General / Off-Topic Recycle or Die! (the elite environmental thread)

'Growing number of global insurance firms divesting from fossil fuels':

A growing number of insurance companies increasingly affected by the consequences of climate change are selling holdings in coal companies and refusing to underwrite their operations.

About £15bn has been divested in the past two years, according to a new report that rates the world’s leading insurers’ efforts to distance themselves from the fossil fuel industry that is most responsible for carbon emissions.

Fifteen companies – almost all based in Europe – have fully or partially cut financial ties, says the study by the Unfriend Coal campaign, which represents a coalition of a dozen environmental groups including Greenpeace, and the Sierra Club.

Zurich, the world’s seventh biggest insurer, is the latest to shift away from coal, announcing this week that it is pulling out of coal to contribute to broader efforts to achieve the Paris accord goal of keeping global warming below 2C.

Allianz, Aviva and Axa have previously made similar moves. Lloyd’s and Swiss Re are expected to follow in the coming months.

The campaign has a long way to go. The early movers represent only 13% of all global insurance assets. None of the major US insurers such as Berkshire Hathaway, AIG and Liberty Mutual have taken action, according to the study.

Despite this, the authors say the shift of assets and coverage since 2015 is gaining momentum.

“Coal needs to become uninsurable,” said Peter Bosshard, the coordinator of Unfriend Coal. “If insurers cease to cover the numerous natural, technical, commercial and political risks of coal projects, then new coalmines and power plants cannot be built and existing operations will have to be shut down.”

Such financial pressure is crucial if global warming is to be kept in check.
True that, the last line. It is the be all and end all on any subject.
'World’s biggest sovereign wealth fund proposes ditching oil and gas holdings':

The Norwegian central bank, which runs the country’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s biggest – has told its government it should dump its shares in oil and gas companies, in a move that could have significant consequences for the sector.

Norges Bank, which manages Norway’s $1tn fund, said ministers should take the step to avoid the fund’s value being hit by a permanent fall in the oil price.

The fund was built on the back of Norway’s hydrocarbon wealth, and around 300bn krone (£27.73bn), or 6%, is invested in oil and gas companies.

The recommendation by Norway’s central bank pushed down shares in European oil companies. Europe’s index of oil and gas shares hit its lowest level since mid-October on the news and was trading down 0.39% by late afternoon.

“The return on oil and gas stocks has been significantly lower than in the broad equity market in periods of falling oil prices,” the bank explained in a statement.

“Therefore, it is the bank’s assessment that the government’s wealth can be made less vulnerable to a permanent drop in oil prices if the GPFG [sovereign wealth fund] is not invested in oil and gas stocks.”

The Norwegian government said it would consider the proposal, but a decision should not be expected until next year and a “thorough assessment” was required.

“The issues raised by Norges Bank are complex and multifaceted,” the finance ministry said.

The bank did not set a deadline for when the fund should drop its oil and gas holdings. However, it made clear that its recommendation involved divesting from existing oil and gas shares as well as ruling out future investments.

The fund’s biggest oil and gas holding at the end of 2016 was $5.36bn in Anglo Dutch firm Shell, followed by $3.06bn in ExxonMobil, $2.04bn in fellow US oil firm Chevron, $2.02bn in the UK’s BP, and $2.01bn in France’s Total. It also has shares worth more than $1bn in oil services firm Schlumberger and Italy’s Eni.
Not for the obvious ethical/environmental reasons, but it will serve the same purpose ultimately. They are a growing high risk sector as we move into more dangerous climate change ground.
Kinda 'Good news' and 'Good news' :)

'Climate summit goes slow and steady but King Coal looms':

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, turned on the charisma and heartened the gathered nations with a pledge to replace the US funding dumped by Donald Trump for the UN’s climate science body.

The Trump administration, which wants the US to be the only country in the world not in the Paris deal, was the pantomime villain, but only succeeded in uniting the 195 other nations against it. The sole US event brought an executive from Peabody, the US coal company with a long history of funding climate denial, to argue for “clean coal”. A protest song and walkout from most of the audience followed and for the rest of the summit, the US delegation was irrelevant.

But the large coalition of US cities and states backing climate action – which as a group represents the third-largest economy in the world – stole the American show, with the California governor, Jerry Brown, popping up everywhere, pumping up the crowds.
All great positive stuff (and i had to laugh at the walk-out!).


