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Posts from the ‘climate’ Category

Pope warns oil bosses of climate threat

BBC.com 14 June 2019

The Pope has told oil company bosses that climate change threatens the future of the “human family”.

The oil executives had been invited to the Vatican in Rome for an audience with the pontiff.

Pope Francis said a radical energy transition is needed to save what he called “our common home”.

The head of BP agreed that the world must find urgent solutions to environmental problems – but said all must play a part.

The Pope warned him and other bosses: “Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation.”

The oil bosses were brought to the Vatican alongside fund managers who invest in their stocks.

The companies represented were believed to include Eni, Exxon, Total, Repsol, BP, Sinopec, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, and Chevron.

Pope urges action on clean energy

Pope to talk climate change with oil execs

A small group of demonstrators gathered outside a Vatican gate. One held a sign reading “Dear Oil CEOs – Think of Your Children”.

The executives were given a dressing down by the former Irish premier Mary Robinson.

She said: “We should all salute the courage the Holy Father has shown on climate change when too many secular leaders have spurned their responsibilities.”

Ms Robinson asked the oil bosses: “What could be more cynical than still seeking to exploit fossil fuel reserves when the scientific evidence is abundantly clear that we need to end all combustion of fossil fuels by 2050?”

She said the energy transition would require a massive shift of capital to clean energy and warned: “If some industries fail to adjust to this new word, they will fail to exist.”

In a statement, BP said its CEO Bob Dudley was “honoured to participate at the Vatican”.

Mr Dudley said: “The world needs to take urgent action to get us on a more sustainable path and it is critical that everyone plays their part – companies and investors, governments and individuals.

“Constructive dialogues such this meeting are essential in aligning key players on the steps needed to accelerate the energy transition while still enabling advances in human prosperity.”

Critics point out that BP and other oil firms are spending billions of pounds a year seeking new oil and gas even though scientists say firms have already found much more fossil fuel that can be burned whilst keeping a stable climate.

The Pontiff noted the release last year of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This warns there is only 12 years left to cut greenhouse gases and stay within a temperature rise of 1.5C.

The Pope underlined what he called the climate emergency, saying: “We must take action in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice towards the poor and future generations.

“Future generations stand to inherit a greatly spoiled world. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay the cost of our generation’s irresponsibility. Indeed, as is becoming increasingly clear, young people are calling for change.”

The meeting focused on a just transition to a lower-carbon world; carbon pricing; and transparency in reporting climate risk.

Pope Francis said the transition can if managed well, generate new jobs, reduce inequality and improve the quality of life for those affected by climate change.

Deliberations, he emphasised, “must go beyond mere exploration of what can be done, and concentrate on what needs to be done”.

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https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48641799?intlink_from_url=&link_location=live-reporting-story o

The Climate Emergency Continuum: from Bad to Cataclysmic

Resilience.org 7 June 2017

I’m pretty attuned to being on the receiving end of regular apocalypse-fixes. But even for me, Monday last week (20/5) was a tough one, with a new research report indicating that the worst case sea-level rise by 2100 has now been assessed at a possible two metres. Previously, it was thought to be no more than one metre.

As I’ve said before, avoiding a climate-induced descent into despair gets harder by the year – if not by the month. So it was with something of a sinking feeling that I decided to read both David Wallace-Well’s ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ and Bill McKibben’s new book, ‘Falter’, in the same fortnight. But I’m ever so pleased I did – not least because they’re both beautifully written, utterly compelling in their analysis, and, surprisingly, useful antidotes for premature despair! Both of them should be high up on your reading list.

I’ve discovered that there are now a series of staging-posts on the way to full-on apocalyptic despair, on a ‘going, going, gone’ continuum.

1. First, there’s ‘going’, as in ‘Bloody hell, this looks bad. Is it really slipping away from us?’

2. Then there’s ‘going, going’, as in ‘Bloody hell, this is far worse than I thought, but surely we’ve still got time to turn it all around?’

