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Inside Exxon’s Strategy to Downplay Climate Change (free link)
The Wall Street Journal
Mobil issued its first public statement that burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change in 2006, following years of denial. In public forums, the company argued that the risk of serious impact on the environment justified global action.
Yet behind closed doors, Exxon took a very different tack: Its executives strategized over how to diminish concerns about warming temperatures, and they sought to muddle scientific findings that might hurt its oil-and-gas business, according to internal Exxon documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with former executives.
Exxon’s public acceptance in 2006 of the risks posed by climate change was an early act of Rex Tillerson, an Exxon lifer who became CEO that year. Some viewed him as a moderating force who brought Exxon in line with the scientific consensus.
The documents reviewed by the Journal, which haven’t been previously reported, cast Tillerson’s decadelong tenure in a different light. They show that Tillerson, as well as some of Exxon’s board directors and other top executives, sought to cast doubt on the severity of climate change’s impacts. Exxon scientists supported research that questioned the findings of mainstream climate science, even after the company said it would stop funding think tanks and others that promoted climate-change denial.
Exxon is now a defendant in dozens of lawsuits around the U.S. that accuse it and other oil companies of deception over climate change and that aim to collect billions of dollars in damages. Prosecutors and attorneys involved in some of the cases are seeking some of the documents reviewed by the Journal, which were part of a previous investigation by New York’s attorney general but never made public.
Earth is outside its ‘safe operating space for humanity’ on most key measurements, study says
Earth is exceeding its “safe operating space for humanity” in six of nine key measurements of its health, and two of the remaining three are headed in the wrong direction, a new study said.
Earth’s climate, biodiversity, land, freshwater, nutrient pollution and “novel” chemicals (human-made compounds like microplastics and nuclear waste) are all out of whack, a group of international scientists said in Wednesday’s journal Science Advances. Only the acidity of the oceans, the health of the air and the ozone layer are within the boundaries considered safe, and both ocean and air pollution are heading in the wrong direction, the study said.
“We are in very bad shape,” said study co-author Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “We show in this analysis that the planet is losing resilience and the patient is sick.”
New Study Identifies United States as 'Planet-Wrecker-in-Chief'
A new report released Tuesday identifies the United States as "planet-wrecker-in-chief," pointing to the nation's plans for a massive expansion of oil and gas production over the next two and a half decades even as it postures as a climate leader on the world stage.
According to Oil Change International's (OCI) research, planned oil and gas expansion in the U.S.—the largest historical contributor to planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions—accounts for more than a third of prospective global oil and gas expansion through 2050. Much of the U.S. expansion is tied to fracking, the report observes.
The U.S. is one of just 20 countries that are projected to be responsible for nearly 90% of the carbon dioxide pollution from new oil and gas extraction projects between 2023 and 2050.
If those 20 countries follow through with their fossil fuel expansion plans, OCI noted, the projects will emit an estimated 173 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of the lifetime emissions of more than 1,000 new coal plants.
"If that amount of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, then we're in serious trouble," Romain Ioualalen, global policy lead for OCI and a co-author of the new report, said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Experts call for global moratorium on efforts to geoengineer climate
Governments should place a moratorium on efforts to geoengineer the planet’s climate, as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and the climate crisis takes hold, a panel of global experts has urged.
Geoengineering is highly controversial, but discussions of its feasibility are gathering pace as the impacts of extreme weather, driven by climate breakdown, grip the planet. There is no global agreement on geoengineering, and no rules on what countries, or businesses, can do.
In a report published on Thursday, the Climate Overshoot Commission called on governments to phase out fossil fuels, put more resources into adapting to the impacts of extreme weather, and start using technologies to remove carbon dioxide, such as carbon capture and storage and the capture of carbon directly from the air.
Revealed: Why the UN is not climate neutral
The UN claims to be almost entirely climate neutral, yet that claim is based on buying millions of carbon offset credits that experts say do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, The New Humanitarian and Mongabay found in a year-long investigation.
