We’re talking indigenous knowledge, fossil fuels, aviation, climate refuges and the cost of climate change. Read on to find out more about the reports and top environmental stories of the week.
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1. Fossil fuels and fossil fools
The Guardian made headlines this week by being the world’s first major media company to stop accepting fossil fuel advertising. In its statement, it said that “[w]e believe many brands will agree with our stance and might be persuaded to choose to work with us more as a result. The future of advertising lies in building trust with consumers, and demonstrating a real commitment to values and purpose.” And it’s not just The Guardian ditching fossil fuels, Jim Cramer is too. Jim Cramer, the well-known American TV personality and host of Mad Money on CNBC, said on CNBC: “I’m done with fossil fuels. They’re done.” Likening them to “tobacco”, he announced that “we’re in a new world.” This was a response to the dismal Q4 earnings reported by the oil and gas industry—Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell included.
Check out his epic speech below.
“I’m done with fossil fuels. They’re done,” @MadMoneyOnCNBC's @JimCramer says after oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron reported Q4 earnings this morning. “We’re in the death knell phase.” https://t.co/rdcmoeRGMB pic.twitter.com/yl8iP7hpMi
— CNBC (@CNBC) January 31, 2020
2. Airlines are getting serious about the climate crisis—or are they?
This week, a coalition of airlines, airports and manufacturers called Sustainable Aviation announced a 2050 net-zero carbon emissions pledge. To reach this target, they said that a third of the reduction will come from carbon offsetting. And here’s the thing: carbon offsetting is important, and we should be offsetting our carbon. But it’s also not the only solution, nor is it the best one. Max Wakefield writes for The Guardian: “If it all sounds too good to be true, it is. Offsetting’s real power is to provide not a climate solution, but a social license to continue with business as usual.” (Read his full argument here.) So what is the solution?
With the UK aviation industry announcing their promise to reduce its net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, there’s been a lot of talk about the issue. Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport said: “The enemy is carbon, not aviation. We need to protect the ability to fly in a world without carbon.” Some campaigners and activists, on the other hand, are arguing that the only way is to reduce air travel and cancel new airports and runways.
So, what should we do about our aviation problem?
3. It is way cheaper to deal with climate change now than to deal with the consequences.
Duh, we know this. But now there’s a study about it, so we can all have the facts to back what we say. (In case anybody asks.) The research, published in Nature, confirms that the Paris Agreement passes the cost-benefit threshold. Which means that there are more benefits to keeping the global temperature rise below 2°C, as outlined in the agreement, than costs. The costs, that is, of having to deal with the consequences of what will happen if we cross the threshold. “The world is running out of excuses to justify sitting back and doing nothing,” said senior author Anders Levermann, “business as usual is clearly not a viable economic option anymore. We either decarbonise our economies, or we let global warming fire up costs for businesses and societies worldwide.”
4. Global warming presents a serious threat to the world’s climate refuges.
The world’s climate refuges refer to biodiversity hotspots that are safe havens for many species from changing climates. A new study has found that these hotspots will be coming under threat. The study modelled global land temperatures and ocean temperatures and rainfall for the past 21,000 years. Researchers found that biodiversity hotspots overlapped with tropical areas that have experienced relatively stable climates in the past — thus allowing for ancient species to survive. But after adding emissions into the picture, the researchers found that stable climates would shift to unstable climates.
Damien Fordham, a co-author of the study, added: “We see this as a further reason for action on climate change, and also in considering these hotspots in our plants for climate change mitigation and adaptation.”
5. We need to be listening to the indigenous peoples.
Tuntiak Katan of the Ecuadorian Shuar people said that governments are spending millions of dollars on environmental consultants. They’re ignoring valuable indigenous knowledge (in the form of land management skills). Which, if listened to, could help combat the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Katan’s warning comes as a new study was released last month. It revealed that parts of the Amazon rainforest that indigenous peoples are protecting sequester carbon better than parts that are not. As in, less deforestation and land degradation. Katan added that disaster’s like last year’s Amazon fires would continue unless the contributions and rights of indigenous people are respected.
And so we repeat: we need to be listening to the indigenous peoples. Now.