January 22, 2019
It has become abundantly clear that an adequate, serious response to climate change is highly unlikely, to say the least, to come from our leaders, from reforming the system. It will come despite the system, and will replace it willy nilly, whether anyone wishes that or not.
But first the news.

Protesters arrested in New Milford
for blocking power plant transport

Protesters arrested in New Milford for blocking power plant transport

NEW MILFORD — Four protesters were arrested just before midnight Tuesday for chaining themselves to a tractor in the middle of the road in an effort to stop turbines from getting to a gas-powered plant under construction.

The Cricket Valley Energy Center in neighboring Dover Plains, N.Y., is controversial in towns along the borders of both states because residents worry it will worsen their air.

Residents have spoken out against the natural-gas powered plant, but this appears to be the first time, at least in Connecticut, where an arrest was made in connection with it.

Three of the men arrested are New York farmers, and the fourth is a Ph.D. candidate in environmental policy, according to a press release from the Sane Energy Project, an advocacy group based in New York City that is dedicated to replacing fracked-gas infrastructure with community-led, sustainable energy .

The road was already scheduled to be closed as the state police and Department of Transportation helped move the equipment.

State police were escorting the huge turbines, which have a combined weight of 700,000 pounds, from Kimberly Clark in New Milford up Route 7 and along sections of Route 55 when the caravan encountered the tractor parked perpendicularly across the road.

State troopers asked the men to unchain themselves and move so the transport could continue, but they refused and the Gaylordsville Fire Department had to come to cut the chains, according to a state police report.

Benjamin Franklin Schwartz, 41, of Wassaic, N.Y.; Christopher L. Iversen, 52, of Kingston, N.Y.; Philip M. Erner, 38, of Wassaic, N.Y.; and David Epstein, 38, of Albany, N.Y., are all charged with disorderly conduct.

They were each held on $500 bond and are scheduled to appear in court Jan. 23 in Torrington.

Schwartz, Erner and Iversen are all area farmers. Epstein is working on his doctorate in environmental policy at the State University of New York at Albany.

“Our farms need clean air and water just like our schoolchildren down the road from the gas plant,” Schwartz said in a press release. “The much cleaner solar-power plant, approved for construction across the road from Cricket Valley, plans to sell its electricity to Dover residents, unlike the gas plant.”…

…Connecticut residents are especially angry because they said they didn’t learn of the project until New York already approved it and it was too late. This prompted DEEP officials to introduce a new way of informing Connecticut residents of these projects in neighboring states by posting them online.

Resident in both New York and Connecticut also worry the hilly topography of the area will trap the pollutants the plant emits.

“This is a violation of our free, prior and informed consent according to the United Nations Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, which was ratified by the United States government,” Sachem HawkStorm, Schaghticoke First Nations hereditary leader, said in a press release. “Clean air, water and land are inalienable human and natural rights. These rights cannot be superseded by a corporation for capital gain.”…—Katrina Koerting, “Protesters arrested in New Milford for blocking power plant transport,” Danbury NewsTimes, 1/16/19

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Cuomo’s Green New Deal

Governor Cuomo deserves applause for his recent announcements on the Green New Deal which positions New York as a national leader on climate. (See the Green Education and Legal Fund’s Green New Deal here)

He has made a significant commitment to expand renewable energy, particularly off shore wind, solar, storage and efficiency. He has made commitments to a Just Transition and Environmental Justice, which is critical. He stated support for regenerative agriculture to restore carbon to soil.

The challenge remains to flesh out the details – and to aggressively implement it so that the state’s climate goals are achieved (it has consistently failed to do so in the past). The state needs to declare a climate emergency.

While Cuomo’s announcements were a strong positive step, New York must further accelerate its efforts to move to 100% clean renewable energy as soon as possible (faster than 2040 where possible) from all sectors (including buildings, transportation, agriculture), not just electricity.  This must be combined with similar timelines to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions (including methane). The commitment to clean energy should embrace true renewable energy primarily built and operated in NY, and avoid the use of carbon offsets and cap-and-trade schemes.

The Governor should require NYSERDA to release its long-delayed draft study on how fast it is scientifically possible for New York to move to 100% clean energy. While we expect we would disagree with some of its conclusions, it would be helpful to have this as a baseline and to provide the opportunity for other scientists and climate experts to respond to the state’s assessments. The State legislature should also hold hearings on the study and the state’s overall plan for climate action.

