Climate, politics & money – Feb 15

February 15, 2013

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Sanders, Boxer Outline ‘Gold Standard’ Climate Bill

George Zornick, The Nation, Blog
In the midst of a heightened conversation on combating climate change—as thousands of protestors are headed to DC this weekend to protest against the Keystone XL pipeline project, and as President Obama increasingly uses his bully pulpit to talk about the issue—the Senate is now jumping into the fray.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer announced comprehensive climate change legislation Thursday morning at a news conference on Capitol Hill that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. It’s an ambitious bill that doesn’t settle for half-measures, but rather lays out an actual solution to the climate crisis. “This is a gold-standard bill,” Boxer said. “Every once in a while we have them.”…
(14 February 2013)

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising "wedge issue" for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes…
(14 February 2013)

HSBC and Aviva back project to identify ‘stranded’ high-carbon assets

Staff, Business Green
One of the UK’s leading universities will today launch a new research programme aiming to help investors identify assets that could be left "stranded" by climate change, declining resources and the emergence of new green technologies.

Backed by HSBC, Aviva, WWF-UK and Climate Change Capital, the four-year University of Oxford research programme is attempting to flag up high-carbon sectors and assets that could be dramatically devalued or written off by the continuing shift towards a greener economy.

Initially it will focus on transportation and production methods in the agricultural supply chain, while later studies, set to be commissioned as the programme develops, are likely to include transport, power generation, real estate and a range of commodities.

The researchers aim to create tools to manage the risk of asset stranding, as well as analyse investor portfolios, better understand risk exposure and inform investment decision making for businesses and policy makers… (11 February 2013)

The transformational challenges of climate change: An interview with Professor John Schellnhuber and Professor Ottmar Edenhofer

Post Carbon Pathways
Professor John Schellnhuber is Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and Chair, German Advisory Council on Global Change. Professor Ottmar Edenhofer is Deputy Director and Chief Economist, PIK and Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC.

In this interview Professor Schellnhuber and Professor Edenhofer outline their views on the speed and scale of the social, political and economic transformations needed to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change.

Schellnhuber founded the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in 1991 and has been its director ever since. He holds a chair in theoretical physics at Potsdam University and is an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute (USA). He holds a range of leadership positions including chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU).

Edenhofer is PIK’s Deputy Director and Chief Economist. He is also professor of the Economics of Climate Change at the Technische Universität Berlin and Co-Chair of the Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),as well as director of the newly founded Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC).

We talked to them both about the implications of the latest climate science and global emissions trends and their views on the top priorities and possible pathways for achieving transformational change.

The interview is packed with insights and examples drawing on the leading work Schellnhuber and Edenhofer have been involved in at PIK, the WBGU and the IPCC, and on the experience of strong policy support for renewable energy in their native Germany.
Link to full interview transcript
(11 February 2013)

Carbon trading has failed: scrap the ETS now

Climate & Capitalism
Europe’s experience shows that emissions trading is a disaster: it doesn’t reduce greenhouse gases, subsidizes the worst polluters, and locks in the fossil fuel economy.

The following draft statement, released for discussion last week and scheduled for official release on February 18, has already been signed by 55 social justice and environmental organizations. See Time to Scrap the ETS for a current list of the signatories, and its text in seven languages.

After seven years of failure, the European Union’s claims that it can ‘fix’ its collapsing Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) no longer have any credibility. We believe that the ETS must be abolished no later than 2020 to make room for climate measures that work.

The EU ETS, the EU’s flagship policy to address climate change, was introduced in 2005 and gave rise to the currently largest carbon market worldwide. The ETS includes ‘cap and trade’ and ‘offsets’ systems which allow participants to buy and sell emissions permits and offset credits in order to comply with their reduction targets or simply to make a profit on the market.

The idea is to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively by creating incentives for climate-friendly innovations and so move industry onto a low-carbon path.

