Arquivo da tag: Petróleo

Shell made a film about climate change in 1991 (then neglected to heed its own warning) (The Correspondent)

27.Feb.2017

Confidential documents show that Shell sounded the alarm about global warming as early as 1986. But despite this clear-eyed view of the risks, the oil giant has lobbied against strong climate legislation for decades. Today we make Shell’s 1991 film, Climate of Concern, public again.

By Jelmer MOMMERS

Shell Oil Company has spent millions of dollars lobbying against measures that would protect the planet from climate catastrophe. But thanks to a film recently obtained by The Correspondent, it’s now clear that their position wasn’t born of ignorance. Shell knows that fossil fuels put us all at risk – in fact, they’ve known for over a quarter of a century. Climate of Concern, a 1991 educational film produced by Shell, warned that the company’s own product could lead to extreme weather, floods, famines, and climate refugees, and noted that the reality of climate change was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists.”

The question, ladies and gentlemen, is what did Shell know and when did they know it. The Correspondent would like to enter into evidence Exhibit A: Climate of Concern.

The Climate of Concern stories are the result of over a year of investigative reporting by You can find Jelmer’s original reconstruction here (in Dutch). Jelmer Mommers for The Correspondent. For the English-language version of the main report, we teamed up with the Guardian’s Environment Editor You can find the Guardian piece here. Damian Carrington, who conducted additional research and covered the story for his outlet.

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Coal Companies’ Secret Funding of Climate Science Denial Exposed (Eco Watch)

Elliott Negin, Union of Concerned Scientists | April 13, 2016 10:49 am

Peabody Energy—the nation’s largest investor-owned coal company—declared bankruptcy Wednesday. Among the many consequences: the company’s court-ordered disclosures are likely to yield hard evidence of Peabody’s direct links to climate science denial.

After all, that’s what we learned from the bankruptcy filings of two other major U.S. coalcompanies, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources. The companies’ lists of creditors accompanying their chapter 11 bankruptcy filings both cited known climate science deniers. So far, the bankruptcy cases have not revealed the details of these financial relationships. But there is now no doubt the coal companies contracted with these groups and individuals to either make a donation or pay for services.

Recent bankruptcy filings have revealed that Chris Horner, who regularly derides climate science on Fox News Channel, has financial ties to the coal industry.Recent bankruptcy filings have revealed that Chris Horner, who regularly derides climate science on Fox News Channel, has financial ties to the coal industry.

This new evidence is important at a time when coal and oil and gas companies are under increased scrutiny about their ongoing climate science disinformation campaigns. ExxonMobil, for example, currently faces state and possibly federal investigations into whether the discrepancies between what the company knew about climate science and what it told their shareholders and the public amounted to fraud.

Of course, there’s no shortage of historical evidence of the coal industry’s track record of deceiving the public about global warming. In 1991, for example, coal trade associations formed a short-lived front group called the Information Council on the Environment that ran a national public relations campaign downplaying the known risks of climate change. All through the 1990s, coal trade groups also were members of the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of companies and business groups that disputed the findings of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and, later on, helped scuttle the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty. And, more recently, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity paid a lobbying firm to send forged letters to members of Congress from actual nonprofit groups, including the NAACP and the American Association of University Women, espousing fabricated opposition to a 2009 climate change bill.

But such coal company connections have been harder to pin down in the current era of so-called dark money. That’s what makes the latest disclosures so noteworthy: They indicate that coal industry disinformation campaigns have continued even as the scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels is driving climate change has only become stronger.

Revealing Creditor Lists

The creditor list for Alpha Natural Resources—which filed for bankruptcy last August—indicates that the company has been especially active in supporting the denier network. As first reported by The Intercept, Alpha—the fourth largest U.S. coal company—has financial ties with a half dozen denier organizations, some which have direct links to billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of the coal, oil and gas conglomerate Koch Industries. The Koch-affiliated groups include Americans for Prosperity, the Institute for Energy Research and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a de facto Koch bank that disburses donations from anonymous, wealthy conservatives to groups that advocate rolling back public health, environmental and workplace protections.

Other Alpha creditors include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which questions the legitimacy of climate models; the Heartland Institute, which is probably best known for its billboard likening climate scientists to the serial killer Ted Kaczynski; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which convenes conferences for its state legislator members featuring speakers who distort climate science and disparage renewable energy. One of the speakers at a summer 2014 ALEC conference, for example, was Heartland Institute President Joe Bast, whose slide presentation falsely claimed: “There is no scientific consensus on the human role in climate change” and “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change … is not a credible source of science or economics.”

The Alpha creditor list also includes at least two individuals with links to denier groups. Particularly noteworthy is Chris Horner, an attorney who is closely associated with a number of nonprofit denier groups, including ALEC, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute (E&E Legal), formerly the American Tradition Institute, and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic, another Alpha creditor.

Arch Coal, the second largest U.S. coal company, listed ALEC and E&E Legal in its list of creditors when it filed for chapter 11 protection in January. Just last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company donated $10,000 to E&E Legal in 2014. E&E Legal’s executive director, Craig Richardson, told the Journal the contribution was for “general support.”

Chris Horner’s Coal Ties Disclosed

The exposure of Horner’s financial ties to coal companies is significant because he is a regular guest on Fox News Channel, which identifies him by his affiliation with CEI or E&E Legal but not by his connection to the coal industry.

Despite his lack of scientific expertise, Horner routinely critiques scientific findings, has called for spurious investigations of climate scientists affiliated with the IPCC and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and has harassed scientists by filing intrusive open records requests with the universities where they work. As legal counsel for the Energy & Environmental Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic—which work in tandem—Horner has targeted a number of leading climate scientists, including James Hansenand Katharine Hayhoe. Perhaps his most notorious lawsuit was against the University of Virginia to obtain emails, draft research papers, handwritten notes and other documents related to the work of Michael Mann, lead author of the famous “hockey stick” study demonstrating the link between increased fossil fuel use and rising global temperatures. The Virginia Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the university and Mann, affirming the school’s right to protect the privacy of its researchers from overly broad open records requests.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Alpha paid Horner $18,600 before it declared bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic—an Alpha creditor—paid him $110,000 in 2014, $115,865 in 2013 and $60,449 in 2012, according to the clinic’s tax filings.

Besides Alpha and Arch Coal, Horner has ties to other coal companies. Last summer, he was a featured speaker at a private $7,500-a-person golf and fly-fishing retreat sponsored by Alpha, Arch Coal and four other coal companies: Alliance Resource Partners, Consol Energy, Drummond and United Coal. After the event—the 2015 annual Coal & Investment Leadership Forum—attendees received an email from the coal company CEOs praising Horner, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonpartisan political watchdog group that first reported the connection between Arch Coal and E&E Legal. “As the ‘war on coal’ continues,” the email stated, “I trust that the commitment we have made to support Chris Horner’s work will eventually create a greater awareness of the illegal tactics being employed to pass laws that are intended to destroy our industry.”

Given the recent spate of bankruptcies, the companies’ commitment to Horner likely will create a greater awareness of something quite different: that the coal industry—along with the likes of ExxonMobil and Koch Industries—is still funding denier groups to spread disinformation about climate science and delay government action. It is time we held these companies accountable.

Upcoming UN Climate Summit can’t overlook China’s support of global coal power (Science Daily)

Date:
October 27, 2015
Source:
Princeton University
Summary:
When global leaders converge on Paris on Nov. 30 for the 2015 United Nations climate change conference, they should create guidelines and incentives for developing nations to cooperate with one another on lower-carbon energy projects, according to a new report. Failure to do so could contribute to an unchecked expansion of coal energy in developing counties, which has already accelerated in recent years with the help of Chinese firms going global.

When global leaders converge on Paris on Nov. 30 for the 2015 United Nations climate change conference, their goal will be to deliver an agreement that, for the first time, seeks to safeguard the Earth’s climate by having all nations that are significant sources of carbon dioxide rein in their emissions.

A threat to that plan might be the unchecked growth of coal-intensive energy in the world’s developing nations — a dangerous trend recently accelerated by the expansion of Chinese firms seeking business internationally, according to researchers from Princeton University, Tongji University in Shanghai and the University of California-Irvine.

The Paris conference is the 21st annual meeting to revisit and strengthen the international environmental treaty known as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Created at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, commonly known as the “Earth Summit,” the treaty sets goals and procedures for signatory nations to contain and reduce carbon emissions.

However, the researchers write in the journal Nature Climate Change that any agreement reached in Paris also should be expanded to provide guidelines and incentives — already under discussion for industrialized countries — for developing nations to cooperate with one another on lower-carbon energy projects. Failure to do this, the authors write, could allow further “dirty” energy cooperation between developing nations and complicate the United Nations’ goal to keep the global average temperature within 2 degrees Celsius of what it was around 1750 at the dawn of the Industrial Age.

“After years of effort to construct a truly global climate agreement, negotiators are on course to accept a system with incoherent rules for developed and developing countries in terms of investing in low-carbon energy outside their borders. We think that may be harmful in the long run,” said lead author Phil Hannam, a doctoral candidate in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP) at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

The paper, which includes the first tally of Chinese involvement in power plants around the world, includes co-authors Michael Oppenheimer, the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton; Zhenliang Liao, an associate professor of environmental science and engineering at Tongji University; and Steven Davis, an assistant professor of earth system science at UC-Irvine.

Carbon emissions continue to rise from energy production as developing nations such as India, Brazil and South Africa fuel their rapid industrialization, the researchers report. At the same time, developing nations such as China have the capital and technology to support other burgeoning economies. But the lack of international attention — and UN incentives — for developing nations to support each other’s energy needs in a low-carbon way has helped keep coal power a popular choice, according to the authors.

Chinese firms — which often have financial or policy backing from China’s state banks — have poured coal-power equipment into other Asian countries, partly as a result of China’s slowing domestic power-market growth. The situation could get worse as China pledges to reduce domestic carbon emissions, according to the paper. The researchers found that of the total power capacities in Asian countries other than China that have involvement from Chinese firms, 68 percent in operation, 77 percent under construction and 76 percent in planning burn coal. This level of involvement in coal exceeds the global trend, Hannam said.

“While China has tightened its belt on coal power domestically, that’s pushing Chinese firms to help build coal plants in other countries, so much so that China’s firms are disproportionately focused in coal-intensive energy abroad relative to other nations,” Hannam said. “Instead, if the UNFCCC integrated low-carbon cooperation between developing countries in the climate agreement, China could lead the way for countries to make pledges for low-carbon investment globally, just as they pledge domestic emissions cuts.”

The loopholes of ‘climate finance’

“Climate finance,” which Hannam and his co-authors focus on, is an important tool for guiding clean-energy development internationally. In an effort to keep global emissions low, a nation’s government — usually in concert with private money — will support low-carbon development in other nations. Richer industrialized nations with a long history of emissions have committed to mobilizing climate finance to the tune of US$100 billion per year by 2020. Some of this funding will flow through the Green Climate Fund established in 2010 to support low-carbon investment in the developing world.

Developing nations — generally with China at the helm — have entered into numerous parallel arrangements to support energy-sector growth in other developing nations. China has established the South-South Cooperation Fund for supporting low-carbon investment.

Several other energy-financing agreements, however, are not only outside the UN’s purview, they often benefit from vastly more funding than the Green Climate Fund or the South-South fund and have no explicit low-carbon directive, the authors reported.

The New Development Bank headquartered in Shanghai and formed by China, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa to support infrastructure projects in developing countries boasts a starting capital of $100 billion. Some $50 billion in capital is already behind the China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and another $40 billion supports China’s Silk Road Fund — both entities are intended to accelerate development in China’s less prosperous neighbors.

Efforts to encourage countries to support low-carbon development is complicated by the fact that there are no universally accepted standards for climate finance, Hannam said. Even the Green Climate Fund may permit financing for coal power.

“This highlights the need for both developed and developing countries to agree to common definitions of what qualifies as climate finance,” Hannam said. “Then the UNFCCC can look across the multiple emerging institutions and provide incentives for all power-sector finance — regardless of country of origin — to shift from coal to lower-carbon sources.”

The issues the authors discuss have already been broached in diplomatic circles, said Oppenheimer, who will be attending the Paris conference in part to promote the ideas laid out in the perspective piece. The United States recently persuaded China to reconsider its carbon-intensive power investments abroad, he said. While American support is crucial, climate finance is a complicated international balancing act that is influenced by many nations’ pursuit of economic gain and influence, Oppenheimer said.

“If the United States stays focused and makes this a priority within its international climate approach, then there’s a fair chance other governments will likewise support such an effort,” Oppenheimer said. “However, there is clearly more to international energy finance than just the United States and China. Japan, for instance, also finances coal power internationally and has a lot at stake politically in China’s Asia-focused institutions. It’s not simple.”

Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts University and former deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy at the U.S. Department of Treasury, agreed that developing nations also must be brought into the fold. The norm has been for industrialized nations to foot the bill for low-carbon investment in poorer nations. The recent initiatives by China and other developing nations have somewhat upset that dynamic, but countries with small economies might still hesitate to commit themselves to investment standards long applied only to rich countries, said Metcalf, who was not involved in the research but is familiar with it.

Nonetheless, Metcalf said, the paper in Nature Climate Change is significant for taking a proactive approach to dealing with the climate-finance issue, as well as for detailing the energy-sector investments for an emerging financial force such as China.

“Providing some systematic measurement of climate finance is extremely valuable, especially with regard to climate finance from China and other developing countries. As China’s recent announcement to provide climate finance outside of the Green Climate Fund indicates, developing country finance will be an important part of the climate finance architecture,” he said.

“The massive external coal investment highlighted in [this paper] makes clear that South-South investment is not necessarily green investment,” he said. “It also makes clear that incentives built into the Paris agreement — or post-Paris negotiations — to green South-South investment will be extremely valuable to support global efforts to decarbonize.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Phillip M. Hannam, Zhenliang Liao, Steven J. Davis, Michael Oppenheimer. Developing country finance in a post-2020 global climate agreementNature Climate Change, 2015; 5 (11): 983 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2731

Petróleo, gás e mineração ameaçam quase um terço dos Patrimônios Naturais Mundiais (WWF)

01 Outubro 2015

Londres – 1º de outubro de 2015 – Quase um terço de todos os locais pertencentes à lista de Patrimônio Mundial Natural está ameaçado pela exploração de petróleo, gás e mineração. A informação foi divulgada no novo relatório “Protegendo um Excepcional Valor Natural”, produzido pelo WWF, Aviva Investors and Investec Asset Management, e que ressalta ainda o risco para os investidores que trabalham ou possuem a intenção de trabalhar com empresas que atuam com extração nesses lugares ou próximos a eles.

Patrimônios Mundiais Naturais (ou World Heritage Site, em inglês) são lugares de enorme valor natural, como o Grand Canyon, a Grande Barreira de Corais e a Reserva Selous Game, na Tanzânia. Cobrindo menos de 1% do planeta, eles contêm um enorme valor natural, como paisagens singulares e alguns dos animais mais raros da Terra, como gorilas da montanha, elefantes africanos, leopardos da neve, baleias e tartarugas marinhas.

De acordo com o relatório, os pontos de Patrimônio Mundial Natural estão em risco mais elevado do que jamais se pensou até então.

As ameaças estão relacionadas às operações em atividade ou à entrada de empresas para concessão de exploração de minérios, petróleo ou gás, e podem causar danos irreparáveis aos locais à biodiversidade, além de prejudicar as comunidades que tiram dali sua subsistência. No mundo todo, a maior ameaça está na África, onde o risco atinge 61% desses locais.

No relatório, os investidores estão sendo alertados dos riscos que correm ao apoiarem essas empresas – tanto riscos financeiros quanto de reputação. Em resumo, neste caso, há muito risco envolvido para um retorno que não é o suficiente.

O documento convida potenciais financiadores e apoiadores a:

•    Buscar informações se as empresas em que estão investindo, ou considerando investir, possuem concessões ou operações dentro de lugares considerados Patrimônios Mundiais Naturais;

•    Abordar diretamente companhias que trabalham nesses locais ou próximos a eles e as encorajar a mudar seus planos;

•    Considerar retirar o investimento nessas companhias se não forem tomadas medidas para sair desses lugares, e ainda divulgar o fim do apoio e as razões para isso.

O desenvolvimento alternativo e sustentável dos Patrimônios Naturais Mundiais é uma proposta muito melhor para resguardar tanto o futuro dos recursos naturais quanto o das comunidades locais, nacionais e globais. A preservação desses locais e de seus ecossistemas pode fornecer, a longo prazo, benefícios significativos, visto que:

•    93% dos Patrimônios Mundiais Naturais promovem o turismo e a recreação;
•    91% deles geram empregos;
•    84% deles contribuem para a educação.

O WWF convoca investidores a usar as evidências desse relatório para abordar as companhias de extração e encorajá-las a adotar compromissos significativos de “não atuação” e “não impacto” nos Patrimônios Mundiais Naturais, além de divulgar de forma proativa as operações em atividade (existentes, ou em vias de existir), dentro ou nas proximidades de Patrimônios Mundiais Naturais.

De acordo com o diretor-executivo do WWF do Reino Unido, David Nussbaum: “nós estamos indo aos confins da Terra em busca de mais recursos – incluindo minérios, petróleo e gás, que estão cada vez mais caros e difíceis de serem extraídos. Com isso, alguns dos lugares mais preciosos do mundo estão ameaçados por atividades industriais destrutivas que põem em perigo os valores pelos quais eles foram agraciados com o maior nível de reconhecimento do planeta”, comenta.

“Proteger esses locais únicos não é somente importante do ponto de vista ambiental, é crucial para o sustento e o futuro da população que depende deles. Os investidores têm uma oportunidade única assim como uma responsabilidade de administrar seu capital e desenhar nosso futuro”, completa Nussbaum.

Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago (Inside Climate News)

Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.

By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer

Sep 16, 2015

Exxon Experiment

Exxon’s Richard Werthamer (right) and Edward Garvey (left) are aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker working on a project to measure the carbon dioxide levels in the ocean and atmosphere. The project ran from 1979 to 1982. (Credit: Richard Werthamer)

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles.  Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.

“Some countries would benefit but others would have their agricultural output reduced or destroyed,” Black said, in the written summary of his 1978 talk.

His presentations reflected uncertainty running through scientific circles about the details of climate change, such as the role the oceans played in absorbing emissions. Still, Black estimated quick action was needed. “Present thinking,” he wrote in the 1978 summary, “holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

Exxon responded swiftly. Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

This untold chapter in Exxon’s history, when one of the world’s largest energy companies worked to understand the damage caused by fossil fuels, stems from an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News. ICN’s reporters interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists, and federal officials, and consulted hundreds of pages of internal Exxon documents, many of them written between 1977 and 1986, during the heyday of Exxon’s innovative climate research program. ICN combed through thousands of documents from archives including those held at the University of Texas-Austin, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The documents record budget requests, research priorities, and debates over findings, and reveal the arc of Exxon’s internal attitudes and work on climate and how much attention the results received.

Of particular significance was a project launched in August 1979, when the company outfitted a supertanker with custom-made instruments. The project’s mission was to sample carbon dioxide in the air and ocean along a route from the Gulf of Mexico to the Persian Gulf.

In 1980, Exxon assembled a team of climate modelers who investigated fundamental questions about the climate’s sensitivity to the buildup  of carbon dioxide in the air. Working with university scientists and the U.S. Department of Energy, Exxon strove to be on the cutting edge of inquiry into what was then called the greenhouse effect.

Exxon’s early determination to understand rising carbon dioxide levels grew out of a corporate culture of farsightedness, former employees said. They described a company that continuously examined risks to its bottom line, including environmental factors. In the 1970s, Exxon modeled its research division after Bell Labs, staffing it with highly accomplished scientists and engineers.

In written responses to questions about the history of its research, ExxonMobil spokesman Richard D. Keil said that “from the time that climate change first emerged as a topic for scientific study and analysis in the late 1970s, ExxonMobil has committed itself to scientific, fact-based analysis of this important issue.”

“At all times,” he said, “the opinions and conclusions of our scientists and researchers on this topic have been solidly within the mainstream of the consensus scientific opinion of the day and our work has been guided by an overarching principle to follow where the science leads. The risk of climate change is real and warrants action.”

At the outset of its climate investigations almost four decades ago, many Exxon executives, middle managers and scientists armed themselves with a sense of urgency and mission.

One manager at Exxon Research, Harold N. Weinberg, shared his “grandiose thoughts” about Exxon’s potential role in climate research in a March 1978 internal company memorandum that read: “This may be the kind of opportunity that we are looking for to have Exxon technology, management and leadership resources put into the context of a project aimed at benefitting mankind.”

His sentiment was echoed by Henry Shaw, the scientist leading the company’s nascent carbon dioxide research effort.

“Exxon must develop a credible scientific team that can critically evaluate the information generated on the subject and be able to carry bad news, if any, to the corporation,” Shaw wrote to his boss Edward E. David, the executive director of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1978. “This team must be recognized for its excellence in the scientific community, the government, and internally by Exxon management.”

Irreversible and Catastrophic

Exxon budgeted more than $1 million over three years for the tanker project to measure how quickly the oceans were taking in CO2. It was a small fraction of Exxon Research’s annual $300 million budget, but the question the scientists tackled was one of the biggest uncertainties in climate science: how quickly could the deep oceans absorb atmospheric CO2? If Exxon could pinpoint the answer, it would know how long it had before CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere could force a transition away from fossil fuels.

Exxon also hired scientists and mathematicians to develop better climate models and publish research results in peer-reviewed journals. By 1982, the company’s own scientists, collaborating with outside researchers, created rigorous climate models – computer programs that simulate the workings of the climate to assess the impact of emissions on global temperatures. They confirmed an emerging scientific consensus that warming could be even worse than Black had warned five years earlier.

Esso Atlantic

Between 1979 and 1982, Exxon researchers sampled carbon dioxide levels aboard the company’s Esso Atlantic tanker (shown here).

Exxon’s research laid the groundwork for a 1982 corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change prepared by its environmental affairs office. Marked “not to be distributed externally,” it contained information that “has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.” In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming “would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.”

Unless that happened, “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered,” the primer said, citing independent experts. “Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.”

The Certainty of Uncertainty

Like others in the scientific community, Exxon researchers acknowledged the uncertainties surrounding many aspects of climate science, especially in the area of forecasting models. But they saw those uncertainties as questions they wanted to address, not an excuse to dismiss what was increasingly understood.

“Models are controversial,” Roger Cohen, head of theoretical sciences at Exxon Corporate Research Laboratories, and his colleague, Richard Werthamer, senior technology advisor at Exxon Corporation, wrote in a May 1980 status report on Exxon’s climate modeling program. “Therefore, there are research opportunities for us.”

When Exxon’s researchers confirmed information the company might find troubling, they did not sweep it under the rug.

“Over the past several years a clear scientific consensus has emerged,” Cohen wrote in September 1982, reporting on Exxon’s own analysis of climate models. It was that a doubling of the carbon dioxide blanket in the atmosphere would produce average global warming of 3 degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees C (equal to 5 degrees Fahrenheit plus or minus 1.7 degrees F).

“There is unanimous agreement in the scientific community that a temperature increase of this magnitude would bring about significant changes in the earth’s climate,” he wrote, “including rainfall distribution and alterations in the biosphere.”

He warned that publication of the company’s conclusions might attract media attention because of the “connection between Exxon’s major business and the role of fossil fuel combustion in contributing to the increase of atmospheric CO2.”

Nevertheless, he recommended publication.

Our “ethical responsibility is to permit the publication of our research in the scientific literature,” Cohen wrote. “Indeed, to do otherwise would be a breach of Exxon’s public position and ethical credo on honesty and integrity.”

Exxon followed his advice. Between 1983 and 1984, its researchers published their results in at least three peer-reviewed papers in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences and an American Geophysical Union monograph.

David, the head of Exxon Research, told a global warming conference financed by Exxon in October 1982 that “few people doubt that the world has entered an energy transition away from dependence upon fossil fuels and toward some mix of renewable resources that will not pose problems of COaccumulation.” The only question, he said, was how fast this would happen.

But the challenge did not daunt him. “I’m generally upbeat about the chances of coming through this most adventurous of all human experiments with the ecosystem,” David said.

Exxon considered itself unique among corporations for its carbon dioxide and climate research.  The company boasted in a January 1981 report, “Scoping Study on CO2,” that no other company appeared to be conducting similar in-house research into carbon dioxide, and it swiftly gained a reputation among outsiders for genuine expertise.

“We are very pleased with Exxon’s research intentions related to the CO2 question. This represents very responsible action, which we hope will serve as a model for research contributions from the corporate sector,” said David Slade, manager of the federal government’s carbon dioxide research program at the Energy Department, in a May 1979 letter to Shaw. “This is truly a national and international service.”

Business Imperatives

In the early 1980s Exxon researchers often repeated that unbiased science would give it legitimacy in helping shape climate-related laws that would affect its profitability.

Still, corporate executives remained cautious about what they told Exxon’s shareholders about global warming and the role petroleum played in causing it, a review of federal filings shows. The company did not elaborate on the carbon problem in annual reports filed with securities regulators during the height of its CO2 research.

Nor did it mention in those filings that concern over CO2 was beginning to influence business decisions it was facing.

Throughout the 1980s, the company was worried about developing an enormous gas field off the coast of Indonesia because of the vast amount of CO2 the unusual reservoir would release.

Exxon was also concerned about reports that synthetic oil made from coal, tar sands and oil shales could significantly boost CO2 emissions. The company was banking on synfuels to meet growing demand for energy in the future, in a world it believed was running out of conventional oil.

In the mid-1980s, after an unexpected oil glut caused prices to collapse, Exxon cut its staff deeply to save money, including many working on climate. But the climate change problem remained, and it was becoming a more prominent part of the political landscape.

“Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” declared the headline of a June 1988 New York Times article describing the Congressional testimony of NASA’s James Hansen, a leading climate expert. Hansen’s statements compelled Sen. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) to declare during the hearing that “Congress must begin to consider how we are going to slow or halt that warming trend.”

With alarm bells suddenly ringing, Exxon started financing efforts to amplify doubt about the state of climate science.

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

As the international community moved in 1997 to take a first step in curbing emissions with the Kyoto Protocol, Exxon’s chairman and CEO Lee Raymond argued to stop it.

“Let’s agree there’s a lot we really don’t know about how climate will change in the 21st century and beyond,” Raymond said in his speech before the World Petroleum Congress in Beijing in October 1997.

“We need to understand the issue better, and fortunately, we have time,” he said. “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now.”

Over the years, several Exxon scientists who had confirmed the climate consensus during its early research, including Cohen and David, took Raymond’s side, publishing views that ran contrary to the scientific mainstream.

Paying the Price

Exxon’s about-face on climate change earned the scorn of the scientific establishment it had once courted.

In 2006, the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s science academy, sent a harsh letter to Exxon accusing it of being “inaccurate and misleading” on the question of climate uncertainty. Bob Ward, the Academy’s senior manager for policy communication, demanded that Exxon stop giving money to dozens of organizations he said were actively distorting the science.

In 2008, under mounting pressure from activist shareholders, the company announced it would end support for some prominent groups such as those Ward had identified.

Still, the millions of dollars Exxon had spent since the 1990s on climate change deniers had long surpassed what it had once invested in its path-breaking climate science aboard the Esso Atlantic.

“They spent so much money and they were the only company that did this kind of research as far as I know,” Edward Garvey, who was a key researcher on Exxon’s oil tanker project, said in a recent interview with InsideClimate News and Frontline. “That was an opportunity not just to get a place at the table, but to lead, in many respects, some of the discussion. And the fact that they chose not to do that into the future is a sad point.”

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, who has been a frequent target of climate deniers, said that inaction, just like actions, have consequences. When he recently spoke to InsideClimate News, he was unaware of this chapter in Exxon’s history.

“All it would’ve taken is for one prominent fossil fuel CEO to know this was about more than just shareholder profits, and a question about our legacy,” he said. “But now because of the cost of inaction—what I call the ‘procrastination penalty’—we face a far more uphill battle.”

Part II, coming on September 17, will further examine Exxon’s early climate research.

ICN staff members Zahra Hirji, Paul Horn, Naveena Sadasivam, Sabrina Shankman and Alexander Wood also contributed to this report.

Exxon and Climate Change

The fossil-fuel industry’s campaign to mislead the American people (The Washington Post)

 May 29

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, represents Rhode Island in the Senate.

Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.

Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking. Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.

The Big Tobacco playbook looked something like this: (1) pay scientists to produce studies defending your product; (2) develop an intricate web of PR experts and front groups to spread doubt about the real science; (3) relentlessly attack your opponents.

Thankfully, the government had a playbook, too: the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. In 1999, the Justice Department filed a civil RICO lawsuit against the major tobacco companies and their associated industry groups, alleging that the companies “engaged in and executed — and continue to engage in and execute — a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of RICO.”

Tobacco spent millions of dollars and years of litigation fighting the government. But finally, through the discovery process, government lawyers were able to peel back the layers of deceit and denial and see what the tobacco companies really knew all along about cigarettes.

In 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia decided that the tobacco companies’ fraudulent campaign amounted to a racketeering enterprise. According to the court: “Defendants coordinated significant aspects of their public relations, scientific, legal, and marketing activity in furtherance of a shared objective — to . . . maximize industry profits by preserving and expanding the market for cigarettes through a scheme to deceive the public.”

The parallels between what the tobacco industry did and what the fossil fuel industry is doing now are striking.

In the case of fossil fuels, just as with tobacco, the industry joined together in a common enterprise and coordinated strategy. In 1998, the Clinton administration was building support for international climate action under the Kyoto Protocol. The fossil fuel industry, its trade associations and the conservative policy institutes that often do the industry’s dirty work met at the Washington office of the American Petroleum Institute. A memo from that meeting that was leaked to the New York Times documented their plans for a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to undermine climate science and to raise “questions among those (e.g. Congress) who chart the future U.S. course on global climate change.”

The shape of the fossil fuel industry’s denial operation has been documented by, among others, Drexel University professor Robert Brulle. In a 2013 paper published in the journal Climatic Change, Brulle described a complex network of organizations and funding that appears designed to obscure the fossil fuel industry’s fingerprints. To quote directly from Brulle’s report, it was “a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public’s understanding of climate.” That sounds a lot like Kessler’s findings in the tobacco racketeering case.

The coordinated tactics of the climate denial network, Brulle’s report states, “span a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates, and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science.” Compare that again to the findings in the tobacco case.

The tobacco industry was proved to have conducted research that showed the direct opposite of what the industry stated publicly — namely, that tobacco use had serious health effects. Civil discovery would reveal whether and to what extent the fossil fuel industry has crossed this same line. We do know that it has funded research that — to its benefit — directly contradicts the vast majority of peer-reviewed climate science. One scientist who consistently published papers downplaying the role of carbon emissions in climate change, Willie Soon, reportedly received more than half of his funding from oil and electric utility interests: more than $1.2 million.

To be clear: I don’t know whether the fossil fuel industry and its allies engaged in the same kind of racketeering activity as the tobacco industry. We don’t have enough information to make that conclusion. Perhaps it’s all smoke and no fire. But there’s an awful lot of smoke.

*   *   *

The Long Tale of Exxon and Climate Change (Inside Climate News)

ExxonTigerTimeline1058px

King Coal, Long Besieged, Is Deposed by the Market (New York Times)

A miner at a coal processing facility near Gilbert, W.Va. This year the number of coal miners in the United States dropped more than 10 percent, to just over 80,000 workers.Credit Robert Galbraith/Reuters 

In April 2005, President George W. Bush hailed “clean coal” as a key to “greater energy independence,” pledging $2 billion in research funds that promised a new golden age for America’s most abundant energy resource.

But a decade later, the United States coal industry is reeling as never before in its history, the victim of new environmental regulations, intensifying attacks by activists, collapsing coal prices, and — above all — the rise of cheap alternative fuels, especially natural gas.

This week President Obama slammed the industry with tougher-than-expected rules from the Environmental Protection Agency limiting power plant carbon emissions, which will accelerate an already huge shift from coal to natural gas and other alternatives.

“Clean coal” remains an expensive and thus far impractical pipe dream. Coal is the world’s biggest source of carbon emissions by far and the leading culprit in global warming. Coal advocates like Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky senator and Republican majority leader, have accused the president of an out-and-out “war on coal.”

But it’s collapsing prices and heavy debt loads that are driving the industry into bankruptcy. Alpha Natural Resources, the nation’s fourth-largest coal producer after it doubled down on coal four years ago in acquiring Massey Coal for $7.1 billion, filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday. It follows Walter Energy, which filed last month; Patriot Coal, which sought court protection in May; and numerous smaller mining companies.

The demise of the two biggest surviving publicly traded coal companies — Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, the nation’s two largest producers — may just be a matter of time, based on their recent stock performance. Peabody shares, which traded at more than $16 less than a year ago, hit 99 cents this week, and Arch shares have fallen to $1 from more than $33, making them among the biggest losers this year in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index.

“This has been a storm gathering for a very long time,” said Jeff Goodell, author of the 2006 book “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.” “When I wrote my book, coal looked indomitable. But below the surface you could see all these issues coming at them. You can only hold off the larger forces of progress and science for so long. The bottom line is that it’s a 19th-century fuel very badly suited for the 21st century. There’s no way you can wash or scrub coal to make that essential fact go away.”

Market forces have accomplished in just a few years what environmentalists and social advocates have struggled for decades to achieve. Coal prices have plunged about 70 percent in the last four years. This year the number of underground and surface coal miners in the United States dropped more than 10 percent, to just over 80,000 workers. There are now more than twice as many workers in the fast-growing solar power industry than there are coal miners.

Mountaintop removal, the poster child for environmental destruction, has all but ground to a halt as coal companies continue to close mines, lay off workers and slash capital spending on expensive new mining operations. Meantime, natural gas production has soared and electric utilities have built up gas-fired generation to replace aging coal-fired power plants.

“It’s kind of the ultimate irony that market forces, and not the administration or environmentalists, have displaced coal,” said Jorge Beristain, head of Americas metals and mining equity research for Deutsche Bank. “It’s human ingenuity that found a cheaper, cleaner way to skin the cat, which is by producing natural gas from fracking. They’re both fossil fuels, of course, but burning natural gas puts out a lot less carbon than coal.”

Burning coal produces nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as does natural gas, according to the United States Energy Information Administration.

Anthony Young, a mining analyst at the Macquarie Group, agreed. “There have been a lot of protests and animosity towards the coal industry, but lo and behold, it was the natural gas industry that has stopped many of the worst mining practices,” he said. “There are concerns about fracking, but it’s way better than cutting down mountains.”

Environmentalists are starting to notice that financial arguments may prove more effective than moral or social ones at persuading major investors to shun coal. Stanford University, which announced last May that it would divest itself of direct investments in coal producers, looks at least as much like a shrewd investor as an environmental steward, given the subsequent plunge in coal prices and coal company stock prices, and other big investors have taken notice.

In June, Norway’s government pension fund — considered the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with $890 billion in assets, much of it generated from oil revenue — said it would divest itself of coal holdings. A spokeswoman for the fund said this was a financial decision, not a political one, with the goal of “building financial wealth for future generations.”

“I think you’re seeing a generational shift where the activists are getting more market-savvy,” said Mr. Beristain of Deutsche Bank. “They’re targeting Wall Street and the analysts. It’s becoming part of the environmental agenda to kneecap the coal sector at the source of its cash.”

