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Trump Can’t Hold Back the Tide of Climate Action

By Oscar Reyes - Foreign Policy in Focus, November 21, 2016

One of the sad ironies of Donald Trump’s victory is that climate change has risen up the political agenda only after the campaign, when both candidates and debate moderators largely ignored it. Trump’s denialism in the face of an urgent, planetary threat provides some potent imagery for how the devastation caused by his presidency might look.

Climate scientists have been quick to condemn Trump’s election as a “disaster,” and it’s not hard to see why.

The last three years have broken temperature records, with 2016 set to become the hottest yet. The UN Environment Program just warned that we need to do far more and far faster, while a new study of pledges from G20 countries found that even under Obama, the U.S. remained a long way off meeting its share of the global effort to tackle climate change. Yet we’ve just elected a man who promises to drill more oil, burn more coal, and scrap our national climate plan.

The Trump disaster could hit communities on the front line of climate justice struggles the hardest. Scenes like the militarized response to the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline could be the new normal under Trump if the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure is matched with increasingly repressive policing.

It’s little wonder, then, that Trump’s election has left climate advocates reeling. But as mourning turns to anger and resistance, it’s worth recalling that there are significant limits on what Trump can do to hold back action on climate change.

The transition to cleaner energy will carry on regardless, as coal will remain uncompetitive. States and cities could ramp up their own climate efforts irrespective of the federal government. And international climate action has a momentum that’s not solely dependent on who occupies the White House.

Rogue State

Some of the loudest noises coming from the Trump camp suggest that his administration will withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

Since this process takes four years, it’s rumored that Trump is considering the shortcut of leaving the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which George Bush Sr. signed in 1992 and the Senate ratified. That would set the U.S. apart from every other nation on earth (except the Vatican, which is strongly in favour of climate action all the same). There would be no clearer way to signal that Trump is making the U.S. a rogue state.

Unilateralism on this scale could throw up legal, political, and diplomatic hurdles that Trump’s team might not easily overcome. The Senate might demand a say on leaving the UNFCCC — and it’s not a given that a majority would favor the path of global isolation.

Alternatively, the Trump administration might choose to ignore Washington’s commitments without formally abandoning the international climate process. One of the first victims could be the global Green Climate Fund, which was set up to help developing countries with their climate transitions — and is now unlikely to see at least $2 billion of the $3 billion originally promised to it by the United States.

But the Trump wrecking ball won’t be able to destroy everything in its path. There are strong signs that U.S. isolation won’t wreck the Paris Agreement. Many other countries (including Saudi Arabia) have suggested that they will stick to their international climate commitments with or without the United States. There’s precedent here, too: When George W. Bush withdrew from the last global climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, the rest of the world continued with it anyway.

Faced with failed harvests, floods, droughts, and ever more extreme weather, most countries now realize that taking on climate change is in their own self-interest. Ultimately, the countries that lead the way in renewable energy, efficient buildings, and improved public transport (among other climate measures) will be best placed to cope with changes in the global economy.

People Vs Big Oil, Part I: Washington Victory Over Shell Oil Trains Signals A Turning Tide

By Matt Stannard - Occupy.Com, October 17, 2016

A Bad Month for the Earth-Burners

From Standing Rock Reservation to the Florida Everglades, 2016 has been an unprecedented year in people’s resistance to the fossil fuel economy. October especially has been a banner month: Mass convergence around the indigenous-led Dakota Access Pipeline protests, activists in three states audaciously (and illegally) shutting down three pipeline valve systems, and groups in the state of Washington forcing Shell to abandon a dangerous oil train unloading facility it had proposed in Anacortes in the northwest corner of the state. The earth-burners have had a difficult month.

I asked Rebecca Ponzio, Oil Campaign Director at the Washington Environmental Council, what it took to accomplish that last goal: How does a group of citizens stop one of the most powerful, frequently vile and ruthless companies from doing something as routine as unloading rail-transported crude oil?

“We sued,” she answered, and through the lawsuit, WEC, Earthjustice, and other groups “won the ability for a more thorough and comprehensive environmental review.” That Environmental Impact Statement in turn concluded: “The proposed project would result in an increased probability of rail accidents that could result in a release of oil to the environment and a subsequent fire or explosion... [that] could have unavoidable significant impacts.”

