The first Americans to spend much time in South Florida were the U.S. Army men who chased the Seminole Indians around the peninsula in the 1830s. And they hated it. Today, their letters read like Yelp reviews of an arsenic café, denouncing the region as a “hideous,” “loathsome,” “diabolical,” “God-abandoned” mosquito refuge.
“Florida is certainly the poorest country that ever two people quarreled for,” one Army surgeon wrote. “It was the most dreary and pandemonium-like region I ever visited, nothing but barren wastes.” An officer summarized it as “swampy, low, excessively hot, sickly and repulsive in all its features.” The future president Zachary Taylor, who commanded U.S. troops there for two years, groused that he wouldn’t trade a square foot of Michigan or Ohio for a square mile of Florida. The consensus among the soldiers was that the U.S. should just leave the area to the Indians and the mosquitoes; as one general put it, “I could not wish them all a worse place.” Or as one lieutenant complained: “Millions of money has been expended to gain this most barren, swampy, and good-for-nothing peninsula.”
Today, Florida’s southern thumb has been transformed into a subtropical paradise for millions of residents and tourists, a sprawling megalopolis dangling into the Gulf Stream that could sustain hundreds of billions of dollars in damage if Hurricane Irma makes a direct hit. So it’s easy to forget that South Florida was once America’s last frontier, generally dismissed as an uninhabitable and undesirable wasteland, almost completely unsettled well after the West was won. “How far, far out of the world it seems,” Iza Hardy wrote in an 1887 book called Oranges and Alligators: Sketches of South Florida. And Hardy ventured only as far south as Orlando, which is actually central Florida, nearly 250 miles north of Miami. Back then, only about 300 hardy pioneers lived in modern-day South Florida. Miami wasn’t even incorporated as a city until 1896. And even then an early visitor declared that if he owned Miami and hell, he would rent out Miami and live in hell.
It’s the year 2015, in Paris, and negotiations over an international climate accord are falling apart. India‚ the world’s fourth-largest polluter, is wary about signing onto the deal, fearing the commitments are too strict for a developing country with high energy needs. So Al Gore whips into action—by pulling out his cell phone. He dials Larry Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, and says, “Elon suggested I call.” Naturally, the former vice president is on a first-name basis with the founder of Tesla and SpaceX. But Elon Musk is more important to Gore as the chairman of SolarCity, which The New York Times describes as “the nation’s leading installer of rooftop solar panels and a renewable energy darling.” Gore is thus connected with SolarCity’s president, and asks him to give the company’s intellectual property to India, free of charge. “SolarCity could be the corporate hero of Paris,” Gore says into the phone. “Think about it.” The company eventually agrees, and India signs the agreement. Gore saves the day—and perhaps the planet.
This is not a first-hand account of the negotiations over the now-historic Paris agreement, but rather how they’re portrayed in Gore’s new documentary. On its face, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power brings viewers up to date on both Gore and the planet since his Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. (Spoiler: The planet has been getting hotter, and Gore’s been working to solve the climate crisis.) But the film also completes the lionization of Gore that began with its antecedent. If An Inconvenient Truth cast him as a brave voice in the wilderness, An Inconvenient Sequel is a victory lap of sorts. Gore’s dire warnings have come true, the movie posits, but he’s been working tirelessly behind the scenes to stave off a global catastrophe—and achieving tangible results.
But apropos of this week’s release of An Inconvenient Sequel and a book of the same name, Gore, 69, is thrusting himself back into the spotlight as America’s top spokesperson for climate change activism. He’s granted myriad interviews in recent weeks—including The New York Times, CBS, Interview, Fast Company, CNN, Stephen Colbert, and NBC, but not, alas, the New Republic—to promote his latest projects and deliver a relentlessly optimistic message. “Is there hope, Al Gore?” Colbert askedhim. “Absolutely,” he replied. “Go see the movie and you’ll see there is tremendous hope. We are going to win this.” He told CBS, “Those who feel despair should be of good cheer, as the Bible says. Have faith, have hope. We are going to win this.”
Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.
The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says PedroFaria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.
Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.
The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.
Donald Trump announced today that he’ll pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, which would make the country just one of three worldwide—joining Nicaragua and Syria—to refuse participation in the landmark climate deal. Trump claimed “we are getting out, but we will start to negotiate and see if we can make a deal that’s fair.”
With today’s declaration, Trump kicked off a four-year process that could eventually be reversed by his successor and will involve numerous bureaucratic hurdles. With or without the United States, however, all countries will need to drastically ratchet up their plans for reducing emissions to get anywhere close to meeting the goals set out in Paris in 2015.
While news about climate change often raises fears that the end of the world is coming, today’s announcement may not be as bad as it seems. Trump’s move is troubling, but climate scientist Glen Peters suggests that the mood need not be all doom and gloom. I spoke with Peters, a senior researcher at Norway’s CICERO Center for International Climate Research, about Trump, what’s next for the Paris Agreement and why not all hope is lost.
Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement was not really about the climate. And despite his overheated rhetoric about the “tremendous” and “draconian” burdens the deal would impose on the U.S. economy, Trump’s decision wasn’t really about that, either. America’s commitments under the Paris deal, like those of the other 194 cooperating nations, were voluntary. So those burdens were imaginary.
No, Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from this carefully crafted multilateral compromise was a diplomatic and political slap: It was about extending a middle finger to the world, while reminding his base that he shares its resentments of fancy-pants elites and smarty-pants scientists and tree-hugging squishes who look down on real Americans who drill for oil and dig for coal. He was thrusting the United States into the role of global renegade, rejecting not only the scientific consensus about climate but the international consensus for action, joining only Syria and Nicaragua (which wanted an even greener deal) in refusing to help the community of nations address a planetary problem. Congress doesn’t seem willing to pay for Trump’s border wall—and Mexico certainly isn’t—so rejecting the Paris deal was an easier way to express his Fortress America themes without having to pass legislation.
Trump was keeping a campaign promise, and his Rose Garden announcement was essentially a campaign speech; it was not by accident that he name-dropped the cities of Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, factory towns in the three Rust Belt states that carried him to victory. Trump’s move won’t have much impact on emissions in the short term, and probably not even in the long term. His claims that the Paris agreement would force businesses to lay off workers and consumers to pay higher energy prices were transparently bogus, because a nonbinding agreement wouldn’t force anything. But Trump’s move to abandon it will have a huge impact on the global community’s view of America, and of a president who would rather troll the free world than lead it.
Evan Davis speaks with American intellectual Noam Chomsky about Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, populism in Europe and Julian Assange. (BBC Newsnight)
Throughout history, humans have existed side-by-side with bacteria and viruses. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have evolved to resist them, and in response they have developed new ways of infecting us.
We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.
However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?
We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.
Noam Chomsky on the GOP: Has Any Organisation Ever Been So Committed to Destruction of Life on Earth?
Amy Goodman recently spoke with Noam Chomsky about comments he made regarding the Republican Party’s committment to the destruction of life and being “the most dangerous organisation on on earth”. (Noam Chomsky)
Former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura challenges Alex Jones on his support for Trump and the electoral college, as well as his views on marijuana legalisation and climate change. (Reich Wing Watch)
New research published last week in the journal Elementa suggests that rising temperatures on Earth will cause massive changes in the deepest parts of the ocean. And those changes won’t be good: starvation and “sweeping ecological change,” the report warns, could be on the menu by the year 2100.
