It’s not normal, and it’s happening again. For the second year in a row in late December and for the second time in as many months, temperatures in the high Arctic will be freakishly high compared to normal. Computer models project that on Thursday, three days before Christmas, the temperature near the North Pole will be an astronomical 40-50 degrees warmer-than-normal and approaching 32 degrees, the melting point.
Just as the tobacco industry gained decades of huge profits by obfuscating the dangers of smoking, the oil industry secured decades of profits—in Exxon’s case, some of the largest profits of any corporation in history—by helping to create a fake controversy over climate science that deceived and victimized many policymakers, as well as much of the public.
1/09/2016 – Science cannot expect positive climate action from President-elect Donald Trump, says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “The world has now to move forward without the US on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation,” he states.
“President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on global warming is well known,” says Schellnhuber, who is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. “Ironically, he contributed to the popularity of our recent ‘Turn down the heat’-report series for the World Bank by attacking it on Twitter. Yet apart from this, science cannot expect any positive climate action from him. The world has now to move forward without the US on the road towards climate-risk mitigation and clean-technology innovation. The US de-elected expertise and will likely show a blockade mentality now, so Europe and Asia have to pioneer and save the world.”
“Formally leaving the Paris Agreement would take longer than one Presidential term, yet of course the US could simply refuse reducing national emissions which would mean a de facto exit out of international climate policy,” Schellnhuber adds. “Now the US are one of the world’s biggest economies, and even just four years of unbridled emissions staying in the atmosphere for many hundreds of years would make a substantial difference. The climate system doesn’t forget, and it doesn’t forgive. The US is prone to potentially devastating climate change impacts. Hurricanes hit US coastal cities, the California drought affected farmers, and a state like Florida is particularly exposed to sea-level rise. Sadly, in the long run nature itself might show the US citizens that climate change as a matter of fact is not a hoax. But it might be too late.”
9 November 2016
“….In truth, the sickness this election has brought to the surface has been brewing for a long time. Trump is a symptom, not just a pathogen. He has shown a genius for channelling the grievances and insecurities of those disaffected by economic and social changes in the US – primarily, though not solely, working-class whites. With this uncanny skill, he has magnified a form of identity politics the Republicans have long been using to appease and mobilise their base. This experiment in political engineering began in earnest back in the early 1990s. It was until recently an insidious thing, usually advanced via dog-whistle tactics. Trump has picked it up and turned into a blunt instrument as he doubled down on his pursuit of a core white vote and eschewed any serious appeals to minorities….”
Read the article here:
– Banks and insurers can play a crucial part in stabilizing the climate, while at the same time safeguarding their clients’ assets. Leading representatives of finance and climate research will discuss the best strategies for a turnaround in investing this Thursday in Berlin. The event is hosted by the Swiss global bank UBS, the French multinational insurance firm AXA, CDP, the European innovation initiative Climate-KIC, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
Divestment – the diversion of capital from fossil fuel industries to green innovation and sustainable businesses – is a new approach to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, which could turn out to be a global “game changer”.
Already today, investments of billions of Euros are being redirected. Pioneered by students of wealthy US universities, divestment has reached financial big shots like Allianz by now: the financial services company announced its intention to divest from its assets in coal mining. The foundation of the legendary US oil dynasty Rockefeller plans to divest their funds from the fossil fuel industry as well.
“The risks of climate change affect everyone and everything. When the finance sector now divests billions from the fossil business, this does not only reflect a moral responsibility but also makes good business sense,” says PIK director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, co-initiator of the conference. “While weather extremes increase already, many of the biggest climate impacts, like the consequences of sea-level rise, will become perceptible only after it would be too late to act. Therefore it is important for the finance sector to recognize the warnings of science and to ramp up sustainable investments as soon as possible. The Paris Agreement substantiates that the nations of the world aim at reaching zero emissions by 2050. This means we are now in year one of the Great Transformation. Whoever still invests in coal and oil will not only damage the environment, but eventually also lose a lot of money.”
“Recognize the possible economic and social impacts of climate change”
„As a global bank it is of major importance to recognize the possible economic and social impacts of climate change, in order to better prepare us and our clients,” says Axel Weber, Chairman of the Board of Directors of UBS Group AG. “The financial sector is working hard to lay the foundations for filling gaps in financing climate action and to support nations in delivering on their corresponding commitments. We aim for a sensible long-term allocation of capital that is congruent with a low-carbon economy.”
Christian Thimann, Global Head of Strategy, Sustainability, and Public Affairs at AXA Group and Vice-Chair of the FSB Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, says: “Finance has an important role in addressing climate change, because it steers long-term investment. Investors need to understand how companies address climate change in their strategies, which goes well beyond the current carbon footprint. Under the mandate of the G20 and the Financial Stability Board, the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure seeks to develop consistent voluntary disclosures by companies and enhance investor understanding of climate-related business risks and opportunities. Such disclosures and better investor understanding will foster implementation of the COP21 agreement.”