'Converting natural gas to hydrogen without any carbon emissions':

We have science, and pretty clever brains (for the large part). it is entirely possible to utilize those to ensure we do not destroy the one good habitable planet we have.
One small step forward :)

'Shell doubles up on green spending and vows to halve carbon footprint':

Shell has doubled its spending on clean power and bowed to shareholder pressure by promising to halve the carbon footprint of the energy it sells by 2050, as the oil giant said it was stepping up its ambitions on green energy.

The Anglo Dutch firm is increasing capital expenditure for its new energies division, to $1bn-$2bn (£750m to £1.5bn) a year for 2018-2020, up from a previous plan of up to $1bn a year by 2020.

But the spending on wind power, biofuels and electric car infrastructure will still account for a small fraction of the giant’s planned $25-30bn annual investment. Shell has $5bn-$6bn a year pegged for deepwater drilling and $2-3bn a year allocated for shale oil and gas.
It's not just the big scale, we need to watch out for local issues as well. A current big one in Scotland is the proposed development of a golf course at Coul Links, a site noted for its biodiversity and protected by a range of treaties and agreements. Worryingly something similar happened here about ten years ago when Donald Trump committed an act of ecological vandalism when he had a golf course built on another coastal site in Scotland. This one is even more sensitive and must also be fought.

The fight against it is being led by a local group call Not Coul alongside the support of other NGOs like RSPB Scotland and The Scottish Wildlife Trust:

Not Coul

Scottish Wildlife Trust

RSPB Scotland

I'd be interested to see what other campaigns there are around the world to protect sensitive and important species habitats.
There are quite a few, and i guess the environment page of the Guardian and possibly Greenpeace would have more info?


'New study uncovers the 'keystone domino' strategy of climate denial':

The body of evidence supporting human-caused global warming is vast – too vast for climate denial blogs to attack it all. Instead they focus on what a new study published in the journal Bioscience calls “keystone dominoes.” These are individual pieces of evidence that capture peoples’ attention, like polar bears.

Basically, if these bloggers can create the perception that the science underlying polar bear or Arctic sea ice vulnerability to climate change is incorrect, their readers will assume that all of climate science is fatally flawed. And blogs can be relatively influential – surveys have shown that blog readers trust them more than traditional news and information sources.
Miss-information is king currently, all across the world and various subjects.
'Electric cars already cheaper to own and run than petrol or diesel – study':

I already knew this, having looked seriously at getting an EV a year or two ago, the main problem from my end was that the basic infrastructure was not in place to make it a fully practical choice for a one car family. If that aspect really gets the backing it should (as it is in China and the EU for example) then it seems certain the near future will be all about EV's, which would go a long way to addressing the CO2 issue.
As far as I can tell it's a matter of aggressively moving to transition fuels and lowering the expectations of the consumer. Use petrol to get off coal ASAP, and use natgas and renewables to get off petrol. Keep moving toward renewables (geo, aero, hydro etc.) until they can support over half of the energy market.
Most of the damage is done and even at our best we'll probably never be carbon neutral as a species.

For all the outcry and hate they receive, I agree with the spirit of the Georgia Guidestones, except I think we should maintain a population of around 1B, give or take 100M. Once we've engineered society to be as carbon neutral as possible and the dominant paradigms support it, we can increase our population to 100B someday. Management of the many is generally the same as management of the few, it's a matter of organization.

I like the sterile spire idea. 1000 city-arcologies of 1M each, completely carbon neutral. All linked by electric train. Geothermal power is generated in a superwell under the cities. Industry is underground, businesses/shopping is done on the 2nd-10th floors, poor people live just above the shopping centers with the richest at the top and everything proportionate in-between, the side of the city coated in hanging gardens. Minimum social safety net provides coveralls, a small private room (like a jail cell you can leave at will), matrix paste to eat, a water budget for showering, drinking etc. and easy access to the job bank. All paid for by a taxing a robust, capitalistic global direct democracy. No more countries, just municipal gov't (citizens of that city) and global gov't (everyone of voting age on the planet) Weekly and monthly referendums. Hab-zone surrounds the cities. If you want to leave the hab zone you need a conservationist license (free) educating you on survival and consequence. The people don't want to be liable for your death, nor can we tolerate environmental ignorance (littering, invasive/displacing species, clearcutting etc.)
All meat would be hunted and carry a premium that reflects it.
People's cosmopolitan nature would likely keep the population at 99% urban.
All in my head, of course. I'd be libertarian if I thought people could cooperate and manage themselves.
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While future technologies hold some interest (Arcologies etc), we still have a planet capable of supporting a huge population, if we made some basic (but difficult) changes to how we do things. And i've never been a fan of the arbitrary population cap thing, sounds cool in a sci-fi novel, if you like them dark and dystopian, but in real life the ethical aspects need a lot of working on. Sure at some point in the future we may need to work that stuff out, but we are quite far from crunch zone in terms of the earths population and what is sustainable. The real issue is how we currently use resources and the pollution (of various kinds) that comes from that.

