Friday, May 20, 2022

Burning Planet

 


The Indian sub-continent is enduring a scorching heatwave that is breaking all records.

Europe also is suffering the heat. 

Temperatures of “extraordinary intensity” in parts of southern Spain are forecast to exceed 42C on Saturday. 

The state meteorological agency, Aemet, warned that Spain was facing “one of the hottest Mays in this country in recent years”.

Aemet said a mass of hot, dry air is blowing in from Africa, carrying with it dust from the Sahara and “exceptionally high” daily temperatures that are between 10C and 15C above the seasonal average.

Spring heat records have also been broken in France as the country enters its 38th consecutive day of above-normal temperatures, with parts of the south already exceeding 33C and some models predicting temperatures will rise locally to 37C or even 39C by the end of the week, around 17C hotter than the seasonal average.

In Paris, the overnight temperature from Wednesday to Thursday did not fall lower than 20C, the first time that has happened so early in the year in the century and a half since records in the capital began. At 3am, the mercury was still close to 22C.

Météo France said such episodes of extreme heat are likely to become longer and more severe, start earlier and recur more frequently as global heating advances 

Spain braces for heatwave of ‘extraordinary intensity’ | Spain | The Guardian

Australians Squeezed by Higher Prices

 

Across Australia, household budgets are being tightly squeezed, with the cost of living soaring to a 21 year high. 

Although not surging as high as in other countries at 5.1%, Australia's inflation rate is outstripping wage growth (2.3%) meaning people have less money in their pockets every month.

Australia's Reserve Bank (RBA) increased interest rates (by 0.25% to 0.35%) for the first time in more than 11 years.

 It is estimated that 300,000 Australians could default on their mortgages as repayments increase.

Australia election 2022: Cost of living worries voters - BBC News

2022 Sunday Times Rich List

 


There were a record 177 billionaires in the UK - six more than in 2021 - according to the Sunday Times Rich List, as the wealthiest figures in the UK grew their combined fortunes by 8% to a record £710billion in just 12 months.

In the 2022 Sunday Times Rich List, billionaire brothers Sri and Gopi Hinduja taking the top spot who run the Mumbai-based conglomerate Hinduja Group, are worth a staggering £28.47billion - an increase of more than £11billion on their fortune last year.

These are the 20 richest people in the UK according to the Rich List:

Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family – £28.47 billion

Sir James Dyson and family – £23 billion

David and Simon Reuben and family – £22.26 billion

Sir Leonard Blavatnik – £20 billion

Guillaume Pousaz – £19.26 billion

Lakshmi Mittal and family – £17 billion

Christoph Henkel and family – £15 billion

Guy, George, Alannah and Galen Weston and family – £13.5 billion

Kirsten and Jorn Rausing – £12 billion

Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho – £11.42 billion

Michael Platt – £10 billion

Alisher Usmanov – £10 billion

The Duke of Westminster and the Grosvenor family – £9.73 billion

Barnaby and Merlin Swire and family – £9.6 billion

Marit, Lisbet, Sigrid and Hans Rausing – £9.49 billion

Anil Agarwal – £9.2 billion

Denise, John and Peter Coates – £8.64 billion

John Fredriksen and family – £8.31 billion

Mikhail Fridman – £8.22 billion

Moshe Kantor – £8 billion


Overpopulation and Climate Change

 


Some in the environmentalist movement have succumbed to ideas that are promoted by the far-right and eco-fascists that population control and immigration restrictions are a solution to the effects of climate change. The attorney general of the US state of Arizona cited environmental protection when he sued the Biden administration for loosening immigration laws, claiming that migrants would use up resources, cause emissions and pollute the environment if they weren't kept out by a wall with Mexico. Eco-fascists use racist theories to conflate the degradation of the natural environment with the degradation of their culture and their people, added Thomas. They believe that white people, along with the environment, are threatened by non-white overpopulation. Marine Le Pen has invoked climate change and environmental protection in her nationalist campaigns, while the youth wing of Germany's far-right climate-sceptic AfD party called on the party to embrace climate change as an effective recruitment tool. 

Treating people as the problem isn’t just misguided — it’s dangerous. When concern about population becomes central to environmental policy, “racism and xenophobia are always waiting in the wings.” said Betsy Hartman, former director of the population and development program at Hampshire College and author of 'Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: the Global Politics of Population Control,' 

“In this ideology of ‘too many people’ it’s always certain people who are ‘too many,’ ” Hartman said. “It just shifts the discourse away from the real problem of who has power and how the economy is organized.”

