By Ajit Niranjan
When private equity giant Blackstone invested in alternative milk maker Oatly this summer, furious customers pledged to boycott the dairy-free drink.
"Blackstone investments have been linked with deforestation activities in Brazil," wrote British local produce shop Buth Bharraigh in a tweet announcing they would stop selling Oatly products.
"I don't want my money going to the destruction of the planet ... just so that I can have a creamy coffee in the morning!" wrote sustainability influencer Laura Young in Instagram and Twitter posts that were shared thousands of times.
They criticized Oatly for enabling Blackstone — an investment firm managing $564 billion (€478 billion) in assets — to greenwash climate-damaging investments. "Learn how we're backing sustainable, plant-based alternatives to dairy with our investment in @oatly," Blackstone wrote on its Instagram page.
The social media spat between a corporate giant, a "woke" food brand and disenchanted customers is part of a wider debate about the role of capital in fighting climate change. It has grown more significant in the food sector as investors start to divest from the highly polluting meat and dairy industries, and consumers look for sustainable alternatives.
Divesting From Deforestation
Meat production is the biggest driver of tropical deforestation. Driven by demand for foods like burgers and milk, rainforests are burned to create land for cattle ranches, and to grow soy that is then mostly fed to livestock.
Blackstone, which has invested billions of dollars in the fossil fuel sector, partly owns Hidrovias do Brasil, a Brazilian logistics company that was linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by U.S. news organization The Intercept last year. A spokesperson for Blackstone told DW the deforestation claims were "completely false and wholly fabricated."
Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman is a major donor to U.S. President Donald Trump, a climate-science denier who has rolled back environmental regulations and brought the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
Pressured by customers, campaigners and policymakers, some food companies are starting to assess their own ecological footprints.
In 2018, McDonald's pledged to clean its supply chains and cut its emissions. In July, Brazilian food processing giant Marfrig said it would remove deforestation from its production chain by the end of the decade.
Then, in September, JBS, the world's biggest meat-processing company, said it would monitor its entire supply chain to cut out deforestation by 2025. Its announcement came two months after investor Nordea Asset Management said it would divest holdings of about €40 million in the company because of a lack of engagement on environmental issues.
Last year, after fires devastated the Amazon rainforest, a group of 251 investors called for a reduction in deforestation, identifying its environmental impacts as "systemic risks" to their portfolios.
Biodiversity and climate change matter to agricultural markets at risk of extreme weather and environmentally conscious consumers, said Matt McLuckie, research director at Planet Tracker, a UK-based nonprofit that aims to redirect capital toward sustainable development. "The trends are not looking positive for these agricultural producers, particularly in the beef sector."
Alternative Sources of Protein
The IPCC, the gold-standard on climate science, has said climate change could in part be slowed by switching to plant-based diets, particularly in richer countries. This is where oat milk comes in.
Oatly, the biggest player in the alternative milk industry, is valued at $2 billion, and is considering an initial public offering that could push that up to $5 billion, Bloomberg News reported in September. For a business whose core product is made by mixing two cheap and readily available ingredients — oats and water — the Swedish food company founded in the 1990s has seen incredible growth since entering the U.S. market four years ago.
While campaigners have spent years pressuring the financial world to take their money out of dirty investments like fossil fuel companies, little attention has been paid to finance in the agriculture sector, which is responsible for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
Shareholders are also typically the ones pressuring companies they own to improve their environmental record, and not the other way around.
The backlash against Oatly's partnership with Blackstone is fascinating because it's "looking through the other end of the telescope," said Daniel Firger, managing director at climate finance consultancy Great Circle Capital Advisors. "The target of so many people's anger here is Blackstone, a private equity group. And private equity, as compared to other parts of the financial markets, has not really had as much scrutiny."
Diverting Capital to Climate Change
By accepting a $200 million investment from a group led by Blackstone and including U.S. talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, musician Jay-Z and actor Natalie Portman, Oatly said it was diverting capital to sustainable causes. The returns Blackstone makes from the investment could inspire other private equity firms to green their portfolios, it said in a statement justifying its decision.
"We have to have a fundamental shift in basically everything we do: the way we eat, the way we move, the way we live," Ashley Allen, chief sustainability officer at Oatly, told DW. "The only way to do that, in my mind, is to incentivize finance toward those solutions and disincentivize finance toward high-carbon, high-risk, high-polluting entities."
Asked whether Oatly would set red lines on who could invest in it — for instance, fossil fuel companies — Allen said she wasn't sure. "I haven't been part of any discussions on that."
Oatly is not the first ethical food brand to anger customers by accepting money from an investor with a poor environmental record. U.S. ice cream producer Ben and Jerry's — which champions its commitment to social justice — was bought out in 2000 by Unilever, a global conglomerate that has come under fire from campaigners for deforestation and plastic pollution.
In recent years Unilever has begun to engage more with critics on environmental issues, threatening to sell off brands that do not contribute positively to society. But is still a major contributor to plastic pollution, for instance, responsible for more than 70,000 tons of plastic pollution a year, according to a report published in March by NGO Tearfund.
While it's important for activists to draw attention to inconsistencies in investments, said Firger, the scale of the climate emergency means hundreds more companies like Oatly need to grow as fast as they possibly can. "I'm not one for purity tests. I feel like we don't have time to waste."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Julia Mahncke
U.S. President Donald Trump has undone many major pieces of climate policy during his term, walking out on the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming and eliminating numerous Obama-era environmental regulations.
Trump's Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, has promised as part of his presidential campaign to invest $1.7 trillion in a "clean energy revolution and environmental justice" over the next decade. It falls some $14 trillion short of what the progressive U.S. senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, pledged on climate action during the Democratic primaries.
However, climate change doesn't even make the top 10 concerns among registered voters, even as the U.S. faces extreme weather from wildfires to storms, which scientists say are becoming more prevalent thanks to global warming. The issue ranks 11th behind the economy, health care, Supreme Court appointments and the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center published in August.
While climate change doesn't top the voters' agenda, it's still one of the most divisive issues among Trump and Biden supporters. Some 68% of Democratic voters see climate change as high priority compared to 11% of Republicans, found the Pew survey.
But what are the Biden and Trump campaigns promising to do on climate change and the environment — and how does it tally with what voters want?
Biden a Climate Disappointment?
Biden, Barack Obama's former vice president, plans to recommit to the Paris Accord and ensure that the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions by 2050. Biden has also promised a halt to fossil fuel subsidies, going further than the Democratic National Committee, the governing body of the Democrats, which dropped that demand from its platform earlier this month.
Prior to Kamala Harris' announcement as Biden's running mate, the California senator had been vocal in her support for bold climate action. Harris co-sponsored the New Green Deal, calling on Congress to implement a 10-year government-driven mobilization to decarbonize the economy, while also backing job retraining and social and environmental justice.
But some Democratic voters are disappointed with the Biden/Harris ticket, believing Sanders, who dropped out of the Democratic race for president in April, would have been the better candidate.
"I have two kids, so I have to be mindful and hopeful, but I lost a lot of hope since Bernie Sanders didn't get the bid," said Karen Antunes, as she wrapped up a picnic with her kids and little dog in Peninsula Park in Portland Oregon.
That won't stop her voting Democrat though.
"We have to. The Trump thing has got to end," added Antunes. "But I'm not excited."
Most progressive voters like Antunes might prefer to unite behind Biden against Trump's reelection even if they don't feel his commitment to climate change action goes far enough.
"I don't think the differences between Biden and Sanders on the environment — or any other issues — will matter much to Democratic voters compared to the difference between Biden and Trump," said Stephen Ansolabehere, director of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University.
Republicans: Economy Trumps Climate Change
Over the last few years, Trump has dismissed climate change as a "hoax," not human-caused, and called environmental activists "perennial prophets of doom."
The U.S. president's 63 bullet-point election agenda, which is divided into categories like "Jobs," "Eradicate COVID-19" and "End our reliance on China," makes no direct mention of climate change or the environment.
Instead, tucked away under the heading "Innovate for the future" toward the bottom of the list, there are two promises: "Continue to Lead the World in Access to the Cleanest Drinking Water and Cleanest Air" and "Partner with Other Nations to Clean Up our Planet's Oceans."
