Pope challenges leaders at United Nations talks to slow global warming before it’s too late

Pope Francis challenged world leaders on October 4 to commit to binding targets to slow climate change before it’s too late, warning that God’s increasingly warming creation is fast reaching a “point of no return.”

In an update to his landmark 2015 encyclical on the environment, Pope heightened the alarm about the “irreversible” harm to people and planet already under way and lamented that once again, the world’s poor and most vulnerable are paying the highest price.

“We are now unable to halt the enormous damage we have caused. We barely have time to prevent even more tragic damage,” Pope warned.

He took square aim at the United States, noting that per-capita emissions in the U.S. are twice as high as China and seven times greater than the average in poor countries. While individual, household efforts are helping, “we can state that a broad change in the irresponsible lifestyle connected with the Western model would have a significant long-term impact,” he said.

The document, “Praise God,” was released on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the pontiff’s nature-loving namesake, and was aimed at spurring negotiators to commit to binding climate targets at the next round of U.N. talks in Dubai.

Using precise scientific data, sharp diplomatic arguments and a sprinkling of theological reasoning, Pope delivered a moral imperative for the world to transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy with measures that that are “efficient, obligatory and readily monitored.”

“What is being asked of us is nothing other than a certain responsibility for the legacy we will leave behind, once we pass from this world,” he said.

As it is, Pope’s 2015 encyclical “Praise Be” was a watershed moment for the Catholic Church, the first time a Pope had used one of his most authoritative teaching documents to recast the climate debate in moral terms.

In that text, which has been cited by Presidents, patriarchs and premiers and spurred an activist movement in the the church, Pope called for a bold cultural revolution to correct a “structurally perverse” economic system where the rich exploit the poor, turning Earth into an “immense pile of filth.”

Even though encyclicals are meant to stand the test of time, Pope said he felt an update to his original was necessary because “our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point.”

He excoriated people, including those in the church, who doubt mainstream climate science about heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, sarcastically deflating their arguments and showing his impatience with their profit-at-all-cost mentality.

Shaming them for their reliance on “allegedly solid scientific data,” he said the doubters’ arguments about potential job losses from a clean energy transition were bunk. And he cited data showing that increased emissions and the corresponding rise in global temperatures have accelerated since the Industrial Revolution, and particularly in the last 50 years.

“It is no longer possible to doubt the human – ‘anthropic’ – origin of climate change,” he asserted.

While acknowledging that “certain apocalyptic diagnoses” may not be grounded, he said inaction is no longer an option. The devastation is already under way, he said, including with some already “irreversible” harm done to biodiversity and species loss that will only snowball unless urgent action is taken now.

“Small changes can cause greater ones, unforeseen and perhaps already irreversible, due to factors of inertia,” he noted. “This would end up precipitating a cascade of events having a snowball effect. In such cases, it is always too late, since no intervention will be able to halt a process once begun.”

The document was unusual for a papal exhortation and read more like a U.N. scientific report or a speech to a “Fridays for Future” youth climate rally. It carried a sharp, no holds barred tone and its footnotes had far more references to U.N. climate reports, NASA and Francis’ own previous encyclicals than Scripture.

“Praise God,” was issued ahead of the next round of U.N. climate talks which begin November 30 in Dubai. Just as he did with his 2015 encyclical “Praise Be,” which was penned before the start of the Paris climate conference, Pope aimed to cast the issue of global warming in stark moral terms to spur courageous decisions by world leaders.

In the 2015 landmark Paris Agreement, countries of the world agreed to try to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) or at least two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. It’s already warmed about 1.1 degrees (two degrees Fahrenheit) since the mid-1800s.

Pope said that it was clear that the Paris target will be breached and will soon reach three degrees Celsius, and that already the effects are obvious, with oceans warming, glaciers melting and the world registering record heat waves and extreme weather events.

“Even if we do not reach this point of no return, it is certain that the consequences would be disastrous and precipitous measures would have to be taken, at enormous cost and with grave and intolerable economic and social effects,” he warned.

Since 2015, the world has spewed at least 288 billion metric tonnes (317 billion U.S. tonnes) of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air, not including this year’s emissions, according to the scientists at Global Carbon Project. In August 2015, there were 399 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the air and in August 2023 it was up to 420 parts per million, a 5% jump.

The record-hot summer of 2023 is one-third of a degree Celsius (six-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit) warmer than the summer of 2015, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Antarctica and Greenland have lost more than 2,100 billion metric tonnes (2,300 billion U.S. tonnes) of land ice, since the summer of 2015, according to NASA.

And in the United States alone, there have been 152 climate or weather disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damage since the pope’s first climate message, with costs adjusted for inflation, according to NOAA. Pope concluded his document by noting the emissions rate in the U.S. and shaming it to do better.

“’Praise God’ is the title of this letter. For when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies,” he wrote.

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Can we really say some day was the warmest in 100,000 years?

A local man cools his face with water as wildfires burn near the village of Vati, just north of the coastal town of Gennadi, in the Greek island of Rhodes, July 25, 2023.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Some headlines proclaimed recently that a particular day in July was the warmest in more than a 100,000 years. It is not scientifically possible to make such a claim. Here is why.

Temperature estimates from before thermometers were invented are derived from “palaeo proxies”. These are biological and chemical signatures of the temperature somewhere having been warmer or colder than a specific baseline temperature. Such a baseline is typically from the modern times, when thermometer records have existed. These measures are called “proxies” because they do not directly measure temperatures. Instead, they are simply the responses of physical, biological, and chemical processes to temperatures at that time having been warmer or colder than the baseline value.

Another thing we need to make claims about temperatures of a time in the past are some isotopes that undergo a steady rate of radioactive decay. Knowing this rate, and the expected quantity of the isotope X years ago, scientists can estimate how long it took to diminish to its present quantity. Based on the length of time one needs to go back to, the isotopes could be of carbon or lead, based on their half-lives (5,000 to more than 10 million years).

Longer and shorter timescales

A major assumption required to make the “paleo proxy” technique workable is that the processes that produced the proxies have operated similarly back then as they do today. More specifically, and crucially, for a period of hundreds of thousands of years, proxies – which are typically buried in the ocean and lake sediments – can only record temperature anomalies, i.e. deviations from the baseline, on time scales of centuries, if not thousands of years.

They are mixed by the ocean water above and the microbes within, smoothing out the information they contain over such long timescales. From this object, it is almost impossible to estimate even decadal or annual changes in long-term temperature, forget daily temperature.

Scientists derive estimates of temperature anomalies over shorter time scales from tree rings, corals, and the shells of marine and terrestrial organisms. But even here, the best of the “palaeo proxies” only provide weekly or seasonal timescale temperature anomaly estimates.

