A fisherman prepares to cast his line standing in the surf as a full moon rises at Mollymook Beach, located south of Sydney, Australia, February 23, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray More TORONTO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Climate change is pushing fish toward the planet's North and South poles, robbing traditionally poorer countries closer to the Equator of crucial natural resources, U.S. biologists said in a study published on Wednesday. Key species of fish are migrating away from temperate zones and toward the poles as global temperatures rise, according to a research team from Rutgers University, Princeton University, Yale University and Arizona State University. The migration patterns of fish, a critical food source for millions of people, are likely to exacerbate inequality between the world's poor and rich, they said. The world's wealthier areas tend to be in cooler regions closer to the poles. "Natural resources like fish are being pushed around by climate change, and that changes who gets access to them," said Malin Pinsky, one of the study's authors and a marine biologist, in a statement. The study, published on Wednesday in the journal "Nature Climate Change," used data on fish migration patterns along with a mathematical formula that tracked the movement of natural resources and shifts in wealth.
Smoke billows from a chimney in the early morning hours during a smoggy day near Ramsgate, April 10, 2015. Output of the heat-trapping gases in Europe's second-largest emitter behind Germany fell to 497.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), from 514.4 million tonnes in 2014, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said. Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, dropped 4 percent to 405 million tonnes. The fall stemmed largely from a drop in energy-sector emissions. Those fell 13 percent to 136 million tonnes of CO2e as low-carbon electricity production from renewable and nuclear power plants rose and carbon-intensive coal generation fell. Data released by the government last month showed coal-fired generation fell 24 percent last year while nuclear generation rose by 10 percent and wind generation by 24 percent. Thursday’s data shows Britain’s GHG emissions have fallen 38 percent since 1990, and dropped for a third consecutive year. Britain has a legally binding target to cut its GHG emissions by 2050 to 80 percent below 1990 levels and has set out five yearly carbon budgets towards meeting this goal. The country is on track to achieve the cuts needed to meet the second and third carbon budgets to 2022 but the government has said it risks missing the fourth, 2023-27 budget, which needs a reduction of 50 percent by 2025. Last November the government announced plans to close polluting coal-fired power plants and replace them with gas plants by 2025, but industry experts have warned the new plants are not being built quickly enough. They also warned that a decision last year to cancel a 1 billion pound ($1.44 billion) project to help fund technology to capture CO2 emissions and store them underground would make meeting the climate target more difficult. The bulk of Britain's emissions, some 27 percent, came from energy supply, followed by transport at 23 percent, business at 14 percent and residential at 13 percent. The rest came from sectors including agriculture and waste management.
News Article | May 5, 2016
A majority of Donald Trump supporters believe that man-made climate change is real and happening — something in stark contrast to the U.S. presidential candidate’s history of denying global warming, according to a poll released on May 4. Fifty-six percent of those supporting Trump in the presidential race think global warming is happening. Trump supporters, too, were more likely to back a candidate who strongly backed global warming measures. The survey, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication along with the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, probed how supporters of current candidates viewed climate change, how those views will shape their vote, and how they think Americans should address the matter. Among those voting for John Kasich, the percentage climbed to 71, while a mere 38 percent of Ted Cruz voters believe in man-made climate change. Both of these Republican candidates have since left the race after Indiana’s primary. “I am not a believer [in man-made climate change], and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather,” Huffington Post quoted Trump's radio interview last fall. It goes up and down and again, with changes depending on years and centuries, Trump added, emphasizing “much bigger problems” that the country is facing. On May 2, during a meeting with the editorial board of Washington Post, Trump stuck to his conviction, instead putting the spotlight on nuclear weaponry. "I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk to the world, to me – I know President Obama thought it was climate change,” read part of Trump’s statements in the climate change exchange. “We don’t know who has them. We don’t know who’s trying to get them.” Even though most Trump supporters acknowledge man-made climate change, only 35 percent expressed worry over it – compare that with the 83 percent of Hillary Clinton voters and 80 percent of Bernie Sanders voters who were worried by ongoing warming phenomena. This poll was conducted in March and covered 1,004 registered U.S. voters, with +/- 3 percentage points as a margin of error. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