The plan outlines no path to clean water or air.
The lack of climate change mentions in Trump's agenda might please many Republican voters since they are "obviously less supportive of regulations," said Daron Shaw, a professor specializing in voting behavior at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the Fox News Poll.
"Democrats are much more willing to take stronger measures," said Shaw, adding that few Republicans support policies such as a significant carbon or fossil fuel tax. "But if you ask Republicans about recycling, if you ask about fuel efficiency standards, they're very supportive of those sorts of smallish behaviors."
Growing Impatience Among Young Republicans
Some younger Republicans are starting to become critical of their party's inattention to climate change. During the recent Republican National Convention, a small group turned to Twitter during the online event, to ask "#WhatAboutClimate"?
Another Pew study from June 2020 found that millennial and Gen Z Republicans, currently aged 18 to 39, are more likely than older GOP voters to think humans have a significant impact on the climate and that the federal government is doing too little to tackle the problem.
That doesn't mean they're ready to switch allegiance to the Democrats, though.
"Being a Republican is very much rooted in my upbringing," said Kiera O'Brien, who founded the group Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends (YCCD). "Conservatism at home in Ketchikan, Alaska, has a focus on community and nature."
O'Brien dislikes the Democrat's "regulatory approach to climate" and is instead lobbying for free market solutions to climate change through YCCD.
Reframing Climate Action
Environmental policies can be a complicated issue when it comes to federal elections and hard to address for presidential candidates. Many regions in the U.S. have unique challenges: from wildfires in California and storms wiping out harvests in Iowa to water pollution in Flint, Michigan.
Harvard's Ansolabehere also pointed out that opposition to climate policies in the past were typically connected to the fear of losing jobs and that prohibiting coal or retooling the auto industry will "adversely affect employment" in places like Kentucky and Michigan.
Daron Shaw added that Republicans typically "try to frame environmental issues as a matter of high taxation and job killing proposals with the hope that they can peel off Democrats."
Biden might be trying to assuage fears that tackling climate change means job losses by framing his plan as an opportunity for employment in new industries and a reinvigorated green manufacturing sector.
But when it comes to the swing states of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, Trump's climate record and support for jobs in the fossil fuel sector might give him the upper hand. His backing for ethane cracker plants, which take natural gas and converts it into the basis for making plastics, has received a lot of support, said Ansolabehere, especially from local unions.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- The Next Election Is About the Next 10,000 Years - EcoWatch ›
- How the Global Climate Fight Could Be Lost If Trump Is Re-Elected ›
- Climate Activists Prepare for November Election - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Denies Climate Science in California, Biden Labels Him a 'Climate Arsonist' - EcoWatch ›
CBD, or cannabidiol, now comes in a variety of different forms, including CBD oils, CBD gummies, CBD capsules, and even water soluble CBD powders. You can also use CBD vape oil like you would any other vape juice. Our guide to the best CBD vape oils will help you identify the top brands to consider and will provide important information about CBD, vaping, and wellness.
What is CBD Vape Oil?
CBD can be vaporized and inhaled. To that end, many companies offer CBD vaping products, sometimes referred to as CBD vape juice, CBD vape pens, or CBD vape cartridges. These products normally come as disposable or refillable cartridges for vape pens . The vape pen vaporizes the specially made CBD contained in the cartridge, which is then inhaled. It is the same principle behind e-cigarettes and THC vape products.
Vaporization is normally considered a potent way to ingest CBD and so it is not for everyone. Because the vapor is inhaled, the molecule enters the bloodstream much quicker, so vaping produces a fast and relatively intense feeling.
While CBD vape oil may be used as an aid to help you quit smoking, we do not recommend smoking or vaping CBD as your primary method of ingesting CBD because of the health concerns associated with smoking. For alternative methods of taking CBD, check out our oil tincture and CBD gummy reviews.
Note that new federal laws went into in effect starting April 2021 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, that place new regulations and restrictions around the online sale and delivery of all vaping products. In order to purchase any vape product online, you will need to verify your age and use a shipping service that requires an adult signature upon delivery. As a result, several brands have discontinued their CBD vape pens or no longer sell them online.
Top CBD Vape Oil Products for 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How We Chose the Best CBD Vape Oils
Here is a list of factors we consider when choosing and ranking our brand selection.
Hemp source - Hemp source is one of the most important parts of the CBD manufacturing process. We make sure to only pick companies that grow hemp according to the most up-to-date botanical and cultivation methods. We also make sure to choose companies that use organically grown, locally-sourced hemp.
Extraction process - There are three primary types of extraction for CBD products. The first involves crushing the leaves and stems and removing the residual mixture. Solvent extraction involves running the hemp plant through a solvent mixture (most of the time ethanol) then boiling away the solvent to leave the oil residue. The last common method is called supercritical CO2 extraction. Supercritical CO2 extraction is considered the gold standard when it comes to CBD production. As such, we try to find companies that use supercritical methods for their products.
Manufacturing standards - There are several third-party organizations that vet companies based on manufacturing standards and the quality/accuracy of their products. These agencies test company products to make sure that they are made properly and actually contain what they are advertised to contain. As such, we only choose products and companies that have readily accessible third-party lab reports ascertaining the quality of ingredients and production. Any company that does not provide this information for consumers is automatically excluded from consideration.
Extra ingredients - CBD products rarely contain just CBD and nothing else. Many contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids and other molecules such as terpenes. Some may contain delta-8 THC. We make sure that any companies we choose use all-natural ingredients and do not rely on any synthetic or artificial chemicals. We also look at the type and quality of alternative ingredients
Potency - Potency, or concentration, refers to the overall strength of the mixture. Potency is normally measured in milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml). Most of the time a product will list the potency on the label along with the quantity and volume of the product. Potency is very important because it determines the recommended dose that you should take.
Brand transparency - It is important when dealing with CBD companies that the brand is transparent about their products, methods, and supply chains. So, when looking for companies, we make sure only to pick those that have reliable and transparent business practices, product labelings, and company information/policies.
Customer reviews and testimonials - The last major factor we consider is customer reviews and testimonials. Customer reviews encompass more than just the quality of products. They also talk about how it is to interact with the company and the overall company experience. Customer reviews can also give insights in specific matters that general product descriptions cannot give. They also give a good indication of the public reputation of a company.
The Best CBD Vape Oils of 2021
Best Overall: CBDistillery CBD E-Liquid
- CBD - Broad Spectrum
- Strength - 1000 mg CBD per bottle
- Flavor - Mango
Best for Relaxation: Botany Farms CBG Vape Cartridge
- CBD - Full Spectrum (includes Delta-8 THC)
- Strength - 35% CBD, 25% CBG, 9% Delta-8 THC, 7% CBN, 7% CBC per 1 gram
- Flavor - Lemon Diesel
Why buy: This Botany Farms CBG vape cartridge offers a full spectrum blend of CBD and other cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC, for a calming and relaxing experience with a bright, citrusy flavor. Because it does contain full spectrum hemp extract and delta-8, we strongly recommend only using this product to relax in the evenings and that you do not drive after use.
The Research on CBD Vape Oils
CBD has become an interesting object of study by scientists because of its potential therapeutic and medicinal properties. CBD may help support relief from certain health conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain
Out of all these effects, the potential pain reducing and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are the most well-established. CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and has also been shown to be to help with pain management in certain cases.
The exact mechanism of action of CBD is through the body's endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a large network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body's brain and nervous tissue. Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system is involved in mediating several homeostatic processes in the body.
To be clear, CBD is not medicine and is not generally approved by the FDA for medical use. CBD is not intended to serve as a substitute or replacement for any approved medical treatment and CBD is not known to cure any diseases.
In fact, there are only 2 FDA-approved medicines that contain CBD as their active ingredient, both of which are meant to treat certain forms of epilepsy. Since CBD is not approved for medical use, you should always talk to your doctor first before using a CBD product.
How to Choose the Right CBD Vape Oil
With any CBD vape juice or oil, it's important to make sure that you choose a product that is safe and made using quality, natural ingredients. Make sure you consider these factors when shopping.
