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Green Is The New Black

The Conscious Scoop: A Burning Arctic Circle, Refugees & Greenwashing

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This week: you probably heard about the Arctic Circle’s record high temps. What probably missed your radar is the fact that this week it was also World Refugee Day. (And yes, the climate crisis contributes to the number of world refugees too.) Oh, and companies are greenwashing… again.

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1. Temperatures (may have) hit an all-time high at the Arctic Circle.

Earlier this month, we heard about increasing zombie fires in the Arctic. Now, it looks like the conditions are priming us towards that future. Russia, coming out of its hottest winter on record, is seeing a triple-digit (in Fahrenheit) heatwave in Siberia. This is alarming researchers because it’s an all-time high for the Arctic Circle. What’s behind this? Climate change, of course: with the Arctic warming at twice the speed as the rest of the planet. Which means the Arctic should be a warning signal for the rest of the world. These kinds of higher temperatures will trigger more forest fires, and thaw more permafrost, which will both release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further warming the planet.

“This year, it’s in Siberia,” commented Walt Meier, a senior research scientist. “Next year it might be in Alaska or northern Canada or it might be in Scandinavia. On average, what we consider to be extreme events are going to become more and more normal.”


2. World Refugee Day and the climate crisis?

And for the first time ever, the UN warns of “climate-related” refugees. In its latest annual report, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) acknowledged climate change as a factor that actually uproots and displaces refugees. The report writes specifically that “interplay between climate, conflict, hunger, poverty, and prosecution creates increasingly complex emergencies.” However, identifying climate refugees doesn’t actually help them tangibly. Because, for example, the legal definition of “refugee” doesn’t mention the climate.

“But I think it’s a fact of recognition by the UNHCR that these are conditions that people are fleeing,” said Idean Salehyan, a political scientist, “and that [world governments] would respond to, at least in practice”.


3. According to the International Energy Agency chief, the world has six months to avert the climate crisis.

More specifically: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), has warned that these six months will be critical to change the course of the climate crisis. He told The Guardian that this year is absolutely critical. The stimulus packages created will shape the global economy for the next three years—and within these three years, emissions must start falling sharply or permanently, or climate targets will be out of reach. Because these three years will, in turn, shape the next three decades and beyond. As emphasised by activists, public health experts, city mayors and more: we need a green recovery if we want any shot at a better future. (And the IEA’s newest report builds on that too, setting out the first global blueprint for a green recovery (focused on energy systems). The report also shows that targeting green jobs is more effective than investing in the high-carbon economy.)

While some governments and investors have heeded such advice, others are still not acting fast enough.


4. Companies are greenwashing about plastic pollution and climate commitments (again).

You might have seen oil companies announcing their climate commitments, claiming that they want to be part of the green transition. But a new report by Carbon Tracker finds that it’s… greenwashing. Apparently, none of the companies assessed (including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and more) are aligned with even a 2°C scenario, let alone 1.5°C. Part of the reason why is that not all “net zero” targets are equal: there are key differences in the metrics used, the scope and extent of emissions covered and the emissions pathway covered. The baseline? Don’t take what they’re telling you at face value. Read the full report here.

And about plastic pollution? It’s become part of the mainstream conversation—finally—and yet it seems companies still can’t get it right. A new report by As You Sow graded 50 large companies on their plastic policies. The grading was based specifically on packaging design, how they use reusable packaging and recycled content, how well they disclose data, and how much they support improving recycling systems and laws like extended producer responsibility. The highest grade was a B–, and 15 companies failed. The report’s author said that the “strongest examples are still relatively few given what we know about the size of the problem.” He added that governments need to step up their regulation: “We are way past the point where voluntary actions are sufficient.”

And that probably applies to oil companies too…


5. Shipping and aviation 2030 climate goals are too weak.

According to Climate Action Tracker, even though the pandemic has impacted both the international shipping and aviation sectors, their targets are too weak. And because their targets are too weak, their emissions are about to reach dangerous levels. Together, these two industries account for 5% of all emissions—before the pandemic. By 2050, we’re looking at 40%. Unsurprisingly, the researchers have said specifically that the shipping industry has “tremendous potential” to decarbonise completely. Yet, there’s “very little sign of this sector […] moving anywhere near fast enough”. Similarly, the aviation industry has seen no-strings-attached bailouts around the world.

Now, if only we could figure out a way to make green recovery plans compulsory…


Image credits: Konstantin Dyadyun on Unsplash

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Tammy is an environmentalist and social media advocate who believes in thinking bigger and deeper about climate change. She hopes that with her actions, we will all grow to become environmentally conscious citizens (not consumers) with hearts for this beautiful planet we call home.