World’s Biggest Banks Are Driving Climate Change, Pumping Billions Into Extreme Fossil Fuels
By Climate Denier Roundup
A report released Tuesday by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Sierra Club and Oil Change International provides the first look at bank financing for fossil fuels since the Paris climate agreement, showing that the world's biggest banks are driving climate change by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into extreme fossil fuels.
The seventh edition of an annual report, Shorting the Climate: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2016, embarks on new territory to evaluate the bank policies and exposure of 25 U.S., European and Canadian banks in extreme fossil fuels—the most carbon intensive, financially risky and environmentally destructive sub-sectors. This includes coal mining, coal power, extreme oil (tar sands, Arctic oil, ultra-deep drilling) and North American liquefied natural gas export.
The report card, which also graded banks on their human rights policies, shows that banks performed poorly in all sectors. Levels of exposure were high across the board on the order of tens or hundreds of billions of finance for extreme fuel companies, demonstrating that banks are locking the world onto a path of major climate instability. Grades on policies were also poor, with an overall D average for the report card, showing that a vast majority of banks have no significant policies in place to stop funding extreme fossil fuels.
“In finance terms, 'short-selling' or 'shorting' is when an investor profits if a company or asset declines in value," Jason Opeña Disterhoft, senior campaigner with Rainforest Action Network, said. "It means betting on failure. After the Paris agreement, financing extreme fossil fuels amounts to shorting the climate. These bets are also at the expense of some of the most vulnerable communities living in fossil fuel 'sacrifice zones' around the world. We need banks to move now to help pivot the economy away from extreme fossil fuels for the sake of the planet and its people."
Big banks are funding the climate crisis by backing dirty fuels. Check out the new report: https://t.co/sSmyGSnuRx https://t.co/Xupp6aTriq— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1465915865.0
At a time when the world's nations have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, leading financial institutions have continued business as usual investment in fossil fuels in direct contradiction of global consensus. In just the past three years, these banks have sunk $42 billion for companies active in coal mining; $154 billion for the 20 largest coal-fired power producers; $306 billion for companies that drill extreme oil; and $282 billion for companies building liquefied natural gas export infrastructure. If governments follow through on the Paris agreement and limit carbon emissions, these investments could likely result in stranded assets and significant losses.
The report card does reflect bank movement on coal mining, where 10 of the biggest U.S. and European banks committed to reduce funding for the coal mining sector in the last year. Based on their ability to quickly switch their stance on coal over the last year alone, banks are capable of making the critical choice to cut out extreme fossil fuel investments. Not only can they do it, it is a critical step to follow through on promises made in Paris to stabilize the climate.
“Many banks announced a move away from coal in the run up to COP21 and after, but most of these focused only on coal mining," Yann Louvel, BankTrack's climate and energy coordinator, said. "Our assessment clearly shows that they still have a long way to go to concretely exit this industry and even more for the other extreme fossil fuel sectors. None of these banks can claim to support the Paris agreement, to be aligned with a 2° scenario or to be fighting climate change—as we too often read in their sustainability reports—if they continue to finance these destructive sectors."
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After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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