What to Look For
Here are the key things to look for when comparing CBD vape oil products:
Type of CBD: Always known the type of CBD contained in any CBD vape oil product, whether that's full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate.
Hemp Source: Look for brands that source their hemp from organic farms in the United States.
Lab Testing: The most important factor to consider is independent third-party lab testing. You should never purchase a CBD product that does not offer proof of independent testing.
Instructions: Some CBD vape cartridges will include specific instructions on how to to use them with your existing vape pen or device, as well as if they can be mixed with other e-liquids.
How to Read Labels
Take the time to read the label of any CBD vape juice product before you buy. Always look for the following information.
- Strength - Check to see how much CBD is contained in the product so you know how much will be in each serving.
- Other Ingredients - Make sure you know what other cannabinoids or ingredients are included in the vape, especially if you are concerned about THC.
- Test Results - The best brands include links or QR codes to the certificates of analysis from the lab tests of their CBD. Use these to check the results for yourself.
Safety & Side Effects
CBD can cause a certain number of side effects, though most of them are mild.. The most common reported side effects of CBD are:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
- Upset stomach
The most commonly reported side effect is fatigue and tiredness. CBD can also interact with certain prescription medications, so be sure to consult with your doctor before using CBD if you take any prescription medicines.
It's also important to note that vaping or smoking of any kind carries serious health risks. While vape oils may be used to aid in the cessation of smoking, it is not advised as the primary method of taking CBD.
You should always take the time to research any CBD product that you purchase, but this is especially important when it comes to CBD vape oils and CBD vape pens. You can also explore other CBD options including oil tinctures, gummies, capsules, and water soluble mixes in order to enjoy the potential benefits of CBD.
By Rich Collett-White
Facebook is "fuelling climate misinformation" through its failure to get to grips with misleading content, according to a new report that calls on companies to boycott the platform until significant action is taken.
Campaign group Stop Funding Heat, which produced the report, warns that the problem is likely to escalate in the coming months as the next major UN climate summit, COP26, approaches and wants to see action taken against "repeat offenders."
The social media giant recently announced its operations were now running on 100 percent renewable energy and it had reached "net zero" emissions. But the new report argues this counts for far less than the role Facebook plays in allowing climate misinformation to spread on its platform.
Bringing together existing research on the issue, the report calls on the company to incorporate climate misinformation into its policies governing use of the social media platform, which do not make explicit mention of climate change currently.
Lead Researcher Sean Buchan told DeSmog: "This year sees the most important UN climate summit since the Paris Agreement in 2015. Important events like this have been derailed by disinformation campaigns before — as seen with "climategate" in 2009 and the recent UN Compact for Migration. Facebook needs to take action before misinformation escalates on its platform at this crucial time."
"People should certainly be free to say and post what they want, but freedom of speech does not equate to freedom of reach. Facebook has control of how much it spreads harmful content and our recommendations all focus on reduction, not censorship. The exception is paid adverts, because we firmly believe that no organization, Facebook included, should directly receive money to spread climate misinformation," he added.
Last year, DeSmog revealed a Facebook page called Eco Central, linked to a number of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs, had been running paid adverts claiming climate change was a "hoax."
Stop Funding Heat, a spin-off from the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which aims to pressure companies into pulling its adverts from papers spreading "hate and division," says there has been a disproportionately small amount of attention paid to misleading climate-related content on the platform, compared with other forms of "false news" — Facebook's term for misinformation.
A petition has been launched based on the report calling on the platform to ban climate denialist pages from running paid adverts, close "fact-checking loopholes" whereby politicians are exempt from climate-related fact-checks, and open up its internal research on climate misinformation to researchers and journalists.
The report also argues that efforts to tackle the problem so far by Facebook, the world's largest social media company, are "insufficient". It argues that despite the use of third-party fact-checkers to add labels to misleading content and the launch of a "Climate Science Information Centre," people exposed to climate misinformation are not always guided to a relevant fact-check.
When the center was launched last year, Facebook's Vice President of Global Affairs and former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the company only removed content when there was an "obvious link to immediate and impending real world harm," which did not apply to climate change.
Facebook has hit back at the criticism, however, pointing to the work it has already done to tackle the problem.
Speaking to DeSmog, a company spokesperson said:
"We combat climate change misinformation by connecting more than 100,000 people every day to reliable information from leading organizations through our Climate Science Information Center and working with a global network of independent fact-checking partners to review and rate content."
"When they rate this content as false, we add a warning label and reduce its distribution so fewer people see it. We also take action against Pages, Groups, and accounts that continue to share false claims about climate science."
Facebook also said its own analysis had found that misinformation makes up a small proportion of the overall content about climate change on its platforms and that it did not allow adverts rated false by its fact-checkers.
It rejected a claim in the report that its "machine-learning" models do not help identify new forms of climate misinformation for its fact-checking partners to review.
Rich Collett-White is Deputy Editor of DeSmog. He joined the organisation in December 2018 as a UK researcher and reporter, having previously worked in communications for the climate charity Operation Noah.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
By Kenny Stancil
In a historic rebuke of fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil, shareholders on Wednesday voted to elect at least two people to the company's board of directors who were backed by activist investors eager to accelerate the transition to clean energy.
During Exxon's annual shareholder meeting, an activist hedge fund called Engine No. 1 — which "owns only about 0.02%" of the oil company's stock, according to climate reporter Emily Atkin — ran four of its own director candidates in opposition to the fossil fuel corporation's hand-picked board members. At least two of Engine No. 1's candidates won, with the races for additional boardroom seats too close to call as of this writing.
"The outcome is a sign that Exxon's morally inept and fiscally questionable long-term climate strategy is finally catching up with it," wrote Atkin.
Journalist Brian Kahn tweeted: "Hard to overstate how much Big Oil is getting its ass kicked today by courts and shareholders alike," before proceeding to highlight three major victories claimed by climate activists on Wednesday.
In addition to the shareholder revolt at Exxon, 61% Chevron's shareholders voted Wednesday in favor of slashing carbon emissions, and Royal Dutch Shell earlier in the day was ordered by a court in the Netherlands to reduce its carbon emissions 45% by 2030, compared with 2019 levels, as Common Dreams reported.
Hard to overstate how much Big Oil is getting its ass kicked today by courts and shareholders alike. 🔥Shell loses… https://t.co/1K6NY9xB1a— Brian Kahn (@Brian Kahn)1622049489.0
"It's important to understand," explained a news dispatch by The New Republic about Exxon's board election, that Engine No. 1 "is fundamentally a financial company, not some kind of environmental justice collective." The outlet continued:
As such, its criticism of Exxon, outlined in an investor presentation, stems from the fundamental principle that "ExxonMobil has significantly underperformed and has failed to adjust its strategy to enhance long-term value." But the source of this underperformance, the hedge fund claims, is something approaching climate denial: "A refusal to accept that fossil fuel demand may decline in decades to come has led to a failure to take even initial steps towards evolution, and to obfuscating rather than addressing long-term business risk."
Environmentalist Bill McKibben emphasized that the election of Engine No. 1-nominated candidates to Exxon's board happened despite the company's "strenuous objections."
Jess Shankleman of Bloomberg News, meanwhile, described the news this way: "A tiny activist investor has just held a proxy referendum on Exxon's climate plans — and won."
The Guardian reported that the "rival upstart" received a boost when BlackRock — the world's biggest asset manager and the second largest shareholder at Exxon with a 6.7% ownership stake — threw its support behind three of Engine No. 1's four director candidates, all of whom "have a background in fossil fuels but leadership experience in green energy innovation... due to frustration with the company's refusal to take climate concerns seriously."
As Atkin noted:
Exxon's long-term strategy, you may remember, is to significantly ramp up oil production over the next decade, climate crisis be damned. The company released an absolutely laughable "climate plan" a few months ago, which allows the company to increase its carbon emissions in line with that strategy.
The oil giant has also faced heat in recent months for refusing to fully explain to investors how climate change poses a risk to the company; how much and to whom is it giving political contributions; and where its political lobbying efforts are focused.