 Climate change isn’t caused by population growth. It’s caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

 

“But doesn’t having more people on the planet lead to more fossil fuel consumption, which leads to more emissions?” some over-populationists respond.

 

Not so, Princeton University environmental engineer Anu Ramaswami, an expert on sustainable cities and contributor to the United Nations’ Global Resources Outlook explained. A small minority of wealthy people produce the majority of global greenhouse gas emissions — their consumption habits have a much greater impact than overall population numbers. It’s true that the planet can’t support unlimited population growth, Ramaswami said. But if people can figure out how to moderate our consumption and meet our needs without fossil fuels, experts say, it is possible for all of us to live sustainably and well — even if there are more of us.  Ramaswami said. “Fixating on population decrease doesn’t make much of a difference.” People in the world's richest countries emit 50 times more than those in the poorest, despite having much slower population growth.


Over-populationists ignore the enormous inequality of wealth existing within every nation, whether thickly or thinly populated. They also ignore that much of the population between 16 and 60 are not engaged in producing wealth at all, but are either idle or are carrying on purely wasteful services called into being by the capitalist system. For them, there are no class divisions in society. They dismiss our contention that nature, contrary to some claims, is sufficiently bountiful for our needs. Many assert that over-population is the cause of modern wars. It is, of course, nonsense. The urge to find markets and sources of raw materials affects every capitalist country, irrespective of population. Is it a “natural” or a “man-made” law which prevents millions of workers from taking possession of the wealth which they create but do not possess? What natural law prevents the workers from enjoying the food and housing reserved for the propertied classes? The amount consumed by members of the capitalist class depends on their ownership of the means of production, which in turn depends on their control of the political machinery of society. There obviously are problems of population, but the problem of working-class poverty is not one of these. That problem cannot be solved by the workers until they have taken possession of the political machinery and re-organised society on a socialist basis.

We all need to eat. We all need homes that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We all require to travel. But the economic system can change.

Adapted from

Eco-fascism: The greenwashing of the far right | Environment | All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 19.05.2022

Thursday, May 19, 2022

A Cold War mystery: who started the Stalinist purges in Eastern Europe?

 Between 1948 and 1954 hundreds of thousands of people were arrested and interrogated, often under torture, by the secret police in the countries of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe. There were show trials and executions. The victims were members of the ruling ‘communist’ parties, including quite a few in prominent positions. In Czechoslovakia alone nearly 170,000 party members were arrested, almost causing the economy to collapse. 

Stalin himself presided over these purges. After Tito’s Yugoslavia broke away from the bloc, he feared that the ‘Titoist’ contagion would spread and other countries would follow Yugoslavia’s example. He was also determined to destroy ‘fifth columns’ in preparation for a possible war with the Western powers. 

However, as George Hodos, a rare survivor of the Rajk trials in Hungary, stresses in his book Show Trials: Stalinist Purges in Eastern Europe (Praeger 1987), most victims were actually loyal Stalinists. Only a few, such as Gomulka in Poland, really had ‘Titoist’ tendencies. If this point is accepted, an explanation of the vast scale of the purges has to rely on a single factor – Stalin’s well-known paranoia.

Or was that paranoia perhaps deliberately exploited by an outside player? Is it possible that while Stalin presided over the purges someone else actually started them? After all, it would not have been the first such provocation. It was disinformation spread by agents of Nazi Germany that triggered Stalin’s disastrous purge of the Red Army’s officer corps in 1937. Could Western secret services have played a similar game at the end of the 1940s?

I first came across this idea in Jo Langer’s memoir Convictions: Memories of a life shared with a good communist (Andre Deutsch, 1979). The ‘good communist’ to whom the author was married was Oscar Langer, who worked as an economist for the Central Committee in postwar Czechoslovakia. The illustration shows the book cover with a photo of the couple. As the purge gathered pace, Oscar tried to warn ‘his friends in the inner circles’ of the harm it was doing:

He hinted at the possibility that the class enemy himself found a field of activity in the very heart of the organization created as a shield. In that case the real saboteurs were those who were arresting good men in key positions to wreck the economy and thereby undermine the confidence of the masses.

Jo Langer

Langer’s warnings fell on deaf ears. He himself was arrested in August 1951 and not released until 1961. He died shortly thereafter.

When I read this I thought it was a clever argument to use, but did not take it very seriously. Recently, however, I read David Talbot’s in-depth personal and political biography of Allen Dulles, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency from 1952 to 1961 and continued to influence its personnel even after his resignation (The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, HarperCollins Publishers, 2015). Talbot reveals that Langer’s suspicions were fully justified.

