…you could say it all adds up
More than 1,700 murders of environmental activists were recorded over the past decade, an average of a killing nearly every two days, according to a new report.
The NGO has published its report on the killings of land and environmental defenders around the world every year since 2012, after the murder of Chut Wutty, a Cambodian environmentalist who worked with the Global Witness CEO Mike Davis investigating illegal logging. Killings hit a record of 227 in 2020 despite the pandemic.
The killings have disproportionately affected lower-income countries and Indigenous communities; 39% of the victims were from this demographic, despite it making up only 5% of the world’s population.
Mining and extractive industries, logging and agribusiness were the most common drivers for a murder when a cause was known. The report’s authors warned the figures were likely a significant underestimate and do not capture the full scale of the problem, with the deaths often occurring in ecosystems crucial to averting the worst impacts of the climate crisis.
More than two-thirds of the murders of people trying to protect forests, rivers and other ecosystems between 2012 and 2021 took place in Latin America, with 342 killed in Brazil and 322 in Colombia. In Mexico, 154 were killed, and 117 in Honduras. The Philippines was another country of concern, with 270 murders.
“This is a global problem but it is almost exclusively happening in the global south,” said [the report’s author Ali] Hines [a campaigner at Global Witness]. “Corruption and inequality are two kinds of key enabling factors for the killings. For example, in the land titling process, there can be investment deals between companies and corrupt officials. Defenders who try to seek justice are sometimes up against judges paid off with bribes. That leads on to the third factor, which is the high rates of impunity. Cases are very rarely credibly investigated, never mind perpetrators brought to justice.”
…but it’s also a problem when it doesn’t
Battered by financial markets and besieged by MPs whose constituents’ mortgage payments are set to rocket, Liz Truss must now navigate a serious economic crisis of her government’s own making.
Truss was reportedly reluctant for Kwasi Kwarteng to issue an emergency statement earlier this week, aimed at reassuring financial markets. She preferred to stand firm. The mini-budget was closely aligned with Truss’s own ardently free-market vision, and she is unlikely to want to be forced into a humiliating U-turn so early in her premiership.
Some in government appear to believe markets overreacted so dramatically in recent days because they did not understand the full context of Kwarteng’s plans, and what he and Truss are hoping to achieve. Truss intends to remedy that by rushing out other aspects of what she firmly believes to be a pro-growth set of policies – from childcare reform to immigration – in the hope of reassuring investors.
In its pointed statement on Tuesday evening, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) dropped a heavy hint it would like to see the chancellor withdraw some of his tax-cut plans, when he sets out his fiscal plan on 23 November.
Truss could attempt to blame Kwarteng for the chaos and force him out, though MPs are of the firm belief that it was Truss’s mini-budget just as much as it was his. She would then have to find another right-hand man or woman, solid enough to reassure the markets, but willing to serve in her deeply ideological cabinet.
Kwarteng has promised the markets – and his own MPs – more details on how he plans to ensure that debt as a share of GDP is falling in the “medium term”, despite his vast unfunded spending plans. One way to try to make those sums add up would be to announce spending cuts in the years ahead, with the welfare budget a likely victim.
Promising cuts would please some of Truss’s backers, who see a smaller state as integral to their vision of a leaner, more competitive economy. But with public services, from ambulances to courts, already struggling badly, it is not obviously an election-winning approach.
But the party’s leadership rules, as they stand, give Truss 12 months before she can face any formal challenge. With the strong support of her party’s membership in the summer ballot, she has a mandate to dig in her heels and crack on with implementing her radical plans.
So why the sudden run on the pound? One answer I liked came from the City of London economist Dario Perkins, who declared that the problem with the budget wasn’t that it was inflationary but that it was “moronic,” and that an economy run by morons has to pay a risk premium.
But while I like the idea of a “moron” premium, there may also be a more concrete concern. I’ve been in correspondence with other City of London economists, and they have expressed doubts about whether the bank will actually be willing to tighten enough to offset the inflationary impact of Trussonomics.
There may, however, be a Britain-specific reason the Bank of England might be hesitant to raise rates sufficiently to contain inflation.
The more I look at current events in Britain, the more I find myself harking back not to 1976 but to the other sterling crisis of 1992. At the time, while the euro didn’t yet exist, many European nations, Britain included, were part of a system intended to keep the relative value of their currencies stable — a so-called exchange rate mechanism. In 1992-3, however, the European E.R.M. came under severe pressure from speculators, most famously George Soros, who began betting that many of Europe’s economies would give up on their targets and allow their currencies to fall against the Deutsche mark.
Defending against this speculative onslaught would have required sharply raising interest rates for an extended period. And in the end, several countries, Britain included, proved unwilling to do that. Why?
Part of the answer was that Britain was suffering from high unemployment at the time, and feared that rate hikes would deepen its slump. But there was another, perhaps even more pressing, concern. For a variety of reasons British homeowners, unlike their U.S. counterparts, tend to have either floating rate mortgages, whose interest rates vary with the market, or mortgages that will come due and need to be refinanced within a few years.
In 1992, this meant that defending the pound with higher interest rates would quickly translate into direct financial pain for millions. And after a few weeks of defiant rhetoric, policymakers caved to the pressure and let the pound fall.
It’s still too soon to write Britain off; it’s a rich country with a lot of freedom to maneuver. On the other hand, if British monetary policy really is constrained in this way, going all in for zombie fiscal policy is even more irresponsible than it would be otherwise. And you do have to wonder how long Truss will last, given this huge unforced policy error.
…full marks to the washington post for a genuinely british level of restrained understatement in its opening paragraph
The Bank of England moved Wednesday to quell a financial market revolt, announcing that it would temporarily buy an unlimited quantity of government bonds to prevent disorderly trading from destabilizing the British economy.
…presumably they took their cue from the bank
“Were dysfunction in this market to continue or worsen, there would be a material risk to U.K. financial stability,” the central bank said in a statement.
…they didn’t say…for example…”yes, we saw that shit too & we get how it looks pretty fucking stupid but let’s not pretend it’s a good idea to let it all go to hell right away”…but that’s a central bank putting its hand in its pocket to the tune of billions…you might be familiar with it under the heading of “a bailout”?
After the government unveiled its proposal Friday, investors fearing it would aggravate inflation that is already near 10 percent dumped government bonds and the British pound.
Reaction in the government bond market was intense. By Tuesday, bondholders were demanding a yield, or interest rate, of roughly 5 percent to lend the British government money for 30 years, almost 1.25 percentage points more than before the tax-and-spending plan was announced.
With sellers outnumbering buyers, the central bank stepped in on Wednesday to reassure investors that it would buy government bonds “on whatever scