New Zealand could be the first country in the world to require its major financial institutions to report on the risks posed by the climate crisis.
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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp sued the Atlanta City Council and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Thursday to block a city-wide order requiring face masks in public, in the latest example of how public health has been politicized as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the U.S.
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Johnson & Johnson will stop selling its iconic but increasingly controversial talc baby powder in the U.S. and Canada, the company announced Tuesday.
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Two years after internal documents surfaced showing that Royal Dutch Shell, like ExxonMobil, knew about climate dangers decades ago, the oil giant released its latest annual report outlining its business strategy and approach to addressing climate change. Despite clear warnings from scientists, global health experts and even central banks of impending climate-driven crises, Shell's report largely sends a message that everything is fine and the company's "business strategy is sound."
Shell’s Strategy<p>According to the report, there are three parts to Shell's overall strategy going forward: to thrive in the energy transition, to provide a world-class investment case, and to sustain a strong societal license to operate. That may sound good on paper, but in reality significant challenges are mounting for each of these pillars.</p><p>In terms of the energy transition, Shell appears to be paying lip service to it more than actually revamping its portfolio or overhauling its business model. Its core business remains oil and gas. Period.</p><p>The company may be ahead of some other oil giants like Exxon and Chevron in terms of adding alternative energies to its energy mix, but overall its commitment to clean energy is minimal.</p><p>Shell notes in its report that it spends "$1-2 billion a year until 2020 in different services and products from a range of cleaner sources," and "investments in power could grow to $2-3 billion a year on average" from 2021 to 2025. The vast majority of the company's capital expenditure ($24bn to $29bn in 2020) goes into oil and gas, and failure to replace proved reserves could have a "material adverse effect." Instead of aligning with the energy transition, Shell's business model is based on continual hydrocarbon exploitation.</p>
Shell Claims to Support Paris Agreement, Plans for Gradual Energy Transition<p>In its report, Shell says it fully supports the Paris agreement goal to limit warming well below 2 degrees C, and supports "the vision of a transition towards a net-zero emissions energy system." But, in <a href="https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/news-and-insights/press-releases/bernard-looney-announces-new-ambition-for-bp.html" target="_blank">contrast to fellow European oil major BP</a>, Shell is not committing its own business to net zero emissions.</p><p>Shell says it has "no immediate plans to move to a net-zero emissions portfolio over our investment horizon of 10-20 years." Instead, Shell's Net Carbon Footprint "ambition" is to reduce emissions (including its customers' and suppliers' emissions) of its energy production and products by 20 percent by 2035 and by 50 percent by 2050. This is not aligned with climate science guidelines that say complete decarbonization or "net zero" is necessary by 2050 at the latest.</p><p>Shell's own business is therefore not aligned with the goal of the Paris agreement, and the company is <a href="https://www.climateliabilitynews.org/2019/04/05/shell-sued-in-the-netherlands-for-insufficient-action-on-climate-change/" target="_blank">facing a lawsuit</a> over this in its home country of the Netherlands. Current emissions reduction plans or "Nationally Determined Contributions" (NDCs) submitted by countries under the Paris agreement are also inadequate. As Shell notes in its report, current NDCs amount to about 3 degrees C of warming. "In coming decades, we expect countries to tighten these NDCs to meet the goals of the Paris agreement," the report states. Shell's view appears to be that the world has decades to get its act together.</p><p>In that view, Shell says it is fully on board with the energy transition and plans to transform its own business "over time." The report includes statements like "Shell aims to become an integrated power player and grow, over time, a material new business", and, "for us, protecting the environment also means working to transform our product mix over time, for example, by expanding the choice of lower-carbon products we offer customers."</p>
Climate Litigation Risk<p>Shell, like other fossil fuel companies, has long been concerned about governments imposing climate policies or regulations that would affect its business. Shell and its industry peers are already facing climate lawsuits, and Shell is explicitly identifying climate litigation as part of a broader risk factor associated with "rising climate change concern."</p><p>In its report, Shell acknowledged the lawsuits could negatively impact its financial condition: "In some countries, governments, regulators, organisations and individuals have filed lawsuits seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for costs associated with climate change. While we believe these lawsuits to be without merit, losing any of these lawsuits could have a material adverse effect on our earnings, cash flows and financial condition."</p><p>Shell actually foresaw climate-related lawsuits as a possibility more than 20 years ago. One of the internal documents that a Dutch news organization first uncovered (and published on the site Climate Files) is a <a href="http://www.climatefiles.com/shell/1998-shell-internal-tina-group-scenarios-1998-2020-report/" target="_blank">1998 document of Shell planning scenarios</a> where the company hypothetically envisions a series of violent storms battering the eastern U.S., which then spur environmental <span style="background-color: initial;">NGO</span>s to bring "a class-action suit against the <span style="background-color: initial;">US</span> government and fossil-fuel companies on the grounds of neglecting what scientists (including their own) have been saying for years: that something must be done."</p>