Carbon Tracker, a London-based think tank, is among those trying to use financial data to affect climate change. “We try to stay out of the political discussion,” said Luke Sussams, a senior researcher and co-author of “The US Coal Crash,” a report arguing that coal faces a long-term, and not just cyclical, decline. “We look at it purely from a risk versus return perspective,” he said. “Our stance is: It’s a bad investment.”

Environmentalists still have their work cut out for them. The coal industry may be in dire straits, but it’s not going to vanish overnight. In 2013 the United States produced 985 million tons of coal, although it was the first time in 20 years that production fell below one billion tons. The United States consumed 924 million tons, 93 percent of it accounted for by the electric power industry, according to government statistics. In 2011, the United States consumed 1.1 billion tons.

“It’s premature to say the industry is dead,” said Mr. Young, the Macquarie analyst. He estimated the industry needs to shrink by about 25 percent to meet current demand, and more if electric utilities accelerate the shift to natural gas. But as coal companies “go through bankruptcy, their assets aren’t going to shut down. Mismanagement will be addressed, and their balance sheets will be restructured, but viable assets will re-emerge and be profitable.”

But it seems safe to say that the coal industry will never wield the enormous economic and political clout that it had even 10 years ago. “In the aftermath of the Bush-Cheney administration, there was this resurgence of the idea that coal was the American rock,” Mr. Goodell said. “America’s industrial strength was built on burning coal. No politician wanted to mess with coal.”

But with the shrinking of the industry, coal interests “are losing their clout, and they’re not going to get it back,” Mr. Goodell said. “It’s becoming clear where the future is going. The politically smart thing is to jump on the renewables bandwagon.”

Correction: August 10, 2015
The Common Sense column on Friday, about the declining fortunes of the coal industry, misstated the number of years ago that the coal company Alpha Natural Resources acquired a rival, Massey Energy. It was four years ago, not two.

The People vs. Shell (Truthout)

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 00:00 By Emily Johnston

Scientists told us in January that we can't drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming. (Photo: Emily Johnston)

Scientists told us in January that we can’t drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming. (Photo: Emily Johnston)

This week, if all goes well, I will probably commit a crime.

I don’t say this lightly, not at all: My mother is 88 years old, and though I expect her to live a good while longer, every day is a gift at 88, and I would always regret time I couldn’t spend with her if I were to go to prison. I also have a dog I’m deeply attached to, not to mention a whole life: not just loved ones (who could visit), but runs and walks and open windows; trees and birds; darkness and quiet and solitude; good coffee and homemade bread; dinners and poetry readings and the pleasure of building things with my hands.

I may not go to prison, of course – I fervently hope I won’t – but I know, too, that I may. I’m willing to take the chance, because the alternative is to let disaster unfold – for countless people, for other animals and for whole ecosystems. Given the scope of the threat, and given that we live in the country that is most responsible for it, sitting on the sidelines does not feel to me like a moral possibility.

Apart from walking my very mannerly and older dog off-leash around the neighborhood, I’m about as law-abiding as a person can reasonably be. But my respect for the laws of physics, in truth, has turned into a terror; I know that we have to heed them now to avoid disaster. If you’ve been following the science, you know what I mean; we are right at the edge of several tipping points, any one of which may bring harrowing, unmitigated disaster. Together they are unthinkable. If we keep on precisely as we are for even a few more years, we will likely have lost the chance to avoid a terrible future.

For years, I have used earnest, legal methods. They were inadequate to the task. Far better people than I am have used them for decades, to better, but still inadequate, effect.

Scientists told us in January that we can’t drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming.

Governments have failed us; the fossil fuel industry’s money and influence had too much weight. Scientists have done their best, but they are exceedingly cautious in their predictions, and only in the last few years have most of them accepted the hair-on-fire urgency of climate change. If ordinary people don’t force attention to this matter by making it very clear we’re willing to risk our own lives and liberty, we will all have failed the most important test humanity has ever been given.

So we have to change the world – now – or lose it.

What terrible act will I commit? I will continue to help plan, and, with any luck, execute a blockade of Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs as they attempt to leave Seattle. Along with many other people – some of them risking their careers, some of them in their 80s, most of them utterly new to something like this – I will paddle my small self in a 40-lb. plastic kayak in front of a 46,000-ton industrial monster to stop its progress. I don’t really believe we’ll be able to keep the rigs here forever, of course, but neither is it merely symbolic: By making a difference in the length of Shell’s (already brief) drilling season, we may buy a little time for the powers that be to shut this catastrophic project down; they have many reasons to do so. Alternatively, by making it clear that the company is exceedingly unwelcome in Seattle, we can deprive it of its desired, and bargain-priced, berthing option – which could make a material difference to its decision to proceed. Money is a language Shell understands; the only one, it seems.

Why pick on this one project, when we’re all still dependent on fossil fuels? In truth, we’ll have to pick on a lot of bad projects, but this one may be the worst. To say we can’t object to it if we ever drive or heat our homes is like saying we can’t object to someone going 120 mph on a 30 mph street if we’ve ever gone 45. The second is a genuine concern; the first is notably likelier to lead to tragedy, and soon. My family lives on that street; so does yours.

Scientists told us in January that we can’t drill any Arctic oil if we want even a 50 percent chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Shell just kept coming.

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management told us in February that drilling in the Arctic has a 75 percent chance of a major spill within the first 15 years (and “hundreds” of smaller spills). Again, Shell just kept coming – despite the fact that a former US Coast Guard Commandant has indicated that, in the case of a big spill, “we’d have nothing” for cleanup capacity in the pristine but harsh Arctic environment and despite the fact that the Chukchi Sea has been called the “nursery of the planet” for whales, seabirds and polar bears.

Shell has also ignored permit requirements from the city of Seattle; mooring requirements in our state Constitution; problems in April with pollution-control equipment (that the company then tried to hide); and a spill record for one of its rigs that’s 2 to 3 times higher than the industry “norm.” It just kept coming.

It’s no secret why the company is so intransigent: Shell has invested several billion dollars in its Arctic campaign, engaging in a climate strategy called “narcissistic, paranoid, and psychopathic” by the UK’s former top climate envoy. This is a classic sunk-cost fallacy, but eventually, even Shell will understand that it’s throwing good money after bad; every other player has given up the US Arctic as too risky and too expensive.

It’s also no secret that this is standard operating procedure for Shell. Perhaps the best example of Shell’s idea of stewardship is its behavior in the Niger Delta, a haven of biodiversity and treasured wetlands that has been utterly devastated by Shell’s drilling operations. In 1995, the company supported the Nigerian military government in its sham trial and execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others, and after extracting many tens of billions of dollars in profit from the region over 50 years, Shell has left its waters so polluted with carcinogens that some drinking wells exceed World Health Organization standards for benzene by 900 times. In the three years since the UN Environment Program report on necessary cleanup, Shell has undertaken “almost no meaningful action” on its recommendations.

The future begins when people cease to accept the “inevitability” of a terrible reality, and rise up against it.

Shell wants us to believe that it has learned from the fiascos of its 2012 Arctic foray; these recent examples make it clear that it has not. It’s shown nothing but contempt for the human lives and ecologies of the places where it drills; nothing but contempt for local laws; and nothing but contempt for the overwhelming catastrophe of climate change, which its own scientists have indicated will inevitably result from any scenario in which Arctic drilling is economically rational (for the company only, needless to say: Your costs and mine will not be covered).

Being inside the “safety zone” of the rig is a crime – even if we’re paddling outside of the zone, and the rig starts coming at us. (No “safety zone” has been established around the Maldives, the Philippines, or the rest of us. No crime has yet been codified for destroying the livability of the planet.)

Let me be clear: I am not an especially brave person, and I’m deeply attached to my loved ones and my daily life. I have lost sleep over this. But climate change scares me far more than prison does. It scares most people that much, I think, but they don’t let themselves think about it.

If we value our lives – if we value any lives, it’s time to think about it.

I may be foolish to announce my intentions here – risking my ability to do what I intend to do, perhaps, and certainly abandoning all chance of pretending I didn’t know it was against the law – but it feels important to be completely clear and open about this: I am willing to risk criminal charges in order to help stop a monstrous project that threatens everything we hold dear. I do not believe that because we live in the modern world (and are thus in some measure culpable), we are forced to accept the devastation of everything, without question, outrage or action. I do not accept the lies of industry or the blandishments of politicians.

I do believe that there is another way and that we can find the imagination, the intelligence and the courage to follow it.

This week or next, that belief will be the star that guides me on the water: My friends and I will put aside our normal lives for a while, and use our bodies and our kayaks to express our commitment to this beautiful world: The buck stops here. The future begins when people cease to accept the “inevitability” of a terrible reality, and rise up against it.

Is 40 lbs. vs. 46,000 tons doomed to fail? Not even close. It’s not about plastic or steel. Sitting there staring up at the monstrous rig – maybe through the night, maybe cold, and stiff and hungry – all of us will sit with the knowledge that we’re one group among countless others taking shape around the world, filled with this passion and resolve.

Love doesn’t make us invincible, of course. But I wouldn’t bet against us, if I were Shell.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

G7 leaders agree to phase out fossil fuel use by end of century (The Guardian)

German chancellor Angela Merkel announces commitment to ‘decarbonise global economy’ and end extreme poverty and hunger

G7 leaders, including Angela Merkel (in pink jacket), and invitees line up for the traditional group photo at the end of the summit.

G7 leaders, including Angela Merkel (in pink jacket), and invitees line up for the traditional group photo at the end of the summit. Photograph: Sven Hoppe/dpa/Corbis

The G7 leading industrial nations have agreed to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced, in a move hailed as historic by some environmental campaigners.

On the final day of talks in a Bavarian castle, Merkel said the leaders had committed themselves to the need to “decarbonise the global economy in the course of this century”. They also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2C over pre-industrial levels.

Environmental lobbyists described the announcement as a hopeful sign that plans for complete decarbonisation could be decided on in Paris climate talks later this year. But they criticised the fact that leaders had baulked at Merkel’s proposal that they should agree to immediate binding emission targets.

As host of the summit, which took place in the foothills of Germany’s largest mountain, the Zugspitze, Merkel said the leading industrialised countries were committed to raising $100bn (£65bn) in annual climate financing by 2020 from public and private sources.

In a 17-page communique issued after the summit at Schloss Elmau under the slogan “Think Ahead, Act Together”, the G7 leaders agreed to back the recommendations of the IPCC, the United Nations’ climate change panel, to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at the upper end of a range of 40% to 70% by 2050, using 2010 as the baseline.

Merkel also announced that G7 governments had signed up to initiatives to work for an end to extreme poverty and hunger, reducing by 2030 the number of people living in hunger and malnutrition by 500 million, as well as improving the global response to epidemics in the light of the Ebola crisis.

Poverty campaigners reacted with cautious optimism to the news.

The participant countries – Germany, Britain, France, the US, Canada, Japan and Italy – would work on initiatives to combat disease and help countries around the world react to epidemics, including a fund within the World Bank dedicated to tackling health emergencies, Merkel announced at a press conference after the summit formally ended on Monday afternoon.

Reacting to the summit’s final declaration, the European Climate Foundation described the G7 leaders’ announcement as historic, saying it signalled “the end of the fossil fuel age” and was an “important milestone on the road to a new climate deal in Paris”.

Samantha Smith, a climate campaigner for the World Wildlife Fund, said: “There is only one way to meet the goals they agreed: get out of fossil fuels as soon as possible.”

The 350.org campaign group put out a direct challenge to Barack Obama to shut down long-term infrastructure projects linked to the fossil fuel industry. “If President Obama wants to live up to the rhetoric we’re seeing out of Germany, he’ll need to start doing everything in his power to keep fossil fuels in the ground. He can begin by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and ending coal, oil and gas development on public lands,” said May Boeve, the group’s director.

Others called on negotiators seeking an international climate deal at Paris later this year to make total decarbonisation of the global economy the official goal.

“A clear long-term decarbonisation objective in the Paris agreement, such as net zero greenhouse gas emissions well before the end of the century, will shift this towards low-carbon investment and avoid unmanageable climate risk,” said Nigel Topping, the chief executive of the We Mean Business coalition.

Merkel won praise for succeeding in her ambition to ensure climate was not squeezed off the agenda by other pressing issues. Some environmental groups said she had established herself as a “climate hero”.

Observers said she had succeeded where sceptics thought she would not, in winning over Canada and Japan, the most reluctant G7 partners ahead of negotiations, to sign up to her targets on climate, health and poverty.

Iain Keith, campaign director of the online activist network Avaaz, said: “Angela Merkel faced down Canada and Japan to say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to carbon pollution and become the climate hero the world needs.”

The One campaigning and advocacy organisation called the leaders’ pledge to end extreme poverty a “historic ambition”. Adrian Lovett, its Europe executive director, said: “These G7 leaders have signed up … to be part of the generation that ends extreme poverty and hunger by 2030.” But he warned: “Schloss Elmau’s legacy must be more than a castle in the air.

But the Christian relief organisation World Vision accused the leaders of failing to deliver on their ambitious agenda, arguing they had been too distracted by immediate crises, such as Russia and Greece. “Despite addressing issues like hunger and immunisation, it was nowhere as near as ambitious as we would have hoped for,” a spokeswoman said.

Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust said the proposals would “transform the resilience of global health systems”. But he said the success of the measures would depend on the effectiveness with which they could be coordinated on a global scale and that required fundamental reform of the World Health Organisation, something the leaders stopped short of deciding on.

“We urge world leaders to consider establishing an independent body within the WHO with the authority and responsibility to deliver this,” he said.

Merkel, who called the talks “very work-intensive and productive” and defended the format of a summit that cost an estimated €300m (£220m), said that the participants had agreed to sharpen existing sanctions against Russia if the crisis in Ukraine were to escalate.

She also said “there isn’t much time left” to find a solution to the Greek global debt crisis but that participants were unanimous in wanting Greece to stay in the eurozone.

Demonstrators, about 3,000 of whom had packed a protest camp in the nearby village of Garmisch Partenkirchen, cancelled the final action that had been planned to coincide with the close of the summit.

At a meeting in the local railway station, the head of Stop G7 Elmau, Ingrid Scherf announced that the final rally would not go ahead “because we’re already walked off our feet”. She denied the claims of local politicians that the group’s demonstrations had been a flop. “I’m not at all disappointed, the turnout was super,” she said. “And we also had the support of lots of locals.”

Only two demonstrators were arrested, police said, one for throwing a soup dish, another for carrying a spear.

Additional reporting by Suzanne Goldenberg

B.C. First Nations group rejects $1-billion offer for LNG venture (Globe and Mail)

The proposed Pacific NorthWest LNG project would be built on Lelu Island, near eelgrass beds that nurture young Skeena salmon. (www.lonniewishart.com/Pacific Northwest LNG)

BRENT JANG
VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, May. 13 2015, 1:15 AM EDT

Last updated Wednesday, May. 13 2015, 12:40 PM EDT

Lax Kw’alaams members voting in the final of three meetings have unanimously rejected a $1-billion cash offer from Pacific NorthWest LNG, declining to give aboriginal consent sought by the project while creating uncertainty for plans to export liquefied natural gas from British Columbia’s north coast.

Globe and Mail Update May. 12 2015, 7:30 PM EDT

Video: Can Petronas overcome the opposition to its LNG project?

The lure of the money, which would be spread over 40 years, is being overshadowed by what the native group views as excessive environmental risks. The Lax Kw’alaams fear the Pacific NorthWest LNG project led by Malaysia’s Petronas will harm juvenile salmon habitat in Flora Bank, located next to the proposed export terminal site on Lelu Island.

“The terminal is planned to be located in the traditional territory of the Lax Kw’alaams,” the aboriginal group’s band council said in a statement Wednesday. “Only Lax Kw’alaams have a valid claim to aboriginal title in the relevant area – their consent is required for this project to proceed. There are suggestions governments and the proponent may try to proceed with the project without consent of the Lax Kw’alaams. That would be unfortunate.”

In the first vote in Lax Kw’alaams, 181 eligible voters unanimously stood up to indicate their opposition to the LNG proposal. In the second vote in Prince Rupert, the pattern continued as 257 eligible voters declined to provide aboriginal consent. Tuesday night’s vote at a downtown Vancouver hotel made it three unanimous rejections in a row, said Lax Kw’alaams Mayor Garry Reece.

In Vancouver, 112 Lax Kw’alaams members stood up to convey their no votes, two sources close to the native group said. Dozens of others phoned and e-mailed band officials to signal their opposition.

The voting tally “sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue,” the Lax Kw’alaams band council said. “This is environmental and cultural.”

Mr. Reece and 12 elected councillors will make the final decision on behalf of the 3,600-member band. They left the door open for good-faith negotiations, as long as those discussions don’t involve being too close to Flora Bank.

“Lax Kw’alaams is open to business, to development and to LNG,” including talks with Pacific NorthWest LNG, according to the statement.

An estimated 800 people live in the community of Lax Kw’alaams, while roughly 1,800 are based in Prince Rupert and another 1,000 in Vancouver and elsewhere.

Besides the cash offer from Pacific NorthWest LNG, the B.C. government is willing to transfer 2,200 hectares of Crown land, valued at $108-million and spread over the Prince Rupert harbour area and other property near Lax Kw’alaams. TransCanada Corp.’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline plan is also under scrutiny by the First Nations group.

The band council said there needs to be better co-ordination among the provincial and federal governments, with the latter represented by the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA). Lelu Island and nearby waters are under jurisdiction of the port authority.

“To date, it is the considered opinion of the Lax Kw’alaams that there has been indifference to the point of negligence or willful blindness, or both, by PRPA in respect” of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project, according to the band council’s statement.

