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'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups Move to Preempt Big Oil Giveaway Amid Pandemic

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'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups Move to Preempt Big Oil Giveaway Amid Pandemic
President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting with energy sector CEOs in the Cabinet Room of the White House April 3 in Washington, DC. Doug Mills-Pool / Getty Images

By Andrea Germanos

A coalition of climate organizations strongly criticized President Donald Trump's in-person Friday meeting with the chief executives of some of the biggest fossil fuel companies in the world, saying the industry that fueled climate disaster must not be allowed to profiteer from government giveaways by getting bailout funds or preferred treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.


The CEOs attending the White House meeting, scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, have been dubbed "the seven oily henchman of the climate apocalypse" and reportedly include ExxonMobil's Darren Woods, Chevron's Michael Wirth, and Energy Transfer's Kelcy Warren, as well as billionaire and fracking pioneer Harold Hamm, who recently stepped down as CEO of Continental Resources CEO.

The summit comes on the heels of a month in which more than 10 million Americans lost their jobs, and millions of Americans may be stuck waiting weeks to receive their one-time stimulus check while big businesses stand ready to reap benefits of their share of $500 billion in corporate bailout funds that were part of the coronavirus relief package passed last week.

"If corporations are people, they shouldn't be getting more financial assistance than the American people," said Mary Gutierrez, executive director of Earth Ethics. "This isn't the time for bailouts, it's the time for transitioning. We need to be transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources."

Earth Ethics is part of the Stop the Money Pipeline coalition, which advocates for financial institutions to stop funding and investing in projects the group says amount to "climate destruction."

The big oil summit, the coalition warned, must not lead to a bailout for the industry, especially at a time working Americans' needs must be centered and as the climate crisis necessitates huge investments away from dirty energy towards renewables.

The meeting's agenda "is reportedly expected to include discussions about federal storage of oil, tariffs on foreign oil, and drilling on public land," CNBC reported Thursday. CNN added, "The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's biggest lobby, has said oil companies aren't seeking a bailout from Trump."

But the climate coalition isn't convinced of that API claim.

"Let's not be fooled by these CEOs' claims that they don't want bailout money: if they're going to the White House, it's either to ask for yet another spigot of federal government money for corporations or for yet another relaxation of environmental protection rules," said Moira Birss, Amazon Watch's climate and finance director.

"It's unacceptable that Trump is more focused on serving corporate interests that are destroying our climate than responding to the urgent needs of workers, the unemployed, and the sick. We need a people's bailout, not a polluters' bailout!" she added.

New polling also indicates the American public has little appetite for bailing out the fossil fuel industry.

According to a Morning Consult poll released Thursday, just 38% of voters support a bailout for the oil and gas industry, while 54 percent back a renewables industry bailout.

Jamie Henn of the Stop the Money Pipeline Coalition said the fossil fuel sector has been up to "terrible things" amid the pandemic. As one example, he pointed to the industry getting "the Environmental Protection Agency to stop enforcing environmental and public health protections indefinitely."

The industry has friends in Congress helping it get its wishes. Twelve Senate Republicans urged Interior Secretary David Bernhardt this week to give the industry help during the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis by suspending federal royalty payments for fossil fuels.

"Oh, so we have to pay our rent, but now Big Oil doesn't have to pay anything for destroying our public lands? Cool, cool," said Henn.

Janet MacGillivay, executive director of the Indigenous women-led group Seeding Sovereignty, said it's clear who needs to get help right now.

"Sending a financial liferaft to failing fossil fuel corporations while so many are losing jobs and hope for recovery is a slap in the face to hardworking American families," said MacGillivay.

"While many are struggling to breathe, oil fat cats are looking for yet another handout for their businesses that pump pollution into our finally clearing air and lungs. With EPA pollution enforcement sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump administration's rollback of health-based fuel efficiency standards during a climate crisis, now is the time to put the brake — not the gas — on oil company handouts. Let's invest in renewable, safe energy jobs," she added.