Operation Splinter Factor

The CIA’s Operation Splinter Factor began in 1949 when Noel Field, a Quaker relief worker whom Dulles had known during the war, was offered a university teaching position in Prague. He went to Czechoslovakia. Time passed and nothing was heard from him. So his worried wife Herta and brother Hermann went looking for him. They too vanished. In 1950 the Fields’ adoptive daughter, Erica Glaser Wallach, went to make inquiries about them at party headquarters in East Berlin. She vanished in her turn. 

All four had been arrested. Their interrogators demanded to know what connection they had with Allen Dulles and what mission he had given them. They could make no sense of the questions. Unbeknownst to them, the CIA had instructed a double agent high up in the Polish security service to spread the word that Dulles had sent them on secret missions to recruit old acquaintances into a pro-Western spy network. 

The ploy worked beyond the CIA’s wildest dreams. Dulles’ colleague Frank Wisner gleefully reported: 

The comrades are merrily sticking knives in each others’ backs and doing our dirty work for us. 

Talbot

The ‘dirty work’ was to weaken ‘communism’ by sowing suspicion and disarray into the party ranks. 

In 1954, after Stalin’s death, Soviet and East European secret police officials realized that they had been tricked. They apologized to the Fields and sent them home. 

Dulles viewed the naïve people whom he manipulated with withering contempt. He once confided to his sex-partner Mary Bancroft:

I like to watch the little mice sniffing at the cheese just before they venture into the little trap. I like to see their expressions when it snaps shut, breaking their little necks.

Talbot

No doubt Stalin and Beria indulged in similar pleasurable feelings.

‘Communism’ and ‘anti-communism’

The CIA’s ‘dirty work’ was done in the name of the fight against ‘communism.’ For Dulles, as for Lenin and all his successors, supposedly noble ends justified all and any means. 

But what was ‘communism’? What were the key features that made it odious? What ideals inspired its enemies? Which developments within ‘communism’ and in its relations with the outside world were to be regarded as positive and which as negative?

Once we inquire into these questions, we quickly discover concepts of ‘communism’ and ‘anti-communism’ that do not just diverge from but sharply conflict with one another. In particular, we find a chasm between the concepts that actually guide secret agents like Dulles and the concepts that those same agents use in propaganda for the general public. 

In the propaganda the key features that make ‘communism’ odious are the arbitrary power of a dictator or narrow ruling group and the denial of freedom (of speech, association, religion, travel, etc.). The propaganda therefore equates ‘anti-communism’ is with democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. 

This contrast is a superficially plausible — but only if we confine our focus to Europe since 1945, overlooking the experience of fascism as well as such episodes as the ‘regime of the colonels’ in Greece (1967–74). Once we turn our gaze to other parts of the world, we find numerous instances of the CIA overthrowing democracies and replacing them with military or royal dictatorships. Dulles and his cronies soon graduated from playing with ‘mice’ in Eastern Europe to overthrowing the democratically elected governments of Mossadegh in Iran (1953), Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), and Lumumba in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1960) – all three operations described in detail by Talbot. Later it would be the turn of many other countries, including Brazil (1964), Indonesia (1965), Ghana (1966), Chile (1973), and Haiti (2004).

For capitalist functionaries like Dulles, the key feature that makes ‘communism’ hateful is its disrespect for the property rights of the wealthy, especially when Americans are affected. This is the sole issue they really care about. That is why they lump together all advocates of dispossessing the wealthy as ‘radical’ or ‘extreme’ leftists, ignoring the huge differences with regard to the kind of new society to be created. Any future in which they themselves no longer occupy a privileged position is of no interest to them.   

Thus, in contrast to the ‘mice’ with their naive belief in democracy and human rights, CIA agents did not welcome the prospect of greater autonomy for the countries of Eastern Europe or de-Stalinization in general. Nor would they welcome Dubcek’s ‘socialism with a human face’ or Gorbachev’s perestroika and ‘new political thinking.’ As Talbot notes, they took a negative view of any development that might have made ‘communism’ less unpopular and therefore stronger and more stable. In practice, they aligned themselves with the Stalinists. 

Conclusion 

That the CIA played a significant role in the Stalinist purges in Eastern Europe seems to me beyond reasonable doubt, even though we are not – and never may be — in a position to assess just how significant, due to the paucity of accessible sources. It is unfortunate that Erica Wallach’s memoir (Light at Midnight, Doubleday 1967) is almost out of print. 

Unfortunately, Operation Splinter Factor has not been incorporated into standard historical accounts of the period. Few specialists in the history of Eastern Europe are also familiar with the history of the CIA. Anyway, it is not exactly ‘respectable’ for an academic historian to drag dirty secrets of Western intelligence into the light of day. 

So anyone who values historical truth owes a great debt to David Talbot. 

Stephen Shenfield

World Socialist Party of the United States

Billionaire Tax Rates


 According to a new analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), under current U.S. law, unrealized capital gains from stocks and other assets are not taxed, allowing billionaires such as Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk to accumulate massive fortunes tax-free. And even when assets are sold and gains are "realized," the long-term capital gains tax rate is significantly lower than the top marginal tax rate of 37%.

 ATF estimates that 26 of the richest people in the U.S. paid an average federal income tax rate of 4.8% between 2013 and 2018 when wealth gains are counted as income.

Some prominent billionaires—including Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Bezos—paid tax rates of less than 2% during the six-year period, ATF found. The average U.S. taxpayer pays a 13.3% tax rate on their income.

"Teachers, plumbers, firefighters, and other working Americans can already pay higher tax rates than billionaires—and that's just counting the small part of billionaire income that is now taxed," Frank Clemente, ATF's executive director, said in a statement. "When you include their untaxed wealth growth in the calculation, many billionaires pay almost nothing."

Analysis: 26 US Billionaires Paid Average Tax Rate of Just 4.8% in Recent Years (commondreams.org)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Socialist Sonnet No. 66

 Choice

 

It is not by force of arms or terror

That this benighted world can be remade,

There’s no infallible elite to aid

This process, nor leader without error.

Reforms have not brought such change by stealth,

Reformers fail, whatever their intent,

Career politicians are mouths for rent

By those rich enough to safeguard their wealth.

All can be transformed through the power of choice,

A new world without money, war and greed,

Commonwealth arranged to satisfy need

And all achieved through the popular voice.

World without borders, no national schism:

True democrats demand socialism.

 

D. A.

Cars and the Climate

 Carmakers around the world are racing to introduce new cars with zero exhaust emissions of carbon, and almost every big brand plans to move to battery electric technology. However, at the same time manufacturers are trying to keep selling their highly profitable diesel and petrol cars.

Tesla and Mercedes-Benz are the only firms out of 12 big manufacturers who are on course to shift to zero-emissions vehicles at a rate in line with climate goals. The carmakers that plan the slowest adoption of zero-emissions technology are the three biggest Japanese producers – Toyota, Honda and Nissan – while other laggards included South Korea’s Hyundai and General Motors in the US.

The shift to zero-emissions vehicles is seen as crucial for the world’s transition away from polluting fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency, a watchdog respected by industry and campaigners, has calculated that 57.5% of global car sales must be zero-emission vehicles by 2030 (equivalent to 52% by 2029) if global heating is to be limited to only 1.5C. Should the world go beyond that target, agreed at the 2015 Paris climate conference, the scientific consensus is that increasing proportions of the globe will become unliveable.

Big carmakers stuck in slow lane over switch to zero emissions, study shows | Automotive industry | The Guardian

The Real World War

 


Prof Petteri Taalas, the  UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary general, said: “Our climate is changing before our eyes. Human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come. Some glaciers have reached the point of no return and this will have long-term repercussions in a world in which more than 2 billion people already experience water stress.

“Extreme weather has the most immediate impact on our daily lives,” he said. “We are seeing a drought emergency unfolding in the Horn of Africa, recent deadly flooding in South Africa and the extreme heat in India and Pakistan. Early warning systems are critically required to save lives yet these are only available in less than half of WMO’s 187 member nations.” 

The world’s oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and 2021 set a record. The increasing warmth in the ocean, which is irreversible over timescales of centuries to millennia, has been especially strong in the last 20 years. Much of the ocean experienced at least one strong marine heatwave in 2021, the WMO said. The global sea level also reached a new record high in 2021. It has increased by 10cm since 1993 and the rise is accelerating, driven by the melting of ice sheets and glaciers and the thermal expansion of the ocean. The rise imperils hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers, the WMO said, and increases the damage caused by hurricanes and cyclones. Almost a quarter of CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans, but this causes them to become more acidic. This threatens shell-forming wildlife and corals and therefore food security, tourism and coastal protection, the WMO said. The oceans are now more acidic than for at least 26,000 yearsCO2 and methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are at record levels, with CO2 concentration 50% higher than before the Industrial Revolution sparked the mass burning of fossil fuels. The global temperature in 2021 was 1.1C above the pre-industrial average, moving closer towards the 1.5C limit agreed by the world’s nations to avoid the worst climate impacts.