When it comes to hurricanes in the U.S., large-scale trends are not in our favor. In fact, unless action is taken to curb both global warming and coastal development, the American economy may be set to take a perilous bashing from stronger storms, rising seas and too much high value, high-risk property lying in harms' way. By the end of the century, a hurricane that strikes the eastern United States could cause up to three times more economic damage than a hurricane that strikes today, climate researchers warn in a new study. SEE ALSO: Why the extreme Louisiana floods are worrying but not surprising If the world doesn’t drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and Americans don’t move to safer ground, the U.S. could suffer an eight-fold jump in average annual financial losses from hurricanes by 2100, the study found. In the study, published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists from Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research show that future hurricane-related losses for American families, companies and communities could grow faster than the overall U.S. economy — meaning the country won’t be able to counteract the damages from extreme weather events by creating more jobs and wealth. “We find that hurricane losses have risen and will rise faster than the economy,” Tobias Geiger, the paper’s lead author and a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute, told Mashable. “The impacts of climate change cannot be simply economically outgrown," he said. In the U.S. alone, hurricanes caused $400 billion in estimated losses between 1980 and 2014, accounting for more than half of all weather-related economic losses, the German reinsurance giant Munich Re last year. Damages from other extreme weather events — including floods, wildfires, tornadoes and droughts — are also on the rise due to both human-caused global warming and unchecked development into floodplains, fire-prone forests and waterfronts. In 2015, the U.S. experienced 10 weather and climate disaster events that each caused $1 billion in total damages and costs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That’s about twice the annual average of 5.2 billion dollar events experienced from 1980 to 2015. And this year is already on track to outpace 2015 in the number of these expensive disasters. As of July, the country has suffered eight such events, including two flooding and six severe storm events — not including the devastating floods in southern Louisiana that have killed at least 13 people and led to 40,000 rescues. Geiger said that few other studies have projected future U.S. damages from hurricanes in a comparable way to the Potsdam Institute’s research. A in Climate Change Economics and a by the World Bank both found that hurricane-related losses would roughly double by the end of the century due to climate change alone. But Geiger said his team made a novel finding: That hurricane-related losses in the U.S. will grow faster than per-capita income growth, so that even if the United States grows wealthier as a nation, it will be no better protected from the wrath of warming-fueled hurricanes. “Some people hope that a growing economy will be able to compensate for the damages caused by climate change — that we can outgrow climate change economically instead of mitigating it,” Anders Levermann, one of the study’s authors, said in a press release. “But what if damages grow faster than our economy? What if climate impacts hit faster than we are able to adapt?” A house destroyed by 2012's Hurricane Sandy in New York City, Oct. 8, 2013. Kerry Emanuel, a meteorologist at MIT and a prominent researcher examining global warming-related trends in hurricanes, said the study is “important” because it shows that the U.S. can’t compensate for increasing hurricane damages solely by growing the economy. Emanuel contributed research on the synthetic storm events used in the study and reviewed an earlier draft. “This adds urgency to the need to revise existing policies that inadvertently promote migration to and building within hurricane-prone coastal regions,” he told Mashable in an email. The Potdsam Institute researchers developed statistical damage models that linked a hurricane’s wind speed, the size of the exposed population and per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) to reported storm losses. They also studied information on historical hurricane tracks for the eastern U.S. to determine the connections between storm damages and the other three indicators. The team used those findings to analyze thousands of potential hurricane tracks that could affect the Gulf and Atlantic Coast regions through 2100, using different degrees of global warming. When it comes to the rise in annual financial losses from hurricanes, about one-third of the losses could be the result of global warming, while the remaining two-thirds could come from “increased vulnerability on the socio-economic side,” Geiger said in an email interview. Geiger said the institute’s research shows that adaptation measures — such as storm surge barriers, wind-resistant housing and floodgates — won’t be enough to keep the U.S. or other hurricane-prone nations safe in the warming future. To fully hold costs down, we would have to limit the magnitude and pace of global warming, he said. Reducing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases that cause global warming is perhaps even more essential to limiting the future damage of hurricanes, Geiger said. “Although improving adaptation efforts can reduce further harm, it is important to increase climate mitigation in order to prevent or damp still-avoidable consequences,” Geiger said. Editor's Note: This story has been edited to remove the quotes from a researcher, Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who felt he had been misquoted as disagreeing with the new study's findings. Pielke's research, in fact, is consistent with the study's findings about future storm losses, he said on Thursday.
