Category Archives: Climate Debt

Guardian Expands Climate and Environmental Reporting

The Guardian recently announced it had added more reporters to its environmental news desk, citing climate change as the most important story of the age.

Here’s a clip from editor Jonathan Watts:

So why am I going back into full-time, specialised environmental reporting? Because it is the most important story of our age. China led me to suspect that global economic growth had run into an ecological wall, which is the underlying source of stress and conflict in the world. When I moved to Latin America, I hoped to find alternative, less destructive paths of development, but there was a part of me that also felt I was running away from my own conclusions. The new post will take me back.

The responsibility is huge. The timing is crucial. Brexit was a vote against globalisation. Trump is waging war on the environment. To counter these trends, the Guardian has devoted more resources to its environment coverage. I am looking forward to being a part of an expanded team, but we have a tough act to follow. Brown, Vidal, George Monbiot, Damian Carrington and other present and former colleagues have been pioneers in this field with agenda-setting coverage and comment. Trying to maintain that quality, ambition and influence – while looking for new approaches to changing situations – will be a hard but worthwhile task.

As to the task that humanity faces, I think the problem and the solution are environmental. The world’s current concerns – rising nationalism, swelling migration, financial instability, worsening inequality and lack of confidence in governance systems – are to varying degrees caused by insecurity and fear about the future. Underlying that is an awareness (conscious or unconscious) that our current path of capital-and-carbon-driven development is wrecking our home planet, running down resources, devastating other species and building up environmental costs that are increasingly difficult to offload on distant countries and coming generations. We have to pay a bill that has been run up over centuries and it feels as if we are broke. But that is misleading. There is still plenty left if we manage it well and share it more fairly.

We need to reconsider what is important, what is worth paying for and how decisions are being made. At a national level, why are we devoting so much public money to subsidise fossil fuels that are destroying the climate? Why are most politics determined by four-, five- or six-year electoral cycles that suit the markets but not the long-term interests of voters? Why do our economic systems make it cheaper to dump plastic in the oceans than recycle? Why do traditional beliefs of some countries encourage the slaughter of endangered animals or denial of climate science? Why are forests worth less than cropland? Why do we continue to prioritise material growth when it increasingly leads to obesity, cancer, conflict and instability?

Uncharted Territory: WHO Warns on Climate Change

The Guardian reported on the World Health Organization’s report recent assessment of record temperatures in 2016 and implications for the future. “Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory,” said David Carlson, director of the WMO’s world climate research programme.

Here’s a clip:

2016 saw the hottest global average among thermometer measurements stretching back to 1880. But scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years.

2017 has seen temperature records continue to tumble, in the US where February was exceptionally warm, and in Australia, where prolonged and extreme heat struck many states. The consequences have been particularly stark at the poles.

“Arctic ice conditions have been tracking at record low conditions since October, persisting for six consecutive months, something not seen before in the [four-decade] satellite data record,” said Prof Julienne Stroeve, at University College London in the UK. “Over in the southern hemisphere, the sea ice also broke new record lows in the seasonal maximum and minimum extents, leading to the least amount of global sea ice ever recorded.”

Kate’s Outline


C  N  P    O U T L I N E

Theme : will be based on the concept of oil and crude materials and their destruction of nature and society as a whole. The idea is the spilling of oil will have an effect everywhere with its drips touching everything.

General storyline I (maybe with someone else) will walk up representing humanity/Big Oil. Will admire this beautiful piece, and then spill all over it. Subject matter/ pieces in the whole canvas: forest, ocean, desert, cityscapes, possibly Iowa City, polar ice caps, human health, and how our culture is impacting these elements.

Main characters me, the piece, humanity. 

Interviews / Research Erica Damman (arts medium), Richard Priest (oil background), online research of artists of inspiration

Arts Medium  slanted canvas with acrylic subjects. Then real oil or a replacement will be spilt over it, dripping on ceramic/plastic figures of humans on a map.

Oil Companies: Climate Change Report Card

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-15-06-pm Vice magazine did a little report card on the climate records of various oil and coal companies.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the results:

ExxonMobil: “Poor”

— Aggressively seeded disinformation about climate science and the risks of climate change. These acts are compounded by the fact that Exxon scientists knew about, and were actively studying the perils of carbon emissions on the climate as early as the 1970s.

— Once called the Paris Agreement a “step forward,” but has yet to acknowledge the goals set by the agreement for reducing carbon emissions and preventing an increase in global average temperature.

— Has stated that climate change is, according to the report, “a contributor to the physical risks faced by their businesses,” such as the impact of rising sea levels on its factories and infrastructure.

— Claims to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax, saying: “A properly designed carbon tax can be predictable, transparent, and comparatively simple to understand and implement.” Still, the company has supported the tax inconsistently, according to public statements.

— On the issue of renouncing disinformation on climate science and policy, ExxonMobil scored “egregious” for its role in discrediting climate science, especially through its membership of lobbying groups like the Global Climate Coalition.