More than 2.7 million UN carbon credits — 40% of those reporters were able to analyse — were issued by hydropower and wind projects, which climate experts say shouldn’t be used to offset emissions as the schemes don’t need income from credits to be viable.
In addition, at least 13 carbon offsetting projects that received UN funds have been linked to reports of environmental damage, displacement, or health problems — all issues the UN routinely works to prevent or mitigate.
‘Off-the-charts records’: has humanity finally broken the climate?
The record-shattering heatwaves, wildfires and floods destroying lives in the US, Europe, India, China and beyond in 2023 have raised an alarming question: have humanity’s relentless carbon emissions finally pushed the climate crisis into a new and accelerating phase of destruction?
The issue is being strongly debated, with accusations of doom-mongering being countered with charges of complacency. The answer matters: how bad is it, and how can we limit the damage? To find out, the Guardian asked 45 leading climate scientists from around the world. We also asked the equally vital question of whether extreme weather events were hitting people faster and harder than expected.
The scientists told us that, despite it certainly feeling as if events had taken a frightening turn, the global heating seen to date was entirely in line with three decades of scientific predictions. Being proved right was cold comfort, they said, as their warnings had so far been largely in vain.
‘It’s time to start telling the truth’: Is summer’s record heat a sign of climate breakdown?
‘Climate breakdown has begun’, warns UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
Earth has sweltered through its hottest Northern Hemisphere summer ever measured, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Last month was not only the hottest August scientists ever recorded by far with modern equipment, it was also the second hottest month measured, behind only July 2023, WMO and the European climate service Copernicus announced on Wednesday.
August was about 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than pre-industrial averages, which is the warming threshold that the world is trying not to pass. But the 1.5C threshold is over decades - not just one month - so scientists do not consider that brief passage that significant.
Supercharged storm wrecks Greece’s breadbasket for years to come
Greece’s agricultural heartland is under water — and recovery will take a long time.
Athens is asking Brussels for aid after a violent storm brought record rainfall last week, turning the Thessalian plain — home to a quarter of the country’s agricultural production — into a vast lake.
“We've had the worst floods in our history. This is probably one of the most powerful storms to ever hit Europe,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
Automakers Hand Billions To Shareholders While Stiffing Workers
Roughly 150,000 auto workers are preparing to launch what may be the biggest strike in decades this Thursday over their employers’ refusal to provide adequate pay and job security. Meanwhile, in the past twelve months, the Big Three automakers — General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis — have authorized $5 billion in stock buybacks, effectively giving billions of dollars to shareholders that could have gone to auto workers.
On top of the stock buybacks, the Big Three have reported $21 billion in profits in just the first six months of 2023. Despite the enormous gains, the companies have cried poverty in response to union demands for wage increases to make up for decades of pay stagnation.
In a statement released last month, General Motors (GM) claimed that the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) demands “would threaten our ability to do what’s right for the long-term benefit of the team.”
Real Estate Magnate Tim Gurner Is a Jerk. But He’s Saying What All Capitalists Really Think.
Real estate CEO Tim Gurner, of “millennial avocado toast” fame, has gone viral again for saying low unemployment has made workers arrogant and joblessness must rise. His remarks reveal a usually unspoken truth: capitalists rely on the subordination of workers.
Wisconsin Republicans Are Taking Desperate Steps to Subvert Fair Elections in 2024
On Thursday, Republicans in the Wisconsin state senate voted to oust the nonpartisan administrator of the state’s election commission, Meagan Wolfe, in a bid to give election deniers and conspiracy theorists more control over how elections are run in the state. That follows threats by Republican legislative leaders to impeach newly elected state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz before she has even ruled on a case so that the court’s new 4-3 liberal majority will be unable to strike down the heavily gerrymandered maps that have been integral to the GOP’s stranglehold over the legislature for the past decade-and-a-half.