Similarly, in the spatial sense, all temperature proxies are only local or regional estimates of historical temperature anomalies. Reliable local temperature anomalies also come with fairly significant uncertainties – even for the Holocene epoch, the period in which we evolved as modern humans, that began in around 9700 BC. Global estimates, which are based on averaging all local proxies, have even higher uncertainties.

So there is simply no “palaeo proxy” that can give daily timescale temperatures. 

The Holocene epoch

The most relevant bit of knowledge experts might wish to piece together today from historical temperature-related anomalies is whether any warming during the Holocene epoch can tell us something about the response of modern humans to climate change. There is some evidence as to the causes of demise of various civilisations in this epoch – and a climate-related event was not always the sole or even the proximal cause.

At the same time, modern humans’ (bipedal) ancestors also survived larger climatic changes over the evolutionary timescales of hundreds of thousands of years. The earth’s climate has witnessed glacials, or ice ages, and deglacials for at least a million years. The Holocene itself has been a deglacial period, with a relatively small volume of glaciers compared to a proper ice age.

The palaeoclimate serves as a rear-view mirror for the evolution of future climate, but only over longer timescales. Remembering that climate is what we expect and weather is what we get, a particular day of a particular year need not be the same at all to the same day from another year, simply as a result of small differences in temperatures, winds, humidity, rain, and so forth.

Global warming can produce record-breaking warm months and years – but we should be cautious about supposedly a record-breaking warm day, more so since even thermometer-based records are few and far between to make reliable claims of daily temperature records at the global scale.

Endangering climate action

Against this scientific background, what is the purpose of blaring headlines claiming that a particular day was the warmest in 100,000 years? It is scientifically impossible to estimate daily temperatures even for a particular day from last year – unless we have a thermometer measurement.

Are these headlines meant to scare people into changing their personal behaviour in order to reduce their individual contributions to climate change? Or are they expected to push governments to jump up and take action to mitigate climate change?

Perhaps they are all in the same vein as the widespread and persistent urge to report more and more alarmist claims without regard for their consequences. To wish to elicit collective and individual climate action while sacrificing scientific rigour and accuracy is a dangerous approach. It simply amounts to an ‘ the end justifies the means’ approach that is likely to lead to a loss of credibility for the climate community.

Modern societies have placed a considerable amount of trust in their scientists. Squandering this trust could render irreversible damage to the efforts that scientists and government officials have been making to improve global participation in climate negotiations, the willingness of governments to adhere to their climate commitments, and the grassroots initiatives that push governments and businesses into action, and to support communities dealing with the consequences of climate change.

Raghu Murtugudde is a visiting professor at IIT Bombay and an emeritus professor at the University of Maryland.

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Wonkette Book Club Part 6: A Future Up In The Air

This week we finish up our reading of Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate change epic The Ministry for the Future, and we close out our visit to a possible world where humanity manages, just barely, to save itself from the climate change disaster it created. Or at least that’s the case, as the song says, for the people who are still alive.

Since the start of the novel, with Chapter 1’s horrific heat wave in India, untold hundreds of millions of humans have died in the climate-related disasters and economic shocks resulting from 40 to 50 years of continued warming, although near the end of the novel atmospheric carbon has not only stopped increasing, but is finally beginning to decline. Of course, there’s still no guarantee that humanity still won’t find wonderful new ways to wipe itself out.

Cagey bastard writer that he is, Robinson begins Chapter 89 with the confirmation that yes, CO2 in the atmosphere is really declining, and has been for several years, so it’s clearly not a seasonal or economic blip. He immediately follows that with the assassination of Tatiana, the tough Russian member of the Ministry team, whose death (we never find out who did it) is devastating to Mary Murphy, who throws herself into work, as she does.

That all leads up to the international COP (Committee of the Parties) meeting in Zurich in Chapter 94, which includes a “global stocktake” of progress on climate, and what still needs to be done. Fun fact: Out here in reality, this year’s COP28, to be held in December in Dubai, will include the conclusion of the first global stocktake, a two-year process that started at 2021’s COP26 in Glasgow.

In a turn that should only happen in fiction, COP28 will be presided over by the head of an oil company. Sigh.

Unlike the mostly-celebratory COP58 in the novel, this year’s delegates will be reporting that we’re far behind where we should be to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting warming since 1880 to below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), let alone the goal of 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), which will still be quite bad enough. On average, the world is already at 1.1 degrees (1.9 degrees F) above 1880, and carbon emissions keep rising. That said, the rate of increase appears to finally be slowing as methane (“natural”) gas power generation increasingly replaces coal and as more renewables come online, so as David Wallace-Wells wrote last fall (NYT gift link), the worst-case scenarios projected just a few years ago are actually looking less likely.

But back to the novel: At COP58 (it’s an annual meeting, so the book is now up to 2053), there’s lots of good news to report, particularly that big banner showing a leveling off and decline in the Keeling Curve, the zigzag measurement of atmospheric carbon that today is still only going up, from preindustrial levels of 280 to 300 parts per million.

In case you were wondering, today’s reading is 422.97 ppm. The year I was born, it was 318.43 ppm. You can look up your birth year up here. The highest level mentioned in Ministry for the Future is 475.

In the closing chapters we read this week, Frank is diagnosed with a brain tumor, and Mary visits him as often as possible in hospice, even working from his hospital room as he quickly declines and eventually dies. (I’m listening to Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” while writing this, because it’s always good to write to. Mary is right.) Climate refugees are released from camps and given the opportunity to relocate anywhere, with the costs being shared by the rich nations, and that’s some real science fiction there, I fear. But then, the world’s economy has been rearranged to make that more possible.

Mary eventually retires, nominating Badim as acting head of the Ministry, and she travels around the world with Captain Art Nolan, an airship pilot who ushers tour groups around to see the animals that are returning to newly depopulated parts of the world. Mary is ready for romance, but they don’t quite take the plunge.

Semi-spontaneously, the world Zeitgeists a new holiday, Gaia Day, into existence, so Badim’s dream of an environmentalism-based religion may have seen its first spark. Mary and Badim have a guarded conversation about the things his “black wing” of the Ministry did, and didn’t do. And Sky Captain Art returns for the last chapter, a literally carnivalesque Zurich festival celebrating the end of winter.

And in contrast to the novel’s first words, “It was getting hotter,” that’s no longer the case, except seasonally — there is no such thing as fate.

So let’s talk about this sucker! As always, these discussion questions are just a few of the things that occurred to me, but don’t feel limited to these. The other usual disclaimer: If you’re behind on the reading, or haven’t read the book at all, no problem, we’re not grading any of this. The conversation about climate is every bit as important. Also, no worries about spoilers, because hey, this is our last meeting!

1) How has the dynamic between Mary and Frank evolved over the course of the novel (if it has), and how does it relate to the book’s overall themes? Is Frank Mary’s Greek chorus or Jiminy Cricket, or something else?

