This week: the Trans Mountain Pipeline spills up to 50,000 gallons of oil on Indigenous land. A survey on climate change perceptions has some surprising results. And climate worst-case scenarios might not go far enough? Read on for this week’s round-up of top environmental stories.
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1. Trans Mountain Pipeline spills up to 50,000 gallons of oil on Indigenous land in BC.
The injustice against Indigenous people on Indigenous land continues. This time, it’s a 50,000-gallon oil spill. Chief Dalton Silver, of the Sumas First Nation, said that the spill directly impacts an aquifer that supplies his nation with drinking water. Despite the company’s statements that it was actively working with local authorities and Indigenous communities on the clean-up, Silver has told local news that communication has not been timely nor accurate. Chief Silver noted that it’s the fourth time in 15 years that the pipeline has spilt on his community’s Indigenous land. Notably, Indigenous communities have long opposed the expansion of the pipeline on Indigenous land, citing environmental concerns, along with concerns about their sovereignty and water supplies.
The official statement from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs reads: “We conducted our own assessment of Trans Mountain using leading science and Tsleil-Waututh’s Indigenous law that concluded that oil spills are inevitable, can’t be fully cleaned up, and have devastating effects. This most recent spill is another reminder that the risk is too great to accept. The Trans Mountain pipeline has already spilt more than 80 times since it began operating. This is why we continue to fight the Trans Mountain Expansion in the courts.”
The Trans Mountain Pipeline has since restarted its operations.
2. New survey results reveal the places where people care most (and least) about climate change.
Over 80,000 people across 40 countries were surveyed in January and February this year. It seems that across the board, almost seven in ten think climate change is “a very, or extremely serious, problem”. However, the results seem to show significant differences in levels of concerns between countries. 12% in the US, 9% in Sweden and 8% in Australia feel that climate change is not serious at all. Additionally, the five countries with the lowest levels of concern are all in Western Europe. In Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, only around half, or less, think that climate change is a serious problem. Comparatively, four of the five countries showing the highest levels of concern were from the Global South: Chile, Kenya, South Africa and the Philippines.
While the survey may have certain flaws, like over-representing “more affluent and educated” people in countries with lower levels of internet penetration, the results are still worth thinking about.
3. Climate worst-case scenarios may be worse than previously thought, according to new modelling results.
For the sixth assessment by the UN IPCC, scientists are compiling modelling results from over 20 institutions. And there’s not-so-great news. Recent modelling data suggests that the climate is significantly more sensitive to carbon emissions that we thought. Experts are saying that even though they need more research, these projections have the potential to be “incredibly alarming”. Despite assumptions that climate sensitivity has been relatively unchanged since the 1980s, data is suggesting that these assumptions might not hold. Why? One reason is clouds, which has been at the centre of intense academic disputes. Previous IPCC reports assumed that clouds would have a neutral impact. (Because warming and cooling feedbacks would cancel each other out.) But recent evidence shows that the net effect will actually be warming.
Again, researchers stress the need for more research. But it seems: “The more we learn, the more fragile the Earth system seems to be and the faster we need to move. It gives even stronger argument to step out of this Covid-19 crisis and move full speed towards decarbonising the economy.”
4. Experts say that a $17.5 billion write-down by BP proves it knows that oil and gas reserves are increasingly worthless.
Fossil fuel giant British Petroleum (BP) recently announced that it would write-down nearly $18 billion in existing assets. This is the biggest write-down since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. It seems Big Oil might be finally coming to terms with the truth. “Big Oil is finally admitting what we’ve been saying for the last ten years,” said Fossil Free Media director and Stop the Money Pipeline campaign spokesperson Jamie Henn. “Their reserves of oil and gas are increasingly worthless because there’s no way to safely, or profitably, produce them.”
In a statement, company CEO Bernard Looney recognised “greater efforts to ‘build back better’ towards a Paris-consistent world”. But before you start celebrating, read this. “BP is trying to spin this announcement as part of its transition to a ‘green’ company, but so far we haven’t seen any fundamental changes to its business plan,” said Henn to Common Dreams. “As long as BP is drilling for oil, it’s part of the problem. Save your applause until BP announces its ceasing all exploration and rapidly phasing out existing production.”
“Until then, these vague commitments are about as meaningful as painting an oil rig green.”
5. Goldman Sachs says that clean energy affords a $16 trillion investment opportunity by 2030!
Apparently, for the first time ever next year, spending on renewables might actually overtake oil and gas drilling. Goldman analysts said in a recent note to investors that renewables will account for about a quarter of all energy spending next year, up from 15% in 2014. Clean energy could drive $1-2 trillion in infrastructure investment and create 15-20 million jobs globally. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports: “the high cost of capital for fossil fuel developments is leading to underinvestment, which could lead to higher oil and gas prices that in turn spur a faster energy transition.”
The note adds: “Renewable power will become the largest area of spending in the energy industry in 2021, on our estimates, surpassing upstream oil and gas for the first time in history.”
1. According to a new report in Climate Policy, even “climate progressive” nations aren’t doing as great as we think. The UK and Swedish governments emissions pathways are going to lead to a carbon budget at least two times greater than their fair contribution to their Paris commitments. Commenting on the report, researcher John Broderick highlighted the importance of fairness “when dividing the global carbon budget between wealthier and poorer nations”, and that “a belief in the delivery of untested technologies has undermined the depth of mitigation required today.”
2. Unilever to invest €1bn in new climate fund over the next decade. This will go to projects such as landscape restoration, carbon capture, wildlife protection and water preservation. Accordingly, this will help Unilever achieve net zero emissions from all its products by 2039, ahead of the Paris deadline. Its CEO added that Unilever has “a responsibility […] as a business, and through direct action by our brands.” How? It plans to build partnerships with committed suppliers, communicate the carbon footprint of all its products, and work with governments, organisations, farmers and smallholders on restoration and biodiversity projects.
Image credits: Office of Response and Restoration