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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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European Environmental Agency’s report shows EU greenhouse gas emissions continue to fall

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/29/eus-greenhouse-gas-emissions-continue-to-fall-as-coal-ditched

drax power station hero pic

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog.

Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU continued their fall in 2018, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available, according to a new report from Europe’s environment watchdog.

Emissions fell by 2.1% compared with 2017, to a level 23% lower than in 1990, the baseline for the bloc’s emission cuts under the UN’s climate agreements. If the UK is excluded, the decline since 1990 was smaller, standing at 20.7%.

However, emissions must be brought down much further and faster to satisfy the EU’s obligations under the Paris agreement, campaigners said. Annual falls of about 7% are estimated to be needed to keep global heating within the Paris upper limit of 2C above pre-industrial levels.

The economic turmoil and disruption caused by the coronavirus is likely to result in a short-term drop in emissions, as it has so far this year across the world, but the longer-term impact is unknown.

Green groups urged governments to link the recovery from the coronavirus with the need to reduce carbon, ahead of the Cop26 talks, and said the year’s delay must not be allowed to slow down action on the climate crisis.

“A 2.1% emissions drop isn’t nearly enough to avert massive climate breakdown, and we absolutely cannot lose sight of the urgency of this task,” said Aaron Kiely, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Postponement of the climate talks cannot come at the cost of international climate action – it doesn’t give governments a get-out clause from their international responsibilities. There is a way out of both [the climate and coronavirus] crises if we collaborate, listen to the science, and stop losing time.”



 


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Open letter from World Health leaders to G20 leaders states that addressing climate change is key to a global revival

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/may/26/world-health-leaders-urge-green-recovery-from-coronavirus-crisis

Doctors and medical professionals from around the globe have called on world leaders to ensure there is a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis which takes account of air pollution and climate breakdown.

More than 200 organisations representing at least 40 million health workers – making up about half of the global medical workforce – have signed an open letter to the G20 leaders and their chief medical advisers, pointing to the 7 million premature deaths to which air pollution contributes each year around the world.

Chief medical officers and chief scientific advisers must be directly involved in designing the stimulus packages now under way, the letter urges, in order to ensure they include considerations of public health and environmental concerns. They say public health systems should be strengthened, and they warn of how environmental degradation could help to unleash future diseases.

The signatories also want reforms to fossil fuel subsidies, with public support shifted towards renewable energy, which they say would make for cleaner air, cut greenhouse gas emissions and help to spur economic growth of nearly $100tn in the next three decades.

In the letter, the health professionals link air pollution and fragile public health systems with the impacts of the virus, saying air pollution “was already weakening our bodies”, exacerbating the impact of the disease.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Better preparation could have reduced the impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the letter. “We must learn from these mistakes and come back stronger, healthier and more resilient,” they write.

Studies have suggested that air pollution may play a role in worsening Covid-19 symptoms or increasing mortality, though scientists also say it is too early to draw hard conclusions about the full impacts. The clearing skies that have accompanied lockdown in many countries are under threat, however, as industrial activity resumes without new safeguards.

Last week a comprehensive study found daily carbon dioxide emissions around the world had fallen by about 17% as a result of the lockdowns, and that if normal activity resumed there would be only about a 4% fall for the full year, compared with last year. Such a fall would make little difference in the climate crisis.

The signatories include the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, the World Organization of Family Doctors and the World Federation of Public Health Associations, as well as thousands of individual health professionals.

The letter has been sent to all G20 leaders, including Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping, who are under pressure to approve a green recovery, as well as those who have been criticised for a lax approach to the crisis or for using it to weaken environmental protections, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro.



 


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“Planet of the Humans” removed from youtube

This controversial film, produced by Michael Moore, argues that green energy sources, including biomass energy, wind power, and solar energy, are not truly renewable or sustainable. The film has been criticized as outdated and misleading. The film was removed from YouTube on 25 May 2020.

Here is a critique of the film by George Monbiot and published in The Guardian, 8th May 2020:

“How did the radical film maker Michael Moore become a hero of the far right?”

Denial never dies; it just goes quiet and waits. Today, after years of irrelevance, the climate science deniers are triumphant. Long after their last, desperate claims had collapsed, when they had traction only on alt-right conspiracy sites, a hero of the left turns up and gives them more than they could have dreamt of.

