October, 2015

Much of my news comes from The Daily Climate, whose wonderful subscription service clues me in to what's going on each day. Another great source of stories (and commentaries) comes from my friend Jim Poyser, at Apocadocs.


October, 2015





  • Exxon: The Road Not Taken: Exxon Sowed Doubt About Climate Science for Decades by Stressing Uncertainty
    • Collaborating with the Bush-Cheney White House, Exxon turned ordinary scientific uncertainties into weapons of mass confusion.



  • Oil and Gas Companies Make Statement in Support of U.N. Climate Goals: Ten of the world’s big oil companies, mainly from Europe, jointly acknowledged on Friday that their industry must help address global climate change and said that they agreed with the United Nations’ goals of limiting global warming. The public declaration by a group called the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative was an effort to convince an increasingly skeptical world that energy companies, whose fossil fuels are a big source of greenhouse gases, are serious about delivering cleaner energy and combating climate change.
    • They specifically cited the United Nations’ target of staving off a rise in the atmospheric temperature of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). By recognizing that goal, the executives are putting themselves in a tricky position. Meeting that target would require leaving much of the world’s existing oil, gas and coal reserves unburned and would require the companies to make major changes in the way they do business.
    • American giants like Chevron and ExxonMobil are among those that appear to disapprove of the European-led initiative, partly because the potential remedies — like carbon taxes or the trading of carbon-emission permits — that many experts say are necessary to curb greenhouse gases would almost inevitably raise the price of their fuels. “I’ve never had a customer come to me and ask to pay a higher price for oil, gas or other products,” John S. Watson, the chief executive of Chevron, told a meeting hosted in June in Vienna by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
  • Exxon's climate lie: 'No corporation has ever done anything this big or bad' (Bill McKibben): The truth of Exxon’s complicity in global warming must to be told - how they knew about climate change decades ago but chose to help kill our planet
  • What Exxon knew about the Earth's melting Arctic:
    • “Certainly any major development with a life span of say 30-40 years will need to assess the impacts of potential global warming,” Croasdale told an engineering conference in 1991. “This is particularly true of Arctic and offshore projects in Canada, where warming will clearly affect sea ice, icebergs, permafrost and sea levels.”
    • The good news for Exxon, he told an audience of academics and government researchers in 1992, was that “potential global warming can only help lower exploration and development costs” in the Beaufort Sea.
    • Between 1986, when Croasdale took the reins of Imperial’s frontier research team, until 1992, when he left the company, his team of engineers and scientists used the global circulation models developed by the Canadian Climate Centre and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to anticipate how climate change could affect a variety of operations in the Arctic. These were the same models that — for the next two decades — Exxon’s executives publicly dismissed as unreliable and based on uncertain science. As Chief Executive Lee Raymond explained at an annual meeting in 1999, future climate “projections are based on completely unproven climate models, or, more often, on sheer speculation.”
  • Kasich energy plan would repeal Obama rules, boost drilling: Kasich specifically named the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon limits for power plants as a rule he would undo, along with the Interior Department’s hydraulic fracturing rules for federal land. The former congressman also wants to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, allow oil exports, increase oil and gas drilling on “non-sensitive” public lands and boost alternative and renewable energy, although the fact sheet does not identify how he would do that.


  • Oil Sands Boom Dries Up in Alberta, Taking Thousands of Jobs With it:
    • Despite a severe economic downturn in a region whose growth once seemed limitless, many energy companies have too much invested in the oil sands to slow down or turn off the taps. In addition to the continued operation of existing plants, construction persists on projects that began before the price fell, largely because billions of dollars have already been spent on them. Oil sands projects are based on 40-year investment time frames, so their owners are being forced to wait out slumps.
    • For Canadian oil executives, the significant shift in the province’s politics is of great concern. Rachel Notley, the new premier and leader of the New Democratic Party, has said that she would prefer more refining to take place in Alberta instead of shipping more oil sands production to the United States via Keystone XL. And speaking to the Alberta Chamber of Commerce last month, Ms. Notley told the energy industry that it must “clean up its environmental act.” One executive and investor, who did not want to be named while the province is reviewing his industry, said growing sentiment that the industry does not pay Alberta enough in royalties and lags on environmental protections will kill new investments, even if prices start to rise.
  • Déjà Vu Again: Hot September Drives 2015 To Hottest Year On Record:
  • Bringing Republicans to the Climate Change Table: N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University, George W. Bush’s former top economic adviser, argues that putting a price on carbon emissions — the preferred prescription of economists across the political spectrum— could fit well within the Republican canon. “People are afraid this is an excuse to raise taxes and expand government generally,” Professor Mankiw said. “We need to convince them this not a tax increase but a tax shift,” using revenue from a carbon tax to reduce, say, the Social Security payroll tax, while keeping the overall tax burden roughly the same.


