American isolation

Climate Change by Jan via Flickr CC

While wildfires spread in California, glaciers continue to melt and species extinction continues apace, the Trump Administration this week took the first step to officially withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. Lest we forget, every other country on the planet has signed the agreement that we wrote.

We also know that Trump promised to do this in 2017, but one might have hoped this particular move would be forgotten out of the sheer incompetence of this crew of idiots. But no.

“This is not America first; once again, it’s America isolated,” said John F. Kerry, former secretary of state, and Chuck Hagel, former U.S. defense secretary, in an op-ed piece published in the Washington Post.  

They wrote:

“Climate change is already affecting every sector and region of the United States, as hundreds of top scientists from 13 federal agencies made clear in a report the White House itself released last year. The past five years were the warmest ever recorded. Without steep pollution reductions, climate change will risk tens of thousands of U.S. lives every year by the end of the century. Rising seas, increased storm surge, and tidal flooding threaten $1 trillion in public infrastructure and private property now along U.S. coastlines. The United States has experienced at least $400 billion in weather and climate disaster costs since 2014. The recent hurricanes that slammed America’s southern coasts, as well as historic wildfires in California, resulted in more American victims of severe weather juiced by climate change than ever before.”

They also noted climate change threatens national security. “This link has been clear for decades. Our military bases, and hence our security preparedness, are threatened by sea-level rise and other impacts. If you put a map of places with high political instability today over a map of places with high climate vulnerability, the two would be nearly identical.”

The Paris climate accord is not the final answer by any stretch, but it is a good and necessary start to mounting the actions needed. For the U.S. to bow out is shameful and yet another example of the nation’s abandonment of world leadership.

There is a ray of hope. The paperwork to exit the Paris agreement is submitted, but that sets off a year-long process: the U.S. won’t officially leave the agreement until Nov. 4, 2020.

The 2020 election is Nov. 3, 2020. “The United States can rejoin the agreement at any time once we have a leader willing to do so,” said Kerry and Hagel.

Exxon in the dock for climate change fraud

ExxonMobil now is fighting fraud lawsuits on two fronts — one in New York and the other in Massachusetts — alleging that the oil giant defrauded investors by misleading consumers about the central role fossil fuels have played in causing climate change and misleading investors about the climate-driving risks to its business.

Read about the Massachusetts case here.

The latest lawsuit came last week in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston in a complaint alleging Exxon repeatedly violated the state’s consumer and investor protection law and related regulations. 

The lawsuit accuses Exxon of misconduct that includes using deceptive advertising and intentionally misleading Massachusetts investors. 

The trial in the New York case began on 22 October. The New York attorney general brought the suit alleging the company used figures internally that were different from what they disclosed publicly when calculating the impact of laws, taxes and other economic aspects of climate change over the coming decades.

The fraud cost investors as much $1.6 billion, according to the the attorney general’s office.Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was the CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016, during the years in question, and will testify in the trial, according to a company attorney.

When Tillerson became ExxonMobil CEO in 2006, he identified that climate change regulation would have a major impact on the company’s business and created the process of assessing a dollar amount for it..

“I had taken the view and we had taken the view as a corporation that the risk of climate change was serious and that … appropriate action was to be needed,” Tillerson said, according to the transcript of his deposition.

The New York suit argues that Exxon used two different ways to calculate carbon costs and wasn’t clear when it was using one or the other.

“We think it highlights the deception that Exxon has put forth over the last 50-plus years. You know, my entire life Exxon has been sowing doubt and disinformation about the climate crisis,” Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman with the group 350.org, told CNN.

“We’re escalating the demand that is rising around the world for fossil fuel companies to pay for their destruction and what they knew and lied about climate change,” she said.

“Exxon provided false and misleading assurances that it is effectively managing the economic risks posed to its business by the increasingly stringent policies and regulations that it expects governments to adopt to address climate change,” the state wrote in a complaint last year.

The case In New York goes back to 2015, when stories by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times found that while Exxon’s scientists were internally researching climate change to plan its operations; they knew they global climate was being severly affect while the company was casting doubt on global warming.

The lawsuit claims ExxonMobil’s actions had the effect of making its assets appear more secure than they really were, which in turn affected its share price and defrauded investors.

Exxon contends the lawsuit is politically motivated and driven by anti-fossil fuel activists. The company says it was honest with shareholders about how it calculated carbon costs. Exxon Mobil and other oil companies face a growing number of lawsuits that seek financial help in coping with climate-driven floods, drought and heat.

Big Oil has a lot to answer for its role in causing change; perhaps these lawsuits will speed that reckoning.

Image: Target Exxon by Joe Brusky via Flickr CC

James Balog and geologic-scale change

We are in the midst of geologic-scale change, and we humans are causing it.

James Balog says this during Chasing Ice, a masterpiece of filmmaking and science. It’s perhaps the one film that that those who have any doubts about climate change—and even those who don’t—should watch, and maybe watch again with a group of friends.

Balog, an American photographer who explores the relationship between humans and nature, set out to record visual evidence of what we know is happening to our planet’s glaciers due to climate change.

In 2007 Balog founded the Extreme Ice Survey, a long-term photography program that integrates art and science to give a “visual voice” to the planet’s changing ecosystems. 

Chasing Ice captures largest glacier calving ever filmed:

Balog, at TED Global 2009, talked about the images from the Extreme Ice Survey and the network of time-lapse cameras recording glaciers receding at an alarming rate – some of the most vivid evidence yet of climate change.

Chasing Ice is available on Netflix. The film is a stunning, astounding, inspiring, artistic and heartbreaking work. If ever there was anything that is must-see, it is this.

Thanks for Bill McKibben: A voice shouting in the wilderness of a shrinking planet

air air pollution climate change dawn
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate. Solar panels and wind turbines are now among the least expensive ways to produce energy. Storage batteries are cheaper and more efficient than ever. We could move quickly if we chose to, but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination on a global scale. The chances of that look slim. In Russia, the second-largest petrostate after the U.S., Vladimir Putin believes that “climate change could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance.” Saudi Arabia, the third-largest petrostate, tried to water down the recent I.P.C.C. report. Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected President of Brazil, has vowed to institute policies that would dramatically accelerate the deforestation of the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. Meanwhile, Exxon recently announced a plan to spend a million dollars—about a hundredth of what the company spends each month in search of new oil and gas—to back the fight for a carbon tax of forty dollars a ton. At a press conference, some of the I.P.C.C.’s authors laughed out loud at the idea that such a tax would, this late in the game, have sufficient impact.”

The above is a short excerpt from Bill McKibben’s, remarkable article in the New Yorker, “How Extreme Weather is Shrinking the Planet.” He is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org and the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College. His new book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? will be out in the spring. His article is necessary reading.

This year as we gather to give thanks, it rings a bit hollow for me because I wonder what people will be thankful for 20 or 30 years from now as we fail to take proper care of the planet and take action to deal with climate change. (Maybe thanks, Exxon! as wildfires rage, temperatures rise, species disappear and sea levels make large swaths of coastlines uninhabitable and islands disappear.)

It may be too late for us but it’s not too late to try.