4C Newsletter - May 2015 -- The Long Road to Paris

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23 may 2015

Dear friend,

With the exception of major UN reports and climate summits, climate-change issues have frequently been eclipsed in the media by international conflicts (wars or the threat of war, competition for spheres of influence) and electoral contests between two consensus parties. Recently, however, the focus of public opinion has been shifting away from such (geo)political questions to domestic problems. The latter occasionally connect directly to global warming. Natural disasters such as floods and droughts, which scientists now often relate to climate change, are one example. Others are the varied international efforts to reduce emissions: growing attention to the commitments expected by nation-states expected at the Paris summit next December (focus of major lobbying by the larger climate organizations, such as Climate Action Network), as well as the fossil fuel divestment campaign and popular resistance to coal and oil company expansion. But major discontent with the economic and social status quo increasingly contains an important indirect relationship. Even geopolitical questions (e.g. the aspiration of India’s leaders to Asian predominance) may, as I explain below, have a strong relation to climate issues.

Bad news, good news

As always, there are contradictory messages in the climate news of the past three months. On the one hand, there are reports of serious climate damage now, predictions of future disasters, and continued obstruction of a timely shift to renewables by fossil fuel lobbies and climate skeptics in high places. On the other, there is encouraging news of high-level warnings about the dangerous cost of inaction (establishment organizations like the IEA and the IMF, an increasing number of corporate CEOs and prominent government officials like the foreign ministers of the U.S. and France, now even the Bishop of Rome), and of an upsurge in activism against fossil fuel companies (both from established NGOs and informed citizen groups). Withdrawal of large investors from fossil fuel companies (“Divestment”) seems to be increasing, thanks to the pressure of groups like 350.org, Greenpeace and Avaaz, and thanks to initiatives such as 'Keep it in the ground' from The Guardian. Moreover, solar energy and wind power are rapidly becoming serious competitors for the carbon giants.

The media


Perhaps most important: the establishment media seem to have started to cover the issue with the seriousness it merits. In the Netherlands, for example, the business-oriented Financieel Dagblad gave unusual coverage on May 20 to the public demand of the civil servants’ pension (ABP) (at a Shell shareholders’ meeting) that Shell not go through with its plan to drill for oil in the North Pole area. The ABP had long been lobbied to do this by newly energized environmental groups.

On the same day, the the Financial Times discussed at length the widespread resistance in Australia to plans by an Indian fossil fuel company for one of the world’s biggest coal mining operations in the Galilee Basin of Northern Australia. This highlighted the geopolitical conflict between India and China for Asian preeminence and its significance for climate change. In recent decades, China, with its authoritarian Communist Party at the helm, has forged far ahead of India in industrial development. The ubiquity of coal-fired power plants in China’s rapid economic advance, however, has caused huge environmental problems, including climate change-related floods as well as serious health problems in most cities, especially in the North. These disasters have accompanied a growing awareness that the country’s lopsided development has neglected domestic consumer needs, with the result that the leadership has decided to reduce energy-intensive infrastructural projects, coal use and rapid GDP growth.

Which way India?

In India, however, the election to the premiership last year of Narendra Modi of the Hindu Nationalist Party, brought a team of technocratic neoliberals to the government that now feels it can challenge the Chinese growth pattern with its own industrial take-off. Hence the Indian-sponsored Galilee Basin project in Australia. This has been presented to the world as part of India’s program to raise 300 million people out of poverty, at an historical moment when most of the developing world has become aware that only an abandonment of fossil fuels can preserve the poorer countries of the world from a climate catastrophe.

The Modi government has stressed its environmental credentials
– its desire to power its economic development with energy sources other than fossil fuels (unfortunately including nuclear power) . The questions for the rest of the world are: Is the Indian-sponsored Galilee Basin coal project part of an elaborate feint to frighten the developed countries at the Paris summit into giving India major credits to develop renewables? Or is the Modi government using greenwashing rhetoric as a cover for a coal-based hell-for-leather effort to overtake China’s economic advance. In an Australia faced with the grotesquely anti-environmental Galilee Basin project, the question is whether India’s geopolitical ambitions will prevail over the desire of Australians to preserve both the Great Barrier Reef and the future of planet Earth.

Challenges to Neoliberalism – new chance for the climate movement?