News Article | April 19, 2016
Exxon (now ExxonMobil) is showing signs that it’s gearing up for history’s largest ever battle over the future of fossil fuels and climate change. The oil and gas titan has been sowing the seeds of climate change denial since the 1980s, when it and other energy giants created the Global Climate Coalition to aggressively lobby Congress and lawmakers to their side, and away from environmentalists concerned over early evidence of global warming. As the seeds began to grow, doubt and a fierce anti-science mentality flowered among public opinion. In 2002, the coalition disbanded, explaining that it had “served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming.” Since then, Exxon has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to powerful climate change denial organizations both through traceable funds and secret “dark money” transactions filtered through veiled third-parties. But all the while, the corporation has been sitting on a hidden cache of scientific evidence that starkly contradicts the very idea it has fought so hard to snuff out. Evidence, that if brought into the light, could allow Exxon to be tried for criminal violations. As InsideClimate News revealed last year after an eight month investigation into company documents, Exxon itself had quietly funded some of the first cutting-edge climate research ever conducted, as early as the 1970s. According to an email from Exxon’s former scientific advisor, the company was aware of climate change and CO2’s adverse effects by 1981, which was seven years before the issue came into public focus. But when NASA scientist James Hansen brought climate change to the fore in 1988, Exxon was already starting to reverse its position on the validity of the science it helped to put forth. Now, multiple probes into the energy giant’s decades of alleged deceit have blossomed out of the ICN investigation. Most recently, the attorney general of the US Virgin Islands issued a subpoena for nearly 40 years of climate change documents from Exxon through a Washington, DC law firm. Attorney General Claude Walker’s push for additional information makes the Virgin Islands the fourth party to launch a legal investigation into the corporation’s knowledge of fossil fuel’s role in global warming, joining US states New York, California, and Massachusetts. Exxon attempted to block the subpoena last week by suing over allegations that Walker’s request violates the corporation’s First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights, and compels it to present documents that extend beyond the five-year statute of limitations. While some of the technicalities around Exxon’s stand-off are easily lost in the weeds, here’s what you need to know about why the corporation’s legal flexing is so significant. Who is the group leading the investigation into Exxon’s alleged criminal activity? Earlier this year, a coalition of 17 state attorneys general formed an alliance to press Exxon on its knowledge of climate science and the negative impacts of fossil fuel burning. The group includes the top legal authorities from California, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the US Virgin Islands. All of the attorneys general are Democrats. Every member has vowed to open an investigation into whether Exxon knowingly deceived shareholders and the public for decades about the catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic climate change. What the multistate effort hopes to find is evidence of fraud on the basis that Exxon allowed the production and consumption of its product with full knowledge of its dangerous effects, and also played a key role in the manufacturing of climate change denial. In other words, the states' attorneys general believe that Exxon put the environment at risk while knowingly deceiving people by manufacturing climate science doubt, and profiting off that manufactured disbelief. "Every attorney general does work on fraud cases, and we are pursuing this as we would any other fraud matter. You have to tell the truth, you can't make misrepresentations of the kinds we've seen here," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. "The scope of the problem we are facing, the size of the corporate entities and their alliances, the trade associations and other groups, is massive and it requires a multistate effort." The coalition has been supported by former vice president Al Gore, who remarked that Exxon and other climate change denial lobbyists “are likely now, finally, at long last, to be held to account.” Each state’s laws and investigative authorities are different, but through their joint probes, the attorneys general hope to create a nexus between Exxon’s alleged deception and the damages that have been inflicted upon consumers. What kinds of documents would Exxon have to hand over according to the subpoena? According to Attorney General Walker’s subpoena, Exxon is required to submit documents sent from or received by Exxon regarding climate change and its impacts; communications regarding the likelihood that Exxon products played a role in climate change; studies, research, and reviews published by Exxon or any of the third-parties acting on its behalf; information regarding Exxon sales and revenue that would have been impacted by acting on climate change; and meetings with or funding of third-parties. If compelled to hand over 100 percent of the requested material, Exxon would be sharing nearly 40 years of memos, emails, studies, speeches, publications, and strategy reports, dating back to January 1, 1977. Attorney General Walker has also included in his subpoena all communications regarding last year’s investigation into Exxon’s climate science funding conducted by ICN and the Los Angeles Times. In his subpoena, what is Attorney General Walker accusing Exxon of having done? Attorney General Walker has accused Exxon of violating two state laws under the Virgin Islands’ anti-racketeering legislation called the “Baby RICO” statute. As presented in the subpoena, Exxon is suspected to have engaged in, or be engaging in, “conduct misrepresenting its knowledge of the likelihood that its products and activities have contributed and are