Shell Knew<p>One statement from Shell's annual report rings particularly true: "Shell has long recognised that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use of fossil fuels are contributing to the warming of the climate system." </p><p>Indeed, Shell has <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/04/04/here-what-shellknew-about-climate-change-way-back-1980s" target="_blank">long known</a> that fossil fuels are warming the planet and that the consequences would be of a huge magnitude.</p><p>One internal Shell document from 1988 called "The Greenhouse Effect" warned that GHG emissions would lead to warming over the next century, likely ranging from 1.5 C to 3.5 C. According to that document, "The changes may be the greatest in recorded history." Some parts of the planet may become uninhabitable, and there may be "significant changes in sea level, ocean currents, precipitation patterns, regional temperature and weather," it says. Impacts could be severe and "could have major social, economic, and political consequences."</p><p>What did Shell do with that knowledge? It started introducing doubt and giving weight to a 'significant minority' of 'alternative viewpoints' as the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/05/17/shell-knew-charting-thirty-years-corporate-climate-denialism" target="_blank">full implications for the company's business model</a> became clear.</p><p>Shell was a member of the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/global-climate-coalition" target="_blank">Global Climate Coalition</a>, a fossil fuel industry-funded group that worked to undermine climate science and block climate policy internationally. The group formed in 1988 and Shell was a member throughout much of the 1990s.</p><p>During that time Shell was <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/08/20/exclusive-company-docs-show-shell-secretly-studied-climate-risks-10-years-warning-investors" target="_blank">not exactly upfront with its own shareholders</a> about potential risks climate change posed to its business. The first time Shell even mentioned climate change was in a 1991 annual report. But it wasn't until 2004 that Shell made a clear warning in its annual report about financial risk associated with fossil fuel investment.</p><p>Critics have for many years accused Shell's <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/04/11/how-shell-greenwashed-its-image-internal-documents-warned-fossil-fuels-contribution-climate-change" target="_blank">of greenwashing</a> — acknowledging the climate threat and touting its "commitment" to being part of the solution, despite continuing to spend heavily on oil and gas with only minimal investment in alternative energy. Shell's latest annual report suggests the company isn't deviating far from that strategy.<span></span></p>
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The Danish building block toy LEGO has sprouted an empire of amusement park like stores, movies, and reality TV competitions premised on building complicated characters, vehicles and settings from inter-locking pieces of plastic. Unfortunately, all that plastic will be with us for a long, long time, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Trump Administration Reversed Existing Methane Regulations<p>Methane emissions have become <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/08/14/fracking-shale-gas-drilling-methane-spike-howarth" target="_blank">a much bigger issue</a> in the last decade since the <span style="background-color: initial;">U.S.</span> boom in shale <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/oil-and-gas">oil and gas</a> produced by <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/fracking" rel="noopener noreferrer">fracking</a>. Despite <a href="https://money.cnn.com/2016/07/21/investing/trump-energy-plan-obama-oil-boom/index.html" target="_blank">overseeing a huge rise in oil and gas production</a>, the Obama administration acknowledged the methane problem and <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/05/12/administration-takes-historic-action-reduce-methane-emission-oil-and-gas-sector" target="_blank">proposed and adopted new methane emissions regulations</a>, which the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/09/10/key-facts-trump-epa-plan-obama-methane-leaks-rule" target="_blank">Trump administration has since repealed</a>.</p><p>The Trump administration has staffed regulatory agencies with former industry executives and lobbyists who have been quite successful at rolling back environmental, health, and safety rules.</p><p>Last August former coal lobbyist and current administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/andrew-wheeler" target="_blank">Andrew Wheeler</a> <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-proposes-updates-air-regulations-oil-and-gas-remove-redundant-requirements-and-1" target="_blank">explained the reasoning</a> for removing the Obama methane rules.</p><p>"EPA's proposal delivers on President Trump's executive order and removes unnecessary and duplicative regulatory burdens from the oil and gas industry," Wheeler said. "The Trump administration recognizes that methane is valuable, and the industry has an incentive to minimize leaks and maximize its use."</p><p>The problem with this free-market assumption is that Wheeler is wrong about the industry's financial incentive to limit methane emissions.</p>