Pacific NorthWest LNG filed its environmental impact statement in February, 2014. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency expressed concerns to the joint venture in May, 2014. Catherine Ponsford, the agency’s project manager for the Pacific and Yukon region, emphasized the need for Pacific NorthWest LNG to take heed of what is currently the picturesque setting of Lelu Island. “The project would convert large parts of Lelu Island, an undeveloped area of 192 hectares, into an industrial site,” she wrote in a five-page letter to Michael Lambert, Pacific NorthWest LNG’s head of environmental and regulatory affairs.

Ms. Ponsford sent another letter to Mr. Lambert in February, noting that Pacific NorthWest LNG agreed to conduct “3-D sediment dispersion modelling” to study the complex system that effectively holds Flora Bank in place. Ten weeks after that letter, Pacific NorthWest LNG submitted a new study by engineering firm Stantec Inc., dated May 5, that argued the construction of a suspension bridge and trestle from Lelu Island to Chatham Sound would not have an adverse effect on salmon habitat in Flora Bank.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which began its review of Pacific NorthWest LNG in April, 2013, is expected to rule on the project by October.

“The significance of the Skeena River estuary to area First Nations cannot be overstated,” the band council said. “Lax Kw’alaams has on staff a team of scientists directed to assess the environmental challenges posed by the existing design for movement of LNG from the terminal.”

Colombian tribe scores ‘historic’ victory versus Big Gas (The Guardian)

State company Ecopetrol pulls out of drilling site in territories belonging to the indigenous U’wa people

U'was in north-east Colombia protesting against operations by state oil and gas company Ecopetrol.

U’was in north-east Colombia protesting against operations by state oil and gas company Ecopetrol. Photograph: Asou’wa/Asou’wa

The indigenous U’wa people living in north-east Colombia have won what observers call an “historic” and “decisive” victory after state oil and gas company Ecopetrol dismantled a gas drilling site in their territories.

The U’wa Association of Traditional Authorities and Councils (Asou’wa) reported in February last year the arrival of an “avalanche of heavy machinery” and increasing numbers of soldiers at the site, called Magallanes, where Ecopetrol intended to drill three wells. After statements fiercely opposing operations and a series of meetings with government and company representatives, Ecopetrol agreed to suspend operations last May and announced a decision in July to withdraw equipment – but only finished doing so in January this year.

“It’s a triumph,” Asou’wa vice-president Heber Tegria Uncaria told the Guardian. “It’s one more battle we’ve won over the last 20 to 30 years, and it’s thanks to the U’wa people themselves, national and international support, and the role of the media in drawing people’s attention to what is happening.”

“We feel extremely happy about the Magallanes victory and it gives us strength to continue fighting for our lives, for our rights and for Mother Earth,” says U’wa lawyer Aura Tegria Cristancho. “Ecopetrol’s decision was a very intelligent one. It knows the U’was and knew we wouldn’t stop fighting.”

Asou’wa issued a statement calling Ecopetrol’s withdrawal an “act of respect” for U’wa rights and an “important achievement” in the defence of their territories, and acknowledging the importance of support from organisations and individuals working on human rights and environmental issues, particularly the US-based NGO Amazon Watch.

Andrew Miller, Amazon Watch’s advocacy director, describes Ecopetrol’s decision as a “decisive victory” and says it is “very significant” that “one of Latin America’s largest corporations” would dismantle a gas drilling site following pressure.

“I can’t say this is unprecedented, but we’ve never seen a similar circumstance in the last 20 years,” he says. “Once actual construction starts, it is extremely difficult to force corporations, especially one with the full backing of the state, to reverse course.”

Carlos Andres Baquero, a lawyer from Bogota-based Dejusticia, told the Guardian Ecopetrol’s decision was “historic.”

“It’s been several decades since the U’wa started their fight to protect their territory and although it has not been easy, the withdrawal from Magallanes is a testament to their strength and capacity to mobilise,” he says.

The United Nations’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, calls it an “important victory” for indigenous peoples in Colombia.

“Such victories are far too rare,” she told the Guardian. “Too often projects see indigenous peoples driven from their lands. I hope other corporations can draw lessons from these conflicts and obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples before making use of their territories.”

Camila Mariño, a Colombian lawyer with Earthrights International, describes Ecopetrol’s decision as “in line” with the agreements made with the U’was last May, as well as recent commitments by the government – made during peace talks with Farc guerrillas in Cuba – to take human rights and indigenous communities fully into account.

Asked by the Guardian if it had pulled out of Magallanes because of U’wa opposition, Ecopetrol emailed a statement saying it had agreed to meet with them in June last year but they had failed to show up.

“Since this led to delays, Ecopetrol decided to remove the drilling equipment and facilities from the area, as has effectively happened,” the company states.

However, as Tegria Uncaria points out, Ecopetrol retains its environmental license to operate at Magallanes, and the company itself has called the suspension “temporary.” In correspondence last August Ecopetrol emphasised that suspension “didn’t imply a definite termination of the project”, and told the Guardian it “would like to continue exploring in the area, but respecting the U’wa nation and all the agreements made with them.”

The U’was have now taken legal action to have the environmental license annulled.

“We won the political battle, but the license remains in force,” says Tegria Uncaria.

The Magallanes site is roughly 270ms beyond the northern boundary of a 220,000 hectare reserve established for the U’was in 1999, but remains within their ancestral territories.

Asou’wa warns that, Magallanes aside, the U’was continue to face other serious threats. These include mining concessions in their reserve, the Cano Limon-Covenas oil pipeline which has been attacked 100s of times, and armed conflict between guerrillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian army.

The pipeline, owned by Cenit, an Ecopetrol subsidiary, mainly transports oil from the Cano Limon oil fields in which, says Ecopetrol, it has a 55% stake and US oil firm Occidental has 45%. According to Adam Isacson, from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), some of the US’s multi-billion dollar “Plan Colombia” “aid” package – ostensibly about combating the drugs trade – has been spent on Colombian army brigades in this region in order to protect the pipeline, with the “bulk of it” going to “Black Hawk helicopters, pilot training, maintenance training, communications equipment and fuel sustenance.” According to a 2011 WOLA report co-authored by Isacson, “Plan Colombia” aid was delivered during a period of “severe human rights abuses” by security forces and paramilitary and army violence spiralling “tragically upwards”, while US officials, he says, “downplayed human rights groups’ constant warnings about military-paramilitary collaboration” and the “false positives” scandal in which Colombian soldiers dressed victims like guerrillas and claimed them killed during fighting.

“The military presence is far greater than it used to be, especially in that part of the pipeline [Arauca to Santander, through U’wa territories],” Isacson says. “Who really benefits? The oil companies getting free security would be the main ones, and all their investors. This is not designed to protect citizens.”

The U’was have repeatedly denounced the militarisation of their territories, and are now requesting that the pipeline is either buried or re-routed.

“Given the constant blowing-up of the pipeline and the environmental and human rights dangers this causes, we have requested that studies are done on the possibility of burying it underground between the points where it crosses our reserve, or finding another route outside the reserve,” says Tegria Uncaria. “To date, it hasn’t been buried, but according to Ecopetrol they’re doing technical studies.”

Ecopetrol told the Guardian that it was doing such studies and says “it is hoped they will be finished by the first half of 2015.”

In the 1990s the U’was issued a series of threats to commit mass suicide if operations went ahead at another drilling site in their territories, called Gibraltar, just to the east of Magallanes.

Deeper Ties to Corporate Cash for Doubtful Climate Researcher (New York Times)

Wei-Hock Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose articles have been tied to corporate funding. CreditPete Marovich 

For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Though Dr. Soon did not respond to questions about the documents, he has long stated that his corporate funding has not influenced his scientific findings.

The documents were obtained by Greenpeace, the environmental group, under the Freedom of Information Act. Greenpeace and an allied group, the Climate Investigations Center, shared them with several news organizations last week.

The documents shed light on the role of scientists like Dr. Soon in fostering public debate over whether human activity is causing global warming. The vast majority of experts have concluded that it is and that greenhouse emissions pose long-term risks to civilization.

Historians and sociologists of science say that since the tobacco wars of the 1960s, corporations trying to block legislation that hurts their interests have employed a strategy of creating the appearance of scientific doubt, usually with the help of ostensibly independent researchers who accept industry funding.

Fossil-fuel interests have followed this approach for years, but the mechanics of their activities remained largely hidden.

“The whole doubt-mongering strategy relies on creating the impression of scientific debate,” said Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University and the co-author of “Merchants of Doubt,” a book about such campaigns. “Willie Soon is playing a role in a certain kind of political theater.”

Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

“What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, a group funded by foundations seeking to limit the risks of climate change.

Charles R. Alcock, director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center, acknowledged on Friday that Dr. Soon had violated the disclosure standards of some journals.

“I think that’s inappropriate behavior,” Dr. Alcock said. “This frankly becomes a personnel matter, which we have to handle with Dr. Soon internally.”

Dr. Soon is employed by the Smithsonian Institution, which jointly sponsors the astrophysics center with Harvard.

“I am aware of the situation with Willie Soon, and I’m very concerned about it,” W. John Kress, interim under secretary for science at the Smithsonian in Washington, said on Friday. “We are checking into this ourselves.”

Dr. Soon rarely grants interviews to reporters, and he did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls last week; nor did he respond to an interview request conveyed to him by his employer. In past public appearances, he has reacted angrily to questions about his funding sources, but then acknowledged some corporate ties and said that they had not altered his scientific findings.

“I write proposals; I let them decide whether to fund me or not,” he said at an event in Madison, Wis., in 2013. “If they choose to fund me, I’m happy to receive it.” A moment later, he added, “I would never be motivated by money for anything.”

The newly disclosed documents, plus additional documents compiled by Greenpeace over the last four years, show that at least $409,000 of Dr. Soon’s funding in the past decade came from Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, based in Atlanta.

Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, praising scientists like Dr. Soon. CreditCSPAN 

Southern is one of the largest utility holding companies in the country, with huge investments in coal-burning power plants. The company has spent heavily over many years to lobby against greenhouse-gas regulations in Washington. More recently, it has spent significant money to research ways to limit emissions.

“Southern Company funds a broad range of research on a number of topics that have potentially significant public-policy implications for our business,” said Jeannice M. Hall, a spokeswoman. The company declined to answer detailed questions about its funding of Dr. Soon’s research.

Dr. Soon also received at least $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. (Mr. Koch’s fortune derives partly from oilrefining.) However, other companies and industry groups that once supported Dr. Soon, including Exxon Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute, appear to have eliminated their grants to him in recent years.

As the oil-industry contributions fell, Dr. Soon started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars through DonorsTrust, an organization based in Alexandria, Va., that accepts money from donors who wish to remain anonymous, then funnels it to various conservative causes.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, Mass., is a joint venture between Harvard and the Smithsonian Institution, housing some 300 scientists from both institutions. Because the Smithsonian is a government agency, Greenpeace was able to request that Dr. Soon’s correspondence and grant agreements be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Though often described on conservative news programs as a “Harvard astrophysicist,” Dr. Soon is not an astrophysicist and has never been employed by Harvard. He is a part-time employee of the Smithsonian Institution with a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. He has received little federal research money over the past decade and is thus responsible for bringing in his own funds, including his salary.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.

Gavin A. Schmidt, head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, a NASA division that studies climate change, said that the sun had probably accounted for no more than 10 percent of recent global warming and that greenhouse gases produced by human activity explained most of it.

“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless,” Dr. Schmidt said.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose scientists focus largely on understanding distant stars and galaxies, routinely distances itself from Dr. Soon’s findings. The Smithsonian has also published a statement accepting the scientific consensus on climate change.

Dr. Alcock said that, aside from the disclosure issue, he thought it was important to protect Dr. Soon’s academic freedom, even if most of his colleagues disagreed with his findings.

Dr. Soon has found a warm welcome among politicians in Washington and state capitals who try to block climate action. United States Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who claims that climate change is a global scientific hoax, has repeatedly cited Dr. Soon’s work over the years.

In a Senate debate last month, Mr. Inhofe pointed to a poster with photos of scientists questioning the climate-change consensus, including Dr. Soon. “These are scientists that cannot be challenged,” the senator said. A spokeswoman for the senator said Friday that he was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

As of late last week, most of the journals in which Dr. Soon’s work had appeared were not aware of the newly disclosed documents. The Climate Investigations Center is planning to notify them over the coming week. Several journals advised of the situation by The New York Times said they would look into the matter.

Robert J. Strangeway, the editor of a journal that published three of Dr. Soon’s papers, said that editors relied on authors to be candid about any conflicts of interest. “We assume that when people put stuff in a paper, or anywhere else, they’re basically being honest,” said Dr. Strangeway, editor of the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics.

Dr. Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, said that academic institutions and scientific journals had been too lax in recent decades in ferreting out dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda.

“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.

Pope Francis Says No to Fracking (Eco Watch)

 | January 12, 2015 9:07 am

We’ve been busy lately providing news on all the great ways Pope Francis is working to create a healthy, sustainable planet. In July 2014, Pope Francis called destruction of nature a modern sin. In November 2014, Pope Francis said “unbridled consumerism” is destroying our planetand we are “stewards, not masters” of the Earth. In December 2014, he said he will increase his call this year to address climate change. And, last week we announced that Pope Francis is opening his Vatican farm to the public.

Now, we learn from Nicolás Fedor Sulcic that Pope Francis is supportive of the anti-fracking movement. Watch this interview by Fernando Solanas where he met with Pope Francis soon after finishing a film about fracking in Argentina.

The movie, La Guerra del Fracking or The Fracking War, was banned in cinemas by the Argentinian government, so the filmmakers decided to post it on YouTube. We are awaiting translation of the film and then we’ll feature it on EcoWatch.

“When I was doing research for the film, every time I’d ask someone if they knew what fracking was they had no idea,” said Sulcic. The problem was that “the government didn’t call it fracking, they called it ‘non conventional gas’ so no one was making the link to what was happening in Argentina to what was happening America. I got really mad and knew something had to be done to make people aware of what was going on. I saw the website Artist Against Fracking and felt that was a very good example of what was needed to be done here to take the cause to more people rather than just environmental activists.”

With support by Peace Nobel prize Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Oscar winning Juan Jose Campanella and other very well known Argentinian intellectuals and social leaders, a website was launched to help raise awareness about the dangers of fracking Argentina.

Opinion poll: Canada’s climate change consensus confronts Keystone (Science Daily)

Date: November 20, 2014

Source: University of Montreal

Summary: Despite the fact that 81% of Canadians accept that temperature on Earth is increasing, researchers have revealed that Canadians are generally misinformed about the science of climate change and are divided over the construction of new oil pipelines.


Despite the fact that 81% of Canadians accept that temperature on Earth is increasing, Université de Montréal researchers have revealed that Canadians are generally misinformed about the science of climate change and are divided over the construction of new oil pipelines. The researchers’ study also found that 70% of Canadians perceive significant changes in weather where they live; 60% believe that weather in Canada has been getting more extreme; and 87% believe these changes are somewhat or very likely the consequence of a warming planet.

The nationally representative telephone survey interviewed 1401 adult Canadians during the month of October, yielding a margin of error of +/- 2.6% in 19 of 20 samples. The study, run concurrently with researchers at the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College in the US, highlights a stark contrast between the views of Canadians and Americans on the existence of climate change and support for pipelines, yet remarkable convergence on perceptions of weather and climate-related knowledge.

Hardly opinions based in fact

80% of Canadians, versus 60% of Americans, believe there is solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has increased over the past four decades. This figure was significantly lower in Alberta (72%) and the Prairies (Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 60%.)

Of those who perceive an increase in temperature, 61% attribute the warming to human causes, compared to only 45% in the US. The figure was significantly higher in Quebec, at 71%, and significantly lower in Alberta, at 41%.

70% of Canadians perceive significant changes in weather patterns where they live, with 60% of Canadians perceive national weather is becoming more extreme, with highest figures in Ontario and on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. These figures were 58% and 68% respectively for Americans.

Extreme weather is either somewhat (40%) or very (47%) likely the result of global warming, according to 87% of Canadians (and 68% of Americans.) Moreover, 59% of Canadians believe climate change will begin to harm people living in Canada within the next 10 to 25 years. A plurality of Canadians (35%) believe it already is.

Finally, two out of three Canadians (67%) believe the government is either not too prepared (34%) or not at all prepared (33%) for the consequences of a warming planet

Despite all this, more Americans (35%) than Canadians (30%) know that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, while 60% of Canadians (and 45% of Americans) believe that carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for the hole in the ozone layer.

Pipelines and politics

Canadians are more likely to oppose (44%) than support (36%) the Keystone XL energy pipeline, while 20% have a neutral opinion. The opposite is true on the other side of the border: the figures are 34%, 52% and 14%, respectively. However, support is highest among self-identified supporters of the federal Conservative Party of Canada (55%), mirroring the polarized situation in the United States, where 72% of Republicans support the project against 39% of Democrats.

Within Canada, support for Keystone XL was highest in Alberta (58%). At 50%, Trans Canada’s Energy East project has greater support than Keystone XL, but opinions vary substantially across regions. At the high end, 68% of citizens in Alberta support the project, compared to a low of 33% of citizens in Quebec.

Finally, support for a system of cap and trade in Canada has increased to 60% in 2014, and continues to be more popular among Canadians than a carbon tax (48%).

“When you dig into the data, you see that Canadians are beginning to connect the dots between the notion of ‘climate change’ and observable changes in weather where they live. However, Canadians lack a certain degree of climate literacy, and it would be a mistake to assume that all Canadians are on the same page when it comes to fundamental climate science,” explained Erick Lachapelle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Montreal and principal investigator for the Canadian portion of the study. “The public is not as informed as perhaps they should be about this important issue, and there continues to be wide variation across the country, in terms of perceptions, beliefs, and preferences. The division over pipelines is a case in point.”

