•   
  •   
  •   

Technology Opinion: It's time to hold climate polluters accountable

21:25  03 may  2021
21:25  03 may  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Biden opening summit with ambitious new US climate pledge

  Biden opening summit with ambitious new US climate pledge WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will open a global climate summit with a pledge to cut at least in half the climate-wrecking coal and petroleum fumes that the U.S. pumps out, a commitment he hopes will spur China and other big polluters to speed up efforts of their own. Biden is offering Americans and the world a vision of a prosperous, clean-energy United States where factories churn out cutting-edge batteries for export, line workers re-lay an efficient national electrical grid and crews cap abandoned oil and gas rigs and coal mines. His commitment to cut U.S.

Panic spread through Los Angeles when the city was first overrun by smog in July 1943, in the middle of World War II. With dense smog cutting visibility, irritating eyes and making it difficult to breathe outside, some locals believed they were being hit by a Japanese chemical attack.

a large ship in the water with a city in the background: Oil refinery, owned by Exxon Mobil, is the second largest in the country on 28th February 2020 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. Tens of thousands of people live within 2 miles of the complex, which produces gasoline for much of the East Coast. The petrochemical plants inside the complex make materials used in products such as diapers, chewing gum, tires and makeup. The state government gives Exxon permission to pump out millions of pounds of air pollution each year from its Baton Rouge complex. But because of accidents and leaks, from 2008 to 2011 the Exxon Mobil Baton Rouge complex put out nearly 4 million pounds of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, without the government's approval. (photo by Barry Lewis/InPictures via Getty Images) © Barry Lewis/In Pictures/Getty Images Oil refinery, owned by Exxon Mobil, is the second largest in the country on 28th February 2020 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, United States. Tens of thousands of people live within 2 miles of the complex, which produces gasoline for much of the East Coast. The petrochemical plants inside the complex make materials used in products such as diapers, chewing gum, tires and makeup. The state government gives Exxon permission to pump out millions of pounds of air pollution each year from its Baton Rouge complex. But because of accidents and leaks, from 2008 to 2011 the Exxon Mobil Baton Rouge complex put out nearly 4 million pounds of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, without the government's approval. (photo by Barry Lewis/InPictures via Getty Images)

But while those fears of attack proved misplaced, public concerns about the health effects of breathing toxic air were not. Today, air pollution is widely recognized as a leading cause of asthma, heart disease and even death. Sobering new research published in February indicates these threats are even greater than previously understood.

In Biden climate show, watch for cajoling, conflict, pathos

  In Biden climate show, watch for cajoling, conflict, pathos WASHINGTON (AP) — It won't rival Netflix for drama, but 40 world leaders will try to save the planet from ever-worsening global warming in a two-day climate summit livestreamed for binge viewing. While there will be many faces on screen, this will clearly be President Joe Biden’s show. Biden will convene the summit on Thursday, and what he says will call the shots for what’s to come. He’s trying to show that the United States is again serious about cutting pollution of heat-trapping gases with a new American goal for reducing emissions. Then he’ll try to cajole other nations to ratchet up the pollution-cutting promises they made in 2015's Paris climate agreement.

The groundbreaking study, published in "Environmental Research" by scientists at Harvard University and the University College London, along with researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Leicester, found that in 2018, almost one in five deaths worldwide could be attributed to air pollution from fossil fuel emissions, specifically fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5), which can be 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Because of their small size, fine particulates can penetrate deeply into the lungs, making them even more hazardous to human health than larger particles.

The health effects of these particles have been studied and known for decades, but this is the first global study to use 3-D atmospheric models to identify the impact of fossil-fuel-derived PM2.5 pollution on specific places and populations.

Kids are taking governments to court over climate. And they are starting to win.

  Kids are taking governments to court over climate. And they are starting to win. It was early in the morning when Luisa Neubauer got the call from her lawyer. She was staying at her mother's house, frantically trying to finish a book she'd been working on, so she said it took her a moment to realize what had happened. © David Young/picture alliance/Getty Images Luisa Neubauer was organizing climate strikes across Germany before launching her legal case. The 25-year-old climate activist had taken the German government to court last year and won.