The WMO noted exceptional heatwaves in 2021 in western North America and the Mediterranean, deadly flooding in Henan, China, and western Europe, and rain being recorded for the first time on the summit of Greenland’s ice sheet. The agency warned eastern Africa is facing a high risk of rains failing for a fourth consecutive season, meaning the worst drought in 40 years.

“Today’s State of the Climate report is a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption. Fossil fuels are a dead end – environmentally and economically,” said António Guterres, the secretary general of the UN. “The only sustainable future is a renewable one..."

Prof James Hansen, said this week, there was “a spectacular, continuing failure of governments to adopt effective long-term energy and climate policies.

“We must all be aware that demands for effective policies will yield only superficial change as long as the role of special interests in government remains unaddressed.”

Critical climate indicators broke records in 2021, says UN | Climate crisis | The Guardian

Fact of the Day

 Globally, 1 in 5 deaths among children under the age of 5 is attributed to severe wasting – also known as severe acute malnutrition – making it one of the top threats to child survival, robbing the lives of more than 1 million children each year.

The Indian Heatwave

 Climate change makes record-breaking heatwaves in northwest India and Pakistan 100 times more likely, a Met Office study finds.

The region should now expect a heatwave that exceeds the record temperatures seen in 2010 once every three years.

Without climate change, such extreme temperatures would occur only once every 312 years, the Met Office says.


Climate change swells odds of record India, Pakistan heatwaves - BBC News


Tax Evasion - Eyes Wide Shut

  


The United States is the world's leading perpetrator of financial secrecy, citing the country's refusal to share key information with the tax authorities of other nations and its status as a generous tax haven for foreign oligarchs, rich executives, and other elites.

The Tax Justice Network (TJN) found that "the U.S. now fuels more global financial secrecy than Switzerland, Cayman, and Bermuda combined."

Despite U.S. President Joe Biden's campaign pledge to "bring transparency to the global financial system, go after illicit tax havens, seize stolen assets, and make it more difficult for leaders who steal from their people to hide behind anonymous front companies, "Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen conceded, "There's a good argument that, right now, the best place to hide and launder ill-gotten gains is actually the United States."

TJN stressed that the shell company law enacted in January 2021 is riddled with loopholes such as "limited definitions of which legal entities and beneficial owners must register, 23 baked-in exemptions to registration, and an absence of requirements on all trusts."

TJN researcher Moran Harari explained that "once again, a small club of rich countries setting global rules on finance and tax are found to be the ones most responsible for facilitating financial secrecy and tax abuses."

"For decades, rich G7 countries courted billionaires, oligarchs, and corporate giants with secrecy loopholes and eyes-wide-shut-regulations," said Harari. "The regulations they imposed facilitated the robbing of billions from poorer countries' public purses. And now those same regulations are making it nearly impossible for G7 countries themselves to track down the billions held offshore by sanctioned Russian oligarchs."

'A Shameful Distinction': US Ranked World's Biggest Perpetrator of Financial Secrecy (commondreams.org)


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Tobacco and Child Labour

 


The global tobacco industry, valued at $850billion (2021) with the 6 largest companies earning $55billion in profit (2015), is profiting off the backs of an estimated 1.3 million children involved in tobacco production worldwide. Tobacco leaf is grown in more than 120 countries, but the incidence of child labor is under reported. In 2020, the US Department of Labor listed 19 countries which use child and forced labour in tobacco production is present.

For many farming households in low-income countries, growing tobacco offers only a precarious livelihood, overshadowed by debt and the threat of poverty, in stark contrast to the profits of the big tobacco companies. Many smallholder farmers – who produce much of the world’s tobacco leaf – feel they have little choice but to enlist their children to work.

According to the global tobacco industry watch, STOP, tobacco companies have the power and resources to determine the level of wages and price of agricultural inputs, and can control the salaries that suppliers or contractors pay. However, their practices worsen children’s plight. They use layers of contracts to avoid direct responsibility for growers and workers, keep leaf prices low, and provide loans that keep farmers dependent. To obscure the real problem, they use agricultural front groups, and partnerships with renowned organizations to undertake token community activities. All these effectively suppress progress towards diversification of strategies that would remove children from tobacco farming.