2) After Badim meets with representatives of the Children of Kali to tell them that it’s time for the violence to stop (Chapter 78), terrorism does seem to largely vanish, at least from the plot of the novel, apart from reminders that the threat of being torpedoed has led shipping companies to retrofit container ships to run on solar, figuring the slower speed into their business model; by the time Mary takes her airship tour, most cargo ships are fully robotic, too. Again, I’m not sure that even effective, coordinated terrorism would have that effect, and the disappearance of the Kali groups from the final 30 or so chapters seems like a loose thread. Your thoughts?

3) Remember that terrific Wired profile of Jamie Beard, who’s doing everything she possibly can to get oil drilling companies to shift their expertise to enhanced geothermal? (We linked to it in Part 4 of the book club) My favorite climate-n-energy nerd David Roberts recently interviewed her on his Volts podcast, and she is exactly as brilliant, witty, and OMG even optimistic about the energy potential of geothermal as you’d expect from the profile. (If you’re not a podcast person, there’s also a transcript)

Why yes, this was more of a comment than a question. But it says a hell of a lot that Ministry doesn’t say much at all about using Earth’s own heat as an energy source, not because Robinson dropped the ball while researching the book, but because in the two and a half years since it was published, interest and investment in geothermal has accelerated to the point that it’s likely to be a huge part of the clean energy transition. As it happens, the very same month Ministry was published, October 2020, Roberts wrote that geothermal was “poised for a big breakout.” (He and Beard talk about that piece in the podcast, since it really did help shape much of the interest in geothermal.) The technology’s prospects are even more exciting now, with pilot projects in the works — another area Beard is helping with via a newly launched nonprofit, Project InnerSpace.

OK, fine, I’ll just embed Beard’s TED Talk too. It’s Saturday, so we can be a bit sprawling.


4) I really want to talk about how we can be optimistic about climate. Not in any Pollyannaish “Oh, they’ll figure it out” sense, but in the way I think Ministry for the Future encourages: very much aware of the challenges, and always on the lookout for ways to leverage existing systems to make significant advances. (One obvious example: the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which is already remaking American industrial and energy policy. We need a lot more like it, but combined with other Biden policies, it’s really very freaking impressive! How did Ministry for the Future — or our discussions of it here — affect your overall sense of what we can do about climate?

That’s plenty to start with, and please, add other questions and ideas as we discuss! I plan to come back to the discussion all weekend, too.

The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to move ’em to the open threads, either the Top Ten from this morning, or the late-afternoon Open thread later. I’d honestly like to keep the book & climate conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!

Here are our previous installments:

Book Club Part 1

Book Club Part 2

Book Club Part 3

Book Club Part 4

Book Club Part 5

Wonkette depends on your donations to keep going, so if you can, please give $5 or $10 monthly. And if you’re planning to shop at Amazon, the linky below gives Yr Wonkette a small cut

Do your Amazon shopping through this link, because reasons.

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Air traffic is booming again and environment activists aren’t happy

A strong rebound in air traffic reflects a healthy economic dynamic and a renewed ability for people to travel, it runs counter to ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions set out by public authorities.

Stalled during the pandemic, air traffic is booming again, the latest IATA report has confirmed. This trend seems to run counter to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even though the sector has embraced the ecological transition.

In its latest report, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts 4.35 billion passengers this year, close to pre-pandemic record levels.

Air traffic has recovered from the Covid crisis

While the strong rebound in air traffic reflects a healthy economic dynamic and a renewed ability for people to travel freely, it also seems to run counter to ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions set out by public authorities in Europe and beyond.

Indeed, the sector is often singled out for its responsibility for global warming.

For Alexis Chailloux, low-carbon travel manager at Greenpeace France, this accelerated recovery is bad news: “We must remember that air travel is the mode of transport that is most harmful to the climate. In 2018, before Covid, air travel accounted for around six per cent of global warming, whereas it is taken by a minority of people. If you’re a senior executive, you’re going to take the plane 17 times more than if you’re a worker.”

The explosion in air traffic is mainly linked to leisure flights, with the rise in recent decades of low-cost airlines serving more and more European destinations at extremely low prices. In France, between 2008 and 2018, the number of flights for personal reasons doubled, while business flights remained stable, according to Greenpeace.

And this boom is set to continue, according to Jérôme Bouchard, an aeronautics expert with consultancy firm Oliver Wyman: “According to our studies, air traffic will increase by more than five per cent a year until the middle of the next decade. It’s up to the industry to find solutions to decarbonize so that we can keep flying while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.”

Measures deemed too timid to curb air traffic

But in general, associations and environmental NGOs point to the lack of ambitious structural measures to reduce air traffic-related CO2 emissions.

France, for example, issued a decree in May banning domestic flights when a train journey of less than 2.5 hours is possible. This measure is considered “anecdotal” by climate advocates, as it concerns only a handful of routes out of the hundred or so domestic connections.

At the European level, however, some initiatives are considered interesting. Amsterdam-Schiphol Airport, for example, has announced its intention to abolish night flights by the end of 2025 and to limit private jet flights, both to combat noise pollution and to help meet climate targets.

Inconsistent taxation

To further reduce traffic, environmental associations also recommend putting an end to tax breaks for air travel.

Alexis Chailloux points out the inconsistencies in the tax system: “French people who fly from Paris to Barcelona not only pay no VAT, but are also exempt from kerosene tax. If they make the same journey by train, they will pay an energy tax, in this case on electricity, and a passenger VAT. This double standard is quite incomprehensible, especially when you consider the climate impacts of air travel compared to rail.”

Greenpeace is also proposing a progressive tax that would target the most active travellers: “The idea is that the more you fly, the higher the tax will be, which would enable the effort to be weighted towards people who fly regularly and not on an individual who would like, for example, visit his family in the West Indies that he hasn’t seen for three years.”

Investing in railways

Developing the rail network is the other lever put forward by climate advocates.

“In Europe, major cities are not yet perfectly connected, neither by highspeed nor by night train. What’s more, because of Covid, some emblematic night lines, such as Paris-Venice or Hendaye-Lisbon, have disappeared,” laments Chailloux.

Others are in favour of more radical measures to cap air traffic, such as Jean-Marc Jancovici, president of The Shift project, who has proposed a quota of four flights per lifetime.

Finally, a trend that originated in Sweden, the flygskam or shame of flying, seems to be gradually making its way across the European continent, encouraging more and more travellers to turn away from airports and take the train instead.

Levers for greening the airline industry

Aware of its carbon footprint, the airline industry has embarked on a vast project to make the ecological transition and reduce its emissions. But the road ahead is long.

Jérôme Bouchard identifies several levers, starting with optimizing engine performance:

“A latest-generation A320 that leaves the Airbus factory today emits 20% less than the same A320 that left the same Airbus factory 20 years ago,” stresses the aeronautics expert from Oliver Wyman, who also points to other possible solutions in the immediate future, such as improved flight paths and better traffic management to avoid, for example, “planes waiting in the sky while turning over airports because it is saturated. “

The third lever, “the most important in terms of decarbonization over the next thirty years,” will be sustainable aviation fuel, in this case, synthetic fuels that are less polluting than kerosene, produced from non-fossil sources such as biomass, algae, agricultural or food waste.