None of this should come as a surprise to the fossil fuel industry, which launched an internal Smoke and Fumes Committee in 1946 in response to growing calls from an increasingly concerned public to tackle LA's smog problem. The oil companies needed a way to reshape public opinion and head off potential regulation.

They were able to deflect attention and hold off the pressure and regulation for years. It wasn't until the early 1950s that scientists identified the booming automobile fleet as a leading culprit behind the problem, and effective regulation took another decade.

Initially formed by the Western Oil & Gas Association, then later subsumed into the American Petroleum Institute (or API) with a new national mandate, the Smoke and Fumes Committee was a pioneer in combining public relations with industry-funded science aimed at shaping and controlling the perception of air pollution and public health risks.

The Latest: Tracker credits Biden summit on emissions gap

  The Latest: Tracker credits Biden summit on emissions gap WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Joe Biden's global climate summit (all times local): 9:10 a.m. An analysis shows President Joe Biden’s climate summit and the run-up to it cut the so-called emissions gap, a crucial measurement used to see if the world can limit global warming, by about one-eighth. Climate Action Tracker is a group of scientists who monitor nations’ pledges of carbon pollution cuts. It calculated that targets announced since last September cut about 12% to 14% from the emissions gap. © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb.

The Smoke and Fumes Committee's work laid the foundation for later denial campaigns, as described in an expert testimony delivered by Carroll Muffett, co-author of this op-ed, before the Philippines Commission on Human Rights back in 2018. The campaigns, financed by coal, oil and gas interests alike, waged war on public health regulations in the face of threats the industry internally recognized as real.

If Big Oil had air pollution trouble, coal had it even worse. In a 1966 "Mining Congress Journal" article, a Peabody Coal engineer summed up the industry's stance on impending air pollution regulations in simple, yet cynical terms, "We are, in effect, 'buying time'. We must use that time productively to find answers to the many unsolved problems."

The industry most worried that regulations would spread nationwide before pollution control technology was cheap to build, cutting into profits, an excuse and lobbying tactic that is still used today.

A 1971 internal document from the archives of Exxon's Canadian subsidiary Imperial Oil shows detailed awareness of various sources of particulate air pollution (coal being much higher than oil) even as it undercuts potential regulatory remedies -- like reducing levels of sulfur in petroleum fuel -- by emphasizing "higher costs to the consumer." In a statement issued to CNN, Exxon Mobil said the "allegations about the company's climate research are inaccurate and deliberately misleading."

Opinion: Who pays the price for climate crisis

  Opinion: Who pays the price for climate crisis As we mark International Women's Day, a top priority must be to apply a gender lens to one of the Biden administration's key issues: climate change, write Melanne Verveer and Jessica Smith of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security. Verveer and Smith lay out four steps the administration should take to treat climate change as what it is: a threat mutilpier for vulnerable women who, if empowered, could lead the charge for change.President Joe Biden wasted no time after assuming office in taking unprecedented steps to advance women's equality within his own administration.

The decontextualized 1971 statements, according to the company, "ignore other readily available statements that demonstrate our researchers recognized the developing nature of climate science at the time, which mirrored global understanding."

But, even as the coal, oil and utilities industries created The Global Climate Coalition (GCC) in 1989, to fend off growing concern about climate change, they recognized that growing concern over the health impacts of fossil fuel combustion posed a distinct and serious threat to the industry's social license and profits. An internal 1997 briefing memo, revealed through discovery in a lawsuit, reads, "The health issue is increasing in importance with the climate change issue, as well as with other environmental issues such as PM standards and ozone standards."

Through the 1990s, the GCC pushed misinformation, attacked scientific findings that added urgency to regulating global warming and pollution, helped block policy advances and argued that any limits on the use of oil, gas and coal would hurt the United States' economy.

Although the GCC disbanded in 2002, fossil fuel industries continued pursuing the same strategies throughout the 2000s and 2010s.

Organizations like the API launched attacks on the validity of critical public health research on health risks of PM2.5 and efforts from the US Environmental Protection Agency to respond to that research. As with climate change itself, the effects of industry denial and obstruction with respect to the health risks of PM2.5 have fallen disproportionately on poorer communities and communities of color.