Child labor in tobacco falls under “worst forms of child labor” due to the hazardous nature of handling tobacco. This mainly occurs in the tobacco fields and bidi factories, but can also occur throughout the whole tobacco cycle, for example, children selling cigarettes.

Children working with tobacco are placed at high risk of injury and illness, for example ‘Green Tobacco Sickness’ caused by nicotine poisoning through the skin. The absorption of nicotine causes symptoms which include nausea, weakness, dizziness, headaches and breathing difficulties. They are also exposed to large and frequent applications of pesticides, herbicides and fumigants that leads to a range of risks.

Child tobacco workers often labor 50 or 60 hours a week in extreme heat, use sharp and dangerous tools, lift heavy loads, and climb into the rafters of barns, risking serious injuries and falls.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 28% of children working in agriculture in general do not attend school at all, a blow to their best chance of avoiding the generational poverty trap.

Meanwhile, tobacco industry corporate social responsibility (CSR) obscures the plight of children in low- and middle- income countries (LMICs). Tobacco industry-backed publicity includes information of how 204,000 children were removed or kept away from child labor detracting from the legal and human rights of children exploited or the just compensation required to undo decades of harm. Some governments have yet to resist so-called CSR of tobacco companies and realize that the tobacco industry is the problem and not partners in the elimination of child labor. 

The Eliminating Child Labour in Tobacco Growing (ECLT) Foundation, sponsored by big tobacco companies influence the anti-child labor narrative across the world. Through the ECLT, tobacco companies partnered with and funded the ILO and governments to position themselves as safeguarding the rights of child worker and “being part of the solution”.

While ECLT achieved little in reducing child labor, it added to the glossy sustainability reports of tobacco companies designed to attract more investors.

After coming to the conclusion that tobacco industry sponsorship has not led to much progress in eliminating child labor, in 2018 ILO announced it will not renew ECLT and tobacco industry funding. However, links between the ILO and the ECLT remains.

Child Labour: No Quick End to Children Trapped in Tobacco Production | Inter Press Service (ipsnews.net)

Global Inequality

  The richest 10% of the world population owns 76% of the wealth, while the poorest half owns just a sliver, according to the World Inequality Lab.



Oil in the soil, coal in the hole

 


Nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5C, the internationally agreed goal for avoiding climate catastrophe, according to a new scientific study. The new research reaches its stark conclusion by not assuming that new technologies will be able to suck huge amounts of COfrom the atmosphere to compensate for the burning of coal, oil and gas. Experts said relying on such technologies was a risky gamble. The researchers said governments should accelerate the introduction of renewable energy and efficiency measures instead.

The new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, analysed a database of more than 25,000 oil and gas fields and developed a new dataset of coal mines. The researchers found that fields and mines that have already been developed would lead to 936bn tonnes of COwhen fully exploited and burned. That is 25 years of global emissions at today’s rate – the world’s scientists agree emissions must fall by half by 2030. The researchers calculated that 40% of developed fossil fuels must stay in the ground to have a 50-50 chance of global temperature rise stopping at 1.5C. Half the emissions would come from coal, a third from oil and a fifth from gas. The researchers found that almost 90% of developed reserves are located in just 20 countries, led by China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US, followed by Iran, India, Indonesia, Australia and Canada.  The research only considered projects where companies had made final investment decisions, that means committed to spending billions on building rigs and pipelines to extract the fossil fuels. A 2021 study, led by Daniel Welsby at University College London, assessed all known reserves and found 90% of coal and 60% of oil and gas must remain unexploited.

Greg Muttitt, at the International Institute for Sustainable Development, was one of the leaders of the new research and said: “Halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget. Some existing fossil fuel licences and production will need to be revoked and phased out early. Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests.”

Kelly Trout, at Oil Change International, the other lead author of the work, said: “Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The world has already tapped too much oil and gas.”

The study did not estimate how much CO2 could be removed from the atmosphere by technology in future. “These technologies are unproven at scale,” said Muttitt. “There’s a lot of talk about them, but we believe it would be a mistake to predicate achieving climate goals on these being delivered at a very large scale. We just don’t know whether it will be possible in terms of financing or governance.”

Maeve O’Connor, at the Carbon Tracker thinktank, the author of a new report, said: “Oil and gas companies are gambling on emissions [reducing] technologies that pose a huge risk to both investors and the climate. Most of these technologies are still at an early stage of development, with few large projects working at anything like the scale required by company goals, while solutions that involve tree planting require huge areas of land.”

Shut down fossil fuel production sites early to avoid climate chaos, says study | Fossil fuels | The Guardian