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Texas Takes Away WATER BREAKS Amid Record Heat Wave

Hot Take: Urgent Heat Crisis For Workers

By Juley Fulcher - Public Citizen, May 25, 2023

Key Findings

  • Heat exposure is responsible for as many as 2,000 worker fatalities in the U.S. each year.
  • Up to 170,000 workers in the U.S. are injured in heat stress related accidents annually. There is a 1% increase in workplace injuries for every increase of 1° Celsius.
  • The failure of employers to implement simple heat safety measures costs the U.S. economy nearly $100 billion every year.
  • The dangers of heat stress are overwhelmingly borne by low-income workers. The lowest-paid 20% of workers suffer five times as many heat-related injuries as the highest-paid 20%.
  • Worker heat stress tragedies disproportionately strike workers who are low-income, Black or Brown.
  • At least 50,000 injuries and illnesses could be avoided in the U.S. each year with an effective OSHA heat standard.
  • Employers pay a substantial price for failing to mitigate workplace heat stress including the costs of absenteeism, turnover and overtime due to worker illness or injury, reduced worker productivity, damage to machinery and property from workplace accidents, increased workers’ comp premiums, law suits, and loss of public trust and customers.
  • The physical and mental capacity of workers to function drops significantly as heat and humidity increase. Productivity of workers declines approximately 2.6% per degree Celsius above a Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) of 24°C (75.2°F). The WBGT is a measure that combines temperature, relative humidity, radiant heat sources (like direct sunlight or heat-generating machinery) and wind speed.
  • There are many simple ways employers can mitigate heat stress in the workplace, like access to cool drinking water and adequate “cool down” breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned space.
  • It is essential that OSHA issue an interim rule to immediately prevent heat-related illness, injury and death in indoor and outdoor workers, both to protect workers and to reduce the clear burden on the economy.

The right to a safe workplace is a basic human right. Exposure to excessive heat is one of the most dangerous problems facing workers today. Tens of thousands of workers suffer heat illnesses, injuries and fatalities every year in the U.S. This is a toll disproportionately borne by Black and Brown workers, and low-income workers with limited options for safer employment. This is most clearly demonstrated by the plight of farmworkers, who have the highest rate of heat-related worker deaths, and are overwhelmingly immigrant workers with little power to demand workplace reforms from their employers.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

GreenReads: IPCC 6th assessment report: New dire European State of the Climate report

By Willy De Backer - European Trade Union Institute, May 2, 2023

IPCC 6th assessment report – synthesis

On 20 March 2023, climate scientists published another ‘last warning’ on the climate emergency. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the synthesis report of its 6th assessment on the state of the global climate crisis. This synthesis draws together all the main findings of the three working group reports which were already published in 2021 and 2022.

The IPCC press release points to the fact that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising globally, and demands more ambitious actions to secure a ‘liveable future for all’. For a longer summary of the main messages of this synthesis report, read the analyses by Carbon Brief and the World Resources Institute.

Despite these scientifically alarming reports, the IPCC’s political impact in terms of real effective climate policies remains extremely low and therefore every cycle of reports leads to a more fundamental critique of the organisation’s way of working.

Hereunder, a collection of links to some of the critical articles we found on this new IPCC report:

Working Folks in Camp Hill, Alabama are being Left Behind

IPCC Report AR6: Some Afterthoughts

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 18, 2023

When we at GJA decided to produce our recent three-part summary of the latest IPCC report, the purpose was to break down an extremely lengthy and often impenetrable text into points that could be used for making arguments.  As the world’s biggest assessment of its kind, broader in scope and coverage than any other, and especially given its oft-quoted nature, getting at what it actually says seemed fundamental to the continuing debate.

But during the writing it became apparent that just saying what the report says, albeit in simplified language, can come across as whole-hearted endorsement of the report. And that’s not what we had in mind. Our summaries were intended as a tool, not advertising. In truth, opinion in GJA about the report is as diverse as anywhere else, and the following is the author’s opinion, not a collective one held by GJA.

Some critique was touched on in our summaries, but it’s worth dwelling a little more on the pros and cons.