The Governor needs to embrace a true carbon tax to impose penalties on polluters to compensate for the damages they cause from burning fossil fuel. The carbon tax needs to be set at a high level (unlike RGGI) to further accelerate the end of fossil fuels and promote clean renewable energy. A good starting point would be $40 a ton, with annual $10 to $15 increases. The Governor’s plan should also commit to a timely phase-out of dangerous and unclean nuclear power.

Critically missing from his announcement was a commitment to reject new fossil fuel infrastructure. The Governor needs to formally reject natural gas as a bridge to our clean energy future and instead acknowledge it is gangplank to climate disaster.

The Governor needs to clean up his own house and order NYPA to halt any efforts to install new gas turbines on Sheridan Avenue in Albany to power the Capitol and Empire State Plaza (or fossil fuel plants anywhere). Instead he must commit to finding renewable energy solutions based on geothermal, wind and electricity.

GELF has long advocated the need for a strong climate action plan with clear benchmarks and timelines, so we welcome the Governor’s support for this. However, the state already created a Climate Action Council back in 2009 (see Executive Order, which Cuomo re-issued) and charged it with the creation of a climate action plan. (see draft here.) The Plan drafted was very weak however, especially since the energy industry was allowed to shape most of it; their role needs to be limited to providing technical assistance in identifying and overcoming barriers.

The Governor and his staff should review the NYS Off Fossil Fuels / 100% Renewable Energy by 2030 which has many measures stronger than he outlined yesterday. This includes requiring the counties and local governments in excess of 50,000 to develop their own climate action plans.

Local climate action plans would help address the huge problem related to the difficulty of siting large-scale renewable energy systems. One of the reasons that NYS gets only 3% of its power from wind while Texas gets 17% is that the permitting process in NY takes 10 years while in Texas it takes less than a year. All plants should be sited to minimize environmental problems (including loss of farmland) and to meet community needs. Having local governments begin a process of determining how and where to build out their own 100% clean energy systems will help with the siting process.

New York needs to expand the role of public ownership of renewable energy to accelerate its development, address the siting challenge, and lower costs. Public ownership has proven critical in European countries in increasing public acceptance of such facilities as they are viewed as a common good. NYPA’s mission and leadership should be re-directed to focus on a commitment to renewable energy.

We applaud the Governor’s commitment to divesting from fossil fuels, and welcome his efforts for the state to internally divest and to reinvest in renewable energy. We recommend that he include language in his 30-day budget amendments to divest the state pension funds from fossil fuels.

Finally, a Green New Deal is a combination of treating climate as a public emergency with rapid action along with a commitment to implement an economic bill of rights as articulated by FDR in this last state of the union. New York should enact single payer universal healthcare; guarantee a living wage job; strengthen rent control and expand quality public house; and increase funding for education, including free college tuition.

We applaud the Governor’s proposal to expand the bottle bill. We recommend that his proposal to ban plastic bags be extended to all single-use plastic while adding on a fee for the use of other single-use bags like paper.—Mark Dunlea, “Cuomo’s Green New Deal,” Green Education and Legal Fund, 1/16/19

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America’s No. 3 Coal State
Sets Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets

America’s No. 3 Coal State Sets Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets

The Pennsylvania governor’s goal matches the U.S. commitment under the Paris accord, but he’ll need the Republican-controlled legislature’s help to meet it.

In Pennsylvania, a coal-mining state where the fracking boom has also pushed natural gas production to the second highest levels in the nation, Gov. Tom Wolf is launching into his second term with a conspicuous move on climate change.

Wolf issued an executive order on Tuesday to set the state’s first economy-wide targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

His goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 compared to 2005 levels mirrors the commitment the U.S. made as part of the Paris climate agreement. And his longer-term target—an 80 percent reduction by 2050—is in line with the decarbonization that scientists have said will be needed to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

But meeting that target is easier said than done with Republicans in control of both chambers of the legislature, as the Democratic governor pointed out.

The governor can set energy efficiency targets for state agencies, take steps to increase the number of electric cars in state fleets, and increase purchases of renewable energy, but those moves would be insufficient on their own to curb Pennsylvania’s emissions.