The EIS wasn’t bullshitting about that. Oil train transport is disastrous, and companies lie about their safety records. Shockingly, trains racing at unsafe speeds with volatile, difficult-to-contain oil is incredibly dangerous. Accident risk is extremely high. Magnitude of impact of such an accident is also extremely high.

“This review process created the space to really evaluate the impacts of the project and to engage the public on how this project would impact them – from Spokane, the Columbia River Gorge, through Vancouver and the entire Puget Sound," Ponzio said. And upon the release of the draft EIS, Shell pulled the project. “Once the public had the chance to engage and evaluate this project for themselves, the level of risk became clear and the opposition only grew in a way that couldn’t be ignored."

Puget Sound refinery officials claimed the decision was purely market-driven, but the subtext was clear: Activists had forced a scientific review, and the review cast the project in the worst possible light. Fighting back worked this time.

The Sky’s Limit: Unpacking the Climate Math

By David Turnbull - Oil Change International, October 6, 2016

Four years ago, the concept of “unburnable carbon” hit the mainstream when Bill McKibben published “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” in Rolling Stone magazine, based off of work by the analysts at Carbon Tracker and before that Greenpeace. The research underlying that concept showed that the carbon embedded in proven fossil fuel reserves on the books of fossil fuel companies is many times greater than what climate scientists have determined the atmosphere can withstand in a safe climate scenario. This month, new analysis by Oil Change International updated that math, took it further, and is making waves.

In the new report, entitled “The Sky’s Limit: Why the Paris Climate Goals Require a Managed Decline of Fossil Fuel Production,” we’ve identified a stark reality when it comes to fossil fuel development and the climate: Existing fossil fuel production, if allowed to run its course, would take us beyond the globally agreed goals of limiting warming to well below 2?C and aiming towards 1.5?C.

For the first time ever, this study utilized data from industry databases (e.g. Rystad Energy UCube) to catalog the fossil fuels that exist in current mines and wells — those sites where investments have been made and development is already underway — and compared it to carbon budgets associated with a two-in-three chance of staying below 2?C, or even chances of limiting warming to 1.5?C, backed by data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Our research found that the carbon budgets will be exhausted with current development, and in fact some currently-operating fossil fuel projects will need to be retired early in order to have appropriately high chances of staying below even the 2?C limit. Further, to meet a 1.5?C goal, the existing oil and gas wells currently in production have enough fuels in them to fill the budget, even if coal were phased out tomorrow.

This analysis is already sending shockwaves through the climate movement and being echoed by influential thought leaders around the globe. More than a dozen organizations, ranging from smaller groups like the Health of Mother Earth Foundation in Nigeria to larger groups such as 350.org and Christian Aid, joined in to release the report. Climate scientists and energy analysts have expressed agreement with the findings since the release, and countless organizations and prominent individuals have joined the choir to spread the word about the report.

As George Monbiot writes in The Guardian, the report presents three scenarios for moving forward:

First: a gradual, managed decline of existing production and its replacement with renewable energy and low-carbon infrastructure, which offer great potential for employment. Second: allowing fossil fuel production to continue at current rates for a while longer, followed by a sudden and severe termination of the sector, with dire consequences for both jobs and economies. Third: continuing to produce fossil fuels as we do today, followed by climate breakdown.

The good news, as highlighted in our report, is that if the right investments of political will and financing are made, a just transition to renewable energy is definitely possible in the timeframe necessary. Renewable energy is expanding at ever-increasing rates, becoming cheaper by the day, and could be poised to follow the path to universality seen by recent technologies such as the personal computer and cell phone. The report lays out a number of studies that show renewable energy can absolutely fill in the energy gap as fossil fuels are phased out.

Many have already called the report “the math behind the Keep It In The Ground movement,” and, with any luck, just as unburnable carbon entered the public consciousness four years ago, the climate imperative of ending new fossil fuel development may do the same.