About the poll

The National Survey of Canadian Public Opinion on Climate Change was designed by Erick Lachapelle (Université de Montréal), Chris Borick (Muhlenberg College) and Barry Rabe (University of Michigan). The survey was administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,401 Canadians aged 18 and over. All interviews were conducted via telephone in English and French from 6 October 2014 to 27 October 2014. Calls were made using both landline and mobile phone listings. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 2.6% in 19 of 20 samples. Regional margins of error vary according to subsample size. Results reported here are weighted according to gender, age, language and region to reflect the latest population estimates from Statistics Canada (Census 2011).

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change (N.Y.Times)

A mine in Jharkhand State. India’s coal rush could push the world past the brink of irreversible climate change, scientists say. CreditKuni Takahashi for The New York Times 

DHANBAD, India — Decades of strip mining have left this town in the heart of India’s coal fields a fiery moonscape, with mountains of black slag, sulfurous air and sickened residents.

But rather than reclaim these hills or rethink their exploitation, the government is digging deeper in a coal rush that could push the world into irreversible climate change and make India’s cities, already among the world’s most polluted, even more unlivable, scientists say.

“If India goes deeper and deeper into coal, we’re all doomed,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, director of the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and one of the world’s top climate scientists. “And no place will suffer more than India.”

India’s coal mining plans may represent the biggest obstacle to a global climate pact to be negotiated at a conference in Paris next year. While the United States and China announced a landmark agreement that includes new targets for carbon emissions, and Europe has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent, India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has shown no appetite for such a pledge.

“India’s development imperatives cannot be sacrificed at the altar of potential climate changes many years in the future,” India’s power minister, Piyush Goyal, said at a recent conference in New Delhi in response to a question. “The West will have to recognize we have the needs of the poor.”

Mr. Goyal has promised to double India’s use of domestic coal from 565 million tons last year to more than a billion tons by 2019, and he is trying to sell coal-mining licenses as swiftly as possible after years of delay. The government has signaled that it may denationalize commercial coal mining to accelerate extraction.

“India is the biggest challenge in global climate negotiations, not China,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also vowed to build a vast array of solar power stations, and projects are already springing up in India’s sun-scorched west.

But India’s coal rush could push the world past the brink of irreversible climate change, with India among the worst affected, scientists say.

Indian cities are already the world’s most polluted, with Delhi’s air almost three times more toxic than Beijing’s by one crucial measure. An estimated 37 million Indians could be displaced by rising seas by 2050, far more than in any other country. India’s megacities are among the world’s hottest, with springtime temperatures in Delhi reaching 120 degrees. Traffic, which will only increase with new mining activity, is already the world’s most deadly. And half of Indians are farmers who rely on water from melting Himalayan glaciers and an increasingly fitful monsoons.

India’s coal is mostly of poor quality with a high ash content that makes it roughly twice as polluting as coal from the West. And while China gets 90 percent of its coal from underground mines, 90 percent of India’s coal is from strip mines, which are far more environmentally costly. In a country three times more densely populated than China, India’s mines and power plants directly affect millions of residents. Mercury poisoning has cursed generations of villagers in places like Bagesati, in Uttar Pradesh, with contorted bodies, decaying teeth and mental disorders.

The city of Dhanbad resembles a postapocalyptic movie set, with villages surrounded by barren slag heaps half-obscured by acrid smoke spewing from a century-old fire slowly burning through buried coal seams. Mining and fire cause subsidence that swallows homes, with inhabitants’ bodies sometimes never found.

Suffering widespread respiratory and skin disorders, residents accuse the government of allowing fires to burn and allowing pollution to poison them as a way of pushing people off land needed for India’s coal rush.

“The government wants more coal, but they are throwing their own people away to get it,” said Ashok Agarwal of the Save Jharia Coal Field Committee, a citizens’ group.

T. K. Lahiry, chairman of Bharat Coking Coal, a government-owned company that controls much of the Jharia region, denied neglecting fires and pollution but readily agreed that tens of thousands of residents must be displaced for India to realize its coal needs. Evictions are done too slowly, he said.

 Hauling coal by bicycle in Jharkhand in eastern India. The country plans to double its use of domestic coal by 2019 as part of efforts to reduce poverty. CreditKuni Takahashi for The New York Times 

“We need to shift these people to corporate villages far from the coal fields,” Mr. Lahiry said during an interview in his large office.

With land scarce, Bharat Coking is digging deeper at mines it already controls. On a tour of one huge strip mine, officials said they had recently purchased two mammoth Russian mining shovels to more than triple annual production to 10 million tons. The shovels are clawing coal from a 420-foot-deep pit, with huge trucks piling slag in flat-topped mountains. The deeper the mine goes, the more polluting the coal produced.

India has the world’s fifth-largest reserves of coal but little domestic oil or natural gas production. The country went on a coal-fired power plant building spree over the last five years, increasing capacity by 73 percent. But coal mining grew just 6 percent, leading to expensive coal imports, idle plants and widespread blackouts. Nearly 300 million Indians do not have access to electricity, and millions more get it only sporadically.

“India is going to use coal because that’s what it has,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director of the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment, a prominent environmental group. “Its strategy is ‘all of the above,’ just like in the U.S.”

Each Indian consumes on average 7 percent of the energy used by an American, and Indian officials dismiss critics from wealthy countries.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘pontificate’ when talking about these people, but it would be reasonable to expect more fairness in the discussion and a recognition of India’s need to reach the development of the West,” Mr. Goyal said with a tight smile.

One reason for the widespread domestic support for India’s coal rush is the lack of awareness of just how bad the air has already become, scientists say. Smog levels that would lead to highway shutdowns and near-panic in Beijing go largely unnoticed in Delhi. Pediatric respiratory clinics are overrun, but parents largely shrug when asked about the cause of their children’s suffering. Face masks and air purifiers, ubiquitous among China’s elite, are rare here. And there are signs Indian air is rapidly worsening.

“People need to wake up to just how awful the air already is,” said Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading intergovernmental organization for the assessment of climate change.

India’s great hope to save both itself and the world from possible environmental dystopia can be found in the scrub grass outside the village of Neemuch, in India’s western state of Madhya Pradesh. Welspun Energy has constructed what for the moment is Asia’s largest solar plant, a $148 million silent farm of photovoltaic panels on 800 acres of barren soil.

Welspun harvests some of the most focused solar radiation in the world. Dust is so intense that workers must wash each panel every two weeks.

Under Mr. Modi, India is expected to soon underwrite a vast solar building program, and Welspun alone has plans to produce within two years more than 10 times the renewable energy it gets from its facility in Neemuch.

The benefits of solar and the environmental costs of coal are so profound that India has no other choice but to rely more on renewables, said Dr. Pachauri.

“India cannot go down China’s pathway, because the consequences for the public welfare are too horrendous,” he said.

The IPCC is stern on climate change – but it still underestimates the situation (The Guardian)

UN body’s warning on carbon emissions is hard to ignore, but breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy

The Guardian, Sunday 2 November 2014 10.59 GMT

Bangkok's skyline blanketed in a hazeBangkok’s skyline blanketed in a haze. The IPCC report says climate change has increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather. Photograph: Adrees Latif/Reuters

At this point, the scientists who run the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change must feel like it’s time to trade their satellites, their carefully calibrated thermometers and spectrometers, their finely tuned computer models – all of them for a thesaurus. Surely, somewhere, there must be words that will prompt the world’s leaders to act.

This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, they are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola. It’s hard to imagine how they will up the language in time for the next big global confab in Paris.

But even with all that, this new document – actually a synthesis of three big working group reports released over the last year – almost certainly underestimates the actual severity of the situation. As the Washington Post pointed out this week, past reports have always tried to err on the side of understatement; it’s a particular problem with sea level rise, since the current IPCC document does not even include the finding in May that the great Antarctic ice sheets have begun to melt. (The studies were published after the IPCC’s cutoff date.)

But when you get right down to it, who cares? The scientists have done their job; no sentient person, including Republican Senate candidates, can any longer believe in their heart of hearts that there’s not a problem here. The scientific method has triumphed: over a quarter of a century, researchers have reached astonishing consensus on a basic problem in chemistry and physics.

And the engineers have done just as well. The price of a solar panel has dropped by more than 90% over the last 25 years, and continues to plummet. In the few places they have actually been deployed at scale, the results are astonishing: there were days this summer when Germany generated 75% of its power from the wind and the sun.

That, of course, is not because Germany is so richly endowed with sunlight (it’s a rare person who books a North Sea beach holiday). It’s because the Germans have produced a remarkable quantity of political will, and put it to good use.

As opposed to the rest of the world, where the fossil fuel industry has produced an enormous amount of fear in the political class, and kept things from changing. Their vast piles of money have so far weighed more in the political balance than the vast piles of data accumulated by the scientists. In fact, the IPCC can calculate the size of the gap with great exactness. To get on the right track, they estimate, the world would have to cut fossil fuel investments annually between now and 2029, and use the money instead to push the pace of renewables.

That is a hard task, but not an impossible one. Indeed, the people’s movement symbolised by September’s mammoth climate march in New York, has begun to make an impact in dollars and cents. A new report this week shows that by delaying the Keystone pipeline in North America protesters have prevented at least $17bn (£10.6bn) in new investments in the tar sands of Canada – investments that would have produced carbon equivalent to 735 coal-fired power plants. That’s pretty good work.

Our political leaders could do much more, of course. If they put a serious price on carbon, we would move quickly out of the fossil fuel age and into the renewable future. But that won’t happen until we break the power of the fossil fuel industry. That’s why it’s very good news that divestment campaigners have been winning victories on one continent after another, as universities from Stanford to Sydney to Glasgow start selling their fossil fuel stocks in protest – hey, even the Rockefeller Brothers fund, heir to the greatest oil fortune ever, have joined in the fight.

Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry won’t be easy, especially since it has to happen fast. It has to happen, in fact, before the carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere breaks the planet. I’m not certain we’ll win this fight – but, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.

Wind blows away fossil power in the Nordics, the Baltics next (Reuters)

Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:13am EDT

* Rising wind power output pushes Nordic prices down

* Low power prices cut gas, coal power profitability

* Denmark, Finland seen shutting abt 2,000 MW of condensing power

* Norway mothballs 420 MW Kaarstoe gas-fired power plant

By Nerijus Adomaitis

OSLO, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Wind power is blowing gas and coal-fired turbines out of business in the Nordic countries, and the effects will be felt across the Baltic region as the renewable glut erodes utility margins for thermal power stations.

Fossil power plants in Finland and Denmark act as swing-producers, helping to meet demand when hydropower production in Norway and Sweden falls due to dry weather.

The arrival of wind power on a large scale has made this role less relevant and has pushed electricity prices down, eroding profitability of fossil power stations.

“Demand for coal condensing power in the Nordic power market has decreased as a result of the economic recession and the drop in the wholesale price for electricity,” state-controlled Finnish utility Fortum said, booking an impairment loss of about 25 million euros($31.67 million).

Nordic wholesale forward power prices have almost halved since 2010 to little over 30 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh) as capacity increases while demand stalls on the back of stagnant populations, low economic growth and lower energy use due to improved efficiency.

Short-run marginal costs (SRMC) of coal generation were 28.70 euros per megawatt-hour (MWh), the Nordic power regulators said, while costs of gas-fired power generation were much higher, at 53 euros/MWh in 2013.

“The Nordic system price will likely more often clear well below the production cost for coal fired power production,” said Marius Holm Rennesund Oslo-based consultancy THEMA.

“This will, in our view, result in mothballing of 2,000 MW of coal condensing capacity in Denmark and Finland towards 2030,” he added.

Adding further wind power capacity at current market conditions could lead to power prices dropping towards as low as 20 euros per MWh, the marginal cost for nuclear reactors, Rennesund said.

PART OF A PLAN

Denmark and Finland have about 11,000 MW of coal, gas and oil-fired generating capacities, Reuters estimate shows.

Pushing fossil-fuelled power stations out of the Nordic generation park is part of government plans across the region.

Denmark wants to phase all coal use in power generation by 2030 and to generate all power and heat from renewables by 2035.

Wind power is expected to meet half consumption in Denmark by 2020, up from 33.4 percent in 2013.

In neighbouring Sweden, wind meets about 8 percent of total consumption, and installed capacity has more than doubled to about 5,000 MW in 2014 from 2010. Its wind power association predicts the capacity to rise to some 7,000 MW by 2017.

In Norway, the government has pledged to change tax rules to catch up with Sweden.

These plans are beginning to bear results.

Naturkraft, a joint venture between Norway’s Statoil and Statkraft, said this month it would put its 420 megawatt (MW) Kaarstoe gas-fired power plant in “cold reserve” from January.

Mothballing the 2 billion crowns ($302 million) plant, which had operated for only a few days per year, would help to save 50-80 million crowns per year, Naturkraft’s chief executive John Terje Staveland told Reuters.

Earlier this year, Finnish utility Fortum shut its 695 MW Inkoo coal-fire power plant.

Sweden’s Vattenfall said in May it will shut down its 409 MW coal-fired Fyn power plant in Denmark from May 2016.

The state-run utility sold its 314 MW coal-fired Amager power plant in Copenhagen to a Danish utility HOFOR, which plans to replace coal with biomass.

The developments in the Nordic countries is also beginning to affect utilities in the Baltic states as their grids get more integrated.

Estonia’s energy group Eesti Energia saw its power sales to drop by 30 percent during the first half of the year after a 650 MW link to Finland came online at end-2013.

Cheaper power imports from the Nordics have halved Eesti Energia’s profit margin to 12 euros per MWh in the second quarter, the company said in its quarterly report.

Lithuania, which expects to have a 700 MW interconnection to Sweden by end-2015, has said it would shut 900 MW of gas-fired capacity by 2016 due to negative margins. (1 US dollar = 6.6199 Norwegian krone) (1 US dollar = 0.7895 euro) (Editing by Henning Gloystein and William Hardy)

Glasgow becomes first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels (The Guardian)

University court votes to divest £18m from fossil fuel industry in what campaigners call ‘dramatic beachhead’

The Guardian, Wednesday 8 October 2014 16.20 BST

Divest and Fossil free student campaign in GlasgowGlasgow University students hold a silent protest to raise awareness of the divestment from fossil fuels campaign. Photograph: Courtesy People & Planet

Glasgow University has become the first academic institution in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry, in a turning point for the British arm of the student-led global divestment movement.

After 12 months of campaigning, led by the Glasgow University Climate Action Society and involving over 1,300 students, the university court on Wednesday voted to begin divesting £18m from the fossil fuel industry and freeze new investments across its entire endowment of £128m.

Describing the result as “a dramatic beachhead for the divestment movement”, American environmentalist Bill McKibben said that it sent a powerful signal that Europe would be “just as powerful in this fight as Australia and North America”.

The founder of climate campaign group 350.org added: “That it comes from Glasgow, which has as much claim to birthing the industrial revolution as any city on Earth, makes it that much more special. Everyone from the Rockefellers on down is realising it’s time to move on.”

As of last month, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, universities and local governments – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn (£31bn) from fossil fuel investments over the next five years as a result of the campaign which began on college campuses in the United States three years ago.

Writer and activist Naomi Klein said that Glasgow University had joined “a fast-growing global movement providing much-needed hope to the prospect of climate action.”

“Students around the world are making it clear that the institutions entrusted to prepare them for the future cannot simultaneously bet against their future by profiting from corporations that plan to burn many times more carbon than our atmosphere can safely absorb,” said Klein.

“They are sending an unequivocal message that fossil fuel profits are illegitimate – on par with tobacco and arms profits – and that brings us a significant step closer to demanding that our politicians sever ties with this rogue industry and implement bold climate policies based on a clear, progressive ‘polluter pays’ principle.’”

Glasgow University joins thirteen US universities, including Stanford, which have already committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry. In the UK, student unions at Imperial College and University College, London, are demanding that their institutions take similar action. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), at the University of London, has agreed to a temporary freeze on investment in advance of a decision on full divestment to be taken later this year.

Decisions are also imminent from the University of Edinburgh, which conducted a staff and student consultation that was overwhelmingly in support of divestment. Oxford University and its colleges, which have an endowment wealth of £3.8bn, the largest of any higher education institution in the UK, is currently conducting a staff-only consultation, after almost 2,000 students and academics joined a campaign calling for divestment.

Andrew Taylor of the People and Planet Network, which has launched over fifty ‘Fossil Free’ campaigns across the UK involving over 15,000 students in the past year, said: “Divestment now has a firm foothold in the UK. Student and academic pressure to get out of fossil fuels is building across the sector. It’s time to stop profiting from wrecking the climate, whether you’re an institution with lots of money like Oxford or Edinburgh, or a world leader in climate research such as the University of East Anglia. Glasgow has helped make the moral case crystal clear and we expect more universities to very soon put their money where their research is.”

Founded in 2011 across just half a dozen US college campuses, the fossil fuel divestment movement has gained remarkable traction over a relatively short period of time. A study by Oxford University last autumn found that it had grown faster than any previous divestment campaign, including those relating to apartheid, armaments and tobacco.

The campaign has recently enjoyed a succession of symbolic boosts.

Last month, the heirs to the Rockefeller oil fortune announced that they were withdrawing funds from fossil fuel investments and in July the World Council of Churches, which represents over half a billion Christians worldwide, decided to pull its investments out of fossil fuel companies.

Writing in the Guardian in April, Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged that “people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change”.

Heirs to Rockefeller oil fortune divest from fossil fuels over climate change (The Guardian)

Heirs to Standard Oil fortune join campaign that will withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuels, including from tar sands funds

US will not commit to climate change aid for poor nations

in New York

The Guardian, Monday 22 September 2014 17.19 BST

Peter O'Neill, head of the Rockefeller family and great-great-grandson of John D Rockefeller, along with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (second from the right_, great-granddaughter of of John D. Rockefeller, and Stephen B Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Peter O’Neill, head of the Rockefeller family and great-great-grandson of John D Rockefeller, along with Neva Rockefeller Goodwin (second from the right_, great-granddaughter of of John D. Rockefeller, and Stephen B Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The heirs to the fabled Rockefeller oil fortune withdrew their funds from fossil fuel investments on Monday, lending a symbolic boost to a $50bn divestment campaign ahead of a United Nations summit on climate change.