Pennsylvania now ranks fourth in the country, behind Texas, California and Florida, in carbon emissions. Methane, a short-lived climate pollutant, is also an issue. The state is second behind Texas in natural gas production and the third-largest coal producer after Wyoming and West Virginia.…—Marianne Lavelle, “America’s No. 3 Coal State Sets Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets,” InsideClimate News, 1/9/19

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Changing the System
Change the System, not the Climate: Naomi Klein

Change the System, not the Climate: Naomi Klein

For Naomi Klein, the problematics that are currently met are all connected together. The neoliberal model will never address the ecological crisis. As it based on growth at any price, its reforms and policies will always remain superficial. No real and profound change will ever take place in such circumstances. Neoliberalism is able to charm the population with an ecological speech, yet this does not serve any purpose if the policies and the governmental actions do not hold water. All neoliberalist barriers must be put down and the old models of growth must be rejected in order to hope to get out of such a risky situation. Klein calls for action in this era of change. Awareness of the mischiefs of capitalism is globalized, and it is time now more than ever to gather around together to create a new model, a culture where we take care of each other and of the Earth, an economy of care.—Naomi Klein, “Change the System, not the Climate: Naomi Klein,” Saeed Valadbaygi|YouTube, 1/13/17

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Scientists’ Warning at Foresight Group, EU Commission

Scientists’ Warning at Foresight Group, EU Commission


Click to view video

From Stuart Scott, founder and host at ScientistsWarning.TV:
I chose to keep this video in ‘Unlisted’ mode for the past 10 weeks because I felt that it would be a hard pill to swallow for most people, and that some emotional support needed to be provided when I finally presented it.  
 
Well, now is the time, and I think in a way the set of ScientistsWarning.TV programs I produced in Poland at COP-24 are the emotional support, especially the ones with Greta Thunberg, our little ‘truth-teller’ extraordinaire.
 
Reality is quite a complex affair.  And I hold that we might achieve some measure of what is energetically referred to as ‘redemption’ if we (individually and collectively) were to ‘repent’ of our wasteful ways.  I quote those words since I don’t want them to evoke the standard religious interpretations.  They are used more in the sense of rebalancing our psyches in harmony with the natural world.
 
So watch this video as a though it were an ‘oracle’ of one possible, perhaps likely future.  Take the questions it poses seriously.  Take them to ‘heart’.  Then be in your heart (‘coeur’ in French) with courage to face the future with equanimity.

This presentation from November 5, 2018 (but has been Unlisted and only available by possession of the link until now) was delivered to the ‘Foresight Group’ of the EU Commission in Brussels, Belgium. The assessment of our global prospects is extremely severe. The conclusions may be upsetting and perhaps life-changing for many. But the conclusions should not be taken in lightly.—Stuart Scott, Victoria Hurth, “Scientists’ Warning at Foresight Group, EU Commission,” – UPFSI|YouTube, 1/17/19

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The women fighting a pipeline
that could destroy precious wildlife

The women fighting a pipeline that could destroy precious wildlife

Deep within the humid green heart of the largest river swamp in North America, a battle is being waged over the future of the most precious resource of all: water.

On one side of the conflict is a small band of rugged and ragtag activists led by Indigenous matriarchs. On the other side is the relentless machinery of the fossil fuel industry and all of its might. And at the center of the struggle is the Atchafalaya river, a 135 mile-long distributary of the Mississippi river that empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

The activists gather at L’eau Est La Vie Camp, a resistance encampment set up to resist the Bayou Bridge pipeline, which will cross directly through the river basin to connect shale crude from the Dakota Access pipeline to a refinery in St James, Louisiana. From there, it will be shipped primarily to China.

The “water protectors”, as they call themselves, are camped near the path of the pipeline. Many live locally, but others come from afar, often hailing from tribes affected by similar issues, such as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Their efforts are focused on public protest to raise awareness, as well as direct actions to impede construction of the pipeline, which they say endangers the Atchafalaya hardwood forest and cypress-tupelo swamp, the largest in North America.…—Joe Whittle, “The women fighting a pipeline that could destroy precious wildlife,” The Guardian, 116/19

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Isle de Jean Charles Tribe Turns Down Funds to Relocate First US ‘Climate Refugees’
as Louisiana Buys Land Anyway

Isle de Jean Charles Tribe Turns Down Funds to Relocate First US ‘Climate Refugees’ as Louisiana Buys Land Anyway

The announcement that the State of Louisiana had purchased land for a resettlement project spearheaded by the Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe (IDJC) reached the Tribe’s executive secretary, Chantel Comardelle, via an emailed press release. The news hit her like a slap in the face.