While BlackRock "has previously pledged to make climate change central to its investments, and has received a good deal of praise for it," Atkin wrote, the financial giant "did not back all of Engine No. 1's candidates... [and] still likely voted to retain Exxon CEO Darren Woods — who has been central to pushing the oil giant's current strategy — as director of the board."
Environmental campaigners echoed Atkin, simultaneously celebrating Wednesday's surprise boardroom victory while calling for more far-reaching changes that are consistent with what scientists and climate justice advocates say is necessary.
"Make no mistake: the shareholder vote to shake-up Exxon's board represents a seismic shift for the company," said Ben Cushing, financial advocacy campaign manager at Sierra Club. "It's a culmination of years of activist energy and a result of massive shareholder frustration with the company's failure to change course on climate."
"However," Cushing added, "change must come from the top as well. And with Darren Woods still in charge of Exxon, we question if the new board members will be able to change course quickly or drastically enough. Exxon needs to stop greenwashing, align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and phase-out oil and gas production, starting now."
Roberta Giordano, finance program campaigner at The Sunrise Project, said that "what Engine No. 1 could accomplish with such a small ownership stake at Exxon is remarkable."
"Imagine what BlackRock, Vanguard, and other major asset managers could do if they really wanted to effect change at the major polluters of the world," Giordano continued.
"New board members are a start," she added, "but Exxon needs new leadership at the very top."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Citigroup and Exxon Make Important Climate Moves - EcoWatch ›
- JPMorgan Chase Demotes Former Exxon CEO - EcoWatch ›
Less than three years after California governor Jerry Brown said the state would launch "our own damn satellite" to track pollution in the face of the Trump administration's climate denial, California, NASA, and a constellation of private companies, nonprofits, and foundations are teaming up to do just that.
Under the umbrella of the newly-formed group Carbon Mapper, two satellites are on track to launch in 2023. The satellites will target, among other pollution, methane emissions from oil and gas and agriculture operations that account for a disproportionate amount of pollution.
Between 2016 and 2018, using airplane-based instruments, scientists found 600 "super-emitters" (accounting for less than 0.5% of California's infrastructure) were to blame for more than one-third of the state's methane pollution. Now, the satellite-based systems will be able to perform similar monitoring, continuously and globally, and be able to attribute pollution to its source with previously impossible precision.
"These sort of methane emissions are kind of like invisible wildfires across the landscape," Carbon Mapper CEO and University of Arizona research scientist Riley Duren said. "No one can see them or smell them, and yet they're incredibly damaging, not just to the local environment, but more importantly, globally."
For a deeper dive:
- Scientists Alarmed at Surging Atmospheric Methane, CO2 - EcoWatch ›
- New 3D Methane Models Help NASA to Track Global Trends ... ›
- New Satellite Data Reveals One of the Largest Methane Leaks in ... ›
- Environmental Defense Fund to Launch a Satellite That Will Monitor ... ›
By Tara Lohan
The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.
After that, unless we make substantial changes to global economies, it will be back to business as usual — and a path that leads directly to runaway climate change. If we want to reverse course, say the world's leading scientists, we have about a decade to right the ship.
That's because we've squandered a lot of time. "The 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s were lost decades for preventing global climate disaster," political scientist Leah Stokes writes in her new book Short Circuiting Policy, which looks at the history of clean energy policy in the U.S.
But we don't all bear equal responsibility for the tragic delay.
"Some actors in society have more power than others to shape how our economy is fueled," writes Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "We are not all equally to blame."
Short Circuiting Policy focuses on the role of one particularly bad actor: electric utilities. Their history of obstructing a clean-energy transition in the U.S. has been largely overlooked, with most of the finger-pointing aimed at fossil fuel companies (and for good reason).
We spoke with Stokes about this history of delay and denial from the utility industry, how to accelerate the speed and scale of clean-energy growth, and whether we can get past the polarizing rhetoric and politics around clean energy.
What lessons can we learn from your research to guide us right now, in what seems like a really critical time in the fight to halt climate change?
What a lot of people don't understand is that to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we actually have to reduce emissions by around 7-8 percent every single year from now until 2030, which is what the emissions drop is likely to be this year because of the COVID-19 crisis.
So think about what it took to reduce emissions by that much and think about how we have to do that every single year.
It doesn't mean that it's going to be some big sacrifice, but it does mean that we need government policy, particularly at the federal level, because state policy can only go so far. We've been living off state policy for more than three decades now and we need our federal government to act.
Where are we now, in terms of our progress on renewable energy and how far we need to go?
A lot of people think renewable energy is growing "so fast" and it's "so amazing." But first of all, during the coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy industry is actually doing very poorly. It's losing a lot of jobs. And secondly, we were not moving fast enough even before the coronavirus crisis, because renewable energy in the best year grew by only 1.3 percent.
Right now we're at around 36-37 percent clean energy. That includes nuclear, hydropower and new renewables like wind, solar and geothermal. But hydropower and nuclear aren't growing. Nuclear supplies about 20 percent of the grid and hydro about 5 percent depending on the year. And then the rest is renewable. So we're at about 10 percent renewables, and in the best year, we're only adding 1 percent to that.
Generally, we need to be moving about eight times faster than we've been moving in our best years. (To visualize this idea, I came up with the narwhal curve.)
How do we overcome these fundamental issues of speed and scale?
We need actual government policy that supports it. We have never had a clean electricity standard or renewable portfolio standard at the federal level. That's the main law that I write all about at the state level. Where those policies are in place, a lot of progress has been made — places like California and even, to a limited extent, Texas.
We need our federal government to be focusing on this crisis. Even the really small, piecemeal clean-energy policies we have at the federal level are going away. In December Congress didn't extend the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, just like they didn't extend or improve the electric vehicle tax credit.
And now during the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of the money going toward the energy sector in the CARES Act is going toward propping up dying fossil fuel companies and not toward supporting the renewable energy industry.
So we are moving in the wrong direction.
Clean energy hasn’t always been such a partisan issue. Why did it become so polarizing?
What I argue in my book, with evidence, is that electric utilities and fossil fuel companies have been intentionally driving polarization. And they've done this in part by running challengers in primary elections against Republicans who don't agree with them.
Basically, fossil fuel companies and electric utilities are telling Republicans that you can't hold office and support climate action. That has really shifted the incentives within the party in a very short time period.
It's not like the Democrats have moved so far left on climate. The Democrats have stayed in pretty much the same place and the Republicans have moved to the right. And I argue that that's because of electric utilities and fossil fuel companies trying to delay action.
And their reason for doing that is simply about their bottom line and keeping their share of the market?
Exactly. You have to remember that delay and denial on climate change is a profitable enterprise for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities. The longer we wait to act on the crisis, the more money they can make because they can extract more fossil fuels from their reserves and they can pay more of their debt at their coal plants and natural gas plants. So delay and denial is a money-making business for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities.
There’s been a lot of research, reporting and even legal action in recent years about the role of fossil fuel companies in discrediting climate science. From reading your book, it seems that electric utilities are just as guilty. Is that right?
Yes, far less attention has been paid to electric utilities, which play a really critical role. They preside over legacy investments into coal and natural gas, and some of them continue to propose building new natural gas.
They were just as involved in promoting climate denial in the 1980s and 90s as fossil fuel companies, as I document in my book. And some of them, like Southern Company, have continued to promote climate denial to basically the present day.
But that's not the only dark part of their history.
Electric utilities promoted energy systems that are pretty wasteful. They built these centralized fossil fuel power plants rather than having co-generation plants that were onsite at industrial locations where manufacturing is happening, and where you need both steam heat — which is a waste product from electricity — and the electricity itself. That actually created a lot of waste in the system and we burned a lot more fossil fuels than if we had a decentralized system.
The other thing they've done in the more modern period is really resisted the energy transition. They've resisted renewable portfolio standards and net metering laws that allow for more clean energy to come onto the grid. They've tried to roll them back. They've been successful in some cases, and they've blocked new laws from passing when targets were met.
You wrote that, “Partisan polarization on climate is not inevitable — support could shift back to the bipartisanship we saw before 2008.” What would it take to actually make that happen?