It is just possible that the prolongation of the economic recession that began in 2008 and its echo in the politics of many western nations are loosening the ideological hold of neoliberal individualism on public opinion. With that loosening, the reluctance of the media to publicize concern for climate matters, something that the bulk of specialized scientists have been demanding for decades, is diminishing. The challenge to political and economic orthodoxy in Europe has taken the shape of political opposition to the status quo parties of the moderate right and left in many European countries: in both Greece and Spain, new left-wing parties defy the austerity program dictated by the economic conservatism of the European Commission; in France, the right-wing Front National, similarly challenging economic orthodoxy, calls for nationalization of the banking sector and protection for French workers, downplaying the racist and antisemitic program of the party’s founder to attract voters from the left as well as the right. In the UK, the victory of Cameron’s Conservative Party was enshadowed by the triumph in Scotland of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP swept 56 of Scotland’s 58 parliamentary seats with a program considerably to the left of the Labour Party, which used to count on large majorities in Scotland to bolster its position in the House of Commons. The SNP’s climate change legislation is in advance of most member states of the EU.

In the Netherlands, the major popular action against neoliberal austerity programs came from students at the University of Amsterdam, who protested both the absence of democracy in the top-down administration and ruthless cuts to the budgets of the humanities and social science faculties. Students, supported by many teachers, occupied the seat of the humanities faculty for ten days last February and, when evicted, took over the main university administration building for more than a month. While this made the front pages of many newspapers, another sign of greater student social awareness did not: the significant increase in student involvement in the divestment campaign against fossil fuels (fossielvrij.nl).

Of direct importance for environmental matters, the chokehold of Stephen Harper’s anti-environmental Conservative Party in Canada was badly shaken by a regional election on May 5th, when the comparatively unknown Rachel Notley won the premiership for the New Democratic Party in the province of Alberta, and immediately announced she would not support the Keystone XL pipeline. This megaproject to send massive amounts of oil from Alberta’s tar sands region to Texas refineries had been a centerpiece of her conservative predecessor’s economic policy, and was until now stalled only by resistance to it within the Obama administration. Notley’s decision to bury the project has been a major and unexpected triumph for the American climate activists and other environmentalists, who had for years opposed Keystone XL as a CO2 time bomb that might wreck hopes of halting a climate catastrophe.

An outline of the major aspects of climate news since mid-February follows this letter.

Cordially,
Arthur Mitzman, coordinator of Concerned Citizens against Climate Change

PS If this newsletter has been useful to you, send it along to a friend with a suggestion that they may want to get on our mailing list by signing our appeal.


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CLIMATE NEWS: FEBRUARY-May 2015


The hundred plus articles we’ve posted in our news rubric since our February newsletter fall into nine general rubrics:

A. FOSSIL FUELS: DIVESTMENT AND ACTIVISM AGAINST.
B. INDIA AND CHINA.
C. DECENBER 2015 UN CLIMATE SUMMIT IN PARIS: SUPPORT AND SUBVERSION
D. WIND, SOLAR AND OTHER ESCAPES FROM FOSSIL FUELS
E. ONGOING AND FUTURE CARBON DISASTERS
F. CLIMATE DENIERS
G. PUBLIC OPINION SHIFTS: POLITICAL AND LEGAL ACTION AGAINST GOVERNMENT INACTION
H. ETS, CCS, NUCLEAR POWER AND OTHER FALSE SOLUTIONS.
I. THINK PIECES


All listed items may be found in our Breaking News rubric under the given date.


A. FOSSIL FUELS: DIVESTMENT FROM AND ACTIVISM AGAINST.


AXA - ONE OF WORLD'S LARGEST INSURANCE COMPANIES - DIVESTS FROM COAL – May 22, 2015

BIG DUTCH PENSION FUND WITH A BILLION EURO INVESTMENT IN SHELL OPPOSES PLAN TO DRILL IN THE ARCTIC – May 19 2015

IMF -- FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY GETS $5.3 TRILLION ANNUALLY IN SUBSIDIES – May 18 2015

DAVID VS. GOLIATH IN SEATTLE AS KAYAKS CHALLENGE SHELL'S GIANT ARCTIC OIL RIG – May 15 2015

INDIA COAL MINING COMPANY BEHIND HUGE NEW AUSTRALIAN COAL PROJECT – May 15 2015

VOLUMINOUS REPORT ON FRACKING IN NEW YORK STATE POINTS TO NEED FOR BAN - May 14 2015

FOSSIL FUEL GIANTS SUBSIDISED BY U.S. TAXPAYERS – May 13 2015

BANK OF AMERICA VIEWS COAL INVESTMENT AS RISKY, BEGINS DIVESTMENT - 7 may 2015

SEATTLE KYAKTIVISTS PROTEST SHELL ARCTIC DRILLING, MAYOR SUPPORTS THEM – May 7, 2015

CHURCH OF ENGLAND -- LED BY EX-OILMAN - JOINS FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE – May 2, 2015