Finally, the last lever, by 2035-2040: electric hybridization or hydrogen-powered aircraft.

“By combining these different levers, we’ll be virtually carbon neutral by 2050,” summarizes Jérôme Bouchard. “There will always be a portion of marginal emissions that we’ll have to manage to erase, thanks to direct air capture technologies, which involve taking carbon directly from the sky using huge hair dryers, and eventually recycling it as fuel for the aviation industry.”

A technological revolution that takes too long in the face of the climate emergency?

While Greenpeace applauds the industry’s efforts to decarbonize, it points out that this technological revolution is taking too long in the face of the climate emergency:

“The aircraft of the future is in the future, and for the moment it doesn’t exist. The only effective short-term lever for reducing emissions by 2030 is to reduce traffic”, explains Alexis Chailloux.

Jérôme Bouchard acknowledges that a large part of the current fleet is likely to be flying for a long time to come: “In 2050, we can consider that the vast majority of aircraft will still be based on technologies as we know them today and that the share of new hybrid, electric or hydrogen-powered aircraft will, while growing strongly, still be marginal in relation to current technologies.”

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Wonkette Book Club Part 1: A (Climate) Change Is Gonna Come

We’re starting off our summer 2023 edition of the Book Club with a book that’s about as timely as you could hope for: Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 novel The Ministry for the Future, which imagines a very near future of catastrophic climate change and a decades-long process of humanity’s attempts to bring the climate crisis … well, not under control, but to at least to remake politics and economics in a direction that’s better suited to survival of the Earth’s inhabitants.

For this week, I asked you to read the first chapter, which is fairly short, and and tends to stay with you after you read it. If you just got here and want to catch up, the publisher, Orbit Books, conveniently posted Chapter 1 in full right on the interwebs for free! The discussion from here will involve spoilers for the first chapter, so take a few minutes to go read it … or maybe the discussion here will make you want to go read it.

Last summer, novelist Monica Byrne tweeted for a lot of us who have read the book:

I feel like my circles have divided between those who’ve read the opening chapter of The Ministry for the Future and those who haven’t.

If you haven’t….you should. Because I basically can’t think about my future without it now.

Let’s jump in, shall we? In this brief chapter, we meet one of the novel’s many main characters, Frank May, an American everyliberal from Florida who’s working at the local office of an unnamed relief NGO in a small city in Uttar Pradesh state in India. A perfect storm of atmospheric conditions leads to a long heatwave, with heat and humidity at levels — a “wet bulb” temperature of 38 degrees C (103 degrees Fahrenheit) at dawn, with 35 percent humidity — that’s right on the edge of what human beings can survive.

Then the overstressed electrical grid goes down, all over the region. Things go from bad to worse. No one is coming to help. Frank does what little he can for several local families, inviting them into the clinic where he works, where there’s a single window air conditioner connected by an extension cord to a portable generator on the roof. He keeps for himself the last of the water in the clinic’s refrigerator, in a thermos jug he’s careful not to let anyone see.

The toilets back up, the temperature keeps rising, the oldest and the youngest start dying. On the second day with no power, a group of young men break in and point a gun at Frank, telling him they’ll be taking the AC and the generator.

“We need this more than you do,” one of them explained.

The man with the gun scowled as he heard this. He pointed the gun at Frank one last time. “You did this,” he said, and then they slammed the door on him and were gone.

And really, dear reader, Frank did. So did you. So did I. America and Europe filled the atmosphere with greenhouse gases for 150 years, and then other countries, like China, began adding their own greenhouse emissions. The countries already suffering from the worst effects of climate change — such as last year’s floods in Pakistan, which killed over 1,700 people and left millions homeless — are not the countries that caused the climate disaster.

By the end of the chapter, everyone in the city except Frank is dead. He’s the only person still alive in a shallow lake filled with corpses.

I’m reminded of the end of Flannery O’Connor’s story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (spoiler coming!), where the murderous serial killer the Misfit says of the grandmother he’s just killed — after her sudden realization that all humans are family to each other — “She would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

The first chapter of The Ministry for the Future may just be the gun we all need pointed at our own heads to make us pay attention.

So let’s discuss a few things!

1) How are you doing? This chapter hits hard, but I also want to shake every elected leader in the country and tell them they have to read it. At Slate, Rebecca Onion, in an interview with Robinson, told him that the first chapter “gave me insomnia, dominated my thoughts, and led me to put the book down for a few months. Then I picked it back up and found that the remainder of it is actually quite optimistic.”

Robinson replies:

I wanted pretty much the response you described. Fiction can put people through powerful imaginative experiences; it generates real feelings. So I knew the opening scene would be hard to read, and it was hard to write. It wasn’t a casual decision to try it. I felt that this kind of catastrophe is all too likely to happen in the near future. That prospect frightens me, and I wanted people to understand the danger.

2) Did it work? That is, did the chapter make climate change more real to you? Or did it squick you out so badly that you stopped reading? (If so, do you think you’ll pick it up again?)

3) As you’ll see as we go along, this isn’t whizbang laser gun science fiction. There’s almost no technology we don’t have today — Robinson doesn’t even cheat by bringing cheap infinitely abundant fusion power online a decade from now. If anything, I think the “science” being fictionalized is about equal parts sociology and economics. Gee, I guess that was more a comment than a question.

4) Colonialism is a running theme in the novel, not only as a historical backdrop but, as is the case right now, in terms of how the damage from climate change hits less wealthy nations who had virtually nothing to do with wrecking the planet’s atmosphere. And yet our focus character for Chapter 1 is Frank, an American in India. We don’t get the perspective of any of the Indian characters, just the white outsider who witnesses their deaths. He’s also close to death, but he is the lone survivor. As we keep reading, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how Robinson navigates questions about affluent nations and the parts of the world that have climate change landing on them like a million-pound shithammer.

Those are just starters, of course, it’d be terribly boring if y’all only address those like essay questions. Feel free to disregard them if you want to talk about other stuff, including just your visceral reactions to the story — one of the things I loved about Glen Reed, my American Lit professor at Northern Arizona University, was that on the day we discussed “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” he didn’t start off with the standard stuff about O’Connor’s work, her Catholic faith, and the way her stories often rise to a crisis and a “moment of grace.” Instead, he said that every time he’d read the story, it just scared the hell out of him to think of his own family in such a situation: having a car wreck out in the middle of nowhere because of a bad turn, and then the person who finds you is a killer. I loved him for that.

So let’s also talk about this chapter, and climate change, as humans. Let’s talk about the whole book that way.