Planet of the Humans, whose executive producer and promoter is Michael Moore, has now been watched 6 million times on YouTube. The film does not deny climate science. But it promotes the discredited myths that deniers have used for years to justify their position. It claims that environmentalism is a self-seeking scam, doing immense harm to the living world while enriching a group of con artists. This has long been the most effective means by which denial – most of which has been funded by the fossil fuel industry – has been spread. Everyone hates a scammer.

And yes, there are scammers. There are real issues and real conflicts to be explored in seeking to prevent the collapse of our life support systems. But they are handled so clumsily and incoherently by this film that watching it is like watching someone starting a drunken brawl over a spilled pint, then lamping his friends when they try to restrain him. It stumbles so blindly into toxic issues that Michael Moore, former champion of the underdog, unwittingly aligns himself with white supremacists and the extreme right.

Occasionally, the film lands a punch on the right nose. It is right to attack the burning of trees to make electricity. But when the presenter and director, Jeff Gibbs, claims that “I found only one environmental leader willing to reject biomass and biofuels”, he can’t have been looking very far. Some of us have been speaking out against them ever since they became a serious proposition (since 2004 in my case). Almost every environmental leader I know opposes the burning of fresh materials to generate power.

There are also some genuine and difficult problems with renewable energy, particularly the mining of the necessary materials. But the film’s attacks on solar and wind power rely on a series of blatant falsehoods. It claims that, in producing electricity from renewables, “You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from it. You would have been better off just burning fossil fuels in the first place”. This is flat wrong. On average, a solar panel generates 26 units of solar energy for every unit of fossil energy required to build and install it. For wind turbines the ratio is 44 to 1.

Planet of the Humans also claims that you can’t reduce fossil fuel use through renewable energy: coal is instead being replaced by gas. Well, in the third quarter of 2019, renewables in the UK generated more electricity than coal, oil and gas plants put together. As a result of the switch to renewables in this country, the amount of fossil fuel used for power generation has halved since 2010. By 2025, the government forecasts, roughly half our electricity will come from renewables, while gas burning will drop by a further 40%. To hammer home its point, the film shows footage of a “large terminal to import natural gas from the United States” that “Germany just built”. Germany has no such terminal. The footage was shot in Turkey.

There is also a real story to be told about the co-option and capture of some environmental groups by the industries they should hold to account. A remarkable number of large conservation organisations take money from fossil fuel companies. This is a disgrace. But rather than pinning the blame where it lies, Planet of the Humans concentrates its attacks on Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, who takes no money from any of his campaigning work. It’s an almost comic exercise in misdirection, but unfortunately it has horrible, real-world consequences, as McKibben now faces even more threats and attacks than he confronted before.

But this is by no means the worst of it. The film offers only one concrete solution to our predicament: the most toxic of all possible answers. “We really have got to start dealing with the issue of population … without seeing some sort of major die off in population, there’s no turning back.”

Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world. But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%. High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low. Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people. When very rich people, such as Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs, point to this issue without the necessary caveats, they are saying, in effect, “it’s not us consuming, it’s Them breeding.” It’s not hard to see why the alt-right loves this film.

Population is where you go when you haven’t thought it through. Population is where you go when you don’t have the guts to face the structural, systemic causes of our predicament: inequality, oligarchic power, capitalism. Population is where you go when you want to kick down.

We have been here many times before. Dozens of films have spread falsehoods about  environmental activists and ripped into green technologies, while letting fossil fuels off the hook. But never before have these attacks come from a famous campaigner for social justice, rubbing our faces in the dirt.”

www.monbiot.com



 


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Irresponsible engineering and science

https://theecologist.org/2020/mar/10/irresponsible-engineering-and-science

A report in The Ecologist from Scientists for Global Responsibility, written by Dr Stuart Parkinson.

Exxon Mobil Refinery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“Britain’s largest science and engineering event for young people – the ‘Big Bang Fair’ – attracts 80,000 people a year. Its main organiser is EngineeringUK, the professional body responsible for the public promotion of engineering.

So far, so good. But there’s a catch. The ‘lead sponsor’ for 2020 – and indeed for every year since the fair’s inauguration in 2009 – is BAE Systems, the biggest arms corporation outside of the USA, key supplier of strike planes to the Saudi Arabian military – whose bombing raids have killed so many civilians in Yemen – and the lead contractor for the new UK’s new nuclear-armed Dreadnought submarines.

