Lisa Kudrow and Randy Rainbow are delightful proof the complaint voiced early in the 21st Century that politicians had killed parody was wrong. Self parody is also still going strong. Because, as many regular Earth Matters readers know, the 28th Conference of the Parties signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP28 for short, will meet for a couple of weeks in Dubai starting November 30. The delegates from 198 nations will gather again as they have done since 1992 to discuss the crisis that is a lethal byproduct of emitting greenhouse gases, 89% of them from burning and otherwise using fossil fuels. COP28’s presiding officer for this gathering will be Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan al-Jaber. He’s the Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology of the United Arab Emirates. He’s also the CEO of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). This may sound like parody, but it’s no joke.
At COP26, at Glasgow in 2021, the 503 fossil fuel lobbyists counted there made up the largest contingent of official attendees, larger than any one country’s delegation. This year in Dubai, they’ll have to publicly identify themselves. But such belated transparency is hardly a big deal when one of their pals will be in charge of the whole affair.
A week ago, The Guardian revealed that it and the Center for Climate Reporting had discovered two public relations professionals from ADNOC have been providing “additional support” to the team putting together the summit. This “adds to growing evidence of blurred lines between the UAE’s COP28 team and its fossil fuel industry,” reported Ben Stockton. Ever since al-Jabar was announced as COP28’s president, there have been several reports about ties between ADNOC and the summit team.
The Cop28 team previously stated that there were “clear governance guidelines in place to ensure the team can operate entirely independently from any other entity”.
“It is wholly inappropriate for Adnoc staff to be doing PR for Cop28,” said Pascoe Sabido, a researcher from Corporate Observatory Europe who co-coordinates the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition. He says the findings clearly demonstrate the close links between the oil company and the summit team
If you want to understand the state of the world’s climate efforts, follow the money. Here’s the daunting reality: By 2030, the developing world will need more than $2.4 trillion to address climate change–not as a one-off, but every single year. Of this total, donor countries have committed to mobilize $100 billion annually, a small fraction of what is needed. They have repeatedly fallen short until this past summer at the Paris Summit after a lot of pressure was applied. Now the challenge is how best to mobilize committed finance to restore trust, while simultaneously building a new climate financial infrastructure. [...]
However, if we get this right, creating a better climate finance system can catalyze the biggest economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. It presents a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity to unlock better forms of growth, create new jobs, new firms, and entirely new industries–and to leave a world to our children and grandchildren that is safer, cleaner, and more prosperous. [...]
Governments need to unleash the potential of the private sector by creating the right policy incentives and instruments. For its part, the private sector must actively partner with governments and international organizations to create the necessary conditions for investment.
Another concrete way that governments can empower the private sector is by shaping better-functioning voluntary carbon markets. These markets can be powerful instruments for channeling private capital from developed to developing economies and for driving investments into new technologies. However, to date, they have been riddled with quality and integrity issues.
Fixing climate finance is daunting but doable. It begins with restoring trust ...
As you can see from that and the rest of his piece, he got much right on the subject. But let’s do as he says in the first line of the essay—“If you want to understand the state of the world’s climate efforts, follow the money.”
Global Witness did just that and found that ADNOC plans to invest more than $100 billion between now and 2030 on oil and gas production. That’s close to sevenfold more than the company’s plans for “low-carbon solutions.” The United Nations warns that carbon emissions have to be reduced 45% by 2030 if the world is to meet longer-term climate goals. But what’s ADNOC planning for that one year alone? To invest $13.2 billion on oil and gas, a 43% increase from this year’s level. The company wants to increase its production capacity to 5 million barrels of oil per day, To achieve this, ADNOC plans to nearly double its capital expenditures on oil and gas projects by 2025, with those rising 42% that year and 16% in 2026, according to Global Witness’s analysis of Rystad Energy industry data.
What was that again about trust?