Even the Remaining Regulations Are Controlled by Industry<p>While the Trump administration has rolled back many regulations for the oil and gas industry, the regulatory system in the U.S. was already designed to protect industry profits — not the public or environment. When the federal government creates regulations, the process can be heavily influenced by industry lobbyists, and if they don't agree with the regulations, there are many ways they can get them revised to favor their companies.</p><p>While Exxon <a href="https://www.axios.com/exxon-epa-regulate-methane-emissions-oil-gas--0befdde6-e0fe-49db-a200-38299853b43d.html" target="_blank">did publicly say </a>in 2018 that it didn't support repealing the existing methane regulations, the company also wrote to the <span style="background-color: initial;">EPA</span> voicing support for certain aspects of the <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/american-petroleum-institute" target="_blank">American Petroleum Institute's</a> (<span style="background-color: initial;">API</span>) comments on the issue, and the <span style="background-color: initial;">API</span> <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2019/08/oil-gas-lobby-split-by-trump-rollback-of-methane-rules/" target="_blank">approved removing the regulations.</a> In that letter Exxon used the same language it is now using with its propsed regulations, saying any rules need to be "cost-effective" and "reasonable." But if the regulations are cost-effective, will they actually be effective in reducing methane emissions in a meaningful way?</p>
Excerpt from Exxon letter to EPA about methane regulations. ExxonMobil<p><a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/when-safety-rules-on-oil-drilling-were-changed-some-staff-objected-those-notes-were-cut-11582731559" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a> recently highlighted the influence that the oil and gas industry and its major U.S. trade group the American Petroleum Institute can have over regulations. After the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government put into place new safeguards known as the "well control rule" in order to prevent another disaster during deepwater offshore drilling.</p><p>In 2019, the Trump administration revised the rule, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/05/03/720008093/trump-administration-moves-to-roll-back-offshore-drilling-safety-regulations" target="_blank">weakening it</a>, even though, as the Journal reported, federal regulatory staff did not agree "that an industry-crafted protocol for managing well pressure was sufficient in all situations, the records show." The staff was ignored. (And the move is <a href="https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/suit-filed-over-well-control-rule-repeal" target="_blank">undergoing a legal challenge</a>.)</p><p>Industry crafted protocol. Just the thing Exxon is now proposing.</p><p>This type of industry control over the regulatory process was also brought to light after two Boeing 737 MAX planes crashed and killed 346 people. Boeing had fought to make sure that pilots weren't required to undergo expensive and lengthy training to navigate the new plane.</p><p><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-boeing-737max/designed-by-clowns-boeing-employees-ridicule-737-max-regulators-in-internal-messages-idUSKBN1Z902N" target="_blank">Reuters reported </a>on internal communications at Boeing which revealed the airplane maker simply would not let simulator training be required by regulators:</p><p>"I want to stress the importance of holding firm that there will not be any type of simulator training required to transition from NG to MAX," Boeing's 737 chief technical pilot said in a March 2017 email.</p><p>"Boeing will not allow that to happen. We'll go face to face with any regulator who tries to make that a requirement."</p><p>Boeing got its way. And 346 people died.</p>
Exxon Touts 'Sound Science' Despite Its History<p>Exxon's methane proposal states that any regulations should be based on "sound science." This statement is coming from a company whose scientists <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/content/Exxon-The-Road-Not-Taken" target="_blank">accurately predicted the impacts of burning fossil fuels</a> on the climate decades ago and yet has spent the time since then <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/09/03/study-finds-exxon-misled-public-withholding-climate-knowledge" target="_blank">misleading the public</a> about that science.</p><p>The current regulatory system in America does not protect the public interest. Letting Exxon take the lead in the place of regulators doesn't seem like it's going to help.</p><p>Megan Milliken Biven is a former federal analyst for the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the federal agency that regulates the oil industry's offshore activity. Milliken Biven explained to DeSmog what she saw as the root cause of the regulatory process's failure.<br><br>"Regulatory capture isn't really the problem," Milliken Biven said. "The system was designed to work for industry so regulatory capture isn't even required."</p>
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A new report shows that investments in coal plants may be a waste of money as renewables are cheaper than new coal plants, according to new research from the financial think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative.