„Divestment is one of the most potent signals of investor discontent”
Susan Dreyer, CDP Country Director Germany, Austria, Switzerland adds: „Divestment is one of the most potent signals of investor discontent and can be a valuable method to manage portfolio risk, given climate risks are becoming more urgent every day. Having built a platform for transparent and comparable climate strategies, into which 5600 companies worldwide are voluntary reporting today, CDP knows of the impact investor engagement can unfold. Shareholder resolutions or setting joint reduction targets are good examples. And yet, the clear signal from both civil society and investors that fossil based business models do not have a future in the decarbonized world of 2050, is helpful and needed.”
Industry leaders, including Kelcy Warren, have mishandled Dakota Access pipeline protest right from the beginning Six weeks ago, I warned that the Dakota Access pipeline protest was going to be the next Keystone XL issue for the American oil and gas industry. I was wrong. It’s going to be much worse. Eco-activists have acknowledged that opposing …
Arthur Nelson, 20 September 2016
Controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) could make it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels as part of efforts to keep temperature rises to 1.5C
A far-reaching global trade deal being negotiated in secret could threaten the goals of the Paris climate deal by making it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels, a leak of the latest negotiating text shows.
The controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) aims to liberalise trade between the EU and 22 countries across the global services sector, which employs tens of millions in Europe alone.
But a new EU text seen by the Guardian would oblige signatories to work towards “energy neutrality” between renewable energy and fossil fuel power, although amendments proposed by the EU would exempt nuclear power from this rule.
The document, marked “limited distribution – for Tisa participants only”, would also force member states to legislate against “anti-competitive conduct” and “market distortions” in energy-related services. This is viewed by campaigners as code for state support for clean power sectors, such as wind and solar.
A right to regulate is explicitly mentioned in the paper, but governments would first have to prove the necessity for regulations that legally constrain multinationals.
The same clause was used in the World Trade Organisation’s Gatt and Gats treaties which entered into force in 1995, and led to 44 complaints by multinationals via their governments. Of these, 43 were upheld.
Susan Cohen Jehoram, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, told the Guardian: “We fear the same thing will happen with Tisa but on a much larger scale, when legislation is proposed to keep temperature rises to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at the Paris climate summit].
“If we want to reach that target, governments will need a toolbox of measures that can give incentives to cleaner energy. Tisa, like the proposed TTIP and Ceta trade agreements, would increase the power of multinationals to prevent governments taking desperately needed measures to decrease CO2 levels.”
The Paris climate agreement called for “making finance flows consistent with a pathway to low greenhouse gas emissions” but the deregulatory thrust of the negotiating text, which was obtained by Greenpeace Netherlands, seems to run counter to this.
Its energy annex says that the trade rules will apply to all legislative measures covering power generation services, “whether the energy source is renewable or non-renewable”.
It also contains a “standstill” clause freezing in perpetuity the high watermark of liberalisation in certain sectors, and a “ratchet” clause to stop countries reintroducing trade barriers that had been previously removed. Both mechanisms have been proposed by Australia.
Under their tenets, any government elected on a ticket of reversing the liberalisation of services contained in the treaty would thus be unable to do so, campaigners claim.
The UK’s shadow international trade and energy spokesman, Barry Gardiner, Labour MP, told the Guardian: “Whilst every effort should be made to promote business and trade, this must not be at the expense of the protection and enhancement of workers’ rights, environmental safeguards and the wider interests of the British people.”
While Brexit could prevent the UK from being bound by the planned trade treaty, any agreement allowing access to the EU’s single market would probably oblige it to follow the new rules.
Opposition to the proposed text from Theresa May’s government is thought unlikely. David Davis, the minister for Brexit, recently described the similar Ceta trade agreement with Canada as his preferred model for a trade arrangement with the EU.
Gardiner said: “The British people have voted to come out of the European Union to preserve the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, it cannot be right then that secret trade deals are currently being conducted entirely outside the scrutiny of national parliaments and law-makers.”
“The structure of such deals are like a lobster pot – once you have gone through and given power to the commercial interest it is no longer possible to recapture democratic control. What we do hear, through leaks and rumours, are terms which clearly prevent the ongoing capacity of governments to govern in the public interest.”
Before coming into effect though, any finalised Tisa text will most likely need to be approved by all EU member states – which currently includes the UK – and will also require approval from the European parliament.
Earlier this year, MEPs voted to back the deal, on the proviso that public services were excluded and that the deal legally secured the right to regulate at European, national and local authority level.
Parliament’s rapporteur, the former EU justice commisioner, Viviane Reding, has previously said that the assembly will “never consent” to any trade pact that diminished the EU’s right to regulate on climate, health and social laws.
Reding refused to comment on the leak but informed sources said that neither she nor the European parliament would consent to provisions which prevented public authorities from supporting renewables.
Reding, a conservative politician from Luxembourg, has also called on the Luxembourg government to demand an end to negotiations on the EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP, over the use of controversial secret investor courts, and threats to the environment and food safety.
Unlike TTIP, Tisa deals with the less tangible trade services sector that nonetheless constitutes more than half of the global economy, and could impact on an estimated 1.8 billion people.