  • Exxon: The Road Not Taken: Exxon's Business Ambition Collided with Climate Change Under a Distant Sea: Throughout the 1980s, the company struggled to solve the carbon problem of one of the biggest gas fields in the world out of concern for climate impacts.
  • Exxon: The Road Not Taken: Highlighting the Allure of Synfuels, Exxon Played Down the Climate Risks: In the 1980s, Exxon lobbied to replace scarce oil with synthetic fossil fuels, but it glossed over the high carbon footprint associated with synfuels.
    • One important remnant that survived was the industry's foray into tar sands oil, especially in Canada, where Exxon would become a major player – and where the carbon dioxide problem still plagues the industry after more than three decades. Recent research finds that substantial growth in tar sands production is incompatible with keeping CO2 emissions below the internationally accepted target of 2 degrees C.
    • Company documents discovered during an eight-month investigation by InsideClimate News show that Exxon Research & Engineering estimated that producing and burning oil shales would release 1.4 to 3 times more carbon dioxide than conventional oil, and would accelerate the doubling of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by about five years. The company knew that a doubling would risk about 3 degrees Celsius of warming, or 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • As early as November, 1979, Shaw had told Harold Weinberg in a memo on atmospheric research that environmental groups "have already attempted to curb the budding synfuels industry because it could accelerate the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere."
  • For the first time, a top coal industry executive faces criminal charges: The autocratic, micro-managing, bludgeoning style that won throwback Appalachian coal baron Don Blankenship the ire of environmentalists, the fear of underlings, and the title “Dark Lord of Coal Country” from Rolling Stone may finally have caught up with him.
    • Other lawsuits claimed Massey had injected heavy metal-laden coal slurry into abandoned mines, poisoning nearby rivers and groundwater used by local residents. Blankenship lived in the neighborhood, but he wasn’t affected because Massey had paid for a private water line to his house from the nearby town of Matewan.
  • Scientists say a dramatic worldwide coral bleaching event is now underway: For just the third time on record, scientists say they are now watching the unfolding of a massive worldwide coral bleaching event, spanning the globe from Hawaii to the Indian Ocean. And they fear that thanks to warm sea temperatures, the ultimate result could be the loss of more than 12,000 square kilometers, or over 4,500 square miles, of coral this year — with particularly strong impacts in Hawaii and other U.S. tropical regions, and potentially continuing into 2016.
    • Unfortunately, as the planet’s oceans continue to absorb the bulk of the extra heat that is being contributed by global warming, the outlook for corals isn’t good. Already half of the world’s reefs have already been lost due to causes ranging from bleaching to pollution in the last 50 years, according to Eakin.
  • D.C. Water begins harnessing electricity from every flush: D.C. Water, which also treats sewage from much of the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs, recently became the first utility in North America to use a Norwegian thermal hydrolysis system to convert the sludge left over from treated sewage into electricity.
  • Gov. Brown signs climate change bill to spur renewable energy, efficiency standards: Under the legislation, which builds upon standards already on the books, California will need to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind by 2030. At the same time, the state will need to double energy efficiency in homes, offices and factories.


  • Biodegradation and Mineralization of Polystyrene by Plastic-Eating Mealworms: Part 1. Chemical and Physical Characterization and Isotopic Tests:
    Yu Yang, Jun Yang, Wei-Min Wu, Jiao Zhao, Yiling Song, Longcheng Gao, Ruifu Yang, and Lei Jiang Environmental Science & Technology Article ASAP; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.5b02661
  • Global Companies Joining Climate Change Efforts:
    • Nine major companies are expected on Wednesday to join a global coalition of firms intent on converting to renewable energy. The new members include Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walmart and Goldman Sachs. A handful of the companies have already reached the 100 percent target; others do not expect to do so for several decades, but they are typically setting aggressive interim targets. For example, Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer-products company, said it would convert to 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, up from 7 percent today. The new target, a culmination of years of environmental efforts by the company, means that Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet tissue, Tide detergent and many other goods commonly found in American pantries will increasingly be made with green energy. “We’ve been very clear that we think climate change is something that’s real and needs to be addressed,” Len Sauers, P.&G.’s vice president for global sustainability, said in an interview. “People that use our products expect a company like P.&G. to be responsible.”
    • However, Mr. Hurowitz and several other environmental advocates strongly criticized another company, Cargill, of Minnetonka, Minn. That giant commodity processor had signed a declaration in New York a year ago that committed many commodity firms to help end deforestation globally by 2020, yet a recent policy from Cargill does not commit to ending it entirely before 2030. “Cargill is being left in the dust by its competitors in the race to provide environmentally responsible products to customers who demand them,” Mr. Hurowitz said.
  • Severe Droughts Leave Africans Hungry and Desperate: Food crisis spreads across continent, exacerbated by diminishing foreign aid, rising prices; ‘There is nothing to harvest’