BP: “Fair”

— Despite its affiliation with groups that work to discredit climate science and policies, BP has a better record than the other companies when it comes to “consistently” affirming climate science, and the need for a reduction in carbon emissions.

— BP left the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2015, stating that the group’s position on climate change “is clearly inconsistent with our own.”

— Publicly “expressed support,” according to the report, for the Paris Agreement and its goals for limiting the increase of global average temperature.

— Failed to disclose any public details about climate-related physical risks.

Climate Change and Clothing

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-09-38-pm Forbes recently had an interesting piece on how the fashion industry is looking at its role in climate change.

Check out these numbers:

Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.

– More than 150 billion garments are produced annually, enough to provide 20 new garments to every person on the planet, every year.

– Americans throw away about 70 lbs of clothing per person every year.
– Fast fashion garments, which we wear less than 5 times and keep for 35 days, produce over 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than garments worn 50 times and kept for a full year.

– Cheap synthetic fibers also emit gasses like N2O, which is 300 times more damaging than CO2.

– Over 70 million trees are logged every year and turned into fabrics like rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell.

– Cotton is the world’s single largest pesticide-consuming crop, using 24% of all insecticides and 11% of all pesticides globally, adversely affecting soil and water.

– Plastic microfibers shed from our synthetic clothing into the water supply account for 85% of the human-made material found along ocean shores, threatening marine wildlife and ending up in our food supply.

– The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources on the planet.

– A quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are used in textiles.

Can Small Forests Lead Climate Action?

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-00-09-pm The NY Times looked at the expanse of private forests in the US recently, and the role of private managers in taking the lead in reforestation and climate action.

Here’s a clip:

“More than half of the 751 million acres of forestland in the United States are privately owned, most by people like Ms. Lonnquist, with holdings of 1,000 acres or less. These family forests, environmental groups argue, represent a large, untapped resource for combating the effects of climate change.

Conserving the trees and profiting from them might seem incompatible. But Ms. Lonnquist is hoping to do both by capitalizing on the forest’s ability to clean the air, turning the carbon stored in the forest into credits that can then be sold to polluters who want or need to offset their carbon footprints.”

Climate Change and Rivers

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-8-22-09-am Open Rivers in Minnesota had a nice interview with the Chief Meteorologist for Minnesota Public Radio, on the impact of climate change on our rivers in the Midwest.

Here’s a clip:

“OR] How does living near the Mississippi River shape you today?

[PH] Our rivers and lakes are a barometer of climate change. We’re seeing much higher volatility in our river systems and our hydrologic cycle. It’s well documented that it’s not raining as often in Minnesota, but when it does, it’s raining harder. That fits with the shift in climate. You increase the vapor in the atmosphere by roughly four or five percent, and you get exponential increases in rainfall when it does rain. I’ll give you an example. In 2013 the Mississippi River level at St. Cloud went from the seventh highest reading to the third lowest reading in just over two months. So we’ve seen this trend toward wetter springs and early summers in Minnesota, toward an increase in early warm season precipitation. And then it shuts off later in the summer. So we’re getting a trend toward these high variabilities in our river levels, where we’re getting record floods in early spring and summer, and then a record drop to low water levels in late summer and early fall. That doesn’t happen every year, but we’re seeing a trend. There is higher volatility in our river systems, and the Mississippi is part of that.
[OR] So that causes some challenges for cities and urban planning and so forth, doesn’t it?

[PH] Indeed it does. City managers around the state are scrambling to deal with that. Our urban infrastructure was built around a certain set of climate assumptions from more than a hundred years ago. Those climate assumptions are no longer valid, especially when it comes to precipitation intensity. The 2012 Duluth flood is a great example of a city being overwhelmed by the kind of extreme weather we’ve been having. We have had four major 1000-year rainfall events in Minnesota since 2007. Three of them were in southern Minnesota, one in the Duluth area. That was a $100 million infrastructure damage event in Duluth. Cities all around the area are dealing with these higher water events, where places like Mound, near Lake Minnetonka, were overwhelmed by high water levels. It’s Interesting to watch, as climate shifts, even when it seems like our national policy makers are slow to react, our local cities policy makers are well aware of this. They’re on the front lines of climate change and they’re dealing with it every year.”

New Study: 9 Out of 10 Latinos Stress Climate Action


A new study by NRDC, which examines the views of Latinos on climate change and environmental action, finds that “Latinos often rank acting on climate high as a national priority,” and that “9 in 10 Latinos want climate action, and 86 percent support carbon pollution limits on power plants.”

Here’s a clip:

“A majority live in California, Texas, Florida and New York, states that are among the most affected by extreme heat, air pollution, and flooding.

Latinos are heavily represented in crop and livestock production and construction, where they’re at elevated risk from climate-change-boosted extreme heat. They are three times more likely to die on the job from excessive heat than non-Latinos.

On average, Latino children suffer the same from asthma as non-Latinos, but they are 70% more likely to be admitted to the hospital and twice as like to die from asthma.

Latinos generally have less health insurance coverage than non-Latinos, so they struggle to access health care when afflicted by climate-related illnesses.”