This is an interesting example to think about:

'Big Ag + Big Pharma = Big Problems':

The environmental impact of massive industrial scale farming is huge, all across the environmental area of concern, from CO2 output to health impact in animals and people. We are pretty smart bunnies, and when able to not allow corporate bribes to control how we do things, can find better solutions. And no, i don't think 'Soylent Green' need be one of them ;)
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You were asking for other sources to environmental campaigns? Seemed a legit response imho. Also what about the WWF?
Greenpeace aren't a legitimate source for me. I've studied their work too much to feel I can trust anything they say without fact checking, unlike most other major environmental and especially nature conservation NGOs. But I was more interested in anything people here knew about. I'm working on Coul Links, the campaign I mentioned, I was wondering if anyone else was directly involved with anything or if they had seen anything in their area.
Ah ok. I do beach clean ups and general litter tidying, but nothing especially organised. I do like to spread info about environmental issues though, and it is interesting to see all the global factors involved in what we do and where it is taking us re the environment etc.


'Air pollution harm to unborn babies may be global health catastrophe, warn doctors':

Air pollution significantly increases the risk of low birth weight in babies, leading to lifelong damage to health, according to a large new study.

The research was conducted in London, UK, but its implications for many millions of women in cities around the world with far worse air pollution are “something approaching a public health catastrophe”, the doctors involved said.

Globally, two billion children – 90% of all children – are exposed to air pollution above World Health Organization guidelines. A Unicef study also published on Wednesday found that 17 million babies suffer air six times more toxic than the guidelines.

The team said that there are no reliable ways for women in cities to avoid chronic exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and called for urgent action from governments to cut pollution from vehicles and other sources.

“It is an unacceptable situation that there are factors a woman cannot control that adversely affect her unborn baby,” said Mireille Toledano, at Imperial College London, and who led the new research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

The study analysed all live births in Greater London over four years – over 540,000 in total – and determined the link between the air pollution experienced by the mother and low birth weight, defined as less than 2.5kg (5.5lbs). The scientists found a 15% increase in risk of low birth weight for every additional 5 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) of fine particle pollution.

The average exposure of pregnant women in London to fine particle pollution is 15µg/m3, well below UK legal limits but 5µg/m3 higher than the WHO guideline. Cutting pollution to that guideline would prevent 300-350 babies a year being born with low weight, the researchers estimated. “The UK legal limit is not safe and is not protecting our pregnant women and their babies,” said Toledano.

“We know that low birthweight is absolutely crucial,” she said. “It not only increases the risk of the baby dying in infancy, but it predicts lifelong risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc. You are setting in stone the whole trajectory of lifelong chronic illness.”

The new research shows the impact of air pollution on babies in London is significant, but affects a relatively small number – only about 2.5% of all full-term babies are born with low weight. However, many cities around the world – such as Delhi in India – suffer far higher levels of toxic air, raising concerns of huge impacts on unborn babies.
Thanks fossil fuel industry, and your lobbying :(
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Global warming made Hurricane Harvey deadly rains three times more likely, research reveals:

Hurricane Harvey’s unprecedented deluge, which caused catastrophic flooding in Houston in August, was made three times more likely by climate change, new research has found.

Such a downpour was a very rare event, scientists said, but global warming meant it was 15% more intense. The storm left 80 people dead and 800,000 in need of assistance.

The scientists from the World Weather Attribution (WWA) initiative usually publish their assessments of the role of climate change in extreme weather events around the world as soon as possible. However, in this case they waited for the work to be confirmed by peer review because of the current US government’s opposition to strong action on climate change.
This is kind of huge (if we think on the possible projected global scale).

'Boost for fossil fuel divestment as UK eases pension rules':

The government is to allow Britain’s £2tn workplace pension schemes to dump their shares in oil, gas and coal companies more easily, empowering them to take investment decisions to fight climate change.