Despite being involved with the project from the beginning, she received no direct notification. She assumed the State hadn’t told IDJC Tribe Chief Albert Naquin directly either and relayed the news to him. Both took offense for not being notified directly.

The way Comardelle received the news is indicative of why the IDJC Tribe recently told the federal government, which is funding the move of America’s so-called first “climate change refugees,” that the tribal community is turning down the $48 million federal offer and withdrawing from the State’s Isle de Jean Charles resettlement project.

“The State has no respect for our culture,” Comardelle said during a phone call shortly after the January 9* announcement celebrating the $11.7 million land deal. 

Disappearing Island, Disappearing Community

The Isle de Jean Charles is a dwindling strip of land in Louisiana’s wetlands about 80 miles southwest of New Orleans. Since 1955, it has lost 98 percent of its area due to a combination of levee construction, coastal erosion, sinking land, rising seas, and damage from hurricanes worsened by climate change. Of the 22,400-acre island that stood at that time, only a 320-acre strip remains today

The island is only accessible by one road, which is at times under water. If the road is washed away, as it has been in the past, the state likely won’t rebuild it because most projections show the island will be uninhabitable in the near future.

The IDJC Tribe members are descendants of Biloxi, Chitimacha, and Choctaw Indians, who ended up on the Isle de Jean Charles while escaping the harsh and involuntary relocations of Southeastern tribes under the Indian Removal Act of the 1830s. They created a self-sustaining community, but began dispersing as life on the island became more perilous with each passing hurricane. The 600-member tribe had been planning to relocate for two decades.

Tribal members were dubbed the nation’s first “climate change refugees” in 2016, after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the Tribe a grant, which would help them relocate. The funds would come from the agency’s $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition, aimed at helping communities adapt to climate change by building resilient infrastructure and housing. 

HUD allotted $92 million to Louisiana for disaster resilience projects, of which $48 million was earmarked for the relocation of the IDJC Tribe. 

By Chief Naquin’s count, there are, at most, 34 families who still live on the island. The exact number is hard to pin down because the population is in flux. Most of the residents are members of the IDJC Tribe, a fact the state doesn’t dispute.

Tribe Says ‘No Thanks’ to Government Plan

Chief Naquin did not think that the State’s land purchase was anything to celebrate, but he told me, during a call after the news broke, that he wants people to know his tribe’s stance on the resettlement project: In an October 29, 2018 letter to Stan Gimont, the director of the Office of Block Grant Assistance at HUD, the IDJC Tribal Council recommended that its grant funds be returned to the National Disaster Resilience Competition Grant committee. 

The letter explained that changes the State made to the IDJC Tribe’s original plan didn’t reflect the goals and objectives the Tribe outlined in its application for the grant in the first place. For example, the island residents who agreed to relocate, now do so at the risk of losing ownership of their existing homes on the Isle de Jean Charles — something few are willing to risk.

“The last thing anyone wants to do is sign away the legacy from their ancestors who worked so hard to keep it,” Chief Naquin wrote in the letter to HUD. “Our Tribe feels this is dishonoring of everything our ancestors did to ensure we survived the Indian Removal Act 1830, Indian Relocation Act of 1956, Jim Crow Laws, and other discriminatory acts.”

…Climate-Vulnerable Tribes on the Watch

Other Native American tribes in coastal areas at risk from the impacts of climate change have been following this project closely. It is the first government-funded project meant to resettle an entire community due to climate change.

Betty Osceola, a member of the Miccosukee Tribe and Panther Clan based in the Florida Everglades, is paying careful attention to what is happening in Louisiana. Her tribe is also threatened by the impacts of climate change.

“A tribal chief is like the President of the United States. For his people to ignore a tribal chief is the equivalent of ignoring the President of the United States,” Osceola said on a call after Louisiana announced the land purchase. “That is the level of disrespect Native Americans have grown accustomed to when dealing with the state and federal government.”