The research, conducted by a team at the University of Oregon, suggests that the temperature of the abyssal ocean (depths of 3,000 to 6,000 meters) could rise by about 1 degree Celsius over the next 84 years, which might not sound like a lot to a lay person. But, the research also suggests that this rise in temperature would likely cause massive problems all over the planet, because it is dependent on the deep ocean’s health, which accounts for more than 95 percent of the ocean’s entire volume. “Biodiversity in many of these areas is defined by the meager amount of food reaching the seafloor and over the next 80-plus years — in certain parts of the world — that amount of food will be cut in half,” Andrew Thurber, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University, and co-author of the study, said in a press release about the work.
Temperatures in the bathyal area of the ocean — not quite so deep, at around 200 to 3,000 meters — are expected to rise even more, up to 4 degrees Celsius in the same period. It is, Dr. Thurber said, “the equivalent of having summer for the first time in thousands to millions of years.” The main effect for the ocean in all of this will be an exacerbated lack of food and an increase in the metabolisms of the existing organisms. Increased metabolism leads to a need for more food, which is going to be a problem at a time when there will be an ever-lessening supply. Abyssal waters are already some of the most food-deprived areas of the planet, so the prospect of halving this already minuscule supply would be truly devastating.
[…] Last September, more than 40 tons of garbage was pulled from the beaches of Vancouver Island alone. A good portion of the garbage is alleged to have come from the Japanese tsunami of 2011. However, the problem is not limited to just Vancouver Island; in 2015, a study estimated that the ocean contained 5.25 trillion pieces of garbage and counting. Some even estimate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
There have been reports from around the globe about the impact plastic pollution is having on both coastal marine environments and the wildlife that inhabits these regions. Recently, a whale off the Norwegian coast was found with more than 30 plastic bags in its stomach. In Canada, researchers have warned that plastic is affecting birds and smaller marine life. For a country with the largest coastline, it’s a problem that’s not getting better.
“The amount of plastic on [the] beaches is getting worse,” said Gillian Montgomery, chapter manager of the Vancouver Island Surfrider. Montgomery elaborated, adding that from what she’s seen plastic pollution has only gotten worse over the past few years and it’s not getting any better. It’s a frustration echoed by her colleague McKay. “The government does not publicly say plastics are a problem,” McKay said. “Because we have recycling, they just assume recycling takes care of everything.”
You can now add bees to the rarefied list of tool-using animals, which already includes primates, crows, octopods, otters, porpoises, and more. A fascinating set of experiments has revealed that bees can be taught to use tools, even though they don’t use them in the wild.
Queen Mary University of London biologist Olli J. Loukola and his colleagues wanted to find out more about how bee intelligence works. Previous experiments with the insects have shown that they can count, communicate with each other using “waggle dances” that reveal the direction of food, and pull strings to get access to food. Loukola’s new tool use test showed that not only are bees good with tools, but they can also extemporize to use them more effectively.
While Donald Trump was reviving both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, muzzling federal employees, freezing EPA contracts, and first telling the EPA to remove mentions of climate change from its website — and then reversing course — many of the scientists who work on climate change in federal agencies were meeting just a few miles from the White House to present and discuss their work.
The mood was understandably gloomy at the National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy, and the Environment. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. No one knows what’s going to happen,” one EPA staffer who works on climate issues told me on Tuesday, as she ate her lunch. She had spent much of her time in recent weeks trying to preserve and document the methane-related projects she’s been working on for years. But the prevailing sense was that, Trump’s claims about being an environmentalist notwithstanding, the president is moving forward with his plan to eviscerate environmental protections, particularly those related to climate change, and the EPA itself.
“It’s strange,” the woman said. “People keep walking up to me and giving me hugs.” Like several others I spoke to for this story, she declined to tell me her name out of fear that she might suffer retaliation, including being fired. She was not being paranoid. Already, agency higher ups had warned the EPA staff against talking to the press, or even updating blogs or issuing news releases. “Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press,” said one EPA missive that was shared broadly and ended up in the press. And while the staffer was at the meeting, the EPA’s new brass issued another memo to staff requiring all regional offices to submit a list of external meetings and presentations, noting which might be controversial and why.
