UN says Stop Fossil Fuels Before They Destroy Our Planet

Industry responds with increased production and feel-good ads

Let’s not forget this:

“This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.”

The report is a 4,000 page update on climate science by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in August. It’s a long grim read. 

The person who made the statement was UN secretary-general António Guterres. He was re-elected a couple of months before. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other fossil-fuel states, may regret their votes. 

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Four Need-to-Knows from the IPCC report:

  1. Climate impacts are worse and happening more often, leaving no part of the planet untouched.

  2. Global warming could reach 1.5C as soon as 2030s

  3. Climate impacts with 1.5C will be way worse than with the current 1.1C.

  4. Climate impacts at 2.0C will be much, much worse than 1.5C and risk tipping points leading to irreversible changes in the climate system

Grim. But hardly a surprise to anyone paying attention. My climate reporting, along with most others, for at least the past ten years boils down to “climate impacts are worse and happening faster”.

The good news is we know how to slow this worse-faster-climate train to disaster. When Guterres told the fossil fuel industry to close up shop he also said we need a 400% increase in the amount of solar and wind energy by 2030 to keep temperatures below 2.0C 

We’re in a tough spot and one industry is making it worse

Unfortunately 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels. The US is the biggest producer, pumping out 20%. Russia and Iran and the next biggest, with Canada being 4th, producing about 5% of the world’s oil, gas coal — the main sources of climate-wrecking CO2.

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Need-to-Know 5: Fossil fuel countries and their corporations plan to pump out MORE, not less

Some governments and the industry plan to produce +200% more fossil fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with 1.5C temperature limit according to “The Production Gap Report”. Rather than cutting back on production, the report documents plans and investments to increase production 2% per year.   

As the head of the head of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) oil company said recently:

“We will not leave any opportunity unturned…continuing exploration programmes, identifying proven reserves, increasing production.”

Need-to-Know 6: Every additional ton of CO2 amps up climate impacts and pushes us all closer to climate tipping points



In a previous issue, How Corporate Lobbying Turned Climate Change into a Climate Emergency, I listed the following Need-to-Knows

  • The fossil fuel industry will go to extreme lengths to slow the clean energy transition.

  • Our legal structures protect corporate interests, no matter how extreme, over that of citizens.

  • The fossil fuel industry is extremely good at protecting their interests no matter where they are.

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The industry has launched a PR make-over to sell us on the idea they are doing everything possible to stay below 2.0C. And they claim to be making significant changes to help in the fight against climate change. These claims fall into two categories: 

1. Reducing CO2 emissions: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS);  Net zero oil, Circular Oil and Gas, Carbon offsets,  

2. Switching to alternative products: Plastics, blue hydrogen (worse than coal), fertilizer, coal to gas conversions and so on

This isn’t a complete list. The bottom line is that these so-called ‘green’, ‘clean’ ‘sustainable’, ‘net zero’, ‘responsibly-sourced gas/oil’ bla-bla efforts to prevent a backlash so the industry can continue pumping out more oil and gas. Coal will have a harder time selling this. 

A third category are the ongoing PR efforts to ‘greenwash’ the industry by running commercials about their investments in future tech like fuels from algae or from plastic waste. Then there are claims to be making big investments in renewables. No doubt you’ve seen plenty of those.

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About 12 years ago oil giant BP spent millions of dollars telling the world it was moving “Beyond Petroleum” and pumped $billions into solar and wind projects. And then a few years later the company sold them. I looked into why. Pretty simple answer:

BP can make more money faster sticking to oil and gas, says Edward Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston. …

BP needs lots of cash since they face more than US$42 billion in costs and fines for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, Hirs said.

 — From my article “How western oil giant BP broke its green promises

And here we go again: “BP invests $220 million in U.S. solar projects” and said to be planning more investments. However 96% of BP’s spending is on oil and gas production. It’s a bit better than ExxonMobil’s 99.8%.

The industry is now claiming to be our partners in the climate fight. As partners the world’s wealthiest industries insist we give them hundreds of $millions to pretend to clean up the mess they made, and continue to make worse while profiting from it all

It’s as if someone dumped toxic waste in your backyard and insists you pay him to clean it up. And then all they do is throw a tarp over the stinking, toxic pile. 

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The oil and gas industry are making claims about how carbon capture and storage (CCS) can remove CO2 and stuff it safely underground. This magically creates a unicorn they call “net-zero oil and gas”. In reality it’s just a variation on the failed ‘clean coal’ smokescreen and comes with the same problems of enormous costs and big government handouts for a not very-effective technology.

Here’s a recent example that didn’t get much attention.  

Oil and gas giant Chevron has a huge liquid national gas (LNG) facility in western Australia where it promised to capture most of the CO2 emissions with the world’s largest CCS project. After 5 years in operation and a $3 billion investment, it has only captured a fraction of the promised four million tons of CO2 a year. That violates the terms of its permit to build the LNG facility in the first place. Now it’s too late for the government to do anything. 

“CCS is simply an attempt to prolong the life of polluting fossil fuels which are driving climate change,” said Australia’s Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said.

There are still no projects operating anywhere in the world that have delivered CCS on time, on budget, or in the quantities promised.

CCS projects like this do nothing to reduce the emissions from using oil, gas or coal. But as the industry says, those gigantic ‘downstream’ emissions are our problem not theirs despite spending $billions to keep us addicted to their stuff. That’s known as The Drug Dealers’ Defense.

There’s tons of other examples: How about a US gas company paying local residents suffering from polluting diesel truck emissions to lobby for natural gas vehicles that pollute a little less instead of zero-polluting electric ones? Nothing illegal about secretly paying locals through a fake environmental group said gas company officials

Need-to-Know 7: The term “natural gas”  was invented by the industry to make methane more appealing to the public.

There’s so much of this false and misleading advertising that an organization called ClientEarth is suing companies over their distortions and lies.

“Ideally all fossil fuel advertising should be banned unless it comes with a tobacco-style health warning about the risks of climate change, including the dangers of continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels.

—ClientEarth lawyer Sophie Marjanac 

Bottom line: All that really matters is that declines in oil, gas and coal production should have started years ago… so how about NOW? Any other action or claim is just B.S.

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From July 5 ,2021 Need to Know:

Need-to-Know 9: What the fossil fuel industry continues to do to us, generations to come and every living thing can’t be called anything else but extreme evil.

Until next time, stay safe and be well.

Stephen

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