The biggest pro is the starkness of the picture the report paints, of where we are, of the sheer scale of the task ahead of us, and of how poor our progress has been thus far. As was said in our summaries, very little will come as any surprise to climate activists, but to have it laid out on a planetary canvas is immensely useful – time is running out, things are getting worse faster than before, the global south is the most vulnerable, inequalities within societies are critical, all the building blocks upon which our own activities rest. Equally, the solutions dwell on the words we cherish the most – transformation, transition, redistribution, restoration, equality, justice.

Where the report falls short is in its ambiguous use of language, such that, for all the aforementioned words, precisely how the solutions work out in practice is not clear, and probably deliberately so, in deference to the prevailing political winds. In particular, the assumption that the work that needs to be done can happen through ‘markets’ appears wildly naïve, if not misleading. Even more dubious is the idea that a market-based approach can ever generate the level of collaboration and cooperation on a global scale that is required when such an approach is antithetical to the very precepts of capitalism, and indeed threatens them.

In response to this idea of threat, the report focuses strongly on green technology and the financing required to roll it out, which itself places emphasis on the role of the developed world to manage the climate response in a benign fashion. The conclusions arrived at also, at best, betray the inherent bias of modelling carried out by the developed world with all its assumptions about the world order and, at worst, reproduces or even exacerbates a neo-colonial status quo, with solutions imposed on the developing world by the developed. Kevin Anderson’s piece in Brave New Europe lays this out far more eloquently than we ever could.

Of course, IPCC is not directly saying ‘we must do this through capitalism’ and it may be that the dependence on markets refers only to the early stages where we have to deal with ‘things as they are’, before we can move on to build a more sustainable model. It’s possible that the authors know perfectly well that the actions needed can’t be accommodated within the existing paradigm and are aware that that point will play itself out. Again, it’s not entirely clear – the report aims to be all things to all people, remaining consistent on the urgency of the situation while ensuring it’s not overly offensive to those who hold social and onomic power

But I’d temper criticism with a consideration of scale. If we look at the Labour Party, at some Trade Unions, and other organisations, as you go up the hierarchy compromise and dilution tend to take over. At the global level, as we’ve seen with recent COPs, wording gets watered down in deference to certain nations’ insistence and action is stalled. For a report on this scale to say as much as it does is quite remarkable compared with the insipid nature of most government statements, even if the criticisms of it are perfectly valid.

Ultimately, it comes to what we make out of the report, and that brings us back to the original purpose of our summaries, to provide some bedrock for mobilising our arguments, to convey the urgency of the situation to the layperson, and to challenge inadequate solutions even where the report itself appears ambivalent. In that regard, having the case made in this report, whatever its shortcomings, is an essential component in our struggle towards a better future.

A Brief Guide to the IPCC Synthesis Report, Part C

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 11, 2023

This piece provides a summary of the latest IPCC synthesis report based on their sixth Assessment Report (AR6), part C, which deals with the ‘Urgency of Near-Term Integrated Action’. In other words, what we need to do by 2030 to have any chance of meeting the 1.5° or 2° targets.

As with the previous summaries, nothing here is likely to be too surprising to climate activists – the value is in seeing the situation laid out so systematically in the report, but also in the shortcomings that even this otherwise hard-hitting report exhibits, and which are touched on in the critique section.

General themes

Most starkly, ‘the choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years’. The level of urgency has increased since AR5.

Climate resilient development integrates adaptation and mitigation and requires international co-operation, but there is a ‘rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.’

The report warns that past development constrains future paths, as does every increment of warming. Existing constraints include:

  • Poverty, inequity and injustice,
  • Siloed responses,
  • Barriers to finance and technology,
  • Trade-offs with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

‘Deep, rapid and sustained mitigation’ together with ‘accelerated implementation of adaptation actions’ this decade would reduce losses and damages and improve air quality and health. By contrast, delaying would lock in high emissions infrastructure, risk stranded assets, and increase costs, losses and damages, while lowering the chances of success.

High upfront investment is needed, with ‘significant distributional consequences within and between countries’, along with potentially disruptive changes in lifestyle. The cost Vs benefit equation tips in favour of benefits the more rapidly investment is undertaken. Significantly, however, the investment required during 2020-2030 to limit warming to 2° or 1.5°are a factor of three to six greater than current levels.

Sustainable development requires just transition principles in employment. Eradicating extreme poverty and providing sustainable development in low-emitting countries ‘can be achieved without significant global emissions growth.’ Finance and technology development is required to leapfrog or transition to low emissions.