[…] This is the backdrop for Trump’s rise to power—our movements were starting to win. I’m not saying that they were strong enough. They weren’t. I’m not saying we were united enough. We weren’t. But something was most definitely shifting. And rather than risk the possibility of further progress, this gang of fossil-fuel mouthpieces, junk-food peddlers, and predatory lenders have come together to take over the government and protect their ill-gotten wealth.
Let us be clear: This is not a peaceful transition of power. It’s a corporate takeover. The interests that have long-since paid off both major parties to do their bidding have decided they are tired of playing the game. Apparently, all that wining and dining of politicians, all that cajoling and legalized bribery, insulted their sense of divine entitlement.
So now they are cutting out the middleman and doing what every top dog does when they want something done right—they are doing it themselves. Exxon for secretary of state. Hardee’s for secretary of labor. General Dynamics for secretary of defense. And the Goldman guys for pretty much everything that’s left. After decades of privatizing the state in bits and pieces, they decided to just go for the government itself. Neoliberalism’s final frontier. That’s why Trump and his appointees are laughing at the feeble objections over conflicts of interest—the whole thing is a conflict of interest, that’s the whole point.
[…] This is the closest to midnight that the clock has been since 1953, when it was moved to two minutes to midnight after United States and the Soviet Union tested their first thermonuclear weapons within six months of one another.
We understand that Mr. Trump has been in office only days, that many of his cabinet nominees are awaiting confirmation and that he has had little time to take official action.
But Mr. Trump’s statements and actions have been unsettling. He has made ill-considered comments about expanding and even deploying the American nuclear arsenal. He has expressed disbelief in the scientific consensus on global warming. He has shown a troubling propensity to discount or reject expert advice related to international security. And his nominees to head the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and the Budget have disputed or questioned climate change.
We already know that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.
All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.
Speculation is unnecessary. All that’s required is a little knowledge of recent history. Ten years ago, I published “The Shock Doctrine,” a history of the ways in which crises have been systematically exploited over the last half century to further a radical pro-corporate agenda. The book begins and ends with the response to Hurricane Katrina, because it stands as such a harrowing blueprint for disaster capitalism.
It began with a tweet, as so much does these days. The first shot in the coming war was fired in a 140-character burst by Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. “If Trump wins I am announcing and funding a legitimate campaign for California to become its own nation,” said the first in a volley of tweets by the Iranian-American technology investor. “As 6th largest economy in world,” he said three tweets later, “economic engine of nation, provider of a large % of federal budget, California carries a lot of weight.”
This call to arms was retweeted thousands of times in those bewildering first hours of the Age of Trump. By the next morning, the movement for California to secede from the United States had made national headlines, with Pishevar anointed the movement’s leader. It even had a name, Calexit, an echo of the Brexit movement, which will eventually cleave Great Britain from the European Union. The nativist tone of Brexit foreshadowed the xenophobia of Donald Trump. Calexit is a kind of nativism too, except it’s fundamentally sunny in disposition—a Brexit for American liberals much more closely aligned with Western Europe than West Virginia.
Unrelated to Pishevar’s tweetstorm was a Sacramento rally held the day after the election (but planned long before) by Yes California, a secession group run by a young man from San Diego named Louis Marinelli. Marinelli, 29, wants to use California’s ballot measure process to have his fellow citizens vote for secession, much as they have voted to ban plastic bags and legalize recreational marijuana. Unlike Pishevar, whose secessionary tweets were plainly fired off in a fit of frustration, Marinelli has been long at work on this issue and will eagerly lay out his reasoning to anyone willing to listen. “America is a sinking ship, and the strongest position for California to take is one on its own lifeboat setting its own course forward,” he tells me. “A strong California holding its ground and attempting to influence the decisions of those in Washington at the helm of this sinking ship will find itself at the bottom of the ocean with them.”
Exxon Mobil under its CEO Rex Tillerson frequently pressed the U.S. State Department for help in negotiating complex business deals and overcoming foreign opposition to its drilling projects, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept.