Disturbingly, this is not an isolated case of significant financial links between some of the world’s most controversial corporations and the UK’s professional bodies in engineering and science. Other examples are provided by the school education programmes run by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the nation’s most prestigious engineering body.

Funding 

Data published in the Academy’s own annual report showed that over 70 percent of the external funding it recently received for its school education programmes was from fossil fuel corporations.

Furthermore, almost all of the downloadable teaching resources provided by the academy on its website involved arms corporations, the armed forces and/or promoted military technologies.

Then there’s the Energy Institute, the professional body for those working across the energy supply and demand sectors. Its most high-profile activity each year is ‘International Petroleum Week’ – one of the world’s biggest events for the oil and gas industry, generating income for the institute measured in the millions of pounds. Recent sponsors included Rosneft, Russia’s controversial state-controlled oil company.

These are some of the findings of a new report by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) on the financial links between the fossil fuel and arms industries on the one hand, and some of the UK’s leading professional engineering and science organisations on the other. The range and extent of the links has not been documented until now.

Investments

Nine PESOs ran school education programmes which had some involvement with the fossil fuel industry, the arms industry or both. Three of these nine bodies had especially high levels of involvement – the Royal Academy of Engineering, EngineeringUK, and the Energy Institute.

In addition to the examples mentioned above, EngineeringUK has received funding of at least £1m from Shell for its programme, ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers’.

We found that four PESOs, including the Energy Institute and EngineeringUK, held high levels of investments in the fossil fuel industry.

As we were launching our report, we were able to extract additional data on the investments held by the Royal Society. The society admitted that it held a minimum of £16 million in the fossil fuel industry, and that the actual holdings could be a lot higher. Of 20 PESOs in our study, only one – the British Psychological Society – had an ethical investment policy which restricted investment in the fossil fuel or arms industries.

Five other PESOs held no investments in these industries due to their practice of not holding investments listed on stock exchanges or similar. …..”

The full article can be found through the link at the top of this article.


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Natural Climate solutions

Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot have made a video that they would like everybody to share.  It talks about using natural solutions – nature itself – to restore balance in the world.  They urge that funding currently being used to subsidise fossil fuels should instead be used in projects designed to green the planet.  See it here:

 



 


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Australian PM waters down Pacific Islands declaration on climate change

The 50th meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum met in Tuvalu on 13th – 16th August 2019.  During the meetings a declaration was produced on the climate change crisis. Australian PM, Scott Morrison, and his parliament had been working to dilute the language in the declaration; they succeeded in removing the word “crisis”, as well as removing all but one reference to coal.  Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, said that it looked as if Pacific leaders would not be successful in getting the language of “climate change crisis” into the declaration, with the words “climate change reality” being substituted.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, middle, watered down a climate crisis resolution this week at the Pacific Islands Forum.

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, (centre) at the Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific leaders have been strident in their calls for urgent action on the climate crisis at the forum in Tuvalu, one of the countries most at risk due to climate change. It is affected by rising temperatures as well as rising sea levels, erosion, tide inundations and salinity in the water table that makes growing food very difficult. Many on the islands believe their country will be submerged within their lifetimes, forcing them to leave.

On Monday, the Fijian prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, called for Australia “to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change”, saying coal posed an “existential threat” to Pacific islands.

“Watered-down climate language has real consequences,” said Bainimarama, “like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds.”

After a joint press conference, Enele Sopoaga said he had told the Australian prime minister during the retreat: “You are concerned about saving your economies, your situation in Australia, I’m concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu and likewise other leaders of small island countries.”

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was similarly critical of the declaration’s stymied content.

It was reported that the Prime Minister of Tonga had cried at the retreat while talking about two young women who had presented to leaders on Monday about the impacts of the climate crisis in Tonga.

Further information about the plight of many Pacific Island groups can be found in another blog on this site entitled: “The effects of rising sea levels on island nations”.



Tuvalu’s plight:

2Tuvalu

Climate change on Tuvalu

From: http://klima-tuvalu.no/tuvalu-and-climate-change/the-consequences-of-climate-change-on-tuvalu/

The nine islands of Tuvalu are located in the middle of the Pacific. Funafuti, the main island and capital, is at 1000 km North of Fiji. Tuvalu became, notably thanks to the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the international symbol of the consequences of climate change. Sea-level rise, one of the most known consequences, is a major threat for Tuvalu, considering that this country’s highest point is 4,5 meters over sea-level (whereas most of the land is way below that point). The consequences of climate change will have and already have considerable impacts on these islands.