Vulnerability is exacerbated by inequity and marginalisation linked to gender, ethnicity, disability, age, income level and historic and ongoing patterns of colonialism. By contrast, ‘individuals with high socio-economic status contribute disproportionately to emissions.’ Reducing emissions-intensive consumption is strongly associated with societal well-being

A Brief Guide to the IPCC Synthesis Report, Part B

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, April 3, 2023

Summarising Part A of the report was straightforward as it comprised a factual assessment of where we are now.

By contrast, Part B covers Long Term responses and uses sophisticated modelling to project future scenarios based on different sets of assumed developments. While nothing undermines the basic conclusion that radical action is required very quickly, we do enter more subjective territory in terms of the scenarios chosen and the assumptions underpinning them.

Heat Still Killing California Workers

By staff - Labor Network for Sustainability, April 2, 2023

Seventeen years ago California passed one of the nation’s first workplace heat stress rules. Since then California has been inundated with heat waves resulting from global warming. A new study, “Feeling the Heat: How California’s Workplace Heat Standards Can Inform Stronger Protections Nationwide,” finds that the state’s heat stress rule provides some protection, but that its coverage is limited, it is often unenforced, and that penalties are so modest that many employers simply ignore it. The study calls for expanding the rule to all California workers, increasing enforcement, and establishing a federal heat standard for all workers in the US.

The California rule requires employers to provide heat training, free drinking water, and shade to employees. It covers only outdoor workers, but the study identified heat-related cases in 463 different industries outside agriculture and construction, including janitorial services, home health care, museums, and newspaper publishers.

The study found that hundreds of businesses repeatedly violated the rule but avoided the usually higher fines meted out to repeat violators. UPS received 41 citations for violating the heat standard but was issued only one for a repeat violation.

Only Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington have similar workplace heat stress rules. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been working for years on a national heat stress standard but none has so far been issued. Rep, Judy Chu and Sen. Alex Padilla of California and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio have introduced legislation to accelerate development of such a standard.

Certified Disaster: How Project Canary and Gas Certification Are Misleading Markets and Governments

By Collin Rees, Allie Rosenbluth, Valentina Stackl, et. al - Oil Change International, April 2023

This report examines the gas certification market, specifically one of the current industry leaders, Project Canary. We raise serious concerns about the integrity of gas certification and so-called “Responsibly Sourced Gas” (RSG). Our investigation, which included field observations of oil and gas wells in Colorado monitored by Project Canarya, exposed significant shortcomings in its operations and claims.

  • Project Canary monitors consistently fail to detect pollution events: Earthworks’ trained oil and gas thermographers captured alarming evidence of Project Canary monitors failing to detect emissions in the field. The seven-month survey found that Continuous Emissions Monitors (CEMs)b failed to capture every significant pollution event detected with Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) cameras. Our observations suggest that the company is misrepresenting the capabilities of its technology – a concern echoed in the testimony we gathered from several industry experts – and the underlying data behind certified gas.
  • Greenwashing: Project Canary’s marketing aggressively positions its certification services as a conduit to a ‘net zero’ emissions world. Its CEO has openly discussed fixing the gas industry’s “brand problem.” In doing so, the company appears to be aligning itself with gas industry lobbyists and pushing the concept of ‘net zero’ to new levels of incredulity, which risks sabotaging rather than serving global climate goals. The company is pushing a false narrative that methane gas is an energy source compatible with climate goals as long as it is certified as being produced below a certain methane threshold.
  • Lack of Transparency: Despite claims of ‘radical transparency’ and third-party verification, there is limited access for regulators, academics, or the public to the data generated by the certification process. Given the evidence that monitoring may not be reliable, there is clear justification for greater scrutiny from regulators, scientists, and concerned citizens.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Evidence suggests that a key Project Canary DIrector and Advisory Board Members have direct financial interests in the same gas companies it certifies.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

A Brief Guide to the IPCC Synthesis Report, Part A

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, March 27, 2023

This piece provides a summary of the latest IPCC synthesis report based on their sixth Assessment Report (AR6).

Given that even the relatively short ‘summary for policy makers’ is not an easy read, here we attempt to draw out the basic information about where we currently are. None of these points will surprise anyone but having them to hand in this way will we hope be useful. Note that this piece deals only with section A of the report, covering the current state of the climate. A further blog will cover parts B and C, which are about modelling to project likely scenarios for the long and short-term respectively.


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