OF TOP 500 GLOBAL ASSET OWNERS, HALF TAKE NO ACCOUNT OF CLIMATE CHANGE RISK IN INVESTMENT POLICY – April 27 2015

CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST CORNEL WEST JOINS HARVARD CARBON DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN – April 18, 2015

EIGHT COUNTRIES CALL FOR END OF FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES – April 17, 2015

BP SHAREHOLDERS ADOPT GLOBAL WARMING RESOLUTION – April 16, 2015
2000 ANTI-POVERTY ACADEMICS BACK DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN – April 8, 2015

THE GUARDIAN MEDIA GROUP (AS WELL AS SYRACUSE UNIVERFSITY) DIVESTS FROM FOSSIL FUELS – April 4, 2015

350 SPONSORS PETITION AGAINST GERMANY'S RELIANCE ON COAL April 2, 12015

LEADERS OF MORE THAN TWO DOZEN MAJOR EUROPEAN CITIES IN CLIMATE PLEDGE – March 26, 2015

OSLO SHOWS THE WAY ON DIVESTMENT - WILL OTHER CITIES FOLLOW – March 24, 2015

TOP CLIMATE SCIENTISTS CONFER ON CARBON INVESTMENT RULES – March 21, 2015

OBAMA ORDERS US GOV'T TO CUT GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS 40 PERCENT IN NEXT DECADE – March 19, 2015

UK ENERGY-CLIMATE SECRETARY SUPPORTS GUARDIAN'S CARBON DIVESTMENT CAMPAIGN – March 18, 2015

THE REAL COST OF FOSSIL FUELS, March 18, 2015

PROTECTING EARTH'S CLIMATE TO DRIVE POLICY CHOICES FOR REST OF OBAMA'S PRESIDENCY - March 17, 2015

UK CARBON EMISSIONS FELL 9% IN 2014 – March 4, 2015

BANK OF ENGLAND WARNS INSURANCE INVESTORS AGAINST FOSSIL FUEL LOSSES -= March 3, 2015

OSLO FIRST CAPITAL CITY TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUEL – March 2, 2015

OBAMA VETOES BILL TO APPROVE KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE – February 24, 2015


B. INDIA, CHINA, RUSSIA.


INDIA COAL MINING COMPANY BEHIND HUGE NEW AUSTRALIAN COAL PROJECT – May 15, 2015

INDIAN GOVERNMENT BLOCKS GREENPEACE FUNDS, CLOSURE THREATENED – May 5, 2015

THE UNSUSTAINABILITY OF PUTIN'S RUSSIA – May 4, 2015

CHINA LEADS THE WORLD IN REFORESTATION TO ABSORB CO2 – April 24, 2015

INDIAN FINANCE MIINISTER CALLS FOR GLOBAL WAR FOOTING TO ACCELERATE RENEWABLE DEVELOOPMENT – April 18, 2015

FINANCIAL REVIEW -- CHINA'S $90 BILLION FOR RENEWABLES IS TOPS, BUT IT CONSUMES TOO MUCH COAL – April 5, 2015

RUSSIAN CLIMATE PLEDGE CONTAINS NO NEW COMMITMENT, EXPERTS SAY – April 2l, 2015

BEIJING TO CLOSE LAST FOUR COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS IN CAPITAL – March 24, 2015

INDIA'S ENERGY SPIN DOCTORS STILL ARGUING FOR COAL TO REDUCE POVERTY – March 23, 2015

ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN INDIA SLAM BUDGET CUTS OF MODI GOVERNMENT – March 12, 2015

CHINA'S COAL USE AND CO2 EMISSIONS BOTH FELL IN 2014 – February 27, 2015

GREENPEACE ACTIVIST BARRED BY INDIAN GOVERNMENT FROM FLYING TO LONDON – February 16, 2015


C. DECEMBER 2015 UN CLIMATE SUMMIT IN PARIS: SUPPORT AND SUBVERSION


FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER - PARIS MUST SUCCEED BECAUSE THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE PLANET – May 18, 2015

CANADA'S WEAK GREENHOUSE GAS MITIGATION TARGET NEGLECTS CARBON DIOXIDE – May 15, 2015

POPE LINKS FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE TO FAITH – April 30, 2015

POPE FRANCIS'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING ALARMS CONSERVATIVES – April 27, 2015

CARBON GIANTS PREPARE OFFEENSIVE AGAINST PAPAL STANCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE – April 27, 2015