The banking sector is, by market capitalization, the largest industry on earth, and by revenue the second largest. It's deeply entangled with the fossil fuel business, which is by market capitalization the second largest industry, and by revenue the largest. Together they are immensely powerful. But there is no evidence that either industry is looking beyond short-term profit considerations and acting even in their own long-term interests. And as we have seen all too often, other people's long-term interests are completely irrelevant to them. How can these operators be curbed? Is there enough power in other industries, and other institutions, to defeat them? Political elites are overthrown when their security forces defect to the side of the revolutionaries. We must separate the fossil fuel business from their allies in other institutions and industries, especially banking, if we're to have adequate action on climate change. No easy matter.
We also must separate the fossil fuel industry from its government subsidies. The International Monetary Fund recently reported
Consuming fossil fuels imposes enormous environmental costs—mostly from local air pollution and damage from global warming. The vast majority of subsidies are implicit, as environmental costs are often not reflected in prices for fossil fuels, especially for coal and diesel.
Now, I am not a math whiz, but I do know that there is a lot of spare change left over when you divide the estimated $2.4 trillion investment needed each year to transform the global energy system into the $7 trillion in subsidies now going to the oil and gas giants.
Thousands of grizzly bears used to roam the North Cascades of British Columbia and Washington state. Data from the Hudson’s Bay Company in the mid-1800s reported 4,000 grizzly hides had been traded in forts in the area. It was this fur trade plus hunting and habitat fragmentation that virtually wiped the bears out. They are now so rare in the area that in 2019, a wildlife biologist who had studied grizzlies his entire career said he had never seen one in Washington. Most grizzly researchers say that without intervention the bears will disappear from the state entirely in a few years. So, for three decades, they and their conservationist allies have pushed to restore grizzly populations there and elsewhere.
On Thursday, the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rolled out a draft proposal to do exactly that with an experimental program in the North Cascades Ecosystem. At 95,000 square miles in north-central Washington centered on North Cascades National Park, and surrounded by national forest, it is one of the largest wild areas in the lower 48 states.
At the Center for Biological Diversity, Andrea Zaccardi, who carries the spectacular title of carnivore conservation legal director, said: “I’m delighted to see that a plan to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades is moving forward. Grizzly bears once thrived in the North Cascades, and this is a good step toward bringing grizzlies back to this vast, wild area where they clearly belong.”
The center had challenged the Trump administration in a lawsuit over the summary termination of a previous restoration plan. Last November, the National Park Service and USFWS announced its intent to reinitiate the plan. It’s estimated that 2,000 grizzlies live in four areas of the northern Rocky Mountains. The North Cascades is one of six primary grizzly areas identified by the USFWS for recovery. Outside the Lower 48 states, an estimated 55,000 grizzly bears live in areas of sparse or no human occupation in Alaska and western Canada.
With their remote ruggedness, the North Cascades are perfect for the great beasts, who need large territories to roam. Starting in 2014, the Interior Department drafted plans with four possible options to help bring back Washington's grizzlies, from doing nothing to gradually reintroducing 25 bears to the North Cascades over a decade. Under the proposal most favored by the department’s Fish and Wildlife Service four years ago, it would take 60 to 100 years to reach the ultimate objective of having 200 of the bears in the region. .
But while environmentalists generally liked that proposal, and it garnered more than 126,000 public comments that were mostly favorable, even gaining support from then-Secretary Ryan Zinke, it ran into a storm of local opposition.
At one of eight public hearings in 2019, one resident said, “We’re talking about an 800-pound animal that has, what?—six-inch-long claws. That is a recipe for disaster for hikers and hunters and people just going out with their dogs for walks.” Courtney Flatt at OPB reported that rancher Dave Dashiell was worried grizzly reintroduction would create conflicts the way the reintroduced gray wolf did. “I can’t imagine the grizzly thing being any better. It might even be a bigger trainwreck. It’s always your fault when something goes wrong. It’s never the predator’s fault. It’s always the producer.”
The Washington reintroduction proposal was axed in 2020 without comment by the Trump administration. And this year the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee passed an Interior funding bill for fiscal 2024 that bars spending money on an environmental impact statement of the overall grizzly bear restoration plan.
Having found that restoring the grizzly in the North Cascades is both "biologically feasible" and would "promote the conservation of the species," the USFWS said in its Thursday announcement that its revived restoration proposal would add grizzlies to the region at the pace of five to seven a year. Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, public comments will be accepted for 60 days.