“The State is ignoring indigenous sovereignty if it doesn’t work directly with the IDJC’s chief,” she said, noting that “nothing has change since the cowboy and Indian days. Tribes are meant to be managed, not worked with like equals.”…—Julie Dermansky, “Isle de Jean Charles Tribe Turns Down Funds to Relocate First US ‘Climate Refugees’ as Louisiana Buys Land Anyway,” DeSmogBlog, 1/11/19​

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To Those Who Think We Can Reform Our Way
Out of the Climate Crisis

To Those Who Think We Can Reform Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

Our only hope is to stop exploiting the earth—and its people.

Welcome to the future. It feels like it, doesn’t it? Like we have reached the end of something—of the days when the Arctic was not actually in flames, when the permafrost was not a sodden mush, when the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets were not rushing to join the quickly rising seas. Perhaps we have also, finally, reached the end of the days when we could soothe ourselves with lies, or delusions at least; when we imagined that we were the only masters here, that we could keep taking what we wanted, and that no one would ever have to pay.

We are paying now. Twenty eighteen was the year that temperatures scraped 90 degrees in the Norwegian Arctic; that permafrost in northern Siberia failed to freeze at all; that wildfires burned on the taiga there, as well as above the Arctic Circle in Alaska and Sweden, in the moors of northern England, in Greece, and in California, where they showed no sense of poetic restraint whatsoever and reduced a place called Paradise to ash.

Further reading: A Carbon Tax Wave? 7 States Considering Carbon Pricing to Fight Climate Change

And where there wasn’t fire, there were floods: Hundreds died and millions were evacuated from rising waters in Japan, southern China, and the Indian state of Kerala. Venice flooded too, and Paris, where the Louvre had to close its Department of Islamic Arts, which it had consigned, ahem, to a basement. It was also the year the United Nations’ climate change body warned that, to avoid full-on cataclysm, we, the humans of planet Earth, would have just 12 years (11 now) to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent, and 32 years (31 and counting) to eliminate such emissions altogether.

…[T]hough the alarm bells about anthropogenic warming began tolling more than half a century ago, the carbon habit has proven nearly impossible to break. Since 1990, when international climate negotiations commenced, carbon emissions have jumped by more than 60 percent. Last year, as the fires burned and the floodwaters rose, they leaped by a projected 2.7 percent. It’s almost as if someone’s profiting from our misfortune. And they are: Six of the 10 highest-earning corporations on last year’s Fortune Global 500 list made their money extracting or delivering fossil energy; two were automobile manufacturers and one—Walmart, the planet’s richest brand—relied on a system of globalized trade inconceivable without massive consumption of fossil fuels. Even on an individual level, the richest 1 percent have a carbon footprint 2,000 times larger than the poorest inhabitants of Honduras or Mozambique, countries that have contributed next to nothing to global warming and are suffering disproportionately from it. We already know well that the 1 percent do not let go of power willingly.

Further reading: Exxon reps pose as reporters to query opposing lawyer in climate lawsuit

Nor will our political system likely be much help, even with our survival as a species at stake. Politicians are not often good at thinking in planetary terms. The system in which they function—national governments and international institutions alike—evolved alongside the carbon economy and has for decades functioned mainly to serve it. However enlightened their representatives may appear at climate talks, wealthy countries continue to subsidize fossil-fuel extraction—last year to the tune of $147 billion. In the United States, Trumpian climate denialism and Pelosian tepidity are two faces of the same phenomenon. Congressman Frank Pallone, who chairs the toothless committee that Pelosi resurrected to tackle climate change, announced that he plans to propose nothing more than “some oversight” of Trump’s assaults on preexisting federal programs, and that requiring committee members to reject donations from fossil-fuel industries would be “too limiting.”…—Ben Ehrenreich, “To Those Who Think We Can Reform Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis,” The Nation, 1/15/19

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A Year of Climate Change Evidence:
Notes from a Science Reporter’s Journal

A Year of Climate Change Evidence: Notes from a Science Reporter’s Journal

2018 was filled with new evidence and warnings of the high risks and costs of climate change.

Our heat-stricken planet is orbiting through the end of a year that humanity might rather forget. But several recent climate reports tell us that 2018 may be remembered as a turning point, for better or worse, in the fight to cap global warming.

Compelling new evidence shows we will speed past a dangerous climate-risk threshold as soon as 2030 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate, potentially triggering climate change on a scale that would present grave dangers to much of the living planet.