Your assignment for next Friday is a lot more than for today: Let’s read through Chapter 30 (they’re mostly short chapters, some only a page or less).

And if you haven’t read the book (THIS week you can go do the reading right now of course), always feel free to join the conversation. It’s not a class and there won’t be a quiz. Also, no worries about spoilers, since for the most part this is an idea-driven book, not a plot-driven one. (We’ll talk about that more next week, including the fairly common complaint from some readers that after that holy shit first chapter, the rest of the book reads like a collection of white papers, not a novel.)

The one rule I am going to enforce strictly for this post is that, to keep the conversation focused, I will remove any off topic comments and ask you to save ’em for the open thread in a couple hours, please. I’d honestly like to keep the conversation going all weekend, and if you wanna come back and say more, please do so!

So talk!

[The Ministry for the Future (Wonkette gets a bit of sales from this linky) / Slate / Chapter 1 at Orbit Books]

Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month to help us keep this little mommyblog going!

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NYC skyscrapers turning to carbon capture to lessen climate change

From the outside, the Manhattan high-rise looks like any other luxury building: a doorman greets visitors in a lobby adorned with tapestry and marble.

Yet the basement has a set of equipment seen almost nowhere else in the world. To reduce emissions, the owners have installed twisting pipes and tanks that collect carbon dioxide from the building’s massive, gas-fired boilers.

Explained | What is carbon capture and utilisation?

The goal is to stop carbon dioxide, a climate-warming gas, from entering the atmosphere. In such a vertical city, it’s impossible to address climate change without tackling emissions from buildings. So building owners must make dramatic cuts starting next year or face escalating fines under a new law which affects some 50,000 structures — more than half the buildings in the city. Other cities such as Boston and Denver passed similar laws.

To comply, some property managers are installing carbon capture systems, which strip out carbon dioxide, direct it into tanks and prepare it for sale to make carbonated beverages or soap. In this case, the carbon dioxide is sold to a concrete manufacturer in Brooklyn.

“Time is not on our side, and this type of solution can be installed quickly, cost-effectively and without a major disruption,” said Brian Asparro, chief operating officer of CarbonQuest, which built the system.

Critics say buildings should be switched to electricity instead.

Watch: The World’s Largest Carbon Capturing Plant

“Carbon capture doesn’t actually reduce emissions; it seeks to put them somewhere else,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

It’s unclear whether carbon capture will be recognised by New York City as a qualifying emissions reduction; the city has not decided.

Capturing the culprit

In the Manhattan building’s basement, two 500-horsepower boilers rumble, burning natural gas and releasing carbon dioxide. The boilers produce roughly half the building’s emissions. The other half are generated at power plants where the building buys electricity. The carbon capture system, Mr. Asparro said, is trapping about 60% of the boilers’ emissions.

“Boilers like this are installed everywhere, in schools and hospitals around the world,” Mr. Asparro said.

Carbon dioxide and other gases flow from the boilers over a special material that separates out the carbon dioxide in a system that occupies two former parking spaces. Then it’s compressed and cooled to -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 degrees Celsius), turning it to liquid.

Also Read: Denmark hopes to pump some climate gas beneath the sea floor

Pipes lead to spigots outside the building, where a truck loads up with the liquefied CO 2 and takes it to a concrete manufacturer in Brooklyn.

The apartment building is trying to reduce energy in other ways, too, said Josh London, senior vice president at Glenwood Management Corp. It has computerized motors, fans and pumps, LED lighting and battery storage. The company plans to install carbon capture systems in five more buildings this year.

Nearly 70% of New York City’s large buildings have steam boilers like these that run on natural gas or oil, according to NYC Accelerator.

The city law requires all buildings over 25,000 square feet to reduce emissions. In Minnesota, Radisson Blu Mall of America, a hotel, has installed a system that captures carbon dioxide that’s eventually used to make soap.

Mineralising into concrete

Over in Brooklyn, the floor shakes as yellow machines churn at Glenwood Mason Supply Company Inc., a concrete maker unrelated to Glenwood Management Corp. Grey concrete blocks rattle down a conveyor under a din of metal gears and motors.

A truck arrives with liquefied carbon dioxide and then, using equipment provided by a company called CarbonCure, it’s compressed and turned into a solid.

As concrete ingredients churn, the carbon dioxide, now essentially dry ice, flows in like a mist. It reacts with calcium ions in cement, a main ingredients of concrete. This forms calcium carbonate, which becomes embedded in the concrete.

Also Read: Bendable concrete and other CO2-infused cement mixes could dramatically cut global emissions

Once carbon dioxide is in that mineral state, it’s secure and it won’t be released unless heated to about 900 degrees Celsius (1,652 degrees Fahrenheit), said Claire Nelson, a geochemist who specialises in carbon capture at Columbia Climate School.

“So unless a volcano erupts on top of your concrete building, that carbon is going to be there forever,” Ms. Nelson said.

Adding mineralised carbon dioxide to concrete can reduce its carbon footprint, though not by much. On average, concrete producers using CarbonCure technology reduce their carbon footprint by 5% to 6%, said Robert Niven, CEO of CarbonCure. But that is still meaningful, because making concrete contributes significantly to climate change.

Questions remain

Many environmental groups remain skeptical of carbon capture, favoring investments in renewable energy. They also fear it could be unsafe to store carbon dioxide in a residential dwelling.

After a carbon dioxide pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, in 2020, 45 people sought medical attention at local hospitals, according to a report from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. People exposed to high concentrations of carbon dioxide, the report said, may experience rapid breathing, confusion, elevated blood pressure and increased arrhythmias. Extreme concentrations can lead to death by asphyxiation.

There’s also a risk of leaks, if a truck transporting carbon dioxide gets into an accident, Mr. Rogers-Wright said.

Proponents of carbon capture say there are safeguards and the technology installed in Manhattan was permitted by multiple city agencies.

Also Read: The ocean twilight zone could store vast amounts of carbon captured from the atmosphere – but first we need an internet of deep ocean sensors to track the effects

Ms. Nelson, the Columbia geochemist, who also started a carbon capture company, says storing natural gas in basements is more dangerous than storing carbon dioxide, and many people accept the risks posed by natural gas.

The biggest challenge, proponents say, is scaling this and other solutions fast enough to make a difference in climate change.

Back in Manhattan, the local utility doesn’t have enough renewable energy to sell to all New York customers, and “with solar, you need a bigger footprint than what we have in a building like this,” Mr. London said. He wants to buy wind power when it’s more widely available, but “we can reduce our emissions while we wait,” he said.

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EPA Gonna Punch That Climate Emergency Right In The Snoot!

The Biden administration rolled out yet another piece of its climate plan today, as the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations to limit the greenhouse gases emitted by electric power plants fueled by coal and methane (so-called “natural” gas). As the New York Times puts it in an admirably simple and accurate sentence,

The nation’s 3,400 coal- and gas-fired power plants currently generate about 25 percent of greenhouse gases produced by the United States, pollution that is dangerously heating the planet.

