- United Nations Climate Action Summit: Greta Thunberg and 15 other ... ›
- Greta Thunberg to U.S. Congress on climate change: 'Wake up ... ›
- Greta Thunberg, on Tour in America, Offers an Unvarnished View ... ›
- Greta Thunberg To U.S.: 'You Have A Moral Responsibility' On ... ›
- Trump's tweet about Greta Thunberg is one of his ugliest yet - Vox ›
By Andy Rowell
After weeks of inaction and ineptitude as his country burns, as a billion animals die, with entire species potentially wiped out, and with dozens of people dead and communities and lives ripped apart, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has finally slumbered into action.
- Barclays Pressed to Divest From Fossil Fuels - EcoWatch ›
- Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Eoin Higgins
Australia is on fire.
The country on Saturday saw delayed flights on the second day of a national state of emergency due to raging brushfires near every major city and choked-out smoke conditions.
Kangaroos Flee Devastating Fires in Australia<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="89992373721960aec2364bde90649a95"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8QcH4Msa7GY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Australia Fire Crisis: PM Morrison Cuts Vacation Short After Two ... ›
- Australia Likely Just Broke Its Record for Hottest Day - EcoWatch ›
By Dana Nuccitelli
Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates have long been allies in the fight to keep unchecked industrial growth from irreversibly ruining Earth's climate and threatening the future of human civilization. In their new YouTube documentary "Planet of the Humans," director Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore argue for splitting the two sides. Their misleading, outdated, and scientifically sophomoric dismissal of renewable energy is perhaps the most dangerous form of climate denial, eroding support for renewable energy as a critical climate solution.
A Badly Outdated Portrait of Solar and Wind<p>In an interview with Reuters, Michael Moore summarized the premise of the film: "I assumed solar panels would last forever. I didn't know what went into the making of them."</p><p>It's true. Solar panels and wind turbines don't last forever (though they do last several decades), and like every other industrial product, they require mining and manufacturing of raw materials. Sadly, that's about as deep as the film delves into quantifying the environmental impacts of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. In fact, the misinformation in the film is at times much worse than ignorance.</p><p>In one scene, author and film co-producer Ozzie Zehner falsely asserts, "You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you're getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend."</p><p><span></span>That's monumentally wrong. A <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-low-carbon-footprints" target="_blank">2017 study in Nature Energy</a> found that when accounting for manufacturing and construction, the lifetime carbon footprints of solar, wind, and nuclear power are about 20 times smaller than those of coal and natural gas, even when the latter include expensive carbon capture and storage technology. The energy produced during the operation of a solar panel and wind turbine is 26 and 44 times greater than the energy needed to build and install them, respectively. There are many life-cycle assessment studies arriving at similar conclusions.</p>
A Shallow Dismissal of Electric Vehicles<p>In another science, Gibbs travels to a General Motors facility in Lansing, Michigan, circa 2010, as GM showcased its then-new Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid vehicle. Gibbs interviews a representative from the local municipal electric utility provider, who notes that they generate 95% of their supply by burning coal, and that the power to charge the GM facility's EVs will not come from renewables in the near future.</p><p>That is the full extent of the discussion of EVs in the film. Viewers are left to assume that because these cars are charged by burning coal, they're just <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing" target="_blank">greenwashing</a>. In reality, because of the high efficiency of electric motors, an electric car charged entirely by burning coal still produces less carbon pollution than an internal combustion engine car (though more than a hybrid). The U.S. Department of Energy has <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.html" target="_blank">a useful tool</a> for comparing carbon emissions between EVs, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, and gasoline-powered cars for each state. In Michigan, on average, EVs are the cleanest option of all, as is the case for the national average power grid. In West Virginia, with over 90% electricity generated from coal, hybrids are the cleanest option, but EVs are still cleaner than gasoline cars.</p><p>In short, EVs are an improvement over gasoline-powered cars everywhere, and their carbon footprints will continue to shrink as renewables expand to supply more of the power grid.</p>
A Valid Critique of Wood Biomass<p>The film devotes a half hour to the practice of burning trees for energy. That's one form of biomass, which also includes burning wood waste, garbage, and biofuels. Last year, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3" target="_blank">1% of U.S. electricity</a> was generated by burning wood, but it accounted for 30% of the film run time.</p><p>In fairness, Europe is a different story, where wood biomass accounts for around 5% of electricity generation, and which imports a lot of wood chips from America. It's incentivized because the European Union considers burning wood to be carbon neutral, and it can thus be used to meet climate targets. That's because new trees can be planted to replace those removed, and the EU assumes the wood being burned would have decayed and released its stored carbon anyway.