Well, on the one hand, you need to get the Democratic Party to care more about climate change and to really understand the stakes. And if you want to do that, I think the work of the Justice Democrats is important. They have primary-challenged incumbent Democrats who don't care enough about climate change. That is how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected. She was a primary challenger and she has really championed climate action in the Green New Deal.
The other thing is that the public supports climate action. Democrats do in huge numbers. Independents do. And to some extent Republicans do, particularly young Republicans.
So communicating the extent of public concern on these issues is really important because, as I've shown in other research, politicians don't know how much public concern there is on climate change. They dramatically underestimate support for climate action.
I think the media has a really important role to play because it's very rare that a climate event, like a disaster that is caused by climate change, is actually linked to climate change in media reporting.
But people might live through a wildfire or a hurricane or a heat wave, but nobody's going to tell them through the media that this is climate change. So we really need our reporters to be doing a better job linking people's lived experiences to climate change.
With economic stimulus efforts ramping up because of the COVD-19 pandemic, are we in danger of missing a chance to help boost a clean energy economy?
I think so many people understand that stimulus spending is an opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that creates good-paying jobs in the clean-energy sector that protects Americans' health.
We know that breathing dirty air makes people more likely to die from COVID-19. So this is a big opportunity to create an economy that's more just for all Americans.
But unfortunately, we really are not pivoting toward creating a clean economy, which is what we need to be doing. This is an opportunity to really focus on the climate crisis because we have delayed for more than 30 years. There is not another decade to waste.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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In defiance of a court order, the Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not regulate perchlorate, a toxic chemical used in rocket fuel that contaminates drinking water and harms the development of fetuses and small children.
The move is in keeping with other Trump administration decisions not to impose recommended limits on toxic chemicals, such as its decision not to ban child-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos or known-carcinogen asbestos, The New York Times pointed out.
"This is all of a piece," University of Maryland law professor Rena Steinzor told The New York Times. "You can draw a line between denial of science on climate change, denial of science on coronavirus, and denial of science in the drinking water context. It's all the same issue. They're saying 'We don't care what the research says.'"
High concentrations of perchlorate have been found in at least 26 states, usually near military sites because of its use in rocket fuel. It has been shown to hamper the development of fetuses and young children by blocking the thyroid gland's uptake of iodine and therefore interfering with hormone production. The EPA had been ordered by the courts to finalize regulations on the chemical by the end of June. Instead, administrator Andrew Wheeler will reverse a 2011 EPA finding that the chemical posed a health risk to between five and 16 million Americans and argue that it is "not in the public interest" to regulate it, two staff members familiar with the issue told The New York Times Thursday.
"The agency has determined that perchlorate does not occur with a frequency and at levels of public health concern, and that regulation of perchlorate does not present a meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public water systems," the draft policy reads, staff members told The New York Times.
Environmental and public health advocates condemned the decision.
"EPA's cynical decision to defy a court order and the law, and to ignore the science that, as the American Academy of Pediatrics has said, dictates a strong perchlorate standard to protect vulnerable kids, is a deeply disturbing violation of the agency's mission," Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) senior strategic director for health and food Erik Olson wrote. "It must be reversed."
NRDC was behind the lawsuit that led to the court order the EPA is now violating.
BREAKING: @EPAAWheeler & Trump’s @EPA are choosing NOT to regulate #perchlorate, a dangerous chemical linked to fet… https://t.co/giSKPNIgpJ— NRDC 🌎🏡 (@NRDC 🌎🏡)1589475399.0
In response, EPA spokeswoman Andrea Woods told The New York Times that a final decision had not been made and that the EPA would "shortly" send the final rule to the Office of Management and Budget.
"Any information that is shared or reported now would be premature, inappropriate and would be prejudging the formal rulemaking process," she said.
In a separate statement released after The New York Times story broke, Wheeler said that perchlorate levels had already been successfully reduced because of joint state and EPA efforts.
"Because of steps that EPA, states and public water systems have taken to identify, monitor and mitigate perchlorate, the levels have decreased in drinking water," Wheeler said, as The Hill reported. "This success demonstrates that EPA and states are working together to lead the world in providing safe drinking water to all Americans."
Attempts to regulate perchlorate have been long delayed by opposition from the Department of Defense and the companies that supply it, and the NRDC suit was initially brought against Obama's EPA for dragging its heels on a regulation after determining in 2011 that perchlorate posed a health risk, according to The New York Times.
But the Trump EPA is going even further by reversing that 2011 decision. NRDC's Olson explained how it is justifying the reversal and why it is such a threat to children's health:
To explain why it's revoking its previous finding, EPA now contends its 2008 health advisory for perchlorate in drinking water—set at 15 parts per billion or ppb—is far more protective of health than needed. That 15 ppb health advisory was based on a 2005 National Academy of Sciences study. Instead, Wheeler now finds a level of 56 ppb would be safe, and perhaps even 90 ppb would be fine. EPA admits that a standard of 56 ppb would allow those kids exposed to perchlorate in drinking water at above this level to have an average IQ loss of two points. People at the lower end of the IQ spectrum could lose far more IQ points. In concluding 56 ppb is safe, the agency would allow an unprecedented level of adverse impact on children's brain development.
Other environmental groups have also spoken out against a 56 ppb standard.
"The science on perchlorate is very clear: It harms infants and the developing fetus," Olga Naidenko, senior science adviser for children's environmental health at the Environmental Working Group, said when such a standard was first floated in May of 2019, as The Hill reported. "Perchlorate can cause irreparable damage to both cognitive and physical development. Instead of taking action to lower the levels of this rocket fuel chemical in drinking water, the administration's plan will endanger the health of future generations of kids."
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A record number of Americans are concerned about climate change, a recent study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication found. If you're among them, you may be interested in learning more about the climate crisis and what you can do about it. Luckily, you don't have to comb through scientific papers in order to educate yourself (unless you'd like to): More and more books on climate change and climate action are published every year, ranging from grimly realistic takes on the severity of the crisis to optimistic visions of social and technological solutions. To find out which ones are worth a read, Teen Vogue reached out to 11 climate activists for their recommendations. Here are the books they said were most informative and inspiring.
1. Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History by Ted Steinberg
"Down to Earth is a history of North America from an environmental perspective. It's an easy read, and very interesting. One chapter explains how we used to know where our food came from, but eventually we pushed agriculture out to the sidelines of our cities, causing many other problems. Down to Earth made me realize that this country was founded on exploitation and that everything we do has an impact." —Natalie Blackwelder, commissioner of sustainability, Santa Barbara City College
2. Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken
"Drawdown is a handbook for how to stop and then reverse climate change. It lists dozens of actions to not just avoid putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but to draw carbon dioxide down out of the atmosphere. When you combine 'family planning' and 'educating girls' from the top 10 actions list, they draw down more CO2 from the atmosphere than anything else on the list. Feminism literally saves humanity from climate catastrophe." —Cassian Lodge, LGBTQ+ and environmental activist, U.K.
"When I felt overwhelmed at the big challenge of stopping climate change, this book broke things down to something manageable. It's like a playbook of climate solutions. I was fascinated to learn about marine permaculture, which is one of the proposed solutions. It's a method of growing seaweed on floating platforms that not only removes carbon from the atmosphere, but can also restore life to the oceans and provide an economic boon to coastal communities. I've since learned a lot about it, and I even helped lead a fundraiser that will help build some platforms off the coast of Tasmania." —Mark Abersold, software developer and Citizens' Climate Lobby member; moderator for Reddit's Climate Offensive forum
3. Frontlines: Stories of Global Environmental Justice by Nick Meynen
"Nick Meynen's storytelling is personal, powerful, and inspiring. Every unpacked frontline is one cutting edge of an economic system and political ideology that is destroying life on earth. Revealing our ecosystems to be under a sustained attack, Meynen finds causes for hope in unconventional places. He reminds us that it is up to each and every one of us to play our role in the fight to achieve the radical changes necessary to save the planet." —Paola Hernández Olivan, food project and policy officer, Health Care Without Harm, Brussels4. No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
"No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference contains the speeches made by the Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg — in climate rallies across Europe, to audiences at the U.N., the World Economic Forum, and the British Parliament. Greta inspires me because she says it like it is. She doesn't wrap the truth up in pretty paper to make it easier to take. Among millions of activists, Greta has one of the most powerful voices because she occupies the moral and ethical high ground of someone from the next generation whose life is being destroyed." —Christine Essex, coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Newbury
Favorite quote: And we will never stop fighting, we will never stop fighting for this planet, and for ourselves, our futures, and for the futures of our children and our grandchildren.