Instead of mandating any particular technology, the rules set caps on rates of carbon dioxide pollution that plants can release, leaving it up to energy producers to find ways to meet the goal of eliminating CO2 emissions by 2040. If industry can find ways to capture all CO2 from smokestacks — technology that doesn’t exist yet — then great. But it’s more likely that utilities would have to switch to green energy, or for gas plants, to burning green hydrogen (the kind produced without fossil fuels), which emits no carbon.

And while the EPA doesn’t say it, we’re happy to: The faster the US and the world adopt solar and wind electricity, the cheaper that electricity will be per megawatt hour. According to an Oxford University study published in September, a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to wind and solar could save the world $12 trillion by 2050, which would help offset other costs of the transition like grid upgrades and developing reliable storage/backup/distribution of clean energy. Going slow, on the other hand, will cost more and result in greater climate caused damage.

The EPA press release says the regulations will

avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042, which is equivalent to reducing the annual emissions of 137 million passenger vehicles, roughly half the cars in the United States. Through 2042, EPA estimates the net climate and health benefits of the standards on new gas and existing coal-fired power plants are up to $85 billion.

The EPA emphasizes the public health benefits of not burning all that stuff, which doesn’t just contribute to global warming but releases nasties like particulates, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides into the air Americans breathe, especially in communities nearest to power plants, which tend to be home to poor and minority people because America. In addition to helping to keep the planet more habitable for large mammals like gazelles and the NCAA Final Four champion men’s and women’s teams, the proposed standards would mean huge health gains. In 2030 alone, the EPA says, cleaner air resulting from the new standards would prevent

• approximately 1,300 premature deaths;

• more than 800 hospital and emergency room visits;

• more than 300,000 cases of asthma attacks;

• 38,000 school absence days; [and]

• 66,000 lost workdays.

Under the new rules, virtually all coal and methane gas plants would be required to either reduce or capture 90 percent of their carbon emissions by 2038, or shut down. Currently, roughly a quarter of American coal plants are already scheduled to be retired by 2029, per the US Energy Information Agency.

Needless to say, industry groups and Republican state officials are at this very moment working on the first drafts of legal challenges to the policy, written as is traditional with the congealed blood of seals and dolphins killed by oil spills. The Times reports that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is already declaring the EPA plan DOA in the courts, whining that “It is not going to be upheld, and it just seems designed to scare more coal-fired power plants into retirement — the goal of the Biden administration.” Stupid not-wanting-climate-catastrophe Biden!

Sen. Joe Manchin (“D”-West Virginia), whose family fortune is built on selling some of the filthiest coal available — a mining waste slurry called “gob” coal that’s particularly carbon intensive — also threatened today that he will oppose any new Biden appointees to the EPA unless the plan is dropped. Manchin griped that the administration is

“determined to advance its radical climate agenda and has made it clear they are hellbent on doing everything in their power to regulate coal- and gas-fueled power plants out of existence, no matter the cost to energy security and reliability.”

Also, fuck the future, the man has money at stake, and he hasn’t spent a career lining his own nest with filthy feathers from crows with black lung disease just to watch it all go away because people in the tropical regions think they “deserve” to live.

So yeah, kids, this is going to be a fight between the wealthy bastards who want to keep pumping the atmosphere full of planet-heating pollutants, and the first president ever whose administration is actually taking the action needed to get close to meeting the US’s commitments to decarbonization by midcentury, which all nations need to do in order to hold warming to non-catastrophic levels.


When you combine the anticipated greenhouse gas reductions from the EPA’s recent vehicle emissions standards, its methane reduction standards, and the power plant emissions standards announced today, the Times reports, the total emissions that would be eliminated would be around 15 billion tons of CO2 by 2055, or

roughly the amount of pollution generated by the entire United States economy over three years. Several analyses have projected that the Inflation Reduction Act will cut emissions by at least another billion tons by 2030.

That could put the nation on track to meet Mr. Biden’s pledge that the United States would cut its greenhouse gases in half by 2030 and stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by 2050, although analysts point out that more policies will need to be enacted to reach the latter target.

And that, children, puts the world within what I’ll call realistic hoping distance of actually meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting warming since the start of the industrial age to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). It would require all countries doing the same as or better than the Biden plan is close to accomplishing, so yeah, that’s freaking difficult. But doable, genuinely doable, according to the climate boffins. The Times again:

“Each of these several regulations from the E.P.A. are contributing to the whole picture that is necessary to steer this ocean liner away from the worst climate disaster,” said Dallas Burtraw, an economist with Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan research organization that focuses on energy and environmental policy.

Also I just remembered that we were going to do some kind of Wonkette Book Club on Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2020 climate novel The Ministry for the Future (Wonkette-gets-a-cut link), so I guess I’d better actually make a plan and write it up for tomorrow, damn my eyes.

Let’s choose hope. But back it up with action.


[EPA / NYT / Oxford University / AP / NBC News / Photo: American Wind Energy Association, used by permission]

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Climate change-related disasters are surging. Someone has to pay

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

On Monday, earthquakes in my country Turkey and neighbouring Syria left a trail of unprecedented devastation and a death toll surpassing 16,000 people at the last count.

We do not know for sure what triggered this horrific natural disaster, but we do know there is growing scientific evidence that climate change increases the risk of such tremors, together with tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

“If a fault is primed or ready to rupture, all that is needed is the pressure of a handshake to set if off […] Environmental changes associated with rapid and accelerating climate breakdown could easily do the job,” professor of geophysics and climate hazards at University College London Bill McGuire pointed out back in 2012.

Furthermore, NASA scientists acknowledged that glaciers retreating due to global warming have been triggering earthquakes in Alaska in the last decades. 

The impact is not limited to the Arctic. As melting glaciers change the distribution of weight across the Earth’s crust, the resulting “glacial isostatic adjustment” drives changes in plate tectonics that could lead to more earthquakes, awaken volcanoes and even affect the movement of the Earth’s axis.

This particular consequence of global warming “warns us of a seismically turbulent future,” one recent study concluded.

Unfortunately, it is not just earthquakes. Climate and weather-related disasters have surged five-fold over the past five decades, killing over two million people, with 91% of the casualties in developing countries. And it is only getting worse.

Is there accountability for Big Oil’s ‘ever more invasive ways’?

Fossil fuel companies bear significant responsibility for the climate emergency yet enjoy near-total impunity. At the same time, they are consistently reaping record profits — while ordinary citizens across the globe struggle to pay their household bills. 

A series of investigations and legal proceedings over the years have shown how fossil fuel giants call the shots: they use and abuse the rule of law to escape accountability for environmental pollution, resource-grabbing and cronyism. Those objecting are often silenced.