There may be an even bigger prize than a bailout on the table.

"The biggest win the fossil fuel industry could receive during the coronavirus crisis," according to Emily Atkin, who writes the Heated newsletter, is "the ability to silence their most effective political opponents — climate activists — by threatening them with hefty financial penalties, felonies, and prison time for protesting their operations."

That's because other states could follow in the footsteps of three states that have passed so-called "critical infrastructure bills" since the coronavirus outbreak that bar climate activists from engaging in civil disobedience.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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Warming temperatures on land and in the water are already forcing many species to seek out more hospitable environments. Atlantic mackerel are swimming farther north; mountain-dwelling pikas are moving upslope; some migratory birds are altering the timing of their flights.

Numerous studies have tracked these shifting ranges, looked at the importance of wildlife corridors to protect these migrations, and identified climate refugia where some species may find a safer climatic haven.

"There's a huge amount of scientific literature about where species will have to move as the climate warms," says U.C. Berkeley biogeographer Matthew Kling. "But there hasn't been much work in terms of actually thinking about how they're going to get there — at least not when it comes to wind-dispersed plants."

Kling and David Ackerly, professor and dean of the College of Natural Resources at U.C. Berkeley, have taken a stab at filling this knowledge gap. Their recent study, published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the vulnerability of wind-dispersed species to climate change.

It's an important field of research, because while a fish can more easily swim toward colder waters, a tree may find its wind-blown seeds landing in places and conditions where they're not adapted to grow.

Kling is careful to point out that the researchers weren't asking how climate change was going to change wind; other research suggests there likely won't be big shifts in global wind patterns.

Instead the study involved exploring those wind patterns — including direction, speed and variability — across the globe. The wind data was then integrated with data on climate variation to build models trying to predict vulnerability patterns showing where wind may either help or hinder biodiversity from responding to climate change.

One of the study's findings was that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics and on the windward sides of mountain ranges are more likely to be vulnerable, since the wind isn't likely to move those dispersers in the right direction for a climate-friendly environment.

The researchers also looked specifically at lodgepole pines, a species that's both wind-dispersed and wind-pollinated.

They found that populations of lodgepole pines that already grow along the warmer and drier edges of the species' current range could very well be under threat due to rising temperatures and related climate alterations.

"As temperature increases, we need to think about how the genes that are evolved to tolerate drought and heat are going to get to the portions of the species' range that are going to be getting drier and hotter," says Kling. "So that's what we were able to take a stab at predicting and estimating with these wind models — which populations are mostly likely to receive those beneficial genes in the future."

That's important, he says, because wind-dispersed species like pines, willows and poplars are often keystone species whole ecosystems depend upon — especially in temperate and boreal forests.

And there are even more plants that rely on pollen dispersal by wind.

"That's going to be important for moving genes from the warmer parts of a species' range to the cooler parts of the species' range," he says. "This is not just about species' ranges shifting, but also genetic changes within species."

Kling says this line of research is just beginning, and much more needs to be done to test these models in the field. But there could be important conservation-related benefits to that work.

"All these species and genes need to migrate long distances and we can be thinking more about habitat connectivity and the vulnerability of these systems," he says.

The more we learn, the more we may be able to do to help species adapt.

"The idea is that there will be some landscapes where the wind is likely to help these systems naturally adapt to climate change without much intervention, and other places where land managers might really need to intervene," he says. "That could involve using assisted migration or assisted gene flow to actually get in there, moving seeds or planting trees to help them keep up with rapid climate change."


Tara Lohan is deputy editor of The Revelator and has worked for more than a decade as a digital editor and environmental journalist focused on the intersections of energy, water and climate. Her work has been published by The Nation, American Prospect, High Country News, Grist, Pacific Standard and others. She is the editor of two books on the global water crisis. http://twitter.com/TaraLohan

Reposted with permission from The Revelator.

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The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

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For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

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