3. Then there’s ‘going, going, and all but gone’, as in ‘We may still have time to avoid a complete climate meltdown, but that ‘window of opportunity’ is closing faster and faster – and it’s probably going to be pretty grim, come what may.

4. Then there’s ‘going, going, gone’ – as in ‘OK, it’s too late to avoid massive global disruption, but we could still stop the infinitely worse effects of runaway climate change’.

5. And finally, there’s ‘going, going, gone – and no coming back’ – as in ‘Game over for humankind’.

David Wallace-Wells (DWW) and Bill McKibben (BMcK) are both emphatic ‘Threes’, with a strong possibility of becoming ‘Fours’ within the next year or so.

(For what it’s worth, I’m still a reluctant ‘Three’, nervously contemplating the psychological consequences of becoming a ‘Four’!)

Reading both at the same time allows for a little bit of compare and contrast, in five key areas:
1. The state of our climate-impacted world today.
2. The state of our climate-impacted world tomorrow.
3. Knowing all that, what is their current state of mind?
4. How do they deal with human nature, as a key variable?
5. How do they deal with political will, as the other key variable?

1. The state of our climate-impacted world today.

Both of them are cauterisingly honest about this. ‘It’s worse, much worse than you think’ (DWW). And so it is – remorselessly spelled out by DWW in 12 separate chapters (Heat Death, Hunger, Drowning, Wildfire, Disasters No Longer Natural, Freshwater Drain, Dying Oceans, Unbreathable Air, Plagues of Warming, Economic Collapse, Climate Conflict, and Systems), at the end of which he helpfully comments, ‘If you’ve made it this far, you are a brave reader.’

‘The assaults will not be discrete – this is another climate delusion. Instead, they will produce a new kind of cascading violence, waterfalls and avalanches of devastation, the planet pummelled again and again, with increasing intensity and in ways that build on each other and undermine our ability to respond, uprooting much of the landscape we have taken for granted, for centuries, as the stable foundation on which we walk, build homes and highways, shepherd our children through schools and into adulthood under the promise of safety.’

Bill McKibben is no less honest, with a particularly disturbing section on his very own apocalypse-fixes (mega-fires, disrupted photosynthesis, collapsing agricultural productivity and nutritional value, etc etc). He acknowledges that he could spend even more time in order to ‘scare you silly’ if he really wanted to, especially in contemplating the kind of ‘biological annihilation’ that will be driven by accelerating climate change.

At this point, you have to take a deep breath, as you remind yourself that all of this is happening right now, all around the world, on the basis of an average temperature increase of around 1.1 degrees C/1.2 degrees C since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

2. The state of our climate-impacted world tomorrow.

Both authors see sharp rises in average temperature as inevitable, heading rapidly towards a world of an average temperature increase of at least 2 degrees C by 2100 (neither thinks that staying below 1.5 degrees C is remotely realistic), and possibly (in DWW) by as much as 4 degrees C. And even if we get real about addressing today’s climate emergency, the ‘legacy leverage’ of decades of rising emissions makes serious disruption completely inevitable. As BMcK says, ‘Even if we stopped emitting all greenhouse gases today, one-third of the planet’s ice would melt anyway.’ Which takes us back to that worst case two metre sea-level rise.

This is obviously where it gets very bad, on the basis of their wholly reasonable extrapolations from where we are today. I will not imperil your own state of mind without you having a chance to read this for yourself, not least because I really appreciate the cautious, conscientious way in which they both contextualise all of this.

What I can say is they’re both pretty bloody angry about it. Both comment on the fact that around 50% of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere currently warming up our planet have been emitted in the last 30 years. And 30 years ago, companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell and BP already knew (on the basis of the impeccable scientific analysis provided by their own scientists), that we were about to start cooking the planet. BMcK describes this as ‘the most consequential lie in the history of humankind’, and is explicit in his determination to see these ‘climate criminals’ indicted, prosecuted and incarcerated, starting with Lee Raymond (the CEO of Exxon Mobil at the time).