EU IN DIPLOMATIC BLITZ TO PREPARE PARIS CLIMATE SUMMIT – April 25, 2015

NEW CLIMATE WEBSITE TRACKS THE ONGOING DRAFTS OF THE 2015 PARIS AGREEMENT – April 24, 2015

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER FAVORS STRONG PARIS CLIMATE TREATY -- WARMING A THREAT TO PEACE AND SECURITY – April 24, 2015

43 CEOs APPEAL FOR STRONG CLIMATE DEAL IN PARIS – April 16, 2015

MODERATE OPTIMISM AMONG INSIDERS ABOUT END-OF-YEAR PARIS CONFERENCE – April 9, 2015

US 2025 EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGET AS REPORTED TO UNFCCC - March 31, 2015

UN CLIMATE ENVOY -- CLIMATE CHANGE A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE BECAUSE OF IMPACT ON POOR NATIONS – March 25, 2015

U.S. CLIMATE NEGOTIATOR WARNS OF LONG STRUGGLE TO FIX CLIMATE – March 13, 2015

US SEC'Y OF STATE KERRY'S SPEECH ON CLIMATE CHANGE – March 12, 2015

GOVERNOR OF BANK OF ENGLAND REBUTS SCEPTIC'S ATTACK ON BofE CLIMATE CHANGE STUDY – March 11, 2015

WHAT THE POPE'S CLIMATE CHANGE ENCYCLICAL WILL SAY – March 11, 2015

ONLY A VOLUNTARY TREATY LIKELY AT PARIS SUMMIT, BUT IT MAY WORK – February 15, 2015

GENEVA TALKS DELIVER 86 PAGE DRAFT TO PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUEL POLLUTION – February 13, 2015


D. WIND, SOLAR AND OTHER ESCAPES FROM FOSSIL FUELS

SOLAR CHIEFS AND COAL BARONS CLASH ON THE ROAD TO PARIS – May 21, 2015

SAUDI OIL MINISTER - SHIFT FROM OIL TO EXPORT RENEWABLE ENERGY LIKELY BY MID-CENTURY – May 21, 2015

POLICIES, NOT TECHNOLOGY, NOW NEEDED TO DRIVE RENEWABLE REVOLUTION – May 14, 2015

AUSTRALIAN SOLAR TECHNOLOGY TO REPLACE FOSSIL FUEL ON CYPRUS – May 7, 2015

IEA CALLS FOR TRIPLING OF GLOBAL INVESTMENT IN CLEAN ENERGY RESEARCH TO STAY BELOW 2.C WARMING – May 4, 2015

TESLA ANNOUNCES LOW-COST LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES TO STORE RENEWABLE ENERGY – May 1, 2015

PARIS TO DOUBLE CYCLING LANES TO 1400 KILOMETERS BY 2020 – April 3, 2015

RENEWABLES WILL DOMINATE POWER GRID FASTER THAN WE THOUGHT – April 2, 2015

FLORIDA TO GET SOLAR POWER PLANTS FROM DUKE ENERGY – April 2, 2015

UK-NORWAY 450 MILE POWER CABLE WILL BRING HYDRO POWER TO SUPPLEMENT UK WIND IN SLACK HOURS – March 27, 2015

COSTA RICA HAS USED NO FOSSIL FUEL SO FAR IN 2015 – March 23, 2015

EPA SET TO FINANCE BILLIONS FOR POWER GRID TO CARRY RENEWABLES CROSS-COUNTRY – March 18, 2015

DEUTSCHE BANK -- SOLAR ON THE WAY TO REPLACING CARBON WORLDWIDE – March 3, 2015



E. ONGOING AND FUTURE CARBON DISASTERS

EDF FINDS HUNDREDS OF METHANE LEAKS FROM UNDERGROUND NATURAL GAS LINES IN LOS ANGELES – May 14,, 2015

CARBON RELEASE FROM MELTING PERMAFROST THREATENS DISASTROUS ACCELERATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE – May 14, 2015