5. The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change by Danny Chivers
"This is the clearest and most succinct book I have ever read about the nature of climate change, the forces that are blocking action on it, and the forces that have arisen to confront it. I teach classes on this subject, and this book works year after year to bring everyone up to speed on the problem and potential actions we can take. It's funny, readable, engaging, and powerful." —John Foran, professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Favorite passage: This is going to be the most amazing, inspiring, and unifying social movement that the world has ever seen. It's going to be difficult, and frustrating at times, but it's also going to massively enrich the lives of everyone who's a part of it. This includes you.… [You can] be part of the most exciting and important social uprising of our lifetimes.
6. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
"By the author of The Windup Girl, The Water Knife is a fictional portrayal of the effects of climate change on the western United States. It includes scenes of trying to get by in Phoenix when it's basically a desert. It's a powerful, well-written story that emphasizes the impacts of climate-induced social collapse on women." —D. Kempton, Climate Reality Canada, Drawdown Newmarket-Aurora
7. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker
"This book covers the 500-year history of Native American resistance to colonialism and ecocide. It contextualized my environmental work as part of a struggle that has been taking place in the Americas since European contact, and it made me feel more connected to the larger Native American environmental movement as a cohesive whole both over time and across cultures and places. For Native people, this book is a reminder of how connected and similar our environmental justice struggles have been. This is especially important because the climate crisis requires cooperation across cultures and locations in an unprecedented way." —Shaylon Stolk, Indigenous (Scottish/Wayúu) renewable energy scientist and organizer with Extinction Rebellion justice; based in occupied Duwamish land (Seattl
8. The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells
"This book offers specific, science-based predictions about the effects of unchecked global warming. It scared me silly, and it inspired me to reflect and act." —Gregg Long, high school English teacher, Illinois
Favorite quote: It is worse, much worse, than you think.
9. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein
"This Changes Everything makes the case that the climate crisis is a consequence of capitalism, but it is a crisis that offers an opportunity to organize a new political system. It convinced me that we won't invent or grow our way out of this problem, but that it can be solved by political organizing. It's sobering and empowering, which is a difficult tightrope to walk." —Evan, Climate Justice committee coordinator, Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter
Favorite passage: And that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hard-core conservatives: They have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time — whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.
10. This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook by Extinction Rebellion
"This Is Not a Drill is a handbook on nonviolent civil disobedience for the challenges of the 21st century. Only a mass social movement will save us. This book provides the tools for that." —George, youth climate activist, U.K.
Favorite passage: We may or may not escape a breakdown. But we can escape the toxicity of the mindset that has brought us here. And in doing so we can recover a humanity that is capable of real resilience.
This story originally appeared in Teen Vogue and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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By Sarah Sax
At the end of February, thousands of cleaning workers in Minneapolis marched in what's believed to have been the first union-authorized climate strike in the United States. The protesters, many of them immigrants and people of color who have seen their communities harmed by everything from air pollution to drought, wanted their employers to take action on climate change.
Employed by more than a dozen subcontractors, these workers clean corporate buildings that are home to major companies like Wells Fargo and United Health Group. Their demands ranged from a guarantee of more environmentally friendly cleaning products to funding for a "green technician janitorial training program," which could help them push for more substantial changes during their day-to-day operations rather than wait for top-down measures.
Employee activists like those in Minneapolis are on the rise. And unlike the traditional union focus on better pay, benefits and working conditions, they're pushing for something even bigger ― for companies to align with their values when it comes to one of the world's biggest issues. Namely, climate change.
As public concern about global warming has risen, companies had already come under pressure from investors, shareholders and consumers to adopt more ambitious climate-related targets for their operations and products. But now that pressure is also coming from within. A recent survey of 375 global executives found that 4 out of 5 companies expect an "unprecedented rise in workplace activism" over the next three to five years ― with sustainability and climate change an increasing concern.
While strikes and walkouts may still be the most high-profile forms of employee protest, workers are also taking their efforts online and connecting with those in other departments to amplify their voices. In November, thousands of Google employees signed a letter circulated online demanding that the company take more aggressive action on climate change.
Physical protests with signs and chanting workers are obviously not wise during the COVID-19 crisis ― and more immediate concerns like health and job security are likely taking priority ― but employees' climate demands have not disappeared.
"I don't think [the coronavirus pandemic] will halt employee activism. Not being prepared for a major crisis like COVID-19 has demonstrated how ill-prepared we will be for extreme weather events due to climate change," said David Levine, co-founder and president of the American Sustainable Business Council.
Climate activists and advocacy organizations hope this new wave of activism from inside companies, driven largely by millennials, could be the key to getting businesses to do more than just "green" their operations. It could force companies to support ― rather than oppose ― serious government action on climate change or else risk losing valuable employees.
"We need companies to be really ambitious in what they're doing in their operations. And we need employees to push them to be more ambitious in that work," said Bill Weihl, a former Facebook and Google sustainability executive who now runs the nonprofit advocacy group ClimateVoice, which pushes companies to go "all in" on climate change issues.
"But the thing that we really need them to step up and do," Weihl said, "is add their voice on the side of science-based climate policy everywhere."
Corporations Speaking Out
Advocates like Levine and Weihl argue that in the absence of U.S. leadership on the federal level, companies need to step to the front on climate change.
In 2015, nations agreed to limit temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) under the Paris climate accord. Since then, the number of Fortune 500 companies pledging to reduce their carbon emissions has quadrupled, according to a 2019 report from the consultancy firm Natural Capital Partners ― with employee demands identified as a key driver behind much of this corporate action.
Microsoft and Google parent company Alphabet, for instance, recently made climate pledges in part prompted by employees demanding more action.
But according to Weihl, the companies leading on climate tend to focus on their own operations, while remaining almost entirely silent on the bigger public policy changes that are needed. There is a political risk in speaking out. Without public policy changes, however, "we are not going to decarbonize anywhere near fast enough," he said. And if other companies don't get involved, Weihl added, "that means the energy companies that are pushing in the wrong direction will continue to dominate the discussion."
Over the next decade ― the timeframe that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is crucial for avoiding catastrophic global warming ― corporate action will need to focus not only on operational measures like installing more solar panels but also on pushing for smart, science-based climate policy. Fred Kruger, president of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, implored CEOs in an open letter last year to "unleash the most powerful tool they have to fight climate change: their political influence."
Employee activism is critical to driving this shift, Weihl said.
He contrasts it with consumer activism. "If a company has 10 million customers, you have to move a lot of people before the company really notices and cares," he said. But most companies have far fewer employees than that ― which means smaller numbers of workers speaking up can have a big impact. Throw in the need for companies to recruit and retain employees, and workers' voices become that much more powerful.
Engaging With Employees
Perhaps no company's employee activism has been more in the spotlight recently than Amazon's.
Last September, along with several other corporations, Amazon made its "climate pledge," committing to net zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030, ahead of a massive planned employee walkout. Then in February, the online giant announced a $10 billion fund to fight climate change.
While broadly supportive of CEO Jeff Bezos' pledge and the climate fund, employees continue to push Amazon to embrace climate action across its entire business, protesting its role in providing oil companies with the technology to find drillable oil faster and in funding climate change denial groups. The relationship between Amazon and its employees remains contentious, as criticism rises over its response to both climate change and working conditions during the pandemic.
In April, the company reportedly fired two employees who had been outspoken about climate change. During a virtual webcast organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice on April 16 ― which the company reportedly tried to thwart ― the two urged their former co-workers to stage a virtual walkout to protest their firings and the treatment of warehouse workers amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Some companies have been proactive in accommodating their employees ― such as Patagonia and Ben & Jerry's, which closed their shops for the Global Climate Strike last September ― but Amazon has done the opposite. It recently introduced a policy barring employees from publicly criticizing the company without prior approval.