3. Knowing all that, what is their current state of mind?

This is where it gets really fascinating! As I said, they’re sort-of in the same place (‘Threes, going on Fours’), and in a chapter headed ‘Outside Chance’, BMcK reassures us that ‘It’s not too late. Not quite.’ ‘We can still figure out how to keep humans healthy, safe, productive – and human.’ (That final comment, by the way, is based on BMcK’s deep concern about the direction of travel in genetics – providing a fascinating and almost equally scary excursion from his principal focus on climate.)

DWW, it would seem, is equally keen to hold people back from premature despair. ‘The thing is, I am optimistic’, with a number of brave, optimistic notes seeded through the narrative. ‘The fight is, definitively, not yet lost – in fact, will never be lost, so long as we avoid extinction, because however warm the planet gets, it will always be the case that the decade that follows could contain more suffering or less.’

But with DWW, somehow, I don’t really believe him. He contradicts his own narrative of hope on too many occasions, commenting for instance that ‘There is almost no chance we will avoid that scenario’ – the scenario in question being the Hothouse Earth scenario of around a 4oC average temperature rise by 2100. ‘According to some estimates, that would mean that whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia south of Siberia, would be rendered uninhabitable by direct heat desertification and flooding.’

Deep down, I think DWW is already a Four, preparing for the psychologically shocking moment of evolving into a Five. Were it not for the birth of his daughter, Rocca, as he was writing ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’, I think that’s probably where he’d be headed.

4. How do they deal with human nature, as a key variable?

Neither of them quite spells it out in terms. DWW is fascinating on all the deep cognitive biases that have prevented us from understanding what’s really going on over the last 20 or 30 years, and on the whole question of the impact of accelerating climate change on people’s psychological wellbeing (highlighting examples of climate-induced Post-traumatic Stress Disorder).

We should take comfort, he believes, from the fact that we now know it is 100% down to us where we eventually end up. ‘If the planet was brought to the brink of climate catastrophe within the lifetime of a single generation, the responsibility to avoid it belongs with a single generation too. We all also know that second lifetime. It is ours.’ But he’s disturbed by the gathering ‘philosophy of inhumanism’.

‘Online, the climate crisis has given rise to what is called “eco-fascism” – a “by any means necessary” movement that also traffics in white supremacy and prioritizes the climate needs of a particular set. On the left, there is a growing admiration for the climate authoritarianism of Xi Jinping.’

BMcK has been an unwavering humanitarian throughout his life (‘By and large, humans continue to believe in humanity’), and remains wholly convinced that on some of the other grim challenges of the age (like inequality and poverty, for instance), ‘the pendulum will swing back again’. The only thing that will prevent that would be an accelerated climate emergency, resulting, for instance, in hundreds of millions of climate refugees. But he still clearly has faith in the deep-down goodness of human beings to get stuff, even the worst stuff, sorted out.

5. How do they deal with political will, as the other key variable?

It’s impossible to detach what we might think about human nature from the particular political and socio-economic system which shapes our views about human nature.

This is where BMcK is at his strongest. He argues that the principal reason why we’ve failed so comprehensively to address the climate challenge is because that challenge emerged, in all its complexity and contestability, during the most vicious, ideologically extreme version of capitalism since the time of the laissez-faire robber barons back in the late nineteenth century.

He takes us back into the origins of that neo-liberal, government-hating market absolutism – in the 1950s – when the novelist Ayn Rand (‘You could argue that Ayn Rand is the most important political philosopher of our time’) gathered around her a circle of acolytes to share the ideas expressed in ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged’. These acolytes (including Alan Greenspan, Rex Tillerson, the Koch brothers and countless future CEOs and financiers) have shaped the politics of the USA for the last 50 years: ‘It was precisely America, in precisely those decades, that may have decided the planet’s geological and technological future.’

