‘GREATEST CITY ON EARTH’
The project is the result of a deal among NYCEDC, Equinor, BP and Sustainable South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, L.P., according to the New York energy authority. As part of the agreement, NYCEDC and Equinor are supporting training for a diverse pool of local workers — particularly including minority- and women-owned business enterprise contractors, the news release said.
“By building this new industry in the right way, we will continue to advance an equitable recovery and make our environment healthier as well,” Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer said in a statement.
Magalie Desroches Austin, director of the Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, echoed these sentiments, stressing the importance of “economic, racial and gender equity” and describing the project as “critical to the long-term sustainability of the greatest city on Earth.”
Federal financial input: The project also received $25 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation in December from the federal Maritime Administration through the 2021 Port Infrastructure Development Grants, according to the New York energy authority.
The funding was made possible through the joint facilitation of Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerWe can’t pass up the opportunity to lower drug prices Senate passes cybersecurity bill amid fears of Russian cyberattacks Schumer wants to confirm Biden’s Supreme Court pick by April break MORE (D-N.Y.) and Transportation Secretary Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegNYC Mayor Adams to turn Brooklyn port into offshore wind hub On The Money — Manchin makes counteroffer to Biden’s big bill Partisan cracks emerge over how to implement T infrastructure law MORE, Schumer said in statement.
Last words: “Today I am proud to see it moving forward at full speed,” Schumer added. “The federal investment will support good paying, green jobs for a community that has borne the burden of pollution, while helping New York State reach its emissions goals.”
BE IN THE KNOW
We’ve got you covered morning, noon, and night! Sign up now for The Hill’s new Evening Report.
Virus threatens Australian livestock
An intersection of climate change and La Niña weather patterns have helped bring a dangerous tropical disease to Australia’s temperate regions, where the illness risks becoming endemic in the country’s livestock industry.
The disease — Japanese encephalitis virus — is not nearly as virulent or deadly as, say, the coronavirus, though it can be crippling or lethal in some cases.
But its sudden spread into Australian pig farms, and then into the humans who work there, highlights how climate, wildlife and human factors run together to introduce new diseases into regions where they were previously absent.
First words: “We’re asking anyone who works with pigs or horses, even if they’re a pet in the backyard, to keep an eye out for and report any possible signs of this disease,” Australia’s chief veterinary officer, Mark Schipp, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Behind the lines: Schipp spoke after the contagious disease was detected in eight pig farms across three southern Australian states.
“Pigs are the focus from a human health perspective as they can infect mosquitoes who then infect humans,” he said.
By Friday, the Australian government had confirmed 16 cases of encephalitis in humans, and the disease had landed one woman from New South Wales in an intensive care unit, The Guardian reported.
What is Japanese encephalitis virus? It is a mosquito-borne virus of the flavivirus family, a close relative of more famous tropical diseases like dengue, Zika, West Nile and yellow fever, according to The Conversation.
Japanese encephalitis is endemic to tropical regions of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, where it infects about 68,000 people a year — about 1 percent of whom go on to develop the severe and occasionally fatal brain infection, encephalitis, from which the disease takes its name, The Conversation reported.
Is pork safe? Yes — the danger is a mosquito biting a living, infected pig, then biting a human, Schipp said in his statement.
A COCKTAIL OF CLIMATE DISRUPTION AND CONTAGION
While encephalitis isn’t related to coronavirus, the dynamic of how it spreads is thought to be broadly similar: the disease is endemic in “reservoirs” circulating among wild bird populations, from which it can jump to species with which humans have closer contact.
In the case of coronavirus — specifically SARS-CoV-2, the virulent strain that caused the global pandemic — a leading theory is that the pathogen jumped from wild bat populations to wild game species sold in the Wuhan animal market, in a manner similar to the earlier MERS and SARS epidemics, as the MIT Technology Review reported.
And Japanese encephalitis? Australian scientists warn that this year’s unusually wet La Niña season flooded wetlands in the country’s far north, attracting both large flocks of waterbirds — in whom the encephalitis may have been endemic, according to The Conversation. This weather shift helped spawn large populations of mosquitoes, who carried the disease south, before introducing it to pigs, The Conversation reported.
“The virus has been there before these immense rainfall events and obviously it will be the right breeding ground for the mosquitoes now … so the timing is pretty terrible,” infectious disease expert Paul Griffin told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
If encephalitis becomes endemic in Australia’s domestic pig population, it will become difficult to keep it from doing the same for its humans, the scientists warned.
What should pig farmers do? Australia’s public health and agriculture authorities are still scrambling to figure that out.
In some cases, the presence of Japanese encephalitis has led to large — and expensive — culling of the pig herds in question, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Australian government may need to spray insecticides around high-risk areas, like pig farms where the virus has been detected, The Conversation reported. And the government is considering vaccination campaigns targeting pork industry workers, according to ABC.
Last words: For now, it’s good practice for everyone in the ever-increasing number of mosquito-prone areas — not only in Australia — to be cognizant of standing water around their houses.
“If there’s any residual water sources in pot plants or other small containers, make sure there’s no pooled water anywhere that can facilitate the growth of mosquitoes,” Griffin told ABC.
Revisiting issues from the past week.
Success of U.N. pact faces oil industry’s plastics boom: Reuters
- On Wednesday, we covered a historic resolution to develop a legally binding pact that would address the global plague of plastic pollution. But a big divide remains between plastic producers who want to focus on waste management and recycling and nations pushing for production restrictions, according to Reuters. The petrochemicals industry is projected to double production of virgin plastic resin by 2040, while plastics are expected to account for up to 20 percent of all oil production a decade later, Reuters reported.
Major Toyota subsidiary has been cheating on its emissions and gas-mileage data, officials say
Cryptocurrency trading platforms won’t ban Russians unless regulators force them
One last thing … Pet owners may be unintentionally feeding their animals with meat from endangered shark species, a new study in Frontiers in Marine Science has found. Of 144 samples taken, researchers at Singapore’s Yale-NUS College said that 31 percent contained shark DNA — and the most identified species were the blue shark, followed by the silky shark and the whitetip reef shark. Both whitetip reef and silky sharks are listed as “vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List, the scientists noted.
Please visit The Hill’s sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday.
We want to hear from you! Take our newsletter survey to provide feedback on our offerings.