But the scheme has failed to do so. The EU’s fixation on ‘price’ as a driver for change not only has locked in an economic system dependent on polluting extractive industries – with fossil fuel emissions increasing sharply in 2010 and 2011…
(8 February 2013)

In historic turn, Sierra Club gets arrested for the climate

Bryan Farrell, Waging Nonviolence
What happens when people from the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization — the kind that sends cute nature calendars to its well-meaning supporters every year — get arrested in front of the White House? Don’t worry; it wasn’t for anything lewd, like a drunk and disorderly (although ecological collapse should be enough to send anyone on a bender). They were engaging in civil disobedience to protest the fossil fuel industry, and they had more than a century to get ready for it.

After the Sierra Club announced last month plans to commit civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history, Executive Director Michael Brune and Board of Directors President Allison Chin were arrested this morning at the White House in an attempt to pressure the president, the day after his State of the Union speech, to obstruct the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. They did so with a group of nearly 50 others, including big names from other environmental groups — such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Phil Radford of Greenpeace and Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth. They were joined by landowners and other representatives of pipeline-affected communities, as well as climate protest mainstays like NASA scientist James Hansen, Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, actress Daryl Hannah and, of course, Bill McKibben, whose has long pushed for this moment.

“I’m very glad to see leaders and celebrities standing up to Keystone, but I don’t forget for a moment that it was 1,253 ordinary Americans going to jail who built this momentum in the first place,” McKibben said before the action, referring to the two weeks of sit-ins outside the White House in August and September of 2011…
(13 February 2013)

Fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks are still rising

Duncan Clark, The Guardian
Last week the OECD published two new reports which shine a light on our complex and confused relationship with fossil fuels. The first looks at how we subsidise them, the second at how we tax them. The picture they paint can be summed up in two words: tangled mess.

Looking first at subsidies, the principle take-out is that government support for oil, coal and natural gas is still increasing across the developed world, despite promises to turn the situation around. Indeed, after dipping with the wider economy in 2009, the total value of subsidies or tax breaks received by those extracting or burning fossil fuels climbed relatively steeply and by 2011 was approaching the pre-crash peak of more than $80 billion.

As the graph shows, coal subsidies are gradually waning, but increases in oil and gas support have more than made up for that…
(8 February 2013)

There is no such thing as climate change denial

John Cook, The Conversation
In a sense, there is no such thing as climate change denial. No one denies that climate changes (in fact, the most common climate myth is the argument that past climate change is evidence that current global warming is also natural). Then what is being denied? Quite simply, the scientific consensus that humans are disrupting the climate. A more appropriate term would be “consensus denial”.

There are two aspects to scientific consensus. Most importantly, you need a consensus of evidence – many different measurements pointing to a single, consistent conclusion. As the evidence piles up, you inevitably end up with near-unanimous agreement among actively researching scientists: a consensus of scientists…

Two recent studies adopting different approaches have arrived at strikingly consistent results. A survey of over 3000 Earth scientists found that as the climate expertise increased, so did agreement about human-caused global warming. For climate scientists actively publishing climate research (79 scientists in total), there was 97% agreement.

This result was confirmed in a separate analysis compiling a list of scientists who had made public declarations on climate change, both supporting and rejecting the consensus. Among scientists who had published peer-reviewed climate papers (908 scientists in total), the same result: 97% agreement…

Despite these and many other indicators of consensus (I could go on), there is a gaping chasm between reality and the perceived consensus among the general public. Polls from 1997 to 2007 found that around 60% of Americans believe there is significant disagreement among scientists about whether global warming was happening. A 2012 Pew poll found less than half of Americans thought that scientists agreed humans were causing global warming.

The gap between perception and reality has real-world consequences. People who believe that scientists disagree on global warming show less support for climate policy. Consequently, a key strategy of opponents of climate action for over 20 years has been to cast doubt on the scientific consensus and maintain the consensus gap…

(15 February 2013)
This article was adapted from Understanding Climate Change Denial.

Image credit: Change the politics – caro2francq/flickr

Tags: Activism, climate activism, climate change, fossil fuel interests