I totally buy this analysis, and have long been persuaded that the decades of intransigent climate contrarianism can only be explained by those contrarians’ sure knowledge that the market alone cannot possibly address climate change – necessitating the resurgence of ‘big government’. And that, for them, is something to be avoided at all costs. Literally.

This analysis leads directly to BMcK’s principal reason for abiding hope: civil resistance. ‘We have the tools to stand up to entrenched power.’ Combined with today’s unstoppable solar revolution (the only technology fix that he really loves!), this is what will keep us on the right side of ‘going, going, gone – and no coming back.’

DWW doesn’t really do the politics, and seems unconvinced by civil dissent as a necessary (if not sufficient) part of the fight-back. That leaves him much more dependent on possible technological solutions than BMcK, even to the point of flirting with wholesale geoengineering and other, as of now, ‘unfathomable innovations’. ‘We may yet see a deus ex machina.’ But he’s honest enough, at the same time, to share his deep scepticism about ‘the Church of Technology’.

A final thought: one thing they both have in common is the paradoxically hopeful assumption that as the inevitable climate shocks bear down on us ever harder and ever faster, political, technological and financial transformation will simultaneously accelerate to meet the scale of the challenge.

And isn’t that exactly what Extinction Rebellion and the School Strikes would seem to confirm? I seriously hope so.

Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play itself Out?’ by Bill McKibben, published by Wildfire, 2019

The Uninhabitable Earth: a Story of the Future’ by David Wallace-Wells, published (USA) by Tim Duggan Books, 2018; and (UK) by Allen Lane, 2019  

https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-06-07/the-climate-emergency-continuum-from-bad-to-cataclysmic/

Carmakers on course for $2-12bn fines for missing EU CO2 targets: Moody’s

Climatechangenews.com 4 April 2019

The ratings agency warns of possible credit downgrades, while the UK’s auto lobby says ‘anti-diesel’ agenda has made targets harder to reach

Carmakers are on course to be hit with EU fines of between €2.4-11.2 billion euros ($2.7-12.6bn) for failing to meet the bloc’s emissions targets in just two years time, ratings agency Moody’s said on Thursday.

Without drastic action half of the world’s largest automakers will miss Europe’s 2021 standards for CO2 emissions. The penalties for failure could lead to credit downgrades, the ratings agency warned.

By 2021, manufacturers’ average car will need to emit a maximum of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre, versus 118.5g in 2017. Manufacturers have the choice of how to achieve this, with some focusing on hybrids while others are betting heavily on fully-electric vehicles.

But companies are lagging far behind the looming standards. For most automakers, more than half of their new cars breach the 2021 standards. This includes Renault-Nissan, Volvo, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai, BMW, Daimler AG, Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and Jaguar.

The report’s most optimistic scenario, under which makers push a swift transition, still predicts that half the manufacturers could rack up a cumulative €2.4 billion in penalties for failing to comply. The worst case scenario could see the industry pay up to €11.2 billion in fines.

“The rapid transition scenario should be feasible for most companies,” Moody’s said.

The credit rating agency found a shift away from buying diesel cars had made the transition harder. Diesel cars release less carbon dioxide than petrol vehicles. But Europeans have deserted the fuel following the revelations in 2015 that Volkswagen and other automakers had tampered with its engines to meet emission standards during laboratory testing. Between 2017 and 2018, sales of diesel-powered cars fell from 44% of new registered cars in Europe to 36%, down a peak of 56% in 2011.

Volkswagen, Fiat Chrysler, Ford and Hyundai-Kia lag most behind their 2021 targets. Accordingly, they are most at risk of large fines, said Moody’s.

“These fines would be credit negative for the companies,” the report concluded.

A spokesperson for the agency said ratings assessments took into account “how advanced the company is in developing ‘alternative fuel vehicles’”. This can work in a company’s favour too.

“We also referred to CO2 performance in a recent rating action on Peugeot – the company’s plans to comply were seen as a positive if they can be delivered,” the spokesperson said.

Boosted by its development of battery-assisted hybrids, Toyota emerged as the only company on track to meet EU targets.

