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Climate Activists Respond to OPEC Official Calling Them ‘Greatest Threat’ to Big Oil

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Climate Activists Respond to OPEC Official Calling Them ‘Greatest Threat’ to Big Oil
Hundreds of climate activists attended a Fridays for Future demonstration in Barcelona, Spain on May 24. Paco Freire / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Climate campaigners were undaunted when the secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) called their movement "perhaps the greatest threat" to the oil industry.

"Thank you!" 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted in response Thursday. "Our biggest compliment yet!"


Thunberg has been credited with launching the "Fridays for Future" youth movement when her one-person school strikes outside Swedish parliament inspired children and teens around the world to skip classes to call for action on the climate crisis. Thunberg and the movement won Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award this June.

In remarks made in Vienna earlier this month, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo seemed to single out the youth-led climate strikes when he said that the children of some of his OPEC-headquarter colleagues "are asking us about their future because ... they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry," AFP reported.

Barkindo said that "unscientific" attacks on the oil industry by climate activists were "perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward."

"Civil society is being misled to believe oil is the cause of climate change," he said.

However, at least 97 percent of scientists agree that global warming is occurring, and is caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities like the burning of fossil fuels, including oil. A 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said those emissions needed to fall by nearly half in 11 years in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Thunberg wasn't the only climate activist to welcome Barkindo's comments as a sign their efforts were paying off.

"Brilliant! Proof that we are having an impact and be sure that we will not stop," UK climate strike leader Holly Gillibrand tweeted, as The Guardian reported.

And it wasn't just the youth who expressed excitement. 350.org founder Bill McKibben, who has been campaigning on climate issues for more than 30 years according to CNBC, also took to Twitter to celebrate.

"Thanks everyone for your good work!" he wrote.

In remarks reported by The Guardian, McKibben reflected further on the impact of the climate movement on the oil industry.

"By this point, most people realize that the oil companies lied for decades about global warming — they are this generation's version of the tobacco companies," he said. "And it's clearly affecting their ability to raise capital, to recruit employees and so on. People set out to cost them their social license, and it's working. Whether it's working fast enough — that's another question."

In one example of how big oil is losing its "social license," the London Stock Exchange recently reclassified oil and gas companies under a non-renewable energy category to distinguish them from renewable energy companies, The Guardian reported July 3.

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One of the challenges of renewable power is how to store clean energy from the sun, wind and geothermal sources. Now, a new study and advances in nanotechnology have found a method that may relieve the burden on supercapacitor storage. This method turns bricks into batteries, meaning that buildings themselves may one day be used to store and generate power, Science Times reported.

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The scientists behind the study figured out a way to modify bricks in order to use their iconic red hue, which comes from hematite, an iron oxide, to store enough electricity to power devices, Gizmodo reported. To do that, the researchers filled bricks' pores with a nanofiber made from a conducting plastic that can store an electrical charge.

The first bricks they modified stored enough of a charge to power a small light. They can be charged in just 13 minutes and hold 10,000 charges, but the challenge is getting them to hold a much larger charge, making the technology a distant proposition.

If the capacity can be increased, researchers believe bricks can be used as a cheap alternative to lithium ion batteries — the same batteries used in laptops, phones and tablets.

The first power bricks are only one percent of a lithium-ion battery, but storage capacity can be increased tenfold by adding materials like metal oxides, Julio D'Arcy, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who contributed to the paper and was part of the research team, told The Guardian. But only when the storage capacity is scaled up would bricks become commercially viable.

"A solar cell on the roof of your house has to store electricity somewhere and typically we use batteries," D'Arcy told The Guardian. "What we have done is provide a new 'food-for-thought' option, but we're not there yet.

"If [that can happen], this technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries," D'Arcy added. "It would be a different world and you would not hear the words 'lithium ion battery' again."

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