When asked about the rise in employee activism and the firing of the two workers, an Amazon spokesperson told HuffPost that "we support every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies.
"The price of ignoring or dismissing employee activism could be huge. According to a survey by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, employee activism could cost organizations up to 25% of their global revenue each year due to the disruptive nature of strikes and reputational damage leading to lost business.
"Today the purpose of a company has to align with climate change and employees are calling really strongly for that," said Farid Baddache, the CEO and co-founder of the sustainability consulting and impact investing firm Ksapa.
The Future Workforce
Figuring out how to navigate a world in which employees expect businesses to operate with a purpose beyond the bottom line may not be easy for companies, but it is critical because this new wave of activism is connected to the shifting demographics of the workforce.
Millennials now make up over a third of the U.S. workforce, constituting the largest share of any generation. They are more likely than older generations to be employee activists, according to one survey by Weber Shandwick. And according to LinkedIn's 2018 Workplace Report, 86% of millennials would consider taking a pay cut to work for companies whose values aligned with their own.
For Jake Elliott, 34, who specifically chose to work for Vermont solar power company SunCommon because the firm shared his values, climate change is "the number one most important thing."
"When you look at global carbon emissions, the majority of carbon emissions are coming from businesses, so it is an obligation and requirement of business to address the climate crisis," he told HuffPost.
Younger generations "don't want to commit to work for a company that is contributing to climate change," said Baddache, "or if they believe that the company is part of the problem rather than the solution."
Corporate America is increasingly aware of this. "The talent Adobe wishes to recruit and retain expects us to set meaningful climate goals and work to meet them," Vince Digneo, sustainability strategist at Adobe has said previously. "Our employees want to see us take good action but not just among a flurry of other companies doing the same thing ― it has to have a meaningful impact."
This sentiment is true not just among current employees but also future ones. A group of law students at Yale and Harvard, for example, are boycotting internships with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison because it represents Exxon Mobil. They're accusing the law firm of enabling the destructive impact of the world's largest oil company in the climate crisis.
"Companies need to hire people and they need to retain people," Weihl said. This will all become more difficult "if they are on the wrong side of an issue that many of their employees see as an existential threat to their future."
This story originally appeared in HuffPost and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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By Greta Thunberg
- Greta Thunberg calls for urgent action to address the climate and ecological crisis.
- She reminds the world of the promises made to children and grandchildren — a promise they expect to be kept.
- The proposals being discussed and presented at the moment are 'very far from being enough.'
My name is Greta Thunberg and I'm not here to make deals. You see, I don't belong to any financial interest or political party. So I can't bargain or negotiate. I am only here to once again remind you of the emergency we're in. The crisis that you and your predecessors have created and inflicted upon us. The crisis that you continue to ignore.
I am here to remind you of the promises that you have made to your children and grandchildren. And to tell you that we are not willing to compromise on the very minimum safety levels that still remain.
The climate and ecological crisis can unfortunately no longer be solved within today's systems. According to the current best available science that is no longer an opinion; that's a fact.
We need to keep this in mind as countries, businesses and investors now rush forward to present their new so-called "ambitious" climate targets and commitments. The longer we avoid this uncomfortable truth, and the longer we pretend we can solve the climate - and ecological emergency — without treating it like a crisis — the more precious time we will lose. And this is time we do not have.
Today, we hear leaders and nations all over the world speak of an "existential climate emergency". But instead of taking the immediate action you would in any emergency, they set up vague, insufficient, hypothetical targets way into the future, like "net-zero 2050." Targets based on loopholes and incomplete numbers. Targets that equal surrender. It's like waking up in the middle of the night, seeing your house on fire, then deciding to wait 10, 20 or 30 years before you call the fire department while labeling those trying to wake people up alarmists.
We understand that the world is very complex and that change doesn't happen overnight. But you've now had more than three decades of bla bla bla. How many more do you need? Because when it comes to facing the climate and ecological emergency, the world is still in a state of complete denial. The justice for the most affected people in the most affected areas is being systematically denied.
Even though we welcome every single climate initiative, the proposals being presented and discussed today are very far from being enough. And the time for "small steps in the right direction" is long gone. If we are to have at least a small chance of avoiding the worst consequences of the climate and ecological crisis, this needs to change.
Because you still say one thing, and then do the complete opposite. You speak of saving nature, while locking in policies of further destruction for decades to come.
You promise to not let future generations down, while creating new loopholes, failing to connect the dots, building your so called "pledges" on the cheating tactics that got us into this mess in the first place. If the commitments of lowering all our emissions by 70, 68 or even 55 percent by 2030 actually meant they aim to reduce them by those figures then that would be a great start. But that is unfortunately not the case.
And since the level of public awareness continues to be so low our leaders can still get away with almost anything. No one is held accountable. It's like a game. Whoever is best at packaging and selling their message wins.
As it is now, we can have as many summits and meetings as we want, but unless we treat the climate and ecological crisis like a crisis, no sufficient changes will be achieved. What we need — to begin with — is to implement annual binding carbon budgets based on the current best available science.
Right now more than ever we are desperate for hope. But what is hope? For me hope is not more empty assurances that everything will be alright, that things are being taken care of and we do not need to worry.
For me, hope is the feeling that keeps you going, even though all odds may be against you. For me hope comes from action not just words. For me, hope is telling it like it is. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable that may be.
And again, I'm not here to tell you what to do. After all, safeguarding the future living conditions and preserving life on earth as we know it is voluntary. The choice is yours to make.
But I can assure you this. You can't negotiate with physics. And your children and grandchildren will hold you accountable for the choices that you make. How's that for a deal?
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
By Jessica Corbett
While some students are still learning remotely or on hybrid schedules due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the climate emergency hasn't suddenly disappeared because of the devastating public health crisis—meaning neither has the need to radically and rapidly transform society.
The sweeping transformation that study after study signals is necessary for the future of the planet and all of its inhabitants includes electrifying the transportation sector. A report out Tuesday details opportunities to aid that effort by shifting to zero-emissions electric school buses.
The new report from the Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund notes that "the vast majority of school buses in the United States run on diesel, a fossil fuel that has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and cancer."
Along with the impacts on human health, diesel exhaust is also a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. While there are multiple benefits to shifting to more health- and climate-friendly buses, there are also barriers. As the report explains:
The technology is here, and electric school buses are ready to roll, but the question remains: how do schools pay for them? While electric buses can save schools money over the lifespan of the bus, the initial price tag of a new electric bus can turn many schools off to the idea of electrification. In many cases, assistance from federal grant programs and loans are needed in order to finance such a purchase. In addition to these programs, utility investment, financing strategies, and vehicle-to-grid technology provide promising opportunities that can help schools ease the transition and accelerate toward a zero-emission electric future.
Ethan Evans, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Transportation associate, emphasized in a statement Tuesday that "while electric buses can save and even earn schools money over the lifespan of the bus, the initial price tag often presents a hurdle for cash-strapped districts. Utility investment would help ease the transition and accelerate us toward a zero-emission electric future."
The report points out that not only is a large-scale shift to electric buses better for public health and the planet, it could also benefit school districts as well as utility companies that could assist with transition costs. "Electric buses can expand and stabilize the grid, provide surplus energy storage, and increase energy demand," the report says. "By providing discounted rates on electric bus charging and building charging infrastructure, utilities can help speed the adoption of electric buses."
"Utilities can also support electric buses by investing in infrastructure for bus charging in depots and on routes, helping to finance the upfront purchasing costs of electric buses, and introducing smart charging systems to maximize integration of renewable energy," the report adds, noting examples where such efforts are already underway in Oregon and Virginia.
The report highlights vehicle-to-grid technology that enables buses to send stored energy back to the grid and Pay-As-You-Save (or PAYS) agreements in which a utility company covers the initial cost of shifting to new technology that the customer repays over the buses' lifespans as "particularly promising options."
"By pairing vehicle-to-grid technology and PAYS, each electric bus could save school districts up to $130,000 per electric bus," according to the report, which includes lists of recommendations for school districts, lawmakers, and utility companies to boost the use of electric buses on a national scale.
