Shell Accused of ‘Orwellian Doublethink’ in Downplaying Climate Risks to Investors
Oil giant Shell is back in the firing line this week as it is accused of “Orwellian doublethink” in its attitude to climate change and of failing to adequately addressing the "carbon bubble" and its threat to the company’s profits and shareholders.
The carbon bubble concept is based on the idea that more than two-thirds of fossil fuels must be left in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change and how tighter emissions legislation and emerging clean technologies could result in stranded fossil fuels assets.
Earlier this year, Shell dismissed a report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI)—the NGO that pioneered the carbon bubble hypothesis—labeling the concept as “alarmist.”
The analysis, released in May, warned oil companies they are poised to water $1.1 trillion of investors’ money through to 2025 on expensive and uneconomic projects which will never see a return in the carbon constrained world.
This week, CTI hit back, accusing the company of failing to comprehensively explain the risks involved, and of misquoting parts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report.
Anthony Hobley, CEO of CTI said:
With this combative stance, Shell has missed an opportunity to explain to its shareholders how its capital expenditure plans are resilient to the impending energy transition.
Acknowledging the seriousness of the climate challenge whilst at the same time asserting no effective action be taken until the end of the century is as classic a case of Orwellian doublethink as you are likely to find.
The organization points out that while acknowledging the need for urgent climate action, Shell’s reassurances to shareholders is based on the assumption that governments will fail to deliver such action.
CTI is accusing Shell of misrepresenting the latest warning from the IPCC, citing the reports claim that “there is a high degree of confidence that global warming will exceed two degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty-first century” but failing to put this into the context of other possible outcomes detailed in the reports series of scenarios.
In a detailed rebuttal of Shell’s argument, CTI said the company had selectively focused on its proven reserves, and failed to acknowledge its growing portfolio of unconventional deep-water projects, which involve higher capital costs, longer lead times and longer payback periods.
Over the next 10 year, the CTI says Shell could invest $77 billion in high cost, high-risk projects, which would need a $95 a barrel oil price to pay off. It is these projects, which are most at risk from becoming stranded, argue CTI.
But it appears that Shell is not the only fossil fuel company wilfully ignoring the risk of climate change to their operations.
An analysis from UK based Carbon Brief, identified a trend of companies acknowledging climate risk, while at the same time failing to acknowledge the threat that climate action could place on their business models.
Of 76 oil, gas and coal companies, only seven responding to the survey, of which six came from major oil companies on the Fortune 500 list.
BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and MOL all said climate change as real and that climate policy posed a risk to their business—to an extent—as well as agreeing that regulations to curb emissions should be more stringent over time. Yet no company asked saw climate action as a threat to their business in the coming decades.
Mounting Pressure Against Shell and Friends
CTI’s analysis is not the only source of pressure being placed on Shell this week. It comes as Greenpeace is mounting a growing campaign for toy manufacturer Lego to break ties with the oil major.
The group argues that Lego is contradicting its own efforts to be environmentally sustainable—investing in wind power and taking steps to reduce the impact of its plastic blocks—but continuing to advertising with Shell and allowing the companies branding on its toys.
A new video highlighting the campaign went viral this week, receiving more than 1 million views in just 24 hours.
It shows an Arctic scene made of Lego being destroyed by an oil spill—highlighting Shell’s continued pursuit of oil in the fragile environment.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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