The requests for help — documented in diplomatic cables obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from DeSmogBlog as well as some previously released by Wikileaks — raise a whole new series of conflict-of-interest concerns about Tillerson, who retired as Exxon Mobil CEO soon after being nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next secretary of state.
Consider: Exxon Mobil sent State Department officials a request to help overcome local opposition to fracking in Germany; in Indonesia, the State Department acted as a advocate for Exxon Mobil during contentious negotiations between the firm and the Indonesian government over a major gas field in the South China Sea; and in Russia, Exxon Mobil asked the U.S. ambassador to press the Russians to approve a major drilling program, noting that a “warming of U.S.-Russian relations” overall would also help the company.
Under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, the State Department started its own in-house energy promotion department, the Bureau of Energy Resources. The team works on a variety of energy projects, but its most high-profile programs have been focused on spurring the worldwide spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology, with the hope that doing so would blunt the influence of certain foreign powers. The Bureau’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (formerly the Global Shale Gas Initiative) has in the past engaged with Exxon Mobil for projects in Poland and eastern Europe.
Exxon’s Climate Change Denial and Human Rights Record Make Rex Tillerson Unfit to be U.S. Secretary of State
In the first interview, Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman speak to oil and energy journalist Antonia Juhasz about the Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of State nominee and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Juhasz’s recently wrote an article titled ‘Rex Tillerson Could Be America’s Most Dangerous Secretary of State‘. In the second interview, Sharmini Peries speaks to CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin, author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection. In the third interview, Kim Brown speaks to Jamie Henn and Antonia Juhasz about whether Tillerson would conduct U.S. foreign policy in the interest of the oil and natural gas industry. And in the fourth interview, Kim Brown speaks to Kathy Mulvey of the Union of Concerned Scientists about Exxon continuing to avoid accountability for its climate change disinformation campaign. Mulvey worked on The Climate Accountability Scorecard. (Democracy Now!/The Real News)
Environmental risks, steadily rising in importance, are recognized as authentic and relentless obstacles to peace, wealth, and health, according to the World Economic Forum’s global risk report, an annual survey of business, academic, and political leaders.
The report analyzes the strength and likelihood of 30 risks and 13 trends that shape global society. Four of the five environmental risks in the report, all related to climate change and extreme weather, are judged to be large impact and high likelihood threats.
Water crises, deemed a “societal risk” because of their broad reach, ranked third in the high-impact category, the third consecutive year in the top three. Harsh droughts last year in India, South Africa, and Vietnam slashed farm production and cut hydropower generation. Meanwhile, depletion of India’s groundwater reserves could squeeze long-term economic growth and flush rural residents into already jammed cities. These and other environmental threats to social well-being “are more prominent than ever,” the report states.
Last September, a few outlets were reporting the counterintuitive findings of a new HSBC research report on global oil supply. Unfortunately, the true implications of the HSBC report were largely misunderstood.
The HSBC research note — prepared for clients of the global bank — found that contrary to concerns about too much oil supply and insufficient demand, the situation was opposite: global oil supply will in coming years be insufficient to sustain rising demand.
Yet the full, striking import of the report, concerning the world’s permanent entry into a new age of global oil decline, was never really explained. The report didn’t just go against the grain of the industry’s hype about ‘peak demand’: it vindicated what is routinely lambasted by the industry as a myth: peak oil — the concurrent peak and decline of global oil production.
INSURGE intelligence obtained a copy of the report in December 2016, and for the first time we are exclusively publishing the entire report in the public interest.
Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speaks to Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, which has announced that it will be moving a copy of its archive to Canada in the wake of Trump winning the 2016 election. The archive is one of the world’s largest public digital libraries. Part of the site includes the Wayback Machine, which preserves old websites, allowing researchers to access pages deleted by politicians and others. Laurie Allen of #DataRefuge Project also briefly joins the discussion to talk about climate change. (Democracy Now!)