"If this part of our natural heritage is restored, it should be done in a way that ensures communities, property, and the animals can all coexist peacefully," said Hugh Morrison, the USFWS’s Pacific Region director, pointing out that "experimental designation could provide the tools to do that."
It seems like the next big fight by Bill McKibben at his substack The Crucial Years. The great privilege of being a journalist is that you get to ask questions, and people generally answer them, so you find stuff out. And sometimes that stuff is shocking. I’ve spent the last few weeks working on a story for the New Yorker about the build-out of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals. With some help from a remarkable editor and an unshakable fact-checker, it came out a few days ago, and at the risk of being repetitive I wanted to share some the reporting with you, because it seems to me to point in the direction of what might be the next—and perhaps the ultimate—big battle with the fossil fuel industry. It reminds me a lot of Keystone XL saga, but with perhaps even more at stake. To put it simply, with the invention of fracking, America—and Canada, and Australia—ended up with huge supplies of fossil gas. It’s not really needed—we could, more cheaply and much more cleanly, power the world with sun, wind, and batteries. But if that happened, the people who own these reserves would have to forego the hundreds of billions of dollars they could get for selling that gas. That is unacceptable to them; they would far rather break the planet.
Thinking Long-Term: Why We Should Bring Back Redwood Forests by John Reid at Yale Environment 360. Only 5% of the redwood forests that once stretched across coastal Northern California have never been logged. An initiative to restore these forests is gaining momentum, aided by research showing that redwoods store more aboveground carbon than any forest on Earth. Lyndon Johnson signed the bill that established the Redwood National Park in California 55 years ago. It was a long time coming, with proposals blocked in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s by an industry that was beavering through the most valuable timberlands on the planet. When the National Park Service recommended a park again in 1964, bipartisan support in the Senate, a nod from President Johnson and, I believe, the trees’ own power to inspire eventually got a deal through Congress. The national park was not the first redwood park. Several small California state parks had been created decades earlier. But it was the first from which most of the old growth had already been removed. Created in two phases, in 1968 and 1978, 75 percent of our national park had been razed. Restoration has drawn recent attention and picked up momentum with the launch of Redwoods Rising, an ambitious recovery program.
Prosecutors Are Going to War With Climate Protesters by Jenna Ruddock at The New Republic. The far-reaching RICO indictment against Stop Cop City organizers in Atlanta is just the latest example of prosecutors’ central role in chilling dissent. A reimbursement of $11.91 for glue. Paying $19.42 for “harm reduction supplies.” Having camping gear in your truck. Handing out flyers. These extremely normal actions might not seem like grounds for charging dozens of people with racketeering and criminal conspiracy. But that hasn’t deterred prosecutors in Georgia from charging 61 members of the #StopCopCity movement this month under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, Act, a state-level version of the federal statute wielded with dramatic effect against the Mob in the 1980s. The indictment throws into sharp relief the sweeping discretion prosecutors have to determine not only who to bring criminal charges against but also the severity of those charges and the consequences prosecutorial discretion can have for entire movements.
California Has to Stop Building Freeways. Now by Melanie Curry at Streetsblog. "We're not the first ones to point this stuff out," said David Weiskopf, Senior Policy Advisor with Next Gen, about its new report “California at a Crossroads,” which calls for an end to "California’s traffic-creating, pave-the-earth approach to transportation." California has been working for years to create policies that support clean air and water and that lower climate-change inducing carbon emissions. But the impact of those policies is weakened by resistance, inertia, habit, and fear of change. That has led to focusing on difficult but politically plausible solutions like electric vehicles, cleaning up the electricity sector, and calling for low-carbon fuels. While helpful, these efforts have also served as a distraction. As the NextGen report states: "Increases in highway capacity are the central hurdle to [climate] progress." As long as California keeps expanding highways to accommodate driving, all the other efforts - to increase EVs, to produce clean energy, to add bike lanes - will have been a waste of time.