Upgrading to 100% electric school bus fleets by 2030 is achievable and affordable, our new report from finds. Pay-a… https://t.co/YxDwwDlu55— U.S. PIRG (@U.S. PIRG)1612274141.0
As Morgan Folger, Environment America Research and Policy Center Destination: Zero Carbon campaign director, put it: "Only by working together can we tackle the existential threat of climate change and accelerate the process towards a zero-emission future."
Schools are urged to "commit to transitioning to 100% all-electric buses by 2030, with a plan to phase out the purchase of new diesel buses immediately." District leaders should "use any and all financing methods available" to deliver on their pledges—including by engaging with local utility companies.
Utility companies are called on to commit to renewable energy, reduce emissions, increase grid capacity, and assist in transition efforts, including with vehicle-to-grid technology and PAYS pilot programs. Lawmakers, the report says, must "work with utilities and regulators to develop effective electric bus investment programs that protect ratepayers and consumers."
The report further calls on elected officials to develop grant programs for the transition to electric buses, tighten fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards, and subsidize research and development in related technology, including vehicle-to-grid.
As the groups published their joint report on Tuesday, the Senate confirmed Pete Buttigieg, President Joe Biden's pick to run the Department of Transportation. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana—who faced off against Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race but ultimately dropped out and endorsed him—has vowed to make climate a key priority in his new role.
"Ultimately, we cannot afford not to act on climate," Buttigieg told senators at a confirmation hearing when asked about his support for the Green New Deal. "The question becomes: How can we do that in a way that creates economic benefit in the near term, as well as preventing catastrophe in the long term?"
Part of the solution, the report suggests, is greening the way students get to school.
"Our kids deserve a world without diesel emissions," said Folger. Evans concurred, declaring that "getting to school shouldn't include a daily dose of toxic pollution."
"With school districts, lawmakers, and utilities all working together," Evans added, "we can make the switch to all-electric school buses and give our kids a healthier ride to school."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
- Buses Are the Electric Vehicle Everyone Should Be Talking About ... ›
- Nation's First Electric Bus Picks Up California Students - EcoWatch ›
- San Francisco Seeks 100% Electric Bus Fleet by 2035 - EcoWatch ›
- Ask a Scientist: Electric Vehicles are the Cleanest Option Today - EcoWatch ›
- $73 Billion Clean Bus Plan Unveiled by Senators Brown, Schumer ›
Longtime Climate Science Foe David Schnare Uses 'Scare Tactics' to Bash Transportation Climate Initiative for Koch-Tied Think Tank
Opponents of a regional proposal to curb transportation sector emissions in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are using a number of deceptive tactics to attack and criticize the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Groups tied to the oil industry have pointed to misleading studies, deployed questionable public opinion polling and circulated an open letter in opposition.
In Virginia, a conservative think tank is now touting a biased analysis, dismissed by critics as misleading "scare tactics," authored by anti-environmental attorney David Schnare, that questions Virginia's legal authority to participate in the regional program.
The Transportation and Climate Initiative aims to reduce carbon emissions from on-road vehicles by up to 25 percent over 10 years through a cap-and-invest model, whereby fuel suppliers and distributors would purchase allowances allocated under the cap, and proceeds would be invested into clean transportation initiatives. The program is modeled after the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative for the power sector, which is expected to result in CO2 emission reductions of 45 percent below 2005 levels by this year. But critics of the TCI proposal, many of whom also opposed RGGI, claim that it will do little to cut emissions and is just a scheme to raise gas prices, equivalent to a gas tax.
According to a legal analysis on Virginia's participation in the program, published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, "TCI proposes rationing gasoline and diesel fuel sales and initiating a per gallon gas tax hike." David Schnare, who wrote the analysis, claims that the program would impose not a fee but a tax and therefore requires authorization by the state legislature. Virginia's governor, Schnare says, does not have unilateral authority to join TCI. Schnare also threatens to sue should Virginia attempt to join TCI without authorization by the legislature.
"We hope the Governor simply chooses to withdraw," Schnare said. "But any effort to impose TCI unilaterally without the General Assembly will certainly be met with appropriate legal action."
"Nothing in the TCI program would ration gasoline and motor fuels. TCI would simply put a limit on climate pollution," said Mark Kresowik, eastern region deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, emphasizing that TCI is not a tax by any legal standard.
David Schnare's Long History Attacking Climate Science and Defending Fossil Fuel Interests
Schnare is currently the Director of the Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute, and both he and TJI are part of a larger network linked with fossil fuel interests that work against climate and environmental protection policies.
The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy is a member of the State Policy Network, a Koch-backed web of right-wing think tanks promoting climate science denial and other policy positions that benefit corporate donors. The Jefferson Institute has received funding from Donors Capital Fund ($214,450) and Donors Trust ($5,000), anonymous funding vehicles supporting a number of organizations that promote conservative and free enterprise interests. As DeSmog has noted, "the groups and projects given grants from DCF and DT are among the most active in questioning the link between fossil fuel emissions and climate change and blocking attempts to legislate against greenhouse gas emissions." The Jefferson Institute is one such group, and was called out by name by Senate Democrats in 2016 in a series of speeches denouncing climate change denial from 32 organizations with links to fossil-fuel interests.
Schnare is a former EPA scientist and attorney and initially was a member of President Trump's EPA transition team. He is affiliated with climate denial groups like the Heartland Institute, and was a speaker at the 2017 Heartland Institute "America First Energy Conference," where he discussed how to challenge the EPA's 2009 endangerment finding that serves as the basis for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Schnare has a history of harassing climate scientists by suing universities to get access to the scientists' emails. In 2011, he unsuccessfully sued the University of Virginia to try to obtain Michael Mann's emails. As DeSmog previously reported, Schnare was forced to pay out $630,000 from a dark money group he co-founded with Christopher Horner, the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic. The payout resulted from a heated legal dispute in which Schnare is alleged to have used FMELC as his personal piggy bank.
Schnare's Reports Use Disinformation as “Scare Tactics”
Given this background, it is not surprising that Schnare and the Thomas Jefferson Institute are railing against the proposed Transportation and Climate Initiative. TJI and Schnare have published several misleading analyses of the program claiming it is a "carbon car tax" and would be "all pain and no gain," claims that are simply untrue. The latest legal analysis is a continuation of Schnare making these unfounded arguments. For example, Schnare's claim that TCI "proposes rationing gasoline and diesel fuel sales" is blatantly false, as sources familiar with the program told DeSmog.
"This is a pollution reduction program," said Bruce Ho, senior advocate in the climate and clean energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The type of policy [Schnare and TJI] are describing in their paper is not the policy that states are actually proposing."
"The oil industry and its allies are going heavy on the scare tactics right now," added Morgan Butler, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "TCI is not being designed to ration gas, but rather to help move us beyond it by investing revenues from the program in making cleaner and healthier transportation options more available to everyone."
Schnare's claim that Virginia's governor cannot unilaterally join TCI is also not accurate. As Kresowik explained, the governor does have authority to sign on to an agreement or memorandum of understanding (MOU), and then the legislature would have to act to implement the program in the state.
"The governor can absolutely sign the memorandum of understanding and move forward with the other states," Kresowik said.
"The hand waving in this paper that Virginia is doing something that's not allowed is just wrong," added Ho. "Neither Virginia nor any other TCI jurisdiction has proposed skirting those legal requirements. They've been very upfront that they are going to go through all of the legally required processes within states."
Ho said that Schnare's entire analysis is disingenuous, as it mischaracterizes what the TCI program is actually proposing. "It's a clear case of fear-mongering, setting up a straw man argument that is just not reflective of reality," he said.
Schnare's case against TCI runs counter to even oil giant BP's recent endorsement of the program. BP America Chairman and President Susain Dio, in a piece published last week in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, urged Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the General Assembly to move forward with both TCI and RGGI. "While a national carbon pricing program would be the gold standard, state and regional plans can play a critical role now," Dio writes. "And we can't wait." BP's support of TCI falls inline with the company's recent announcement that it will no longer lobby against policies that regulate or limit carbon pollution. Though the sincerity of BP's statements are not yet clear, the company's surprise public support of TCI indirectly rebuts and counters both pieces of Schnare's flawed analysis.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.