The Weekly Planet: An Outdated Idea Is Still Shaping Climate Policy

  The Weekly Planet: An Outdated Idea Is Still Shaping Climate Policy Biden’s team is split on how to think about climate change.The moderate Democratic president wanted the United States to tackle climate change, and he had pledged to get serious about it during the recent campaign. On the president’s desk sat a memorandum laying out two options.

This extraordinary history was documented in comments submitted to the EPA by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and eight other US senators in 2018, showing how these overt attacks on the scientific process were coupled with extensive efforts to shape science and regulatory analysis on the risk of PM2.5 and other pollutants within the EPA itself.

The industry's campaign of denial and obstruction on the health risks PM2.5 continued unabated through -- and in collaboration with -- Donald Trump's administration.

Unfortunately, many of the tactics and lines of attack created by the Smoke and Fumes Committee and perfected by the GCC are still in use today. Industry-funded efforts like Energy in Depth, a public relations campaign that FTI Consulting says is designed to, "provide that team the ability to say, do and write things that individual company employees cannot and should not," are dedicated to attacking peer-reviewed research on the health impacts of fracking.

Energy in Depth and other industry groups like the Texas Oil and Gas Association have repeatedly attacked news reports and studies about the link between fracking exposure and an elevated risk for asthma and cancer. Industry groups have also downplayed numerous alarming peer-reviewed studies that have linked preterm birth and reduced birth weight and exposure to air pollution from flares that burn off waste from gas and oil wells.

These flares can release particulates as well as benzene, heavy metals and other chemicals. Four years ago, Energy In Depth responded to these studies by publishing a "Compendium of Studies Demonstrating the Safety and Health Benefits of Fracking," stating "if natural gas is a boon to public health, it only follows that it would help increase life expectancy in adults and newborns."

Biden pitched a bold climate vision. He may be watching it die in Congress.

  Biden pitched a bold climate vision. He may be watching it die in Congress. Climate hawks are starting to worry that their issue is getting thrown under a fossil-fueled bus. For all of Biden’s green goals, green team and green executive orders, the centerpiece of his green agenda is his proposal to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at the climate crisis through his American Jobs Plan, and it’s hard to see a path where a Republican-supported infrastructure bill would spend that freely to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sounded the alarm in a Twitter thread Tuesday, declaring himself “officially very anxious” about the fate of climate legislation.

The report cites research, not from gas fields in Texas, but from the replacement of coal with gas for cooking and space heating in Turkey.

Decades of intransigence and denial suggests that climate polluters and their surrogates will continue working to undercut the findings of this new Harvard study and try to block any effort by Joe Biden's administration that would meaningfully reduce related deaths.

The rising tide of climate litigation nationwide and advances in attribution science (linking damages to climate change, and linking climate change to fossil fuel producers) should serve as a warning to the industry. Two dozen US cities, counties, and states are now suing or investigating fossil fuel companies for the role their products play in driving the climate crisis, as well as the role of decadeslong industry denial efforts in compounding that crisis.

Likewise, individuals and communities harmed or threatened by climate change are bringing legal and human rights actions against fossil fuel producers in a growing number of countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, France and the Philippines, over the industry's role in the climate emergency.

Governments and investors alike are asking what fossil fuel producers knew about the climate impacts of their products, the risk those impacts pose to their business and their future, and whether those risks are being properly disclosed and addressed.

February's groundbreaking study demonstrates that it is increasingly possible to isolate and quantify not just the climate impacts of fossil fuels, but just how many deaths are a direct result of fossil fuel pollution -- not only at the global level but down to individual countries, states, and even cities.

This new science emerges against the backdrop of a decadeslong campaign of denial and obstruction by the companies that are major drivers of fossil fuel production and use. Stop us if you've heard this story before.

The US has a chance fix its broken climate risk disclosure system .
If companies ignore their vulnerability to climate change, the global economy is at risk.Financial regulators in the US are grappling with that question now. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened a 90-day public comment period in March that will inform the first update to federal climate risk disclosure guidelines in a decade. Shareholder groups and asset managers like BlackRock (CEO Larry Fink wrote in February that “climate risk is investment risk”) are pressuring boardrooms to improve corporate transparency around climate risks.

usr: 2
This is interesting!