HOME ENTERTAINMENT TV TECHNOLOGY SECOND LARGEST ENERGY USER IN US HOMES – May 4, 2015

NICK STERN WARNS OF EXTREME WEATHER AND RISING SEAS - COMING SOONER THAN WE THINK – May 1, 2015

MILLIONS OF ACRES OF ARABLE LAND DESTROYED BY DRILLING FOR GAS AND OIL – April 24, 2015

ARCTIC PERMAFROST MELT -- AND CO2 EMISSIONS -- LIKELY TO ACCELERATE – April 15, 2015

GLOBAL WARMING LIKELY TO SPEED UP SOON, NEW STUDY INDICATES – April 10, 2015

ANTARCTIC ICE MELT ACCELERATES -- 11 FOOT SEA RISE PREDICTED – March 26, 2015

GULF STREAM WEAKENING – March 24, 2015

CLIMATE VULNERABLE FORUM CONNECTS CYCLONE PAM TO WARMING, DEMANDS 1.5.C LIMIT – March 20, 2015

NEW ANTARCTIC MELTING TO CAUSE SEA LEVEL RISE IN NORTHERN HEMISPHERE – March 16, 2015

CLIMATE SCIENTISTS EXPECT SPURT IN WARMING THAT MAY RESHAPE CLIMATE DEBATE – February 28, 2015

MELTING PERMAFROST RELEASES HUGE EXPLOSIONS OF METHANE, CRATERS, IN REMOTE SIBERIA – February 26, 2015


F. CLIMATE DENIERS

FUNDING SOURCES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS BEING SCRUTINISED BY SMITHSONIAN, IRS AND CONGRESS – May 4, 2015

ROYAL DUTCH SHELL - SIXTH BIGGEST LOBBYIST IN BRUSSELS - BEHIND WEAK EU RENEWABLE TARGET – April 27, 2015

NEWSWEEK DISCLOSES OIL COMPANY TIES OF AUTHOR OF ARTICLE CRITICIZING WIND POWER – April 21, 2015

FOSSIL FUEL GIANTS CONTNUE TO FUND CLIMATE DENIAL LOBBIES – March 25,, 2015
KOCH INDUSTRIES REJECTS INQUIRY BY DEMOCRATIC SENATORS INTO ITS FUNDING OF CLIMATE RESEARCH – March 10, 2015


G. PUBLIC OPINION SHIFTS: POLITICAL AND LEGAL ACTION AGAINST GOVERNMENT INACTION


70% OF US PUBLIC SUPPORT CARBON TAX, MAJORITY WOULD VOTE AGAINST A CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER – April 16, 2015

COURT HEARING IN THE HAGUE FOR CLIMATE CASE AGAINST DUTCH GOVERNMENT – April 14 2015

OSLO PRINICIPLES SUPPORT DUTCH ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP ACTION AGAINST GOVERNMENT CLIMATE POLICY – April 8, 2015

TEENAGERS SUE STATE OF OREGON FOR INSUFFICIENT ACTION AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE– April 8, 2015

DUTCH CLIMATE LAWSUIT AGAINST GOVERNMENT CAN BE A MODEL FOR OTHER COUNTRIES – April 8, 2015


H. ETS, CCS, NUCLEAR POWER AND OTHER FALSE SOLUTIONS


OIL TITANS UNITE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE STRATEGY, BUT IS IT CONVERSION OR GREENWASHING? – May 20, 2015

A CARBON CAPTURE PIPE DREAM IN NORWAY – April 10, 2015

GUATEMALA DAM PROJECT, SUPPORTED BY EUROPEAN BANKS AND ETS CREDITS, KILLS LOCAL PEOPLE – March 26, 2015

JAPAN SPENDING CLIMATE MONEY ON COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS – March 26, 2015

GAS VS COAL DISPUTE AMONG ENERGY GIANTS UNDERLINES OBSOLESCENCE OF BOTH – March 24, 2015

GREEN SPIN ON CARBON CAPTURE FADING FAST IN NORWAY – March 23, 2015

INDIA'S ENERGY SPIN DOCTORS STILL ARGUING FOR COAL TO REDUCE POVERTY – March 23, 2015

HOW THE EU ENERGY UNION FRONTS FOR THE GAS LOBBY – March 19, 2015

CORPORATE LOBBIES INSURE THAT EU'S PLANS TO CURB COAL ARE WEAKER THAN CHINA'S – March 11, 2105


I. THINK PIECES


MCKIBBEN - OBAMA IN CLIMATE-CHANGE DENIAL ON SHELL'S ARCTIC DRILLING PLANS – May 12, 2015

ANDREW SIMMS -- WE MAY JUST BE WINNING THE CLIMATE BATTLE - April 7, 2015

NAOMI KLEIN -- WE NEED A MARSHALL PLAN FOR THE CLIMATE – March 7, 2015

JUAN COLE'S LIST OF RECENT GOOD SUSTAINABLE ENERGY STORIES – February 24, 2015

ONLY A VOLUNTARY TREATY LIKELY AT PARIS SUMMIT, BUT IT MAY WORK – February 15, 2015


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