Several reports conclude that investing in a global economic transformation now would save huge amounts of money compared to paying spiraling costs for climate disasters later. Others outline the tremendous challenge: We are still shoveling millions of tons of coal into furnaces every day; CO2 emissions have increased 4.7 percent since the Paris climate agreement was signed in 2015.

Although there were many promises of action and signs of progress as coal plants closed, renewable costs dropped and companies and state and local governments tightened their rules, the United Nations Environment Program said the gap remains as large as ever between commitments under the Paris agreement and the cuts needed to reach its goals.…—Bob Berwyn, “A Year of Climate Change Evidence: Notes from a Science Reporter’s Journal,” InsideClimate News, 12/24/19

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The Youth Have Seen Enough

The Youth Have Seen Enough

The world’s youth have finally seen and heard enough from the deplorable political process, from compromised delegates, corrupted political appointees, and criminal corporations who sabotage these critical international discussions.

The truth of our ecological crisis is not difficult to see. Fragile ecosystems are unraveling all around us. We have been warned by scientists for two centuries: by the 1972 “Limits to Growth” study, William Catton’s 1980 book Overshoot, by reliable scientists, and by millions of ecology activists. We were warned by the 2009 Nature article, “Planetary Boundaries” showing that humanity has breached seven critical tipping points; and by the 2012, Nature article, “Approaching a State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere,” by 22 international scientists warning of an “irreversible” planetary-scale transition, “unknown in human experience.”

And yet, politicians and delegates travel around the world, stay in luxury hotels and dither about our children’s future, as carbon emissions rise, species blink from existence, rivers run dry and ancient forests burn. It is no wonder, and a welcome sight, that the world’s youth have seen enough and are not impressed.

Thirty Years of Pep Talks

On Dec. 12 2018, at the COP 24 UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland, Swedish student Greta Thunberg finally said what the politicized delegates have failed to say. Thunberg is a direct descendant of Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius, who predicted global heating from carbon emissions in 1896.

During this year’s heat wave and wildfires in Sweden, Thunberg gained world attention by staging a school strike outside the Swedish Riksdag, holding a sign that read, “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (school strike for climate). She demanded that the Swedish government reduce carbon emissions. Her actions inspired student strikes in over 270 cities around the world.…—Rex Weyler, “The Youth Have Seen Enough,” EcoWatch, 1/12/19

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Utilities knew: Report shows power industry
studied climate, stuck with coal

Utilities knew: Report shows power industry studied climate, stuck with coal

A report documenting that electric utility companies, like the oil industry, understood climate change as far back as the 1960s could potentially make them the next target of climate liability lawsuits.

The report was released by the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI), a group that works to counter attacks on the renewable energy industry. It documents that utility companies understood as far back as the late 1960s how burning fossil fuels impacts climate change and describes how the utilities nonetheless continued to push coal, the largest emitter of carbon dioxide among fossil fuels, as an energy solution.

The information is similar to what has been uncovered about the oil industry. Journalistic investigations have over the past several years uncovered that the major producers have known for decades that their product overwhelmingly drives global warming but worked to create doubt about that science and vigorously opposed government action to combat climate change.

Those investigations, based on troves of industry documents, helped spawn two state investigations into potential climate fraud by the world’s biggest oil producer, ExxonMobil. It has also prompted more than a dozen communities across the U.S. to file liability lawsuits against the oil industry to hold it accountable for climate damages.

The EPI report suggests similar documents from electric utility companies could give way to similar lawsuits against utilities.

The two industries are not exactly parallel, however, said Carroll Muffett, president and chief executive of the Center for International Environmental Law. Because oil producers and utilities sit at different positions in the fossil fuel supply chain, their potential liability for climate damages would not be the same.

“It is reasonable, though, to look at this information about what they knew and when and ask: what are the legal liabilities?” Muffett said.…—Kaitlin Sullivan, “Utilities knew: Report shows power industry studied climate, stuck with coal,” Climate Liability News, 1/16/19

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Confronting the Culture of Death

Confronting the Culture of Death

Chris Hedges, an ordained Presbyterian minister, gave this sermon Jan. 20 at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada.