The Monster Frack, It Was a Graveyard Frack by Brad Johnson at Hill Heat. The International Energy Agency has updated its 2021 pathway to (maybe) keep global warming (sorta) below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. That pathway requires an astonishing (but technologically achievable) global build-out of renewable energy, distribution, electrification, efficiency, and conservation. Even with its quixotic targets for carbon capture for fossil fuels, the IEA projects oil demand to collapse by 23% by 2030 and natural gas demand by 18%. Understandably, the IEA concludes that coal plants must be rapidly phased out and that “there is no need for the approval of any new long lead time upstream conventional oil and gas projects.” On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed the United States back into the Paris Agreement, recommitting the nation to the 1.5°C target, and by implication, ending the era of new American oil and gas projects. So how’s that going? By any measure, the United States is wildly out of compliance with the agreement. The U.S. is responsible for one-third of planned global oil and gas expansion through 2050, equivalent to 454 new coal plants.
Community solar is hot. Why not community wind? by Mark Bolinger and Bentham Paulos. Twenty-five years ago, as wind power began to spread to the Midwest, most farmers were happy to lease their lands to commercial developers, to supplement their income from crops and livestock. But some wanted more. Inspired by Danish wind cooperatives, some Minnesota farmers pushed for local ownership of wind projects. With the help of state production incentives and legislative goals, they hoped to build at least half of new wind capacity in the 2000s. While some of these dreams came to fruition, the “community wind” movement had largely fizzled out by 2012. Fast forward to the 2020s, and community solar is taking off — including in Minnesota, which has over 900 MW in the ground. And while wind power is growing steadily, little of it is community owned. What happened to community wind? How was it different from community solar? Is it time for a comeback? If so, what can wind learn from community solar?
“To do common sense things like speed up renewables and EV adoption, and weatherize buildings, you don't have to believe warming will make Earth uninhabitable. You just have to understand that the economic and convenience cost of inaction is far higher than the cost of action.”—Tim Mullaney
HALF A DOZEN OTHER THINGS TO READ (OR LISTEN TO)
The state of tribal co-management of public lands by Anna V. Smith at High Country News. This October marks two years since President Joe Biden restored Bears Ears National Monument to its original boundaries, which President Donald Trump had reduced by 85% in 2017. The five tribes of the Bears Ears Commission, along with three federal agencies, have since been working on the monument’s first management plan. The plan is due out in November, pending a government shutdown, according to the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. After that, agencies will co-host public hearings with tribal commissioners. Tribal representatives have been working with agencies like the Bureau of Land Management to share Indigenous knowledge and priorities on land stewardship, said Hopi Tribe Vice Chairman Craig Andrews. It’s a process of balancing a variety of uses — ranging from rock climbing in Indian Creek to livestock grazing — with protecting the cultural sites and relationships that each tribal nation maintains in the area. It’s figuring out “what their perception of it is, and what our Native perception of it is, and trying to mesh that together as close as we can to speak for the monument,” said Andrews, who serves as the Hopi commissioner for Bears Ears. This requires bringing together many different worldviews, and “we’re having to speak two languages,” Andrews said. “For me, it’s Hopi, trying to explain that to our people, and then having to explain it to the agencies on that level. It’s trying to explain our way of life, why we’re protecting these areas out here.”
'Truly Historic' Youth-Led Climate Case Arrives at European Human Rights Court by Julia Conley at Common Dream. Lawyers for six Portuguese children and young adults on Wednesday expressed hope that their unprecedented climate case, brought to the European Court of Human Rights three years after it was first filed, will ultimately be a "game-changer" that forces governments in Europe and across the globe to take decisive action to address the climate emergency. Ranging in age from 11 to 24, the six plaintiffs sat on Wednesday before nearly two dozen human rights judges and attorneys representing nearly three dozen nations, determined to prove to the court that countries across Europe have violated their fundamental rights by allowing greenhouse gas emissions to continue heating the planet despite warnings from energy experts and scientists. In Duarte Agostinho v. Portugal and 32 Others, the plaintiffs are seeking not financial relief but a ruling from the court that would compel the governments of the 27 E.U. member-nations as well as Russia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, and Turkey to speed up their efforts to keep planetary heating below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.