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By Julia Conley
Climate campaigners on Friday expressed hope that policymakers who are stalling on taking decisive climate action would reconsider their stance in light of new warnings from an unlikely source: two economists at J.P. Morgan Chase.
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In 2018, there were about 5 million electric cars on the road globally. It sounds like a large number, but with well over a billion cars worldwide, electric vehicles are still only a small percentage.
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You don't have to look far to find misinformation about climate science continuing to spread online through prominent social media channels like YouTube. That's despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are driving the climate crisis.
Monetizing Misinformation<p>Examples of videos identified as containing climate misinformation include titles such as "ACTUAL SCIENTIST: Climate Change is a Hoax" and "CIA Whistleblower Speaks Out About Climate Engineering Vaccination Dangers and 911." Other videos feature interviews with climate science deniers, such as <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/patrick-moore" target="_blank">Patrick Moore</a>, and promote false claims that there is no evidence that CO2 emissions are the dominant cause of climate change (<a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf" target="_blank">there is and they are</a>).</p><p>Not all of the channels promoting misinformation are owned by pseudonymous individuals with fringe ideas. Some come from established media organizations such as Fox News and the conservative media nonprofit <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/prageru" target="_blank">PragerU</a>.</p><p>Avaaz uncovered these examples by reviewing over 5,000 videos using the search terms "global warming," "climate change," and "climate manipulation." The NGO found a number of videos containing misleading or false information for each search term.</p><p><span style="background-color: initial;">"</span>For the search term 'global warming,' 16 percent of the top 100 related videos included under the up-next feature had misinformation about climate change," the report states. The percentage of top 100 related videos with climate misinformation, promoted through YouTube's recommendation algorithm, dropped to 8 percent when the search term "climate change" was used. When the researchers typed in "climate manipulation," however, that percentage rose to 21 percent. According to Avaaz, the climate misinformation videos it reviewed had 21.1 million views collectively.</p>
Avaaz Recommends Further Action, Youtube Defends Its Policies<p>Avaaz acknowledged steps that YouTube and Google have taken to update the video platform's <a href="https://www.youtube.com/about/policies/#staying-safe" target="_blank">Community Guidelines</a> policy and fight disinformation. In 2015 YouTube initiated a campaign to help "change the way people discuss climate change," and climate-related videos now include a Wikipedia link to basic, definitive information on the term "global warming."</p><p>In February 2019 Google issued a <a href="https://www.blog.google/documents/37/How_Google_Fights_Disinformation.pdf" target="_blank">white paper on fighting disinformation</a>, stating: "We set out to prevent our systems from serving up content that could misinform users in a harmful way, particularly in domains that rely on veracity, such as science, medicine, news, or historical events." Google said it introduced a "higher bar" for the promotion of YouTube videos. YouTube has also updated its policies on the kind of content it prohibits and has taken steps to protect its users from exposure to misinformation on vaccine safety and conspiracy theories.</p>
The relative number and views of the top 100 videos found searching for "global warming" on YouTube and identifying those featuring climate misinformation. DeSmogBlog / Avaaz<p>But Avaaz says these actions are not enough.</p><p>"Climate misinformation threatens the health and safety of our societies and our planet. YouTube has taken notable strides to act against disinformation, but our research proves that more is needed," said Julie Deruy, senior campaigner at Avaaz. "YouTube can and should immediately move to include climate misinformation in the company's borderline content policy and allow advertisers to exclude their ads from videos with climate misinformation." (Borderline content refers to videos that walk the line of violating YouTube's terms of service and has been the <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2019/12/3/20992018/youtube-borderline-content-recommendation-algorithm-news-authoritative-sources" target="_blank">subject of much scrutiny</a>).