The issue before us is death. Not only our individual death, which is more imminent for some of us this morning than others, but our collective death. We have begun the sixth great mass extinction, driven by our 150-year binge on fossil fuel. The litany of grim statistics is not unfamiliar to many of you. We are pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at 10 times the rate of the mass extinction known as the Great Dying, which occurred 252 million years ago. The glaciers in Alaska alone are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year. The oceans, which absorb over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, are warming and acidifying, melting the polar ice caps and resulting in rising sea levels and oxygen-starved ocean dead zones.

We await a 50-gigaton burp, or “pulse,” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost on the east Siberian arctic shelf which will release about two-thirds of the total carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Era. Some 150 to 200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal are going extinct every 24 hours, one thousand times the “natural” or “background” rate. This pace of extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Ultimately, feedback mechanisms will accelerate the devastation and there will be nothing we can do to halt obliteration. Past mass extinctions on earth were characterized by abrupt warming of 6 to 7 degrees Celsius. We are barreling toward those numbers. The mathematical models for this global temperature rise predict an initial 70 percent die-off of the human species, culminating with total death.

The corporate forces that have commodified the natural world for profit have also commodified human beings. We are as expendable to global corporations as the Barrier Reef or the great sequoias. These corporations and ruling elites, which have orchestrated the largest transference of wealth upward in human history, with globe’s richest 1 percent owning half the world’s wealth, kneel, and force us to kneel, before the dictates of the global marketplace. They have seized control of our governments, extinguishing democracy, corrupting law and building alliances with neofascists and authoritarians as the ruling ideology of neoliberalism is exposed as a con. They have constructed pervasive and sophisticated systems of internal security, wholesale surveillance and militarized police, along with criminalizing poverty, to crush dissent.

Further reading Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers
Why Pipeline Opposition Undermines Environmental Progress And Safety, Forbes 1/17/19
U.S. energy protests pack an economic punch, The Oklahoman, 1/20/19

These corporate capitalists are the modern versions of the Canaanite priests who served the biblical idol Moloch, which demanded child sacrifice. And, as in this ancient Canaanite religion it is our children who are being sacrificed to these “mute idols,” as 1 Corinthians puts it. Their future is being taken from them. These corporate forces are, in biblical terms, forces of death. They will, unchecked, create more human misery and death than the evils of Nazism and Stalinism combined.…— Chris Hedges, “Confronting the Culture of Death,” Truthdig, 1/21/19

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Warning: A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater
— and the Oil and Gas Industry Isn’t Helping

Warning: A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater — and the Oil and Gas Industry Isn’t Helping

New analysis reveals that we have much less water in our aquifers than we previously thought — and the oil and gas industry could put that at even greater risk.

We’re living beyond our means when it comes to groundwater. That’s probably not news to everyone, but new research suggests that, deep underground in a number of key aquifers in some parts of the United States, we may have much less water than previously thought.

We found that the average depth of water resources across the country was about half of what people had previously estimated,” says Jennifer McIntosh, a distinguished scholar and professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona.

Click for full size chart

McIntosh and her colleagues — who published a new study about these aquifers in November in Environmental Research Letters — took a different approach to assessing groundwater than other research, which has used satellites to measure changes in groundwater storage. For example, a 2015 study looked at 37 major aquifers across the world and found some were being depleted faster than they were being replenished, including in California’s agriculturally intensive Central Valley.

McIntosh says those previous studies revealed a lot about how we’re depleting water resources from the top down through extraction, such as pumping for agriculture and water supplies, especially in places like California.

But McIntosh and three other researchers wanted to look at groundwater from a different perspective: They examined how we’re using water resources from the bottom up.

The study may help close the gap about what we know and don’t know regarding how much water is available deep underground, as well as its quality.

It also rings some alarm bells.

A Different Approach

Instead of examining how fast water tables were falling, as in previous studies, the researchers looked at water chemistry to determine how deep underground you could drill for freshwater or brackish water before that water became too salty to use.

We looked at the bottom limit of groundwater resources,” says McIntosh.

The researchers used information from the U.S. Geological Survey on the quality of groundwater across the country and looked specifically at salinity — how salty the water is. “We looked basin by basin at how that depth of fresh and brackish water changes across the United States,” says McIntosh.

The results were about half as much usable water as previous estimates. That means that deep groundwater reserves are not nearly as plentiful as we’d thought in some places.…—Tara Lohan, “Warning: A ‘Shrinking Window’ of Usable Groundwater — and the Oil and Gas Industry Isn’t Helping,” DeSmogBlog, 1/12/19

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