The former vice-president, Al Gore, will present the divestment commitments to world leaders, making the case that investments in oil and coal have an uncertain future.

With Monday’s announcement, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, cities and universities – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn from fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund controls about $860m in assets, said Beth Dorsey, the chief executive of the Wallace Global Fund and the Divest-Invest movement, which has led the divestment campaign. About 7% are invested in fossil fuels.

But the Rockefellers’ decision to cut their ties with oil lends the divestment campaign huge symbolic importance because of their family history. The divestment move also helps bring a campaign launched by scrappy activists on college campuses into the financial mainstream.

But for oil, there may not have been a Rockefeller fortune. John and William Rockefeller were the co-founders of the Standard Oil Company, which at the time operated the world’s biggest refineries, and overtime spawned Exxon, Amoco and Chevron.

Now, after a year of deliberations, the descendants of those original Rockefellers had decided the time had come to move away from oil.

“John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum,” Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, said in a statement. “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.”

In addition to the Rockefellers, the World Council of Churches, which represents some 590 million people in 150 countries – also pulled its investments from fossil fuels on Monday. The move represented a turning point for a movement which began by demanding that universities purge their financial holdings of ties to the fossil fuel industry.

About 30 cities have also chosen to divest, including Santa Monica and Seattle.

“When you have the Rockefellers and the World Council of Churches and institutions with global reach coming together and divesting, then this movement which began just three short years ago has really reached a significant turning point,” Dorsey said.

In that time, supporters such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu have framed divestment from fossil fuels as a moral imperative – like the anti-apartheid movement of a generation ago.

“Climate change is the human rights challenge of our time. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, for there will be no tomorrow,” Tutu said in a video address.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund over the years has been a big supporter of environmental causes, including to campaign groups opposed to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline, which made for an awkward fit at times with its continued investment in oil and gas. The family plans to first divest from tar sands commitments.

A number of universities have also started to cut their ties with fossil fuel – with Stanford University dropping coal holdings from its $18bn endowment.

But divestment remains a hard sell. The University of California system said last week it would continue to hold on to fossil fuels. Harvard University has also resisted pressure from faculty and students to divest – although Yale has said it will look into whether renewable energy offers a better bet in the long run.

“In the last great divestment campaign, Harvard said no before it said yes. I think it’s just a matter of time,” Dorsey said. “Unlike with the anti-apartheid movement, this is not just an ethical issue. There is a powerful financial reason as well.”

China, the Climate and the Fate of the Planet (Rolling Stone)

If the world’s biggest polluter doesn’t radically reduce the amount of coal it burns, nothing anyone does to stabilize the climate will matter. Inside the slow, frustrating — and maybe even hopeful — struggle to find a new way forward

 By | September 15, 2014

As the sun rises in mid-july over andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., Secretary of State John Kerry climbs quickly – he’s positively bouncing – up the carpeted stairs of his blue-and-white government­issue 757. Kerry is heading to Beijing to talk with Chinese leaders about, among other things, one of President Obama’s top priorities in the waning days of his second term: the urgent need to reduce carbon pollution and limit the damage from climate change. But the rest of the world isn’t cutting Kerry any slack right now – there’s trouble with the elections in Afghanistan, rising conflict in the Middle East and upcoming negotiations with Iran on nuclear weapons. As he ducks into the plane, Kerry is already talking intensely on his cellphone, deeply wired into the global chaos. An aide shoulders his bags as well as a large black case that contains his acoustic guitar, which he takes with him everywhere and often plays late at night when he’s alone in his hotel room.

For nearly a decade, the U.S. and China, the two most powerful nations on the planet, have met every year to talk about how to run the world together. When the talks began in 2006, they focused on issues like currency-exchange rates, trade barriers and China’s never-ending disputes with Taiwan. In 2009, shortly after Obama’s inauguration, the U.S. pushed to add climate change to the mix, hoping that a better understanding between the U.S. and China would lead to a better deal at the Copenhagen climate summit that year. (It didn’t help – mistrust between the countries was a large part of the reason why the talks imploded.)

This year’s U.S. delegation includes many of the administration’s most influential climate hawks – Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, top climate negotiator Todd Stern and John Podesta, counselor to Obama, who has become the administration’s de facto point man for climate policy. This is the diplomatic equivalent of a full-court press. In the past couple of years, Obama has made some important moves, including investing billions in clean energy, jacking up vehicle-efficiency standards and proposing rules to limit pollution from U.S. coal plants. But climate change is a global issue. Unless the West can persuade other countries to take climate action seriously, nothing any single nation does is going to matter much when it comes to solving the problem.

Except, that is, for China. The blunt truth is that what China decides to do in the next decade will likely determine whether or not mankind can halt – or at least ameliorate – global warming. The view among a number of prominent climate scientists is that if China’s emissions peak around 2025, we may – just barely – have a shot at stabilizing the climate before all hell breaks loose. But the Chinese have resisted international pressure to curb their emissions. For years, they have used the argument that they are poor, the West is rich, and that the high levels of carbon in the atmosphere were caused by America’s and Europe’s 200-year-long fossil­fuel binge. Climate change is your problem, they argued – you deal with it. But that logic doesn’t hold anymore. China is set to become the largest economy in the world this year, and in 2006, it passed the U.S. as the planet’s largest carbon polluter. China now dumps 10 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That number is expected to grow to 15 billion tons by 2030, dwarfing the pollution of the rest of the world. If that happens, then the chances that the world will cut carbon pollution quickly enough to avert dangerous climate change is, according to Kevin Anderson, deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the U.K., “virtually zero.”

John Kerry knows this. He also knows that when the nations of the world gather in Paris next December to try to hammer out a global climate agreement, it may be the last best chance to address this problem before the Years of Living Dangerously begin. Like other climate negotiations held under the banner of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris meeting is likely to be warped by 25-year-old grudges and a profound sense of distrust. “But right now, Paris is the only game we have,” one member of the State Department’s climate team told me. “If it fails, there is no Plan B.”

In Beijing, one of Kerry’s goals will be to find out all he can about China’s strategy for Paris – what kind of commitment the Chinese might make, how sincere they are, what tactics they will use. But for Kerry, this is anything but a straightforward conversation, because it’s twisted up in the shadow play of U.S.-China relations, which are marked by suspicion, paranoia and saber rattling on both sides as the U.S. adjusts to China’s rising power in the world. “What we are living through now is the end of 500 years of Western predominance,” historian Niall Ferguson has written. The issue is not whether China will challenge America’s dominance, but when and how.

Secretary of State Kerry met with China's Preisent Xi

Secretary of State Kerry met with China’s Preisent Xi in Beijin in July. (Photo: © Jim Bourg/Reuters/Corbis)

Shortly before takeoff, Kerry wanders down the aisle to chat. He talks idly about his July 4th celebration and the recent storm damages to his house on Nantucket. But when asked about his expectations for the Beijing summit, he looks grave: “Frankly, we’re not sure where this is all going.” He remembers what happened in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, when the U.S. was mocked for signing an agreement that the Senate would never ratify, and in Copenhagen in 2009, when Obama arrived at a conference that was supposed to save the world but ended up being gridlocked by squabbles over money and emissions targets. Kerry is determined not to let that happen again.

After 25 years of failed climate negotiations, it’s easy to be cynical about the upcoming talks in Paris. But there are at least three factors that make a meaningful agreement next year possible.

The first is that climate change is no longer a hypothetical problem – it’s happening in real time all around us. Droughts, floods, more destructive storms, weird weather of all sorts – just look out your window. In the latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top scientists called the fact that the Earth is warming “unequivocal” and stated that humans are the cause of it. Without dramatic action, the planet could warm up as much as 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 F) by the end of the century, which would be catastrophic. As Kerry said of a report last September, “The response must be all hands on deck. It’s not about one country making a demand of another. It’s the science itself demanding action from all of us.”

The second factor is that until now, the biggest obstacle to an international agreement to reduce carbon pollution has been the United States. But that’s starting to change. Thanks to Obama’s recent crackdown on pollution, as well as the boom in cheap natural gas, which has displaced dirty coal, carbon emissions in the U.S. are on the decline. “What the president has done is very important,” says Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements. “It allows the U.S. to look at other countries and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?'”

The final reason for hope, paradoxically, is China’s relentless demand for energy. China is in the midst of a profound economic and social transformation, trying to reinvent itself from an economy based on selling cheap goods overseas to an economy based on selling quality consumer goods at home, while keeping growth rates high and cutting dependence on fossil fuels. Energy demand is expected to double by 2030, and at that pace, there is not enough oil, coal and gas in the world to keep their economy humming. So China’s ongoing energy security depends on the nation developing alternative energy sources in a big way. “We need more of everything,” says Peggy Liu, a sustainability leader who works across China. “Wind, solar, a modernized grid. We need to leapfrog over the past and into a clean-energy future.”

China’s leaders are also waking up to the fact that recent decades of hypergrowth, most of it fired by coal, have exacted a steep price. Air pollution in China’s big cities is among the worst in the world; one recent report found that poor air quality contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in 2010. As Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury and longtime China observer, has put it, “What is another point of GDP worth, if dirty air is killing people?” Earlier this year, a riot broke out in Zhongtai, a town in eastern China, when protests against a new waste incinerator turned violent, leaving police vehicles torched and at least 39 people injured; in southern China, protests erupted over the construction of a coal-fired power plant. Similar clashes are increasingly frequent in China as pollution-related illnesses rise.

And it’s not just the air that’s a problem in China. More than 20 percent of the country’s farmland is polluted. Sixty percent of its groundwater supply is unfit for human consumption. Rivers are industrial sewers. Last year, 16,000 swollen and rotting dead pigs were found dumped in the Huangpu River near Shanghai.

What looks to be the impacts of climate change are starting to register too. Droughts have become longer and more frequent, forcing China to import ever-increasing amounts of staples like wheat and soy. By one count, 28,000 rivers in China have vanished. China’s southern provinces have the opposite problem: devastating floods as a result of intense rainfall. In addition, much of the coastline, including cities like Shanghai, are highly vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Chinese leaders know this trajectory is unsustainable – economically and politically. Earlier this year, Premier Li Keqiang “declared war” on pollution. Party leaders in China now routinely talk about the importance of “rebalancing the economy” and creating an “ecological civilization.” China Daily, the Communist Party house organ, regularly runs stories about air pollution and toxic waste. While I was in Beijing, I asked U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus why the Chinese were now willing to talk so openly about environmental issues. “The fragility of their government,” he said bluntly. “They will have a social revolt on their hands if they don’t come up with a way of dealing with this.”

Pollution from coal plants

Pollution from coal plants has helped make China the larges carbon-emitter on the planet. (Photo: © Imaginechina/Corbis)

So a big push for clean energy makes a lot of sense. In fact, you could easily argue that China has already done far more than the U.S. to transform its energy supply: Including hydropower, renewables now make up 20 percent of the energy mix (compared to 13 percent in the U.S.), a share targeted to double by 2030. China is the largest producer of wind and solar power on the planet. In 2013, nearly 60 percent of new-power generation was renewable. They also have 28 new nuclear plants under construction, more than any other country. Policywise, Chinese leaders have also been innovative. In the U.S., neither a carbon tax nor a cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon pollution is under serious consideration; in contrast, China’s carbon-trading program, which includes more than 2,000 pollution sources, is the second-largest trading system in the world (after the EU’s). “If China is successful in using market forces to cap carbon and transform its economy, that may be the best shot we have to limit climate change,” says Dan Dudek, vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

The problem for China, in a word, is coal: About 70 percent of the country’s electrical power comes from burning dirty rocks. The Chinese consumed nearly 4 billion tons in 2012, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. Like the oil industry in the U.S., the coal industry has enormous sway in China, making it all the more difficult to kick the habit. But as the rising power of the 21st century, China is under enormous political pressure to behave responsibly, lest it be seen as a pariah like Russia. “The choices that Chinese leaders make in the next decade will be absolutely pivotal to solving the climate crisis,” says former Vice President Al Gore. And for China’s economic and social stability, the consequences couldn’t be higher. “Politically, it’s very difficult to be fingered as the one most responsible for a looming catastrophe,” Gore continues. Or, as Harvard’s Stavins says, “If it’s your century, you don’t obstruct – you lead.”

In the decade or so after 9/11, when U.S. foreign policy revolved around hunting down and killing Islamic terrorists, we didn’t make China a priority. Then in 2011, the Obama administration announced an “Asia pivot” in U.S. foreign policy to counter China’s rising influence. Among other things, the U.S. increased its military presence and surveillance missions in the region, stoking suspicion in China that one of the goals of U.S. foreign policy is to “contain” China – both economically and militarily (if it were, the U.S. was certainly not going to admit it).

China’s response only seemed to play into our fears. China had been investing in new long-range missiles, upgrading its navy, and began using its new muscle­ to claim disputed territory in the South China Sea. China has been playing more subtle games, too: blocking access to Google and The New York Times, and having hackers raid computers at a number of U.S. corporations, stealing trade secrets. Foreign-policy journals openly speculate about the possibility of war with China, a suggestion that U.S. officials dismiss as absurd. “If there is a war between the U.S. and China,” argues Cheng Li, director of the China program at the Brookings Institution, “it will not be over economics or security, it will be because of misjudgment and misunderstanding.”

Of course, even the most rabid warmongers realize that a war between the U.S. and China would be disastrous. That’s one reason why leaders on both sides are looking for common ground – and two of the biggest shared interests are climate and energy. “In a relationship fraught with tension, these are places where we can do business,” says Obama’s adviser Podesta.

On the flight to Beijing, there is a lot of talk about what that common ground between the U.S. and China might look like. Granted, climate catastrophe is bad for everyone. But what leverage does the U.S. really have over China? On a practical level, the Chinese would like access to American technology. (“The deal here is that the U.S. will let you buy lots of energy equipment at exorbitant prices,” jokes one journalist on the flight.) But the Chinese also understand that, given the GOP-held Congress, Obama doesn’t have the power to make any big future commitments to cut carbon pollution – and so why should they?

On a more human level, there’s also a lot of nervousness about China’s notorious difficulty as a negotiating partner. “China has a very top-down culture – you have to speak to people right at the top,” one of Kerry’s top advisers tells me. “And they are very motivated on climate, due to air-pollution issues. But it’s hard to get China to do hard things, in part because, unlike other Asian countries, doing things for the greater good is not a big motivation for them.”

The mismatch between the urgency of taking action and the self-destructive diddling of diplomacy is frightening to witness. A few weeks before heading to China with Kerry, I attended a UNFCCC climate conference in Bonn, Germany. The two-week-long meeting, one of several designed to begin mapping out an agreement for Paris next year, was held in the gray, bureaucratic-feeling Maritim Hotel near the banks of the Rhine and attended by nearly 2,000 delegates from more than 180 countries. But neither John Kerry nor Todd Stern was anywhere to be found; the U.S. delegation was headed by Trigg Talley, an affable white-haired man who is one of Stern’s deputies. If Bonn was a preview of how things will go next year in Paris, then you can kiss human civilization goodbye. Because nothing will get done. And if it appears that something might get done, you can be sure that somebody – most likely the Saudis, who are infamous for their ability to throw a monkey wrench into negotiations at the last minute – will do everything they can to derail it.

The sheer tedium of the discussions is difficult to capture, but let me try: During the plenary session on the final day, which was held in a conference room the size of a football field and was supposed to be where important breakthroughs were announced, I listened for hours to delegates from Singapore discuss the kind of formatting that should be used on the proposal and to delegates from Bolivia argue that bullet points should be used, not paragraph breaks. I never heard the words “carbon” or “greenhouse gas” in the entire session (although “adaptation” got tossed around a lot). The most memorable words were spoken by a delegate from South Africa: “We are sheep in need of herding.”

In Bonn, the stench of nearly 25 years of broken promises and failed agreements was palpable. The U.S. was viewed with particular skepticism and disdain, not just because the U.S. signed but then failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but because until this administration, American presidents and congressional leaders never did anything intentional to substantively curb carbon pollution, despite the obvious impacts it would have on poorer nations. “You talk a lot, but you are not sincere,” one Turkish delegate sniffed to me. Trust in U.S. negotiators had been further undermined when documents made public by WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. had been spying on negotiators from other countries before and during Copenhagen, trying to gain intelligence on their positions. The revelations were particularly damning given the good-faith nature of climate negotiations. “After almost 30 years of this kind of thing,” one longtime participant in these talks puts it, “what measure of trust can possibly exist? How do you strike a deal on issues that are central to your country’s survival with someone you think is out to screw you?”

Issues of trust aside, several things are immediately apparent to me in Bonn about the content and design of the agreement that is likely to emerge in Paris next year. One is that it is going to disappoint and anger a lot of people, particularly those who think the job of a climate treaty is to force big polluters to change their ways. The Paris agreement will largely be a “bottom up” treaty, in which each country will put forward a “contribution” for what each is willing to do to reduce carbon pollution. Those contributions will then be reviewed in the future – exactly how and by whom isn’t clear – to make sure each nation is keeping its promise. There will be no legally binding caps on emissions, no mandated “targets” that countries need to reach. In fact, it will not be a treaty at all (a treaty would need to be ratified by the U.S. Senate, which everyone knows will never happen). It will likely be an agreement “with legal force,” which means, basically, that some parts of the agreement might be legally binding in some countries.

However toothless this approach might seem, there is logic behind it. Since Kyoto, international climate efforts have largely failed because they were too prescriptive. Few nations were willing to bow to the demands of an international carbon police. And beyond that, there was no way to enforce carbon limits.