Just over the last decade, fossil fuel companies in the United States have targeted over 150 environmental activists with lawsuits. Meanwhile, dozens of US states are in the process of enacting “critical infrastructure” legislation, increasing criminal penalties against activists protesting pipelines that will wreck the planet. 

One European Parliament study similarly found that EU-based mining, oil, and gas extraction companies are increasing impacts on indigenous communities in “ever more invasive ways”.

Third-party litigation funding (TPLF) is another approach exploited by Western oil and gas interests, where claimants raise funds from outside investors who take the lion’s share of the proceeds. 

Since 2012, US investment fund Tenor backed the $1.4 billion (€1.3bn) claim of a Canadian mining firm against the Venezuelan government, permitting a court-ordered seizure of its Houston-based oil company.

Tenor is also targeting other developing countries and their governments, with a $4.4bn (€4.1bn) claim by Gabriel Resources Ltd against Romania and a $764 million (€712,4m) one by Eco Oro Minerals Corp against Colombia.

The curious case of ‘Sultanate of Sulu’

Another firm spearheading such cases is the London-based legal financing giant Therium. In 2021, Therium backed the UK-based Victoria Oil & Gas against the Republic of Kazakhstan on the grounds that Astana breached an agreement with the company after kicking it out of the country to take over its own oil field. Victoria Oil & Gas lost the case.

But Therium scored a victory last year by funding the descendants of the long-vanished “Sultanate of Sulu,” who received a $15bn (€13.9bn) award from a French court against the Malaysian government. 

The case laid claim to profits from Malaysia’s oil and gas projects in the eastern region of Sabah, based on a defunct colonial-era treaty with the British Crown.

The claimant’s legal team also have links to oil and gas interests. 

Paul H Cohen of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, who openly talks of using European courts to confiscate “specific Malaysian assets” in multiple jurisdictions, has regularly represented oil and gas clients in international arbitrations.

Elisabeth Mason, another lawyer representing the Sulu heirs, works closely with executives from tech giants Google and Facebook. 

Famously, both have been accused of backing organisations involved in climate denial and making millions from ads for ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell or entities like The American Petroleum Institute — all labelled by activists as attempts at “greenwashing”.

What is more important: interests of few, or our planet and its people?

I am not suggesting a conspiracy. These cases solely go to show how fossil fuel interests still hold extraordinary clout across sectors and national borders, despite ever-increasing proof that they are among those ultimately responsible for climate change and the ongoing climate emergency. 

The problem is systemic: there is a long-demonstrated preference for the interests of fossil fuel firms and their allies rather than the people and the planet.

No wonder UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently demanded that fossil fuel companies that do not set a “credible course for net zero” by 2030 “should not be in business”.

Governments must take this message seriously by joining forces to end this giant profit-making scheme against the planet.

How? Instead of being sued by them, governments should consider whether and how to hold fossil fuel firms liable for the damages their operations have caused to countless victims worldwide. The potential proceeds should be then invested in accelerating net zero. 

Otherwise, we will see more tragedies like what has befallen my country.

Professor İbrahim Özdemir is a UN advisor and an ecologist teaching at Üsküdar University. He has served as Director-General at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Education and was a leading member in drafting the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change endorsed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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2022 In Energy And Climate: The Transition Is ON

Climate and energy stories are always about numbers, so let’s start this review of 2022 with a fairly small one that should give you hope: Nine. That’s nine percent, and according to polling by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, it’s the percentage of Americans who are “dismissive” of the reality of climate change: They “believe global warming is not happening, human-caused, or a threat, and most endorse conspiracy theories (e.g., ‘global warming is a hoax’).” Just nine percent. That’s roughly the percentage of Americans who think Elvis is still alive or that the Holocaust never happened. But because they make so much noise, spreading their denialism at every opportunity, most people would assume the number is a lot higher.

The poll also identified another 10 percent as “doubtful” of climate realities; these folks may say it’s happening, but “do not think global warming is happening or they believe it is just a natural cycle. They do not think much about the issue or consider it a serious risk.” I think that probably describes most Republicans apart from the all-out cranks, and it’s very bad news that many members of those two groups are in positions of political or economic power, of course. But here are the other good numbers from the poll:

Most Americans are either “concerned” or “alarmed” about global warming and its effects on climate, and as those effects become all too visible in our lives, those numbers are only going to increase. We’re finally demanding changes. And those changes are happening — 30 or 40 years later than needed to have headed off the significant worldwide damage that’s now locked in, and we still need to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly to avoid the worst possible effects of warming.

The Paris goal of limiting total warming since the Industrial Revolution to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) remains theoretically possible, but unlikely without dramatic changes in how we create and use energy. That’s the bad news. But every tenth of a degree C of warming we prevent will also prevent progressively worse and worse outcomes. There’s good reason to think we’re finally heading in the right direction. The International Panel on Climate Change reports are going to continue to be grim, but it’s no time to throw our hands in the air and say we’re screwed — I worry that climate despair may be as bad a disincentive to pursue change as denial — and as unrealistic.

For a sobering but grimly optimistic look at where we are now, see this important David Wallace-Wells essay in the New York Times (gift link) published in October. Wallace-Wells explains that, thanks to changes in energy production that are already happening, the hands of the climate doomsday clock have slowed compared to estimates of just a few years ago. The “business as usual” estimates, which assumed no slowing in the rate of greenhouse emissions, pegged the likely increase in global temperatures at four or even five degrees by the end of the century. That would be

a change disruptive enough to call forth not only predictions of food crises and heat stress, state conflict and economic strife, but, from some corners, warnings of civilizational collapse and even a sort of human endgame. (Perhaps you’ve had nightmares about each of these and seen premonitions of them in your newsfeed.)

Now, with the world already 1.2 degrees hotter, scientists believe that warming this century will most likely fall between two or three degrees. […] A little lower is possible, with much more concerted action; a little higher, too, with slower action and bad climate luck. Those numbers may sound abstract, but what they suggest is this: Thanks to astonishing declines in the price of renewables, a truly global political mobilization, a clearer picture of the energy future and serious policy focus from world leaders, we have cut expected warming almost in half in just five years.

Needless to say, that doesn’t mean we can pat ourselves on the backs and throw another endangered species on the barbeque. But the range of outcomes has changed, as Wallace-Wells notes. The nightmare scenarios have been “made improbable by decarbonization,” although the most hopeful options have been “practically foreclosed by tragic delay.”

The window of possible climate futures is narrowing, and as a result, we are getting a clearer sense of what’s to come: a new world, full of disruption but also billions of people, well past climate normal and yet mercifully short of true climate apocalypse.

Go read/listen to the whole thing. It’s a holiday weekend, and you have a gift linky right there.

Part of the reason I’m feeling cautiously optimistic is that people who know climate and energy policy are generally very pleased with this year’s climate bill, aka the Inflation Reduction Act. Independent energy reporter David Roberts has discussed it extensively with energy and climate experts, and while it has some dumb shit in it that was the price of getting Joe Manchin’s support, they say the bill really deserves the praise it’s received.