These moves are the latest in a long line of anti-democratic actions taken by Wisconsin Republicans over the past 12 years that show the lengths they will go to topple basic democratic norms to maintain their grip on power. Democrats have won 14 of the past 17 statewide elections in Wisconsin, but Republicans’ seemingly voter-proof majorities in the legislature, as a result of the skewed maps passed by the GOP in 2011 and 2021, have allowed them to repeatedly thwart the will of a majority of voters and undercut the victories of Democratic candidates. In 2022, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers won re-election with 51 percent of the vote, but Republicans retained 65 percent of seats in the state assembly and 67 percent in the state senate, gaining a supermajority in the senate and coming just two seats short of a supermajority in the assembly, which would have allowed them to override the governor’s vetoes and make him functionally irrelevant.
Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate votes to fire top elections official
The GOP-controlled Wisconsin Senate voted Thursday to fire the state’s top elections official, setting up a likely legal battle in the state ahead of the 2024 election.
Democrats have argued the state Senate vote to oust nonpartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe from her position was not held properly and that they do not have the power to remove Wolfe from her role.
Republican leaders have been threatening to remove Wolfe for months over how she handled the 2020 election. They have falsely claimed she orchestrated a plan to rig the 2020 election in Wisconsin — a swing state President Biden carried in 2020 by nearly 21,000 votes.
‘It will take years to recover’ from Tuberville blockade, top Navy nominee says
President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the Navy’s top officer, Adm. Lisa Franchetti, said it could take the service years to recover from the impacts of Sen. Tommy Tuberville‘s blockade of hundreds of senior military promotions.
Franchetti told the Senate Armed Services Committee during her confirmation hearing Thursday that the impasse has created “a lot of uncertainty” for Navy families.
“Just at the three-star level, it would take about three to four months just to move all the people around,” Franchetti said. “But it will take years to recover … from the promotion delays that we would see.”
More than 300 general and flag officer nominees have no clear path to confirmation over Tuberville’s objections…
Ukraine says Russian missile defence destroyed in Crimea, 2 warships hit
Ukraine said its forces attacked two Russian patrol ships operating in the Black Sea and destroyed a sophisticated “Triumf” surface-to-air missile defence system in Russian-occupied Crimea, with military analysts describing the loss of such equipment as “tactical failures” by Russia.
The attacks reported on Thursday followed a day after Kyiv said it had carried out a missile strike that badly damaged a Russian submarine and a naval landing ship that were undergoing repairs in a shipyard in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Aging dams and missed warnings: A lethal mix of factors caused Africa’s deadliest flood disaster
It started with a bang at 3 a.m. Monday as the residents of Derna were sleeping. One dam burst, then a second, sending a huge wave of water gushing down through the mountains towards the coastal Libyan city, killing thousands as entire neighborhoods were swept into the sea.
At least 5,000 people in Libya have been killed by this week’s floods, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins sans frontières) said in a statement Thursday, revising an earlier estimate.
The eastern Libyan city of Derna, the epicenter of the disaster, had a population of around 100,000 before the tragedy. Authorities say that at least 10,000 remain missing.
Birds’ problem-solving skills linked to song complexity
[…] Even in animals with widely acknowledged intellectual capacities like birds, it can be difficult to understand whether evolution has directly shaped their intelligence or their smarts emerged as a side effect of something else that evolution selected for.
A study released today complicates the picture a little further. It does persuasively show that the ability to learn complex new songs is associated with problem-solving in a large range of bird species. But it also shows that other things we associate with intelligence, like associative learning, seem completely unrelated.
The paper, written by Jean-Nicolas Audet, Mélanie Couture, and Erich Jarvis of Rockefeller University, describes an evolutionary comparison of both song learning and a variety of tests of intelligence. The authors note that people have done this sort of analysis before, but only among members of the same species, and the results have often been contradictory. It's possible, the team suggests, that's simply because the variation among individuals isn't large enough for an effect to be detected.