But even if the talks succeed in creating a sustainable basis for international cooperation, whatever emerges from Paris next year is extremely unlikely to put the world on a path that would limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), which was enshrined in the Copenhagen Accord as the threshold for dangerous climate change. For that to happen, says the Tyndall Centre’s Kevin Anderson, “global emissions from energy need to reach a peak by around 2020, and then rapidly reduce to zero by 2050 at the latest.” “I’m not giving up hope,” Kerry told me. “Physically, it’s possible. But politically, it will be very difficult.” Podesta is even more blunt. “If we wait until we have a binding international agreement that actually puts us on track for 2 C,” he says, “we’ll hit 2 C before we get an agreement. But we have to get started if we hope to get to the destination.”

The second revelation is that the Paris agreement is likely to be more about money than about carbon. That is not inappropriate: Climate change is, at its base, an environmental-justice issue, in which the rich nations of the world are inflicting damage on the poor ones. One question that has always haunted climate agreements is, how should the victims be compensated? In past U.N. agreements, developed countries have promised aid to poorer nations. But in translating these general commitments into hard numbers, says Elliot Diringer, a climate-policy expert at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, “the cash flows really have never been enough.”

In Paris, they will try again. The delivery vehicle of choice is called the Green Climate Fund, which was one of the few concrete accomplishments to come out of Copenhagen. The idea is simple: Rich countries pay into the fund, the fund’s 24-member board examines proposals from developing countries for clean-energy and climate-adaptation projects, and then it awards funds to those it finds worthy.

The Green Climate Fund was born in the closing days of the Copenhagen negotiations, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to lure China and other developing nations into a deal by promising that, in exchange for agreeing to a binding cap on carbon pollution as well as outside monitoring and verification of pollution rates, rich nations like the U.S. would pledge a combined $100 billion a year to help poor nations. Many negotiators thought it was a clever (or not so clever) ploy by the U.S. to make China take the fall for the collapse of the Copenhagen deal, since it was clear that China considers emissions data a state secret and would never allow outsiders to pore through the books. But regardless of the intentions, the deal fell apart. The $100 billion promise lingered, however, and was codified in later agreements. (Although $100 billion sounds like a lot, it’s a small part of the $1 trillion a year that will be necessary to transform the energy system.)

Right now, developed nations have a long way to go to live up to Clinton’s promise. The Green Climate Fund has taken four years to get up and running, and still nobody knows if it will primarily make loans or grants. So far, only Germany has come through with a meaningful pledge, offering $1 billion over the next nine years. Stern says the U.S. is putting “a lot of blood, sweat and tears” into getting the fund set up right, and that the $100 billion a year will come from a variety of sources, including private investment. But if the point of the fund is to demonstrate the commitment of rich nations to help the poor, it will need them to make real financial commitments. “Big new public funds are not viable,” says David Victor, a climate-policy expert at the University of California, San Diego. “This could be a train wreck of false expectations.”

In Bonn, the biggest question on many negotiator’s minds was, “Will China step up?” Despite the fact that China is the biggest carbon emitter on the planet, with the most dynamic economy in the world, the Chinese remain wedded to a 25-year-old idea that China is still a developing country, in the same category as, say, Uganda, and therefore not responsible for taking action. At least, not until the U.S. and the EU – which, with their cumulative emissions, have essentially caused the problem of global warming – take the first step. Among negotiators, China’s stance is widely viewed as a negotiating tactic to lower expectations for action and to allow it to play moral defender for other developing nations, some of whom fear that if China makes a big move, it will increase the pressure on them to do the same.

I got a preview of the kind of arguments U.S. negotiators will face when I bumped into Zou Ji, the deputy director general for the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation and a key member of the Chinese negotiating team, in the lobby of the Maritim Hotel. I asked him if the recent action by Obama to limit pollution from power plants and increase fuel-efficiency standards had changed the dynamics in the negotiations. “It is a good thing,” Ji told me. “But now, America says to us, ‘Your turn to step up.’ Well, we welcome what you have done, but we want to see more action from the U.S. first. It is very clear that Congress is a big constraint for you; Obama can only do what he can do.” Ji argues, accurately, that the U.S. is still the far richer country, and while China’s carbon emissions are enormous, if you break it down to per-capita emissions, the average American is responsible for dumping almost three times as much CO2 into the atmosphere every year as the average Chinese.

I point out to him that this is true, but that cumulative emissions in China will soon dwarf those in the United States.

“China needs to do its part, but right now the U.S. still has huge potential to do more,” he says forcefully. “I have lived in the U.S., where everyone has a clothes dryer and an air conditioner and a big refrigerator and a big house and a big car. In the EU and Japan, they also live well, but people there only consume half the energy Americans do. You do have the capacity to live at the same standard and consume far less – if you choose.”

When Kerry’s plane lands in Beijing, we immediately jump into a line of SUVs and are whisked away to the Great Wall just north of the city for what one State Department staffer calls “a little cultural sightseeing.” When I visited the wall a few years ago, the air pollution was so bad, I could hardly see 15 feet in front of me; today, it’s clear enough to see the Xishan Mountains, which are 12 miles away at the western edge of the city. Kerry strolls along the wall with Chinese dignitaries, then we motorcade to the Marriott hotel in central Beijing, where the U.S. government has taken over two floors. Security is high: The entrance to the hotel is blocked, and armed agents are everywhere. The biggest concern seems to be Chinese spies; on an earlier trip to China, five members of Todd Stern’s team received spoof e-mails that contained a bot that could have given a hacker control of their computers, and shortly after I check into my hotel, I am told that I can assume my room is bugged and my e-mail is read. Across the street from the hotel is an Apple Store, Gucci, Hermès and, strangely, a coal-fired power plant with clouds and a blue sky painted on the sides, as if to disguise the dirty black rocks burning within.

The next morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping opens the talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, an elegant retreat in western Beijing. His address to 500 or so American and Chinese dignitaries isn’t exactly a rousing call to action on climate change. Instead, he talks about the importance of keeping the Chinese economy humming, declaring that China needs a peaceful and stable environment “more than ever.” Xi is a tough-looking guy with a Tony Soprano vibe, and his speech leaves no doubt that he sees China as the rising power. “It is natural that China and the U.S. may have different views, and even frictions, on certain issues,” he says. Then he adds, “Confrontation between China and the United States would definitely spell disaster for the two countries and for the wider world.” Xi only mentions climate change once, in a passing reference to it as a significant challenge that both nations face.

Protestors take to the streets in China

Protestors take to the streets to fight construction of a chemical factory in May 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

Xi, who came to power in 2013, is “a very strong leader for China,” says Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution. Li contrasts him with other recent Chinese leaders, most of whom tended to be pale figures who dutifully rose through the ranks of the Communist Party. Xi, who is 61, rules with authority and efficiency. He grew up the son of a deputy prime minister and revolutionary who was known as an architect of China’s special economic zones, which were important drivers in the liberalization of China. As president, Xi has cracked down on corruption and is a fierce defender of Chinese interests in disputed territories like the South China Sea. He has also toughened up China’s internal security forces (China spends more on domestic security than it does on national defense). But U.S. officials who have had close contact with Xi are impressed by his directness. One White House staffer pointed to a recent agreement to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas, that Xi worked out with Obama last year. “Xi rolled the Chinese bureaucracy to get that done,” the staffer says. Kerry also sees him as an effective leader. “I had long conversations with Xi while I was chair of the Foreign Relations Committee,” he tells me. “The kind of action we’ve seen in China recently doesn’t happen without his personal commitment.”

When Kerry takes the podium after Xi steps down, he is conciliatory. He reassures Xi and other Chinese leaders in the room that the U.S. does not seek to “contain” China, and that it welcomes the emergence of “a peaceful, prosperous China that . . . chooses to play a responsible role in world affairs.” He, too, talks a lot about economic growth and how “the true measure of our success will not be just whether our countries grow, but how our countries grow.” Kerry continues, “Step by step, we are shifting our focus . . . to the inescapable reality of a clean-energy future.”

When Kerry travels to countries where the U.S. might be perceived to have the upper hand, he can be very blunt about the potential ravages of climate change. A few months ago, in a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, he called it the “world’s most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction. But Kerry doesn’t say a word here about melting ice caps, rising seas or weapons of mass destruction. Instead, he talks about how clean energy is “the biggest market the world has ever seen.” He talks investment flows, technology sharing and pollution-free prosperity. “Our goal,” Podesta tells me, “is to create a virtuous circle in the Pacific, where they match our ambition, and then we match theirs.”

For the U.S., pushing for action is imperative: If China makes an aggressive move on carbon, it kills a favorite political talking point from climate deniers in Congress. “I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in where the subject of ‘What is China doing?’ comes up,” says Podesta. “For us, it’s important that we take that objection off the table.”

For the Chinese, beyond the obvious motivation to clean up the air, the question is what they want from the U.S. in return. As Kerry put it to me later, “The Chinese have a lot of stuff they want from us. We have natural gas. We have coal. We have clean-energy technology.” How this bargaining works out is the heart of the negotiations and gets into complex areas like protection of intellectual property rights. In the past, the Chinese simply wanted to buy our technology, copy it and manufacture it more cheaply than anyone else. “But that dynamic has changed,” says one Department of Energy official. “Now the deals are much more about joint ventures and shared investment.”

Later in the day, top members of the U.S. and China delegations meet in a conference room on the second floor for the Joint Session on Climate Change and Clean Energy. It is a stiffly formal scene, with Kerry, Podesta, Stern, U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz and science adviser John Holdren on one side of a long mahogany table, and Chinese leaders, including Vice Premier Wang Yang and lead climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua, on the other side. In this more intimate group, the Chinese are much blunter and more forthright about the risks of climate change. But it isn’t clear if this is because they feel more relaxed or because they are more willing to say what the U.S. wants to hear. State Councilor Yang, who opens the discussion, calls climate change “a common and grave challenge to mankind.” He talks about actions the Chinese government has taken to promote clean energy and efficiency, and he underscores China’s support of the UNFCCC climate negotiations. “We have also maintained close dialogue in consultation on [the U.S.’s and China’s] respective climate-change policies,” he says.

Kerry nods politely and then reads from prepared remarks: “Every one of us in this room is well aware that the climate crisis is one that respects no border. It’s transboundary. It affects the planet.”

The Chinese leaders listen carefully, just as the American team listened carefully to Yang’s remarks, attuned to nuances and gestures that gain trust or lose it, that show respect or haughtiness. And yet, I get the strong sense at this meeting, and at every other one I’ve attended, that 15 levels of chess are being played, that the motives and impulses of each side remain unknowable to the other, and that both sides are making calculations that will shape their careers, their economies and the future of the planet. And always the fear – expressed in the glint of an eye, a moment of hesitation – that each is being played. The Chinese worry that the U.S. won’t keep their word or has a secret plan to thwart their economic growth; the Americans worry that the Chinese are using shady data, and that they are only in it for the money.

Sometimes, the enormous gap between how the Chinese run their country and how the Americans run theirs reveals itself. One of those moments occurs on the second day of the talks in the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square, which is China’s parliamentary chamber. Kerry and Yang appear at a press conference to bestow six “EcoPartnership” awards to American and Chinese organizations that are collaborating on clean-energy and climate solutions. In the context of the talks, it is a small-bore event, with a handful of dignitaries and some Chinese press.

But maybe because of this, Kerry’s remarks at the event are looser and less diplomatic than anything I’ve heard him say earlier. They are also more dangerous politically, because he talks about the one thing the Chinese leadership is most afraid of: the power of social activism. He describes how, in 1970, after 20 million Americans attended Earth Day rallies, public outrage led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the passage of the Clean Air Act and, later, the Clean Water Act. “So I have seen the power of grassroots action, of local efforts becoming magnified and ultimately creating action at a larger, federal level,” Kerry says, his voice rising. “And I see that same kind of drive, that same kernel of innovation, and of demand for a difference, right here [in China], today.”

Kerry’s larger point is undoubtedly true – there is a rising consciousness of environmental issues in China, a sense that civilized societies don’t let their rivers catch fire. But as Kerry knows very well, there will be no organized demonstrations of millions of people marching on the streets in China, demanding change. If they tried, they would likely be tear-gassed or thrown in jail. Activism, such as it is in China, is either well-behaved and sanctioned by the state, or it is deemed reckless and dangerous and quickly shut down.

After his remarks at the Great Hall of the People, Kerry gets polite applause and then sits down to listen to a boilerplate speech from Yang. If anyone noticed that the secretary of state of the United States had just suggested that a populist movement in the People’s Republic of China could challenge the status quo, it wasn’t apparent.

One person who understands the dangers of social activism as well as anyone is Shuo Li, 27, a climate-policy officer for Greenpeace East Asia. Shortly after Kerry’s talk, I visited Li at Greenpeace’s office in Beijing. A year earlier, Greenpeace had published an investigation into the development of a coal-to-liquids plant in Inner Mongolia. Transforming coal into liquid fuels like diesel (or, in a similar process, natural gas) is expensive and, more importantly, an environmental disaster. Compared with typical refining processes, coal liquefaction produces 14 times the amount of carbon dioxide.

What’s interesting about Greenpeace’s investigation is that it targeted the owner of the plant, Shenhua Group, which is China’s biggest coal producer and a political powerhouse. (“Shenhua is the monster,” Li says.) In the U.S., enviros go after big companies all the time. But in China, this kind of action is unprecedented. As was its effectiveness. Li says the company called in Greenpeace, and Shenhua agreed to quit pumping out groundwater for use in the plant.

I ask Li if this is a sign that Chinese leaders are becoming more tolerant of environmental activism?

“Maybe a little,” Li says. He explains that unlike, say, publicly celebrating the Dalai Lama or arguing for the ethical treatment of the Uighur minority in China, it’s OK to raise questions about environmental problems. “But you have to do it the right way. You can go after local officials or individual power plants.” But, as he points out, there is no clear line between what is acceptable and what is not. “That is something everyone has to discover for themselves,” he says. He adds with a sly smile: “For the government, it is more effective that way.”

But Li knows he’s treading dangerous ground. In 2012, a 65-year-old former forestry official was threatened with five years in prison for publishing and distributing books that questioned the overdevelopment of Hainan Island in southern China. (He received a three-year suspended sentence and a fine.) Two years earlier, one of Beijing’s most respected science reporters, Fang Xuanchang, who earned a reputation for calling bullshit on many government-funded research projects, was brutally beaten on his way home from work. His assailants were never found. The message, as one journalist wrote in Foreign Policy, was clear: “Don’t go there, or you could be next.”

I asked about the rising number of protests around the country against industrial plants found to be dumping chemicals­ into rivers, or protesters throwing bricks at police to halt the construction of a new power plant. “Individual NIMBY actions are acceptable,” Li says. “But when you try to mobilize people on a larger scale, that is when you get in trouble.”

“Trouble, how?”

“You don’t even want to think about it,” Li answers, fear flashing in his eyes.

The rise of China, which was driven by the biggest and fastest industrial revolution the world has ever seen, was fueled almost entirely by coal. And its continued success – not to mention, in many ways, the fate of human civilization – depends on how quickly it can wean itself off this cheap, dirty, abundant fossil fuel. “The big question,” Moniz told me in Beijing, “is how fast they can bend down the curve of coal.”

“Bending down the curve of coal” is geek-speak for reducing dependency on coal. Because coal – by far the most carbon­intensive fossil fuel – will most likely be replaced by cleaner energy sources; in that case, the moment China’s coal consumption plateaus will also be the moment their greenhouse-gas pollution plateaus. And that could be the moment the world begins a transition toward a stable climate.

But the question is: When will that moment occur? In China, this question will not be answered by the invisible hand of the market but, ultimately, by the strong hand of President Xi and other party leaders. Xi and his advisers will make a complex economic and political calculation about how far they want to push clean energy – and whether they want to encourage a shift away from coal by, say, expanding the existing carbon-trading market, passing a straightforward tax on carbon, or simply issuing a dictum that caps the amount of coal the nation can consume. A few weeks before my conversation with Moniz, a respected Chinese academic had speculated that China would cap coal consumption by 2030. “That would be a big step in the right direction,” Gore told me. But as Gore well knows, unless that cap is followed by a radical and almost unimaginable global shift toward zero-carbon energy, it’s not a big enough step to avert climate chaos in the coming decades.

China has already taken a number of measures to move away from coal. It is reportedly closing down 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces and has essentially stopped building new coal plants in big eastern cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In 2020, burning coal will be banned in Beijing. But given the enormity of China’s coal addiction, these are just baby steps compared to what is needed.

And that’s one reason why the Chinese are very interested in natural gas. Natural gas has about half the carbon of coal, and burning it creates much less air pollution. China has the biggest shale-gas reserves in the world and would dearly like to unleash an American-style fracking boom (which is its own kind of environmental nightmare, of course). But the technology used to extract the gas from shale, which was invented in the U.S., is complex and not easy to replicate. In addition, shale gas in China is more deeply buried than in the U.S., and the soil is less porous, making the gas more difficult to extract. And thanks to methane leaks during fracking operations (methane, the principal component of natural gas, is a short-lived but potent greenhouse gas), the climate benefits of natural gas are questionable.

Imagining a fracked-out China is not pretty, but it might beat the alternative – making natural gas out of coal. The process is similar to the coal-to-liquids plant in Inner Mongolia that Greenpeace singled out, and like that process, it is both water- and carbon-intensive. China already has two coal-to-gas plants in operation, with as many as 48 more on the drawing board. Most of them are slated to be built in western China, far from population centers, where Chinese leaders are eager to spur development and provide jobs. But the cost to the atmosphere will be enormous. If all of these plants get built, they will collectively emit more than a billion tons of CO2 each year – more than the entire nation of Germany emitted last year.

Moniz calls coal-to-gas plants in western China “a major issue” for Chinese and U.S. negotiators. “Burning natural gas may help them solve the problem of air pollution,” says Moniz. “But if they get it by manufacturing it from coal, they will be creating another, much larger problem.” And it’s one that impacts everyone on the planet.