In the National Adaptation Programme of Actions (NAPA), the government of Tuvalu has identified seven main and immediate threats for the livelihoods of Tuvaluans. These seven adverse effects are presented here:

Coastal: Following the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea-level has already risen by 20 centimetres between 1870 and nowadays. Considering the low-lying position of Tuvalu, this trend is going to dangerously affect the islands. The objective of the government is to increase the resilience of coastal areas and settlement to climate change.

Agricultural: Due to sea-level rise, the ground of Tuvalu is prone to increasing salinization, threatening the habitats of some plants, such as pulaka and coconut trees. Considering that Pulaka traditionally is the staple food in Tuvalu, the adaptation strategy is to introduce salt-tolerant pulaka.

Water: The islands of Tuvalu have progressively lost their fresh groundwater resources, not only due to sea-level rise, but also because of human pollution. In consequence, Tuvaluans only rely on rainwater storage to meet their needs. However, the seasons on Tuvalu are getting irregular and difficult to forecast, leading to droughts and water shortage. In order to ameliorate this situation, the adaptation plan recommends improved and increased water collection and water conservation techniques.

Health: Vectors breeding grounds will have an increasing availability in the next years and decades because of higher tides, inundations and tropical cyclones. The increased availability will exacerbate the exposure of the Tuvaluans to water borne diseases and will increase the epidemic potential of the islands.

Fisheries: Climate change, heating the ocean water, impacts the corals and consequently the marine fauna. The biodiversity of the ocean, and also, in the case of Tuvalu, of the atolls will decrease. In order to prevent this irreparable lost of species due to heat, fragile ecosystems have to be protected.

Fisheries: The biodiversity of the atoll and particularly in the shallower water in the lagoon, will not be the only affected by the impacts of the rising surface water temperature. The rising temperatures will also considerably reduce the shellfish and available fish resources. Considering that the Tuvaluans, on average, eat 500 grams of fish per capita every day, a reduction of the resource will have a disastrous impact of the livelihoods and, thus, also on development.

Disaster: Tuvalu has been increasingly exposed to tropical storms and cyclones since 1990.  Between 1970 and 1990, only three tropical storms, hurricanes or cyclones struck Tuvalu. However, between 1990 and 2005, the islands experienced thirteen similar meteorological events. In order to ease the impacts of the population, the country will have to implement disaster alerts and response systems.

These different threats that Tuvalu is or will be experiencing in the next years or decades are similar to all Small Island Developing States.



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Conversation between Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg

July 9th 2019

Last weekend The Guardian published a long-distance conversation between AOC and GT.  It can be found here:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-met-greta-thunberg-hope-contagious-climate?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTkwNzA1&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GreenLight&CMP=greenlight_email

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (29) is the youngest ever US congresswoman and Greta Thunberg is a 16 year-old Swedish schoolgirl.  Both of them overtly campaign against climate change and, in the conversation, discuss the issues and difficulties they have experienced whilst doing so.

In February, Ocasio-Cortez submitted the Green New Deal to the US House of Representatives, calling for, among other things, the achievement of “net-zero” greenhouse gases within a decade and “a full transition off fossil fuels”, as well as retrofitting all buildings in the US to meet new energy efficient standards. Thunberg has been campaigning both in Sweden and internationally for people to recognise the urgency of doing something about global warming and climate change.

In the course of their conversation, Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg discuss what it is like to be dismissed for their age, how depressed we should be about the future, and what tactics, as an activist, really work. Ocasio-Cortez speaks with her customary snap and brilliance that, held up against the general waffle of political discourse, seems startlingly direct. Thunberg, meanwhile, is phenomenally articulate, well-informed and self-assured, holding her own in conversation with an elected official nearly twice her age and speaking in deliberate, thoughtful English. They are, in some ways, as different as two campaigners can get – the politician working the system with Washington polish, the schoolgirl working from her bedroom to reach the rest of the world. There is something very moving about the conversation between these young women, a sense of generational rise that, as we know from every precedent from the Renaissance onwards, has the power to ignite movements and change history.

Do click on the link above and read the full conversation.  It will inspire you to keep going in your own activism.