As well as energy, any Tisa deal will apply to financial services, e-commerce, information and communications technology services, international maritime transport services, computer related services, postal and courier services, and government procurement of services.
A report by the UN conference on trade and development later this week is expected to say that mega-trade deals such as TTIP and Tisa are becoming increasingly politicised, and failing to provide a solution to the slowdown in global growth.
by Simon Evans.
For the first time ever, investment in new renewables was more than enough to cover rising global electricity demand in 2015. That’s according to the first World Energy Investment report, published by the International Energy Agency (IEA). While fossil fuels still dominate energy supplies, the IEA says changing investment flows point towards a “reorientation of the energy system”.
Carbon Brief has seven charts showing why the IEA thinks an energy shift is underway. Energy investment World energy investment amounted to $1.8tn in 2015, the IEA says, equivalent to 2.4% of global GDP. Around half went towards fossil fuel extraction and distribution, mainly for oil and gas.
Renewables accounted for 17% of the total, around $300bn. The vast majority of this was in the electricity sector, where nearly 70% of investment in power stations went towards renewables. Global energy investment in 2015, by sector. Source: World Energy Investment 2016, IEA.
Investment in energy was down 8% year-on-year in 2015 (around $150bn), largely because of falling investment in oil and gas. Soft demand and Saudi Arabia’s determination to squeeze competitors has created a prolonged period of cheap oil that has decimated incomes.
Reductions have been particularly steep in North America, the IEA says, with investment halving in the past two years. The smaller companies that dominate the US shale industry have been particularly hard-hit by the falling oil price, with scores of firms filing for bankruptcy. Upstream oil and gas investment in 2015, by region. Source: World Energy Investment 2016, IEA.
The Saudi strategy has only been partially successful. Some two-thirds of the fall in oil and gas investment has been absorbed by cost reductions, particularly in the shale sector. Upstream oil and gas costs fell 15% in 2015, the IEA says.
These recent oil and gas cost reductions have been easily outpaced by those for new energy technologies. Costs for onshore wind are down by nearly 40% since 2008, solar by more than 80%, LEDs more than 90% and grid-scale batteries by 70%.
The IEA says renewable costs will continue to fall, while the reverse will be true for oil and gas: “IEA medium-term analyses foresee lower costs in renewables, lighting and electricity storage and eventually modest cost increases in upstream oil and gas.” Energy cost developments 2008-2015, by technology. Source: World Energy Investment 2016, IEA.
The large clean energy cost reductions are behind a continuing shift in the power sector, where 70% of investment in generating assets goes to renewables and fossil fuel investment is in decline.
Renewable power investment held steady at around $290bn in 2015, the IEA says, yet cost reductions mean more capacity could be bought for the money. Solar investment was lower than 2011 in dollar terms, but 60% more capacity was added.
Last year, rising renewable additions combined with weakening power demand growth in a landmark way. The IEA says:
“For the first time, investment in renewables-based capacity generates enough power to cover global electricity demand growth in 2015.”
New renewables commissioned in 2015 have the capacity to generate 350 terawatt hours (TWh), against an increase in demand of less than 250TWh. This means all other capacity brought online in 2015 was effectively surplus to requirements.
(It’s worth adding a couple of qualifiers: first, 40% of investment was to replace ageing assets; second, renewables often generate power intermittently rather than on demand).
See charts and read more here…
Each year, I look so forward to Eid Al Adha – the holiest holiday for Muslims worldwide – but not this year. As I watched my daughters prepare for the celebrations with joy, I learned of a horrific crime. A 36-year-old woman dressed in traditional garb was set on fire on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. She was the same age as me, walking in the city where I was born and raised. This comes at the heels of two Muslim women in Brooklyn who were physically assaulted by a woman as they pushed their babies in strollers. As if this news wasn’t enough, we also learned that a mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, which Omar Mateen reportedly used to visit, had been set on fire. They had to cancel their planned holiday celebrations as a result. How could I enjoy the day without thinking of them? Instead of celebrating as planned, the community in Florida has to explain to their children why someone would intentionally set their place of worship, their sanctuary, on fire the night before the highest holy holiday. These horrific acts follow the execution style murders of an imam and his assistant in Ozone Park, and the stabbing of a 60-year old Muslim woman in Queens. These are only the stories that make the headlines. I don’t think we know the extent of the impact, trauma and pain of Muslim communities nationwide. Muslim Americans found themselves caught in a conversation about how close Eid Al Adha was to the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Pundits wondered whether Muslims would alter their annual Eid celebrations for sensitivity purposes. This insinuation both disappointed and outraged me…
A driving spirit of the modern age is the desire to banish all speculation about things beyond the physical and observable realms of our existence. This spirit was well expressed by one of the leading Enlightenment philosophers, David Hume, who called for burning all books which did not deal with the observable and quantifiable phenomena: “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
This is a breathtakingly bold assertion. The literate reader may examine his or her bookshelf to see what little, if anything, would survive after applying Hume’s prescriptions. Nonetheless, the spirit of the secular age was very much in…
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