Managed Decline: A Just Clean Energy Transition and Lessons from Canada’s Cod Fishing Industry

By Adam Scott and Matt Maiorana - Oil Change International, September 12, 2016

There’s a clear logic to the global challenge of addressing climate change: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. If we’re serious about tackling the global climate crisis, we need to stop exploring for, developing, and ultimately producing and consuming fossil fuels. This inevitably leads to the decline of the oil, gas, and coal industries.

This leaves us with two clear options. Either we carefully manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry to ensure a smooth and just transition, or we let the chips fall where they may and risk decimating communities that are reliant on the fossil fuel economy. The path we choose will make all the difference to those communities as the decline of fossil fuels becomes inevitable.

A textbook example of how NOT to manage the decline can be found in the painful history of the Newfoundland cod fishery.

One of eastern Canada’s premier industries, the cod fishery defined the economy and the culture of coastline communities for centuries. Commercial fishing off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland dates back as far as 1500, but it wasn’t until factory trawlers were introduced around 1950 that catches became increasingly unsustainable. At its peak in 1968, the catch of northern cod in the Atlantic reached 1.9 million tons. However, the impact of overfishing soon became apparent.

In the 1980s, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans received increasingly dire warnings about the rapidly diminishing fish stock from fishermen and scientists, but these were largely ignored. Much like climate science models today, these marine science models were often ignored when setting quotas and planning for future catches. These plans weren’t set by the scientific models, but instead by politicians. Despite mounting evidence, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continued to boost catch quotas without regard to the impacts of their actions. A 1992 Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans audit found that the science regarding the health and management of cod stocks “was gruesomely mangled and corrupted to meet political ends.” As a result, fish stocks continued to plummet.

Carbon Bubble News #122

Carbon Bubble News #121

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 13, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Carbon Bubble News #120

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 7, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Carbon Bubble News #119

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 31, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Carbon Bubble News #118

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 24, 2016

A supplement to Eco Unionist News:

Lead Stories:

Carbon Market Watch:

Other Carbon Bubble News:

Utility Death Spiral News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW. Please send suggested news items to include in this series to euc [at] iww.org.

Chilcot inquiry: don’t mention the oil

By Greg Muttitt and David Whyte - Red Pepper, August 2016

The anti-war demonstration in London on 15 February 2003 was the biggest protest in British history. And probably the most popular slogan on the placards and banners that day was ‘No blood for oil’. It was a connection that seemed obvious to many on the march but was repeatedly ridiculed by supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Tony Blair said that ‘the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it.’

Why is it so easy to dismiss the idea that access to oil and the interests of those who profit from it may be part of the motive for war? Why, given our experience of wars though the ages, is this not the first question we ask? After all, as the celebrated General Smedley Butler famously observed after completing numerous military campaigns on behalf of the nascent US empire: ‘War is a racket. It always has been.’

By the standards of an official inquiry, Chilcot’s was utterly damning of a government that took the country to war without justification. But compared to the evidence Chilcot had, his conclusions were mild, because the questions he asked were limited. In particular, while noting that there was no convincing case for WMD, even at the time, Chilcot failed to ask how other political and economic motivations affected decisions.

Was it a war for oil?

A year after the February 2003 demonstration, an international opinion poll conducted by US think tank, the Pew Research Centre, asked sample populations from nine countries (the US, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco and Jordan) about the ‘war on terrorism’. The majority in all but two countries (the US and Britain) thought it was ‘to control Mideast oil’. It is worth underlining that the question was not just asking about the invasion of Iraq, but about the motive for a war on terrorism full stop.

When it comes to the Iraq war, they were right. Evidence released with the report shows unequivocally that using Iraqi oil to boost British energy supplies was a central pre-war aim. A February 2002 Cabinet Office paper described the UK’s objectives as ‘preserving peace and stability in the Gulf and ensuring energy security‘. Right up to the withdrawal of British troops in 2009, successive British strategy documents, also released by Chilcot, maintain two consistent objectives: transfer the oil sector from public ownership to multinationals, and ensure that BP and Shell get a large share. Sometimes a third oil objective appears: to make Iraq an advocate of low oil prices within OPEC.

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