continuing to contribute to Climate Change” in order to defraud the government and consumers by obtaining money under false pretenses and conspiring to do so. The “Baby RICO” statute that Walker has invoked was adopted by the Virgin Islands and other states and territories after Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970, which it created to try Mafia enterprises as a whole, rather than singular cases of lesser criminal associates. What the federal law allows prosecutors to do is build cases from lots of broader evidence. The Virgin Islands’ RICO statute, while not identical to the federal law that preceded it, can potentially be even more broad sweeping. In order for federal prosecutors to use the RICO Act, they must first prove reasonable suspicion that patterns of racketeering activity exist, and that the defendant obtained money through false pretenses. Last year, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also issued a subpoena for similar documents—with which Exxon has complied—but did so using the state’s powerful securities fraud law called the Martin Act. Some legal experts believe that Attorney General Schneiderman is in a much better position to subpoena Exxon for evidence than Walker and other attorneys general in the coalition. “I don’t think the Virgin Island statutes are nearly as comprehensive. They don’t speak directly to the subpoena power given to the attorney general of New York. I have some doubts about what the Virgin Islands attorney general is doing,” Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the Vermont Law School, told me. According to ICN, this marks the first time “a prosecutor has cited racketeering law to probe Exxon over its longtime denial of climate change and its products' role in it.” Several influential prosecutors, and even Al Gore, have encouraged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch an investigation into Exxon over potential violations of the RICO Act. How is Exxon using existing laws to push back against Attorney General Walker? Exxon is not about to hand over thousands of potentially confidential documents without a legal fight. In their lawsuit against Walker and the Washington, DC firm that issued the subpoena, Exxon alleges the request for information violates its constitutional rights. The corporation’s complaint, which was filed in its homebase of Texas, accuses Walker of infringing on its First Amendment right to freedom of speech by asking it to participate in the national discussion around its alleged fraud by deception. Exxon is allowed to make this claim because of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in favor of corporate personhood. Invoking the First Amendment may sit well in Texas, and an early ruling that Walker’s subpoena is baseless due to an infringement of corporate free speech would be an undue win for Exxon, according to Parenteau. Exxon has also cited the Fifth Amendment in its suit, which exists to protect people from being forced to incriminate themselves but does not generally apply to corporations, and would likely not be a persuasive defense against Walker’s subpoena. Additionally, the corporation claims the probe requests documents that extend past a five-year statute of limitations. While the statute of limitations in territories such as the Virgin Islands is more nuanced than it is in US states, if upheld, it could drastically curtail the volume of potential evidence that Exxon is required to submit. Walker’s subpoena, the lawsuit also alleges, "constitutes an abuse of process, in violation of common law,” because the documents requested, Exxon's lawyers claim, appear to target individuals who hold policy viewpoints that stand in direct opposition to those supported by the attorney general. "The First Amendment does not shield any company from being investigated for fraud," said Walker in a statement. What this complaint suggests is that Exxon is posturing itself for future inquiries into its alleged knowledge of anthropogenic climate change and fraudulent behavior. While the corporation may be forced to comply with Walker’s subpoena, it could still be years before any battle with Exxon escalates to a lawsuit. The risk in pushing too hard, said Parenteau, would be courts ruling in Exxon’s favor over misuse of criminal law or political retaliation. Will the documents subpoenaed by state attorneys general become public? When, and whether or not, the Exxon documents acquired through current and future subpoenas become available to the public depends entirely on how the offices of the attorneys general negotiate their exchange. Some pieces of evidence may very well be confidential under the Privacy Act or heavily redacted, but Exxon can be expected to hand over material with the stipulation that it never becomes public. Has this type of large-scale, corporate investigation ever happened before? The main reason why legislators and environmentalists have encouraged the DOJ to use the RICO Act against Exxon is because the powerful law was previously invoked to bring down the tobacco industry in the 1990s. In the United States v. Philip Morris, the DOJ successfully sued the country’s most influential tobacco companies over fraudulent and unlawful conduct. The companies were held liable for violating RICO by deliberately concealing the health risks of smoking and marketing their products to the public. "In the tobacco case, people were harmed by false beliefs propagated by the companies and were tricked into dangerous behavior," former state attorney general Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told ICN. "In the case of climate change, there is the general harm, the damage that carbon is wreaking, and the cost to the government of flooding, wildfires and other disasters." But if the case against Exxon is anything like the one involving the tobacco industry, it would also require strong bipartisan support among a class of politicians who have strong ties to the oil industry. Ultimately, there are various legal options that prosecutors could pursue to venture deeper into Exxon’s decades of darkness. Investigators have only just begun to dig, but look at how much they’ve been able to uncover so far.