How a looming government shutdown could hit national parks by Jacob Fischler at States Newsroom. National parks and nearby communities could forego millions of dollars per day during a partial government shutdown that could start this weekend. Would-be visitors will likely see restrictions on park access, though the extent of those restrictions was still unclear just days before a potential lapse in federal appropriations set to begin Sunday. Parks would lack the regular funds used for daily operations, but some could be covered temporarily by states or other funding sources. The National Park Service furloughed about seven out of every eight workers during shutdowns in October 2013 and December 2018-January 2019, according to a report last week from the Congressional Research Service. But the Interior Department took different approaches to visitor access in each shutdown under presidents of different parties.
Fossil Fuel Companies Made Bold Promises to Capture Carbon. Here’s What Actually Happened by Michael Buchsbaum and Edward Donnelly at DeSmog. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) was high on the agenda at New York Climate Week last week, where critics of the technology raised concerns it would be used to extend the life of the fossil fuel industry. For years, experts have pointed out that CCS has been primarily used to pump more oil out of the earth, using a process known as enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Burning that oil emits far more carbon dioxide (CO2) than what is captured, and therefore CCS doesn’t represent a viable solution to tackle climate change, critics argue. At a news conference after the one-day UN Climate Ambition Summit on September 20, Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Nonproliferation Treaty Initiative, said: “The oil companies acknowledged this year that they will not meet their bogus net zero commitments. The data showed us that their carbon capture plans are not working at scale.” Below is a DeSmog review of the climate impact of 12 large-scale CCS projects around the world; what the fossil fuel industry promised, and what actually happened. Findings include a litany of missed carbon capture targets; cost-overruns, and billions of dollars of costs to taxpayers in the form of subsidies.
California takes big first step toward floating offshore wind by Jeff St. John at Canary Media. If California’s AB 1373 is signed into law, it would allow the California Public Utilities Commission to authorize the California Department of Water Resources, which operates dams and aqueducts across the state, to sign contracts committing to purchase gigawatts’ worth of generation from yet-to-be-built offshore wind farms and then pass the costs on to all Californians. AB 1373 creates a similar path for these state agencies to authorize and contract power purchases from large-scale geothermal power plants, as well as a proposed pumped-hydropower project in Southern California — two other types of resources called for in California’s long-range clean energy targets. The latest of CPUC’s plans call for 4,700 MW of offshore floating wind, 2,000 MW of geothermal power plants and 2,000 MW of long-duration storage resources by 2035 to meet the state’s mandate to slash carbon emissions while maintaining grid reliability. While California is already building gigawatts of solar and lithium-ion batteries, it needs a more diverse mix of resources to reduce its reliance on fossil-gas-fired power plants to provide power when its grid comes up short.
From Carbon Sink to Source: The Stark Changes in Arctic Lakes by Cheryl Katz at Yale Environment 360. A family of muskox rumbles along craggy hilltops overlooking the small parade of humans crossing the West Greenland tundra. Ecologist Václava Hazuková, in the lead, sets a brisk pace as we bushwhack through knee-high willow and birch. Leaning forward under an equipment-filled pack nearly half her size, she high-steps over “pillows and mattresses” — hummocks of plants interspersed with troughs of rain-soaked permafrost. The twin blades of a kayak paddle protrude from Hazuková’s pack, pointing to our destination: Lake SS85, a small, clover-shaped lake some two hours away. Lake SS85 is one of hundreds of lakes dotting this 90-mile-wide fringe of land between the towering Greenland Ice Sheet and the Labrador Sea. For centuries, 85 and its aquatic neighbors have been ice-covered most of the year. But as the climate has warmed, high-latitude lakes — from the northern United States and Canada to Scandinavia and Siberia — have started to thaw, on average, a week earlier and freeze 11 days later than they did a century ago, according to Sapna Sharma, a biologist at York University in Toronto. The rate of ice loss has sextupled over the past 25 years. Northern lake temperatures are rising more than twice as fast as the global lake average, Sharma says. And nowhere is the climate changing faster than in the Arctic.
• How to fight climate change with parking lots • When the government shuts down, parks take center stage • California lawmakers strike $106 million deal for fueling hydrogen cars, trucks—even though hardly anyone drives one • New plan aims to quadruple heat-pump adoption in 25 states • Excessive Heat and Bad Coaching Are Killing Young Football Players • A Hidden Climate Danger Threatens Coastal Communities