Until now, pension schemes have been hamstrung by “fiduciary duties” that effectively require schemes to seek the best returns irrespective of the threat of climate change. Many have rebuffed calls by members for fossil fuel divestment, citing legal obligations.

But in what has been hailed as a major victory for campaigners against fossil fuels, the government is to introduce new investment regulations that will allow pension schemes to “mirror members’ ethical concerns” and “address environmental problems”.

The rules are expected to come into force next year after a consultation period and will bring into effect recommendations made in 2014 and earlier this year by the Law Commission.

Guy Opperman, the minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said: “Putting social value at the heart of our pensions system is something that is deeply important to Theresa May’s government. Thanks to these new regulations, savers will finally have the clear opportunity to have their say on where their money is invested and can reflect what is personally important to them, whilst delivering mutual benefits.”

About £87bn a year pours into Britain’s pension schemes, with a significant proportion of it automatically invested into gas and oil companies such as BP and Shell. But a growing body of academic and investment research suggests that reserves of fossil fuels could become “stranded assets” and virtually worthless as countries battle climate change.
Some latest research on the sea level rise coming:

'Unruly Antarctica could change sea-level outlook without much warning':

A new study from a group of researchers led by Rutgers’ Bob Kopp has made for splashy headlines in recent days, some of which claimed the study showed that sea-level rise will be “worse than thought” or that the study confidently predicted how many people would be inundated by rising seas this century. Neither description is really true, as there is nothing new about the sea-level rise scenarios shown. In fact, Kopp also helped put together the sea-level chapter of the US National Climate Assessment, and the numbers in the new study obviously match those in the report.


Beyond that, here’s what the study really reveals: in this century, the biggest variable controlling how much sea-level rise we get is the behavior of Antarctic ice. We don’t know whether to expect the high end or the low end of the range of projections, even assuming we follow the high emissions path.

And because the situation can change in Antarctica in a matter of decades, we can’t really know what will happen in the second half of the 21st century based on what we see in the first half. The model simulations with the highest rate of sea-level rise in 2100 weren’t necessarily those with the highest rate in the 2020s. The lesson, the researchers write, is that “this means that ‘extreme’ future scenarios need to be considered even if they overestimate current rates of sea-level rise.”

Again, the researchers emphasize that these model simulations of higher sea-level rise provide a realistic “worst-case scenario” more than they predict the most likely outcome. But because the real possibility of a worst-case scenario isn’t likely to be ruled out any time soon, planning should account for an uncertain future.

To add some more meaning to these numbers, the researchers calculated the present population living in areas that could become inundated by sea-level rise in 2100. Even in the lowest emissions scenario (where global warming is limited to about 1 degree Celsius beyond current temperatures), that includes at least 75 million people worldwide. In the high emissions scenario, the “worst-case” pushes that number as high as 235 million. The difference between these two future worlds is far from academic.
'Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950, scientists warn':

Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, scientists have warned, while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold. Most sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and current trends would lead to mass extinction in the long run, risking dire consequences for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.

Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the first comprehensive analysis of the areas and states: “Major extinction events in Earth’s history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans.” Denise Breitburg, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the US and who led the analysis, said: “Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path.”

“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” She pointed to recoveries in Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Thames river in the UK, where better farm and sewage practices led to dead zones disappearing.

However, Prof Robert Diaz at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who reviewed the new study, said: “Right now, the increasing expansion of coastal dead zones and decline in open ocean oxygen are not priority problems for governments around the world. Unfortunately, it will take severe and persistent mortality of fisheries for the seriousness of low oxygen to be realised.”
'$306bn in one year: US bill for natural disasters smashes record':

With three strong hurricanes, wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes and drought, the United States tallied a record high bill last year for weather disasters: $306bn, according to a new government report released on Monday.

The US had 16 disasters last year with damage exceeding a billion dollars, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said. That ties 2011 for the number of billion-dollar disasters, but the total cost blew past the previous record of $215bn in 2005.
Pretty sure this could be extrapolated globally, but it will be interesting to see how this changes perspectives in the biggest economy going forward.
'Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950, scientists warn':


I'll be astonished if society gets its act together and sorts this one. Expect adorable seabirds (an excellent surface barometer of the health of oceanic biodiversity)to go regionally then globally extinct as their food sources migrate towards the poles as the oceans warm, watch out for massive delpetions of fishing stocks leading to economic and food supply problems, but most of all you can expect for this to happen very suddenly. This problem has tipping points that will be catastrophic.
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