  • Retired miners screwed over in coal bankruptcy plan: There was plenty in the complex deal to benefit bankers, lawyers, executives, and hedge fund managers. Patriot Coal Corporation was bankrupt, but its mines would be auctioned to pay off mounting debts while financial engineering would generate enough cash to cover the cost of the proceedings. When the plan was filed in the U.S. bankruptcy court in Richmond last week, however, one group didn’t come out so well: 208 retired miners, wives, and widows in southern Indiana who have no direct connection to Patriot Coal. Millions of dollars earmarked for their healthcare as they age would effectively be diverted instead to legal fees and other bills from the bankruptcy.
  • The Republican Party stands alone in climate denial: Amid internal calls for climate action, a study finds that Republicans are the only climate-denying conservative party in the world
    • With the entire rest of the world in agreement about the need to tackle the threats posed by human-caused climate change, and with a rift forming in the Republican Party over the extreme stance of its leaders on this and other issues, it’s only a matter of time before we see an inevitable shift back towards moderation, realism, and real conservatism in the Republican Party position on climate change. [ael: really?]
  • Citigroup, Citing Climate Change, Will Reduce Coal Financing: Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest U.S. bank, said it will cut back on financing for coal mining projects, in the latest blow to the industry that’s viewed as a key contributor to global warming. Citigroup said its credit exposure to coal mining had “declined materially" since 2011 and that the trend would continue into the future. The policy applies to companies that use mountaintop removal methods as well as coal-focused subsidiaries of diversified mining companies, according to the New York-based company’s Environmental & Social Policy Framework guidelines posted online Monday.
  • ANZ 'will not finance' dirty coal plants and pledges $10bn for clean energy: Bank rules out funding ‘conventional coal-fired power plants’ that do not use proven technologies to significantly reduce emissions
    • ANZ bank has pledged not to finance traditional coalmining projects and to provide at least $10bn in funding for renewable energy, reforestation and energy efficiency. In the most significant steps yet by one of Australia’s big four banks on climate change, ANZ said its new policies would help a “gradual and orderly transition” from fossil fuels to clean energy such as solar and wind. The bank has ruled out funding “conventional coal-fired power plants” that do not use commercially proven technologies that significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions below 800 kilograms per megawatt hour.
  • 60 mn people in sub-Saharan Africa risk famine: Red Cross
  • A story of hope: the Guardian launches phase II of its climate change campaign: With crucial climate talks on the horizon, Keep it in the ground turns its focus to hope for the future – the power to change and the solar revolution.
  • Climate change: It’s getting hotter At climate talks in Paris later this year, negotiators should ponder the damage already done
  • McKibben to Obama: We can’t negotiate over the physics of climate change
  • We’re making massive waste islands in the sea
  • Plastic-eating worms may offer solution to mounting waste, Stanford researchers discover



  • Bank of England's Carney warns of climate change risk:
    • He said the challenges currently posed by climate change "pale in significance compared with what might come". He said this generation had little incentive to avert future problems.
    • Mr Carney said the after-effects of such disasters were likely to grow worse: "The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come. "The far-sighted amongst you are anticipating broader global impacts on property, migration and political stability, as well as food and water security." But he said because the cost would fall on future generations there was little impetus on the current one to fix it: "In other words, once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late."
  • Many Conservative Republicans Believe Climate Change Is a Real Threat: A majority of Republicans — including 54 percent of self-described conservative Republicans — believe the world’s climate is changing and that mankind plays some role in the change, according to a new survey conducted by three prominent Republican pollsters.
    • In an interview on CNN last week, Donald J. Trump said, “I don’t believe in climate change.” In an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle this month, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who, along with Mr. Trump, is at the top of many recent polls said, “There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused.”
  • Smoky coal to be banned nationwide (in Ireland — and only the smoky stuff!
  • No long-term future in tar sands, says Alberta's premier: Rachel Notley supports a switch to clean energy to help Canada’s biggest oil-producing province move beyond fossil fuels within a century
    • The province sits atop the world’s third-biggest known carbon reserves in the tar sands, and has rapidly ramped up production to some 2 m barrels of crude a day. By 2020, the province will account for more than a third of Canada’s total carbon pollution, according to government figures.

What went on: September, 2015

What went on: August, 2015

What went on: May, 2015

What went on: April, 2015

What went on: March, 2015

What went on: February, 2015

What went on: January, 2015

What went on: 2014

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License