AOCGretaThunberg2

                      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez                           Greta Thunberg



 


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Revoke legislation which obligates maximising economic recovery of UK oil & gas: petition to government

The UK Infrastructure Act 2015 makes it a legal obligation to “maximise economic recovery of UK petroleum” – committing this and future governments to maximise emissions from UK fossil fuels.

At the same time, they have legal obligations to minimise them: essential because of the climate crisis.


The Infrastructure Act was passed in 2015. 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/7/section/41/enacted

The Climate Change Act was passed in 2008.
It is legally-binding national legislation to address climate change. UK also signed the Paris Agreement.

More on UK legal duties on climate change:
https://www.theccc.org.uk/tackling-climate-change/the-legal-landscape/

Prof. James Hansen on the planetary emergency:
https://planb.earth/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Hansen-letter-to-general-public.pdf

Both Acts appear to contradict one another and the Infrastructure Act operates against the need to be reducing (or stopping altogether) the use of fossil fuels.

Please read all the links and the letter above and sign the petition.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/259116

At 10,000 signatures…

At 10,000 signatures, the UK government will respond to the petition

At 100,000 signatures…

At 100,000 signatures, the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament



 


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Guardian calls for the nationalisation of the oil companies in order to tackle global warming

oilfields

Owen Jones, writing in the Guardian, discusses what measures British politicians can take in order to respond to the XR demands made over the Easter period:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/25/climate-change-oil-companies-extinction-rebellion

He states that Extinction Rebellion has got the ball rolling but more radical action is needed if changes are to be made.  He believes that the focus must now shift to the fossil fuel companies and the banks and states: “As long as they remain under private ownership on a global scale, humanity’s future will be threatened.”

Apparently, ExxonMobil plans to “pump an astonishing 25% more oil and gas in 2025 than it did in 2017″

According to the United Nation’s IPCC, oil and gas production has to fall by 20% by 2030, and 55% by 2050.  But Owen Jones states that the economic self-interest and political power of the fossil fuel industry is deliberately sabotaging this goal. He provides evidence of vast sums of money being spent in the US 2016 elections, to lobby for subsidies to continue for the fossil fuel industry.

And the banks do not have clean hands either. Since the 2015 Paris climate agreement, 33 global banks – led by big US financial institutions such as JP Morgan Chase – have provided $1.9tn in finance to the fossil fuel industry. HSBC is funding the expansion of coal plants in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam; while Barclays bank has shelled out $85bn of financing for fossil fuels since 2015 alone.

bankimage.JPG

Owen Jones believes that the banks and the fossil fuel companies must be brought under public ownership, if the Paris targets are to be achieved. Otherwise, “they will continue to place short-term profit for elite investors ahead of the future of the planet and continued existence of humanity.”

He ends his article with the words:

 What do we value more: an economic system which privileges profit above all other considerations, or the continued existence of human civilisation as we recognise it? A reckoning is coming.”



 


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Oil giants spending millions to block climate change action

A report, cited in msn news and The Guardian, states that most of the top oil companies are lobbying on social media advertisements proclaiming the virtues of fossil fuel production.  The report was published by InfluenceMap.

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/money/news/top-oil-firms-spending-millions-lobbying-to-block-climate-change-policies-says-report/ar-BBV4Dn4?ocid=spartanntp

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/mar/22/top-oil-firms-spending-millions-lobbying-to-block-climate-change-policies-says-report

The report’s author, Edward Collins, analysed corporate spending on lobbying, briefing and advertising, and assessed what proportion was dedicated to climate issues. He found that the largest five stock market listed oil and gas companies spend nearly $200m (£153m) a year lobbying to delay, control or block policies to tackle climate change.  Chevron, BP and ExxonMobil were the main companies leading the field in direct lobbying to push against a climate policy to tackle global warming. Increasingly they are using social media to successfully push their agenda to weaken and oppose any meaningful legislation in the USA to tackle global warming.  In the run-up to the US midterm elections last year $2m was spent on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads by global oil giants and their industry bodies, promoting the benefits of increased fossil fuel production.

But the report said these campaigns were misleading the public about the extent of the oil companies’ actions because, while publicly endorsing the need to act, they are massively increasing investment in a huge expansion of oil and gas extraction. In 2019 their spending will increase to $115bn, with just 3% of that directed at low carbon projects.

The Guardian article provides graphic data to support these statements.