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/3/4/18216045/renewable-energy-wood-pellets-biomass" target="_blank">numerous problems</a> with those assumptions, one of which is unavoidable: time. Burning trees is close to carbon neutral once a replacement tree grows to sufficient maturity to recapture the lost carbon, but that takes many decades. In the meantime, the carbon released into the atmosphere accelerates the climate crisis at a time when slashing emissions is increasingly urgent. That's why <a href="https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Scientist-Letter-to-Governor-Cooper_11-15_2017.pdf" target="_blank">climate scientists are increasingly calling on policymakers</a> to stop expanding this practice. So has 350.org founder Bill McKibben since 2016, <a href="https://350.org/response-planet-of-the-humans-documentary/" target="_blank">despite his depiction in the film</a> as a villainous proponent of clearcutting forests to burn for energy.</p><p>It's complicated, but the carbon footprint of biomass <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/is-burning-wood-for-energy-worse-for-the-climate-than-coal" target="_blank">depends on where the wood comes from</a>. Burning waste (including waste wood) as biomass that would decay anyway is justifiable, but also generally only practical at a relatively small scale. A more detailed investigation of the wood biomass industry could make for a worthwhile documentary. It's still a small-time player, but it does need to stay that way.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Gibbs asks, "Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?"</p><p>Why not? Industrial civilization has a non-zero climate and environmental footprint, but the impact of green technologies like EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels is much smaller than the alternatives. They represent humanity's best chance to avoid a climate catastrophe.</p><p>The filmmakers call for an end to limitless economic growth and consumption. It's difficult to envision that goal being achieved anytime soon, but even if it is, human civilization will continue to exist and require energy. To avert a climate crisis, that energy must be supplied by the clean renewable technologies pilloried in the film. To expand on the earlier analogy, the filmmakers seem to believe we should improve nutrition not by eating healthier foods like strawberries, but rather by eating a bit less cheesecake.</p><p>Like Fox News and other propaganda vehicles, the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men. It applies an environmental purity test that can seem convincing for viewers lacking expertise in the topic. Any imperfect technology – which is every technology – is deemed bad. It's a clear example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. In reality, this movie is the enemy of humanity's last best chance to save itself and countless other species from unchecked climate change through a transition to cleaner technologies.</p>
By Ajit Niranjan
Civil society groups and public prosecutors in Brazil are taking President Jair Bolsonaro's government to court for failing to protect the Amazon rainforest, adding pressure to an administration already under fire for mismanaging the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus and Deforestation<p>Brazil's environmental and health crises are closely linked. The coronavirus pandemic had given fresh impetus to land grabbers razing swathes of forests as lockdowns have kept law enforcement officers at home.</p><p>Now, the fires that typically follow the felling of trees could further strain health systems.</p><p>Blazing wildfires, like the ones that devastated the Amazon last year, spout pollutants that lower air quality and work their way into people's lungs, exacerbating the same <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-air-pollution-might-raise-risk-of-fatality/a-52977422" target="_blank">breathing diseases</a> that leave people more vulnerable to the coronavirus. A joint peak in forest fires and COVID-19 cases could overwhelm hospitals without "incisive intervention by the State to curb illegal acts," according to a report published in May by INPE.</p><p>That could collapse health systems in several Amazonian states that are already operating at the limit, the authors wrote. "If the turning point of the epidemiological curve of COVID-19 does not occur immediately, in May 2020, there will certainly be an overlap of fires with the pandemic."</p><p>This could spell disaster for indigenous peoples and uncontacted tribes, said Sarah Shenker, a campaigner with Survival International. "In Brazil, there are more than 100 uncontacted tribes and they could be wiped out if invaders are not removed from their territory."</p><p>Even before the current coronavirus crisis, scientists warned that <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/how-deforestation-can-lead-to-more-infectious-diseases/a-53282244" target="_blank">forest loss makes pandemics more likely</a> by increasing the chance that diseases jump from animals to humans. A study published in the journal PNAS in October found that deforestation of the Amazon significantly increases transmission of malaria, a different type of disease.</p>
Preserving the Climate<p>The Amazon rainforest — 60 percent of which lies in Brazil — is one of the world's great carbon sinks. Preserving its trees and plants is crucial to meeting international targets that <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/co2-emissions-gap-un-report-warns-of-collective-failure-to-act/a-51407286" target="_blank">limit global warming</a> to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.</p><p>Lawsuits that take years to complete are not going to produce results fast enough, said Ricardo Galvao, a former director of INPE who was <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/brazils-research-chief-sacked-after-deforestation-row-with-bolsonaro/a-49874119" target="_blank">fired by Bolsonaro</a> in August.</p><p>To curb deforestation in the Amazon, said Galvao, the best tools are "positive actions that show [that] exploring the forest, rather than destroying it, gives economic returns." For instance, international organizations like the UN could certify products from sustainably managed forests and countries could lower import taxes on such "green-stamped" goods.</p>
- Indigenous Peoples Go to Court to Save the Amazon From Oil ... ›
- Leaked Documents Show Brazil's Bolsonaro Has Grave Plans for ... ›
- Amazon Deforestation Increase Prompts Germany to Cut $39.5M in ... ›
- Amazon Deforestation Rate Hits 3 Football Fields Per Minute, Data ... ›
- New Study: China and EU Soy Imports Are Increasing Brazil's Deforestation ›
The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.