Water is life. Water is the new oil. Water is power.
Fresh, life-sustaining water is draining away. It’s becoming an increasingly scarce resource across the globe through overuse and pollution. As these issues become more acute, tensions that have already begun will escalate, and this will affect us all.
Some say water is the new oil. But unlike oil, water is essential for survival.
A deep dive into the planet’s water situation reveals that in the coming decades, every country, including the United States, will have to determine how to treat water as an economic good, a human right, and a depleting resource.
A look at three key areas—United States, the Middle East, and China—shows the range of challenges.
Trump And Exxon: CEO Who Could Be Secretary Of State Runs Company That Often Lobbied The State Department
If ExxonMobil’s top executive is appointed to run the State Department, he will be running an agency his company has repeatedly lobbied in recent years.
Under Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who is expected to be nominated Donald Trump’s secretary of state, the oil colossus has directly lobbied the State Department on everything from sanctions against Russia and Iran to climate policy to the Trans-Pacific partnership and other controversial trade deals. An IBT review of federal records shows Exxon has been listed as lobbying the State Department on 20 separate government disclosure forms since the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009. The forms list a combined $43 million worth of total Exxon spending on lobbying, though not all of that was spent specifically lobbying the department that Tillerson would run.
Tillerson has mocked investments in renewable energy and has downplayed the effects of climate change. As secretary of state, he would be in a position that has been deeply involved in matters that affect Exxon and other oil and gas corporations. In the last few years, the State Department has forged an international drilling pact, promoted hydraulic fracking across the globe and negotiated climate and trade pacts that shape the fossil fuel economy
As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.
And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.
So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both America and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.
It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.
The European Commission has announced its new blueprint to phase out coal and energy inefficiencies, while supporting clean energy — but a coalition of civil society groups warns that the revised EU Renewable Energy Directive is fatally flawed.
And guess why? Because certain industries are not going to let go of their profits.
The campaign groups — Global Forest Coalition, Woodland League, Econexus, Biofuelwatch, Transnational Institute, NOAH, Corporate Europe Observatory, and Amis de l’Afrique Francophone-Bénin — point out that in the EU energy plan, bioenergy and waste account for some two-thirds of all energy classed as ‘renewable’. Most of this ‘bioenergy’ will also come from burning wood, both in power stations and for heating.
However, scientific studies increasingly prove that big bioenergy projects produce more greenhouse gases even than traditional fossil fuels.
According to Biofuelwatch, the EU’s cavernous demand for wood to burn for energy is directly tied to the acceleration of logging, land-grabbing from indigenous peoples in countries like Brazil and Ghana, and the conversion of more forests, farmland and grasslands into monoculture tree plantations. This has endangered biodiversity and caused “added harm to forests and people.”
Meanwhile, a new report by the conservation group Birdlife reveals that masses of protected forest areas across Europe are being felled to provide wood for the burgeoning biomass industry.
The European Union’s proposals for revising its renewable energy policies are greenwashing and don’t solve the serious flaws, say environmental groups.
The EU gets 65 per cent of its renewable energy from biofuels – mainly wood – but it is failing to ensure this bioenergy comes from sustainable sources, and results in less emissions than burning fossil fuels. Its policies in some cases are leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than burning coal.
“Burning forest biomass on an industrial scale for power and heating has proved disastrous,” says Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner for forest protection group Fern. “The evidence that its growing use will increase emissions and destroy forests in Europe and elsewhere is overwhelming.”
On 30 November the European Commission unveiled a draft “clean energy” package for the period up to 2030. On the surface, these proposals address some of the issues with existing renewable energy policies.
But environmental groups who have been analysing the proposals say that the changes will make little difference.
“It’s almost worse than doing nothing,” says Sini Erajaa, the bioenergy policy officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, who describes the changes as greenwashing.
Yes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.
Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.
I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.