The market threats do not limit themselves to Europe, the report noted, with the US and Chinese governments also pushing for electrification. In the US, car manufacturers get a $2,500 to $7,500 subsidy in the form of a tax credit for consumers for their first 200,000 electric vehicle sales, while sales of pure-battery, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell cars skyrocketed by 138% in January in China on the back of generous subsidies. Together with Europe, the US and China account for about three quarters of light vehicle sales.

A spokesperson for the UK car lobby, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the “industry is committed to a low carbon future but the anti-diesel agenda and slower than hoped take-up of electric vehicles is now jeopardising industry efforts to meet the most challenging CO2 targets in the world for 2021”.

Cuts to incentives to buying greener cars in the UK, such as plug-in hybrids, did not help the industry cut emissions, the spokesperson said.

“We need policies that encourage rather than confuse, which means a consistent approach to incentives and tax, and greater investment in charging infrastructure. This will be critical to meeting targets and avoiding crippling fines, which will only hinder industry’s ability to invest in future technologies,” said the spokesperson.

Carmakers on course for $2-12bn fines for missing EU CO2 targets: Moody’s

We finally have the rulebook for the Paris Agreement, but global climate action is still inadequate

The Conversation, 18 December 2018
Three years after the Paris Agreement was struck, we now finally know the rules – or most of them, at least – for its implementation. The Paris Rulebook, agreed at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, gives countries a common framework for reporting and reviewing progress towards their climate targets. Yet the new rules fall short in one crucial area. While the world will now be able to see how much we are lagging behind on the necessary climate action, the rulebook offers little to compel countries to up their game to the level required.
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California is first state to mandate zero-emission bus fleet

AP News, 15 December 2018
California moved Friday to eliminate climate-changing fossil fuels from its fleet of 12,000 transit buses, enacting a first-in-the-nation mandate that will vastly increase the number of electric buses on the road. The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to require that all new buses be carbon-free by 2029. Environmental advocates project that the last buses emitting greenhouse gases will be phased out by 2040.

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At last, divestment is hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts

The Guardian, 17 December 2018
I remember well the first institution to announce it was divesting from fossil fuel. It was 2012 and I was on the second week of a gruelling tour across the US trying to spark a movement. Our roadshow had been playing to packed houses down the west coast, and we’d crossed the continent to Portland, Maine. As a raucous crowd jammed the biggest theatre in town, a physicist named Stephen Mulkey took the mic. He was at the time president of the tiny Unity College in the state’s rural interior, and he announced that over the weekend its trustees had voted to sell their shares in coal, oil and gas companies. “The time is long overdue for all investors to take a hard look at the consequences of supporting an industry that persists in destructive practices,” he said.
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VW Says the Next Generation of Combustion Cars Will Be Its Last

Bloomberg, 5 December 2018
Volkswagen AG expects the era of the combustion car to fade away after it rolls out its next-generation gasoline and diesel cars beginning in 2026. Traditional automakers are under increasing pressure from regulators to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions to combat climate change, prompting Volkswagen to pursue a radical shift to electric vehicles.

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Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have declined 28% since 2005

EIA, 29 October 2018
U.S. electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have declined 28% since 2005 because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.
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AEMO’s Zibelman: Transition out of coal does not mean lights going out

Renew Economy, 11 October 2018
Audrey Zibelman, the CEO of Australia’s Energy Market Operator, has contradicted claims by the federal Coalition that transitioning out of coal would mean the lights going out. The blackout line has been a long-time favourite of the Coalition government and has come to the forefront again after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommended the world end its use of coal for power generation by 2050 at the latest.
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EU must end new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030 to meet climate targets – report

The Guardian, 20 September 2018
New petrol and diesel car sales in Europe must be phased out before 2030 if the auto sector is to play its part in holding global warming to the Paris agreement’s 1.5C goal, a new analysis has found. Forecourt plug-in hybrids will also have to disappear by 2035 at the latest, according to analysis by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).

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