There’s a perfectly good reason the climate provisions in this bill are so good. They’re taken more or less directly from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s “gold standard” climate plan from the 2020 presidential campaign, which itself reflected the work of a whole bunch of climate policy wonks. The dollar amounts are smaller, but the effects are going to be significant.

What’s more, Roberts points out, the “green bank” and other research and development provisions in the bill will provide billions of dollars in seed money for new clean energy enterprises, which are likely to lead to even more reductions in emissions over the next decade — but because those companies and technologies don’t exist yet, they can’t be included in any models. That means the total US emissions reductions resulting from the bill are likely to be more than the 40 percent already estimated. Roberts believes this law has the potential to remake large parts of the US economy.

Another reason for optimism came in the form of a peer-reviewed study published in September by Oxford University’s Institute for New Economic Thinking. The researchers explain that a rapid transition to renewable energy will actually cost far less than going slowly, because greater deployment of renewables will drive down the price of electricity enough to save the world $12 trillion, compared to continuing to use fossil fuels. It’s simply not true that the clean energy transition would be too costly to pursue: If anything, not transitioning quickly will cost far more. And damn right you should go give a listen to this Dave Roberts interview with Dr. Doyne Farmer, one of the study’s co-authors. I am just plain turning into a mouthpiece for Roberts is what’s happening.

Want a book to help you be a climate activist and help make change? That would be The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet, by Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis. It’s a handy guide to policies that will move us closer to a survivable climate situation, and how you can be an Active Citizen, like finding or starting a local climate group and, say, showing up at those mandatory public meetings on utility policies that are normally only attended by business reps and utility spokespeople. Well sure, there’s also a Dave Roberts interview with the authors.

One more book: I’m currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s excellent near-future science fiction novelThe Ministry for the Future, which manages to make discussions of climate science, sustainability policy, international tensions, and UN agencies an exciting read. It may help that there’s a subplot involving a terrorist group that’s out to assassinate the hundred people most responsible for continued fossil fuel use, which of course you should not advocate in the comments, but ups the ante and tensions in the novel. Some reader reviews found it preachy, if it is, I must be in the choir.

Happy new year. Consume less. Keep up the pressure for change.

[Yale Project on Climate Change Communication / Volts / NYT gift link / Scientific AmericanOxford University / Ministry for the Future (Wonkette revenue-sharing link) / The Big Fix (Wonkette link too) / Image generated using DALL-E 2 AI]

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Paul Polman: The world needs a Marshall Plan to fight climate change–and politicians are failing to show ambition. Business can’t afford to wait

The COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh were a missed opportunity. The pledge to keep global temperature rises under 1.5 degrees is just about alive, affirmed by G20 leaders in Bali–but there’s no clear plan to deliver it.

The Sharm deal doesn’t include a commitment to phase out all fossil fuels or any guarantee that emissions will peak by 2025. Current national carbon reduction targets get us closer to a devastating three-degree rise. A powerful group of blockers–mainly oil-rich governments and companies–were out in force.

There were bright spots. By creating a new fund for “loss and damage,” rich countries are finally taking some financial responsibility for producing most of the emissions already causing mayhem in poorer countries. This is a significant breakthrough for a multilateral system dangerously low on trust. Let’s hope the money follows. 

More governments committed to methane cuts. Enhancing nature and reforming food systems were formally recognized as part of the climate fight. And tighter measures were proposed to avoid greenwashing. 

However, the urgency of the crisis is clearly still lost on many of our political leaders. Collectively, they are failing to deliver the ambition and action on which our planet and future depend. This situation is not going to magically improve. Next year’s COP28 will be held in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates–and will be just as easily hijacked.

There will be no great superpower pact to save us: despite diplomatic baby steps between Washington and Beijing, their cooperation will be limited as long as Russian tanks are in Ukraine and America fears for Taiwan’s security. Even with the U.S., Australia, and Brazil back at the table, ongoing troubles in the global economy and high inflation threaten to push global warming down domestic agendas (even though tackling climate change is the best way to stabilize energy and food prices). 

Business literally can’t afford to sit back and wait for politics to get its act together. Climate isn’t just an environmental issue: it’s the economy, stupid. Extreme floods, heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes cost billions. They send impoverished nations further into debt, while crippling supply chains, disrupting global trade, and destroying the labor force. Whether you are a C-Suite executive, an investor, or the WTO, you have a major interest in getting the world onto a more stable path. There are tremendous gains waiting for those who move quickly. The shift to a low-carbon economy can add trillions of dollars to global growth each year, and create millions of jobs. 

Even as politics stalls, business can still push ahead. Beyond companies getting their own houses in order, there are three immediate things business leaders can do. 

The first is advocating for much-needed reform of our global financial architecture. The idea that we will need a Marshall Plan-style intervention to finance the shift to a greener economy is starting to gain traction. CEOs can help bring it into the mainstream.

The fringes of Sharm saw much discussion of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s Bridgetown Agenda, which calls for climate to be fully integrated into the mandates of the post-WW2 Bretton Woods institutions, which would dramatically increase the resilience and capacity of the Global South.

Professor Lord Stern has calculated that, if developed countries significantly increase grants and low-interest loans through expanded aid, it could attract $1 trillion of private investment to help finance the transition. Such proposals warrant urgent investigation–and business can demand it. 

Second, senior executives can do more to lead vital partnerships for change. Across industry, government, and civil society, we will have to collaborate on climate in ways we never envisaged. It’s starting to happen–and it’s time to ramp up the speed and scale of collaboration. 

In Bali, we helped launch the Global Blended Finance Alliance, including the biggest ever single climate transaction, which mobilizes $20bn from governments and private finance to support Indonesia’s effort to close coal mines and peak its emissions early.

Led by the Rockefeller Foundation (where I sit on the board) another coalition of investors, entrepreneurs, and public officials will bring clean energy to 1 billion people, including many in Africa. 

And business and farmers aim to dramatically scale regenerative agriculture and improve livelihoods within seven years through the Regen10 initiative.

Third, is bringing more young people to the table, fast. The young activists I met in Sharm were sharp, determined, and sick of being patronized. They are powerful–as employees and consumers, as our sons and daughters, as the next generation of leaders, and as voters. Many are frustrated with the political process and look to the private sector to empower them in a new, intergenerational alliance that has an impact on the real economy. Here too, business can act: put them on boards, on panels, in leadership positions, and in every room where decisions affecting their futures will be taken.

There’s no need to feel hopeless–but we must recognize that our politics is failing to deliver vital climate action. We must find other ways to close the ambition gap, get the money moving, get business driving urgent coalitions, and make sure young people are firmly in the driving seat. Then, it will be up to politics to catch up.

Paul Polman is a business leader and campaigner, and the author of Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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