</p><p>The Avaaz report outlines several recommendations, based on consultation with industry experts, advertisers, and legislators around the world. These recommendations, quoted here from the report, suggest the video platform: </p><ol><li><strong>Detox the YouTube Recommendation Algorithms</strong>: The company must end its free promotion of misinformation and disinformation videos by extracting such videos from its algorithms, starting immediately by including climate misinformation in its borderline content policy.</li><li><strong>Demonetize Disinformation</strong>: Add disinformation and misinformation to YouTube's relevant monetization policies, ensuring such content does not include advertising and is not financially incentivized. YouTube should start immediately with the option for advertisers to exclude their ads from videos with climate misinformation.</li><li><strong>Correct the Record</strong>: Work with independent fact-checkers to inform users who have seen or interacted with verifiably false or misleading information, and issue corrections alongside these videos.</li><li><strong>Transparency</strong>: Although YouTube promises to work openly with researchers, the company maintains an opaque process around its recommendation algorithms and on how effective its policies are in dealing with misinformation. YouTube should immediately release data showing the amount of views on misinformation content that were driven by its recommendation algorithms. YouTube must also work with researchers to ensure access to its recommendation algorithms to study misinformation.</li></ol>
Avaaz mock up of what effective misinformation corrections could look like on YouTube videos. DeSmogBlog / Avaaz<p>DeSmog also reached out to Google, parent company of YouTube, and a company spokesperson defended YouTube's policies, saying that false information does not necessarily violate the site's community guidelines. YouTube indicated that it is not inclined to adopt the recommendations in the Avaaz report, due to concerns on limiting free speech.</p><p>"We can't speak to Avaaz's methodology or results, and our recommendations systems are not designed to filter or demote videos or channels based on specific perspectives. YouTube has strict <a href="https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278?hl=en" target="_blank">ad policies</a> that govern where ads are allowed to appear and we give advertisers tools to opt out of content that doesn't align with their brand," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement responding to the report. </p><p>"We've also significantly invested in <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/01/continuing-our-work-to-improve.html" target="_blank">reducing</a> recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation, and <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/12/the-four-rs-of-responsibility-raise-and-reduce.html?m=1" target="_blank">raising up</a> authoritative voices on YouTube," the spokesperson continued. "In 2019 alone, the consumption on authoritative news publishers' channels <a href="https://youtube.googleblog.com/2019/12/the-four-rs-of-responsibility-raise-and-reduce.html" target="_blank">grew</a> by 60 percent. As our systems appear to have done in the majority of cases in this report, we prioritize authoritative voices for millions of news and information queries, and surface information panels on topics prone to misinformation — including climate change — to provide users with context alongside their content. We continue to expand these efforts to more topics and countries."</p><p>Avaaz said it stands by its findings, and criticized YouTube for knowingly promoting false information on climate change.</p><p>"YouTube is the largest broadcasting channel in the world, and it is driving millions of people to climate misinformation videos," said Avaaz's Deruy. "This is not about free speech, this is about the free advertising YouTube is giving to factually inaccurate videos that risk confusing people about one of the biggest crises of our time. The bottom line is that YouTube should not feature, suggest, promote, advertise, or lead users to misinformation." </p>
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By Sharon Kelly
Former Trump administration Energy Sec. Rick Perry, who resigned from his cabinet-level post effective last month, has joined the board of directors of the general partner of Energy Transfer LP, according to a filing made today with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Energy Transfer.