- Greta to Senate: Sorry, but Please Do More - EcoWatch ›
- The Best and Worst Midterm Results for the Environment - EcoWatch ›
By Andy Rowell
The press release from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says it all: "Another year, another record."
It is a record we do not want. It is a record of political failure. It is a record based on the politics of climate denial. We have crossed another climate threshold that, yet again, signals we are in deep trouble.
- Fish Will Start Losing Sense of Smell as Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise ... ›
- Carbon dioxide levels in atmosphere hit record high in May ... ›
- Climate Change: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide | NOAA Climate.gov ›
- As Carbon Dioxide Levels Rise, Major Crops Are Losing Nutrients ... ›
- Carbon Dioxide | Vital Signs – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the ... ›
Google employees fed up with the company's financial support for conservative groups that deny the climate crisis wrote an open letter that demands the tech giant address specific concerns about carbon emissions and political lobbying, as CNET reported.
- Google and Facebook Backed an Event Denying Climate Change ... ›
- Google Has Made Some Generous Contributions to Climate Change ›
- Google's Tool to Help Cities Fight Climate Change - The Atlantic ›
- Revealed: Google made large contributions to climate change deniers ›
- Over 4,200 Amazon Workers Push for Climate Change Action ... ›
By Sabrina Kessler
Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.
The student protest is one of several held outside the New York Supreme Court during the trial.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previously had a decade-long tenure as Exxon Mobil's chair and CEO.
Exxon Mobil has the 14th-largest oil and gas reserves and is the largest refiner in the world.
- Massachusetts Sues ExxonMobil For Climate Disinformation ... ›
- ExxonMobil Accused of Pressuring Witnesses in Climate Fraud Case ›
While California wrestles with increased frequency and severity of wildfires due to the climate crisis, President Trump continues to take steps to stop the nation's most populous state from taking any climate-related action.
- California vs. Trump, the climate change edition - Los Angeles Times ›
- California fires: Trump says climate change had no role. He's wrong ... ›
- Trump Administration Sues California for Daring to Address Climate ... ›
- California Fires Remind Us Trump Could Be Impeached Over ... ›
- Trump's War on California and the Climate | The New Yorker ›
By Ilana Cohen, Evelyn Nieves, Judy Fahys, Marianne Lavelle, James Bruggers
When New York Communities for Change helped lead a demonstration of 500 on Monday in Brooklyn to protest George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis, the grassroots group's activism spoke to a long-standing link between police violence against African Americans and environmental justice.
'I Worry About My Kids and Their Kids'<p>Watching the events of recent days unfold have been very painful for Arnita Gadson, a veteran environmental justice advocate who has played a pivotal role helping to keep a large chemical industry in Louisville accountable through a local task force, and also serves as Kentucky's Environmental Climate Justice Chair for the NAACP.</p><p>She is contributing to a local climate adaptation plan, and that work has continued through the recent strife, Gadson said, adding, "but I've been scared.</p><p>"I am a black woman living in a white world," she said. "If I go out, I might get shot and I may get killed. I worry about my kids and their kids."</p><p>In Salt Lake City, Utah, Grace Olscamp has been reaching out on social media, calling on environmentalists to do more than pledge support for people of color on behalf of the environmental group HEAL Utah, which has focused for two decades on hazardous and nuclear waste, as well as air pollution and climate change.</p><p>"It shouldn't have taken us this long to really step up and take action," said Olscamp, HEAL's communications director, noting that she, the group's staff and many of its members are white and "definitely in a place of privilege."</p><p>It's a problem among environmental organizations, generally, that they have failed to include more people of color and to hold themselves accountable for working toward real change.</p>
- 4 Climate Activists Explain Why the Climate-Justice Movement ... ›
- Why Defending Indigenous Rights Is Integral to Fighting Climate ... ›
- Pollution, Race and the Search for Justice - EcoWatch ›
- Saturday Is National Trails Day. This Year It's Very Different - EcoWatch ›
- Black Environmentalists Are Organizing to Save the Planet From Injustice - EcoWatch ›
- Race and the Climate Movement: What Our Black Colleagues Want the Rest of Us to Know - EcoWatch ›