The talks ended on a hot, humid afternoon in the Zhongnanhai compound in central Beijing, which houses offices for the Politburo’s most senior members. The compound, which is heavily guarded and closed to the public, is a reminder of China’s Imperial era, with a collection of traditional pavilions scattered around three lovely lakes. Kerry met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in the Purple Light Pavilion, a brightly painted pagoda-style building with small porcelain animals on the corners of the roof. Li has none of the bluster – or power – of President Xi, and after exchanging greetings and thank-yous, Kerry seemed eager to hit the road. They spoke in private for a half-hour, then Kerry climbed back into his SUV, and we motorcaded back to the Marriott for a final press conference.

Within minutes, the State Department was e-mailing a list of accomplishments to reporters, including joint U.S.-China demonstration projects on smart grids, technology to capture carbon from coal plants, and new initiatives on forestry and industrial boilers. It was all both important and unimportant, small steps in a long, long march. Later, Kerry would tell me he was impressed by what he’d seen from the Chinese on climate during the trip – “There was no backsliding,” he says. Others on the U.S. team described their sense that key Chinese leaders they’d met were “extraordinarily forward-leaning.”

But huge questions still loom about how far the U.S. and China and every other big polluter on the planet will go to cut emissions. For negotiators who are pushing for a tough agreement with meaningful reductions and clear financial accounting, the biggest fear is not that the U.S. and China won’t agree on key issues, but that they will agree on too much: “We are afraid that the U.S. and China will strike a bargain that makes them both comfortable, but does little or nothing to reduce the risk of climate change,” says Mohamed Adow, senior adviser for Christian Aid, a U.K.-based relief agency that works in many developing nations. “Then the rest of the world will have to decide if they want to go along, or fight for a stronger agreement.”

A few hours later, Kerry and his team jet off to Afghanistan. The world is a big, complicated place, and everyone – even the most committed climate warriors like Kerry – has a lot of other things to think about beyond how much carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere. And that, in a way, is always the problem: There is always something more urgent, more immediately catastrophic to seize the attention of policymakers – and in the coming years, many of the crises that will distract us from dealing with the realities of climate change will largely have been caused by climate change. Through all these short-term emergencies, the Earth will keep warming, the droughts will get worse, food will grow scarce, ice will vanish, the seas will rise, and starting around 2030, climate change will emerge from the background and eventually become the only thing we talk about. It will be the story of the century.

When we get to the Marriott, I walk across the sleek marble lobby with Podesta, who looks uncharacteristically somber. Just before we step into Kerry’s press conference – where he will again underscore the importance of taking action on climate change – I ask Podesta if two days of talks with the Chinese have made him feel more hopeful about Paris next year.

“Yes,” he says. “But it’s going to be a hard road.”

From The Archives Issue 1218: September 25, 2014

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/china-the-climate-and-the-fate-of-the-planet-20140915#ixzz3Dckfhurq
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An inside look at U.S. think tank’s plans to undo environmental legislation (The Star)

The corporate-sponsored American Legislative Exchange Council works with lobbyists and legislators to derail climate change policies.

Occupy Phoenix protests the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that brings together large corporations and U.S. lawmakers to draft anti-environmental policies.

NICK OZA / THE REPUBLIC

Occupy Phoenix protests the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that brings together large corporations and U.S. lawmakers to draft anti-environmental policies.

 

Scientists are exaggerating the climate change crisis.

There’s no need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because the benefits of warmer temperatures outweigh the costs.

Over-the-top environmental regulations are linked to such problems as suicide and drug abuse.

These aren’t the ramblings of a right-wing conspiracy theorist, but the opinions expressed at a midsummer retreat for U.S. state legislators held by a powerful U.S. think tank and sponsored by corporations as varied as AT&T and TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Internal documents from this summer’s Dallas meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, leaked to a watchdog group, reveal several sessions casting doubt on the scientific evidence of climate change. They also reveal sessions focused on crafting policies that reduce rules for fossil fuel companies and create obstacles for the development of alternative forms of energy.

The meeting, hosted in Dallas from July 30 to Aug. 1, involved a mix of lobbyists, U.S. legislators and climate change contrarians, and was sponsored by more than 50 large corporations, including several that do business in Alberta’s oilsands.

One workshop had the goal of teaching politicians “how to think and talk about climate and energy issues” and provided them with guidance for fighting environmental policies and regulations.

“Legislators are just there as foot soldiers, really,” said Chris Taylor, a Democratic state representative from Wisconsin and a member of ALEC.

Taylor, who said she belongs to the group in order to keep people informed about what it’s doing, said research groups appear to be writing policies presented at the meeting on behalf of corporations that are trying to get rid of obstacles to profit.

“Legislators aren’t coming up with these ideas,” she said.

An ALEC spokeswoman, Molly Fuhs, said in an email to the Star that all of its meetings are meant to bring together members “to discuss and debate model solutions to the issues facing the states,” using principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.

All of the model policies, which must first be introduced by a legislator member, are voted on and approved by a national board made up of 23 state legislators, she added.

“This is to ensure ALEC model policies are driven by, and are reflective of, state legislators’ ideas and the issues facing the states,” she wrote.

The group, founded in 1973, says it has about 2,000 elected Democratic and Republican state legislators in its membership. Its non-partisan status as an educational organization allows it to give U.S. tax receipts to its donors.

With nine separate committees made up of corporate representatives and politicians, the council says it can contribute to as many as 1,000 different policies or laws in a single year. And on average, about 20 per cent of these become laws or policies in areas such as international trade, the environment or health care, it says.

“For more than forty years, ALEC has helped lobbyists from some of the biggest polluters on the planet meet privately with U.S. lawmakers to discuss and model legislation,” said Nick Surgey, research director at U.S. watchdog Center for Media and Democracy.

“ALEC is a big reason the U.S. is so far behind in taking significant action to tackle climate change.”

A separate session on climate change at the ALEC retreat, presented by another educational charity, featured several proposals to discourage development of renewable energy, to stop new American rules to reduce pollution from coal power plants, as well as a “model resolution” in support of Keystone XL, which is seeking approval from the Obama administration.

According to a conference agenda, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, this presentation was given by Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based conservative think tank. Neither Bast, an author and publisher with an undergraduate degree in economics, nor the institute responded to requests for comment.

Slides from the presentation show that it also challenged established scientific evidence on climate change, while proposing to dismantle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Other internal ALEC records released by the watchdog show that it previously asked its elected members to publicly speak out in support of Keystone XL, providing them with “information” to include in submissions for the U.S. State Department, which is reviewing the TransCanada project.

“They lobby,” Taylor, the Wisconsin Democrat, said of ALEC. “They come up with model policies. They send emails to legislators. They urge people to support model policies. They send thank-yous when the model policies pass. My goal in going is to make sure it’s not stealth, to make sure people know where these policies come from. And these policies come from big corporations through ALEC.”

The Harper government has also participated in an ALEC event, sending a Canadian diplomat, Canada’s consul general in Dallas, Paula Caldwell St-Onge, to a 2011 conference in New Orleans to promote the Keystone XL pipeline, the oilsands and other fossil fuels. Speaking notes from her presentation don’t mention climate change.

Fuhs, ALEC’s spokeswoman, confirmed that several multinational corporations were among those to sponsor the Dallas conference, including telecommunications giant AT&T, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Bayer and energy companies such as Chevron, Devon, Exxon Mobil and TransCanada.

But she stopped responding to questions from the Star after being asked about the internal documents circulated at the meeting and obtained by the watchdog group.

Most of the companies contacted by the Star confirmed they had sponsored the event, explaining that this didn’t necessarily mean they endorsed all of ALEC’s proposed policies.

Alberta-based TransCanada, which sponsored an “Ice Cream Social” event at the ALEC meetings in each of the past two years, downplayed its role.

“I cannot honestly speak to whether or not someone who was a consultant for our company was at the event — because we are not their only client — but no one was directed to be at this event to present views on behalf of TransCanada,” said TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard. “I can’t be any clearer than that.”

Howard, who said the company’s contributions to ALEC weren’t considered to be charitable donations, said the sponsorship doesn’t mean TransCanada agrees with the organization’s policies.

“Reasonable people wouldn’t expect us to only go to or support things that are a perfect match for our own company’s views and values,” Howard said, noting TransCanada has a climate change policy that includes billions of dollars of investments in renewable energy.

“Sometimes you have to speak to people with different viewpoints to develop better public policy and decisions — that’s just common sense,” Howard said.

A spokesman for ExxonMobil told the Star the company didn’t want to comment about its sponsorship of ALEC, saying that it wasn’t a member of the organization. ALEC’s website lists representatives from 17 organizations on its “private enterprise advisory council” including ExxonMobil, AT&T, Pfizer, as well as Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world.

ALEC declined to explain the role of this “advisory council.”

A spokesman from Devon Energy, Tim Hartley, confirmed that it was “one of the many sponsors” of the Dallas meeting, explaining that the company “generally favours the principles of free markets and limited government that animate ALEC.” But he said he couldn’t discuss specific public policy issues.

“We interact with a variety of stakeholder groups in the course of our business, and we embrace our responsibility to participate in the free and open marketplace of ideas,” said Hartley.

Although she is often critical of ALEC, Taylor, who joined the organization as a legislative member a few years ago, said she doesn’t expect to be kicked out since it is trying to promote its bipartisan nature to preserve its charitable status.

She said energy was a major theme at the Dallas conference, driven by some large corporations, with one corporate representative from Peabody Energy urging the conference to help spark a “political tsunami” against new U.S. EPA regulations proposed to slash pollution from coal power plants.

Peabody Energy didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Surgey, from the Center for Media and Democracy, said one of his biggest concerns about ALEC is its secrecy.

“We have many of our state elected officials going on to these conferences, and yet we’re not allowed to know who they meet with,” said Surgey. “We just know that it’s a very large number of lobbyists from big multinational corporations but ALEC refuses to tell us who’s there.”

ALEC has also sponsored a pair of trips for U.S. politicians to the Alberta oilsands — described as an “oilsands academy” — arranging meetings for the politicians with representatives from TransCanada and Devon Energy, as well as one environmental group, the Pembina Institute, in October 2012.

TransCanada said it doesn’t organize or fund these types of visits, but it assists by freeing up staff to explain operations at facilities.

Sandi Walker, an Alberta government spokeswoman from the provincial department of international and intergovernmental relations, said it hosted 54 trips to the oilsands in 2012, including the fall visit co-ordinated by ALEC as part of ongoing efforts to inform legislators and officials about the industry with “fact-based information” to allow key decision-makers to make informed decisions about energy. Each trip typically cost about $3,000, she said.

She said an ALEC representative had contacted Alberta to set up the meeting, explaining that the province maintains relations with a variety of stakeholders and organizations in the U.S.

Walker said the province is committed to being a leader in greenhouse gas reduction technology by renewing its climate change strategy so that it can effectively reduce emissions at the source, noting it has already implemented a price on carbon emissions for industry.

While TransCanada’s pipeline proposal has popped up on the agenda at multiple ALEC events in recent years, Taylor said that the company’s latest “ice cream social” reminded her of what happened last year when it hosted a similar event.

The ice cream started melting, and in a crowd of skeptics, she joked that she thought this might be accepted as evidence of global warming.

Ciência a serviço da exploração da natureza e dos trabalhadores (Portal do Meio Ambiente)

PUBLICADO 30 JULHO 2014.

Mesa: A destruição tem preço? Pode-se confiar nas garantias da Ciência? Exploração petroleira (de Yasuni a Coari / Juruá); Mineração (de Carajás a Madre de Dios). Lindomar Padilha (CIMI); Barbara Silva (militante da comunicação comunitária na Pan Amazônia), Raimundo G. Neto (CEPASP/Movimento dos Atingidos por Mineração); Simeon Velarde (Vanguardia Amazónica-Peru), Ana Patrícia (COMIN)

Na manhã do dia 24 de julho, ocorreu a mesa com o tema “A destruição tem preço? Pode-se confiar nas garantias da Ciência? Exploração petroleira (de Yasuni a Coari / Juruá); Mineração (de Carajás a Madre de Dios).”

Barbara Silva, militante da comunicação comunitária na Pan-Amazônia, destacou a ação da Petrobrás na Amazônia Equatoriana e seus impactos na floresta e em comunidades equatorianas: “A Petrobrás age em outros países de um modo diferente. Ela faz no Equador, Bolívia e Colômbia o que ela não faz no Brasil: invade terras indígenas, frauda laudos técnicos, contamina água e solos, afetando a saúde e a economia de populações inteiras” .

Barbara Silva (militante da comunicação comunitária na Pan-Amazônia)

Silva ainda nos convoca a pensar a relação homem e natureza a partir de um termo que vai além da ideia de cuidar da natureza: “A austeridade imprime uma ação sobre o cuidado que é necessário a natureza. Pensar sobre o que queremos para a região amazônica é pensar no modo que vivemos. Consumir menos é uma ação individual que reflete nossa ação de cuidado com a natureza”, finalizou.

“Precisamos avançar é na ‘perda de inocência’, o Estado Brasileiro não é a favor do povo trabalhadores brasileiro, nem ontem, nem hoje.”, aponta Raimundo Neto (CEPASP/Movimento dos Atingidos por Mineração), após realizar um panorama das políticas e projetos de mineração no Pará.

Lindomar Padilha (CIMI); Simeon Velarde (Vanguardia Amazónica-Peru), Ana Patrícia (COMIN)

Simeon Velarde, da Vanguardia Amazónica-Peru, diz que a empresa petroleira Pluspetrol contamina os rios da amazônia peruana, mas diz que é de forma responsável. “O Peru é rico em matéria primas, em petróleo, gás, minério e essa realidade produz um crescimento econômico interessante para o país, mas esse crescimento não se redistribui socialmente. Eles dizem que vão fazer escolas, programas de inclusão de jovens, mas isso não acontece. O presidente vai aos meios de comunicações para defender essas empresas, pois com elas o país terá mais desenvolvimento, e segue mentindo à população”.

Fotos: Talita Oliveira

Fonte: ADUFAC.

Impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coral is deeper and broader than predicted (Science Daily)

Date: July 28, 2014

Source: Penn State

Summary: A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made by a team led by Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State University. A paper describing this work and additional impacts of human activity on corals in the Gulf of Mexico will be published during the last week of July 2014 in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Several colonies of coral with attached anemones and brittle star from a previously discovered coral community 13 km from the spill site showing damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Corals from this community were used as models to identify damage from the oil spill in two newly discovered coral communities. The extensive brown growth on the normally gold-colored coral is not found on healthy colonies. Credit: Fisher lab, Penn State University

A new discovery of two additional coral communities showing signs of damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill expands the impact footprint of the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The discovery was made by a team led by Charles Fisher, professor of biology at Penn State University.

A paper describing this work and additional impacts of human activity on corals in the Gulf of Mexico will be published during the last week of July 2014 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated,” said Fisher. “This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 22 kilometers from the spill site and at depths over 1800 meters, were impacted by the spill.”

The oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has largely dissipated, so other clues now are needed to identify marine species impacted by the spill. Fisher’s team used the current conditions at a coral community known to have been impacted by the spill in 2010 as a model “fingerprint” for gauging the spill’s impact in newly discovered coral communities.

Unlike other species impacted by the spill whose remains quickly disappeared from the ocean floor, corals form a mineralized skeleton that can last for years after the organism has died. “One of the keys to coral’s usefulness as an indicator species is that the coral skeleton retains evidence of the damage long after the oil that caused the damage is gone,” said Fisher. The scientists compared the newly discovered coral communities with one they had discovered and studied around the time of the oil spill, using it as a model for the progression of damage caused by the spill over time. “We were able to identify evidence of damage from the spill in the two coral communities discovered in 2011 because we know exactly what our model coral colonies, impacted by the oil spill in 2010, looked like at the time we found the new communities.”

Corals are sparse in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but because they act as an indicator species for tracking the impact of environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon blowout, the effort to find them pays off in useful scientific data. “We were looking for coral communities at depths of over 1000 meters that are often smaller than the size of a tennis court,” said Fisher. “We needed high-resolution images of the coral colonies that are scattered across these communities and that range in size from a small houseplant to a small shrub.”

To begin the search, the team used 3D seismic data from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to identify 488 potential coral habitats in a 40 km radius around the spill site. From that list they chose the 29 sites they judged most likely to contain corals impacted by the spill. The team then used towed camera systems and Sentry, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which they programmed to autonomously travel back-and-forth across specific areas collecting images of the sites from just meters above the ocean floor. Finally, the team used a Shilling ultra-heavy-duty remote-operated vehicle (ROV), to collect high-resolution images of corals at the sites where they were discovered.

“With the cameras on board the ROV we were able to collect beautiful, high-resolution images of the corals,” said Fisher. “When we compared these images with our example of known oil damage, all the signs were present providing clear evidence in two of the newly discovered coral communities of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

In searching for coral communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the team also found two coral sites entangled with commercial fishing line. These additional discoveries serve as a reminder that the Gulf is being impacted by a diversity of human activities.

In addition to Fisher, the research team included Pen-Yuan Hsing, Samantha P. Berlet, Miles G. Saunders and Elizabeth A. Larcom from Penn State; Carl L. Kaiser, Dana R. Yoerger, and Timothy M. Shank from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Harry H. Roberts from Louisiana State University; William W. Shedd from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Erik E. Cordes from Temple University; and James M. Brooks from TDI-Brooks International Inc.

The research was supported by the Assessment and Restoration Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative funding to support the Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf (ECOGIG) consortium administered by the University of Mississippi, and B P as part of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment.

Journal Reference:

  1. Charles R. Fisher, Pen-Yuan Hsing, Carl L. Kaiser, Dana R. Yoerger, Harry H. Roberts, William W. Shedd, Erik E. Cordes, Timothy M. Shank, Samantha P. Berlet, Miles G. Saunders, Elizabeth A. Larcom, and James M. Brooks. Footprint of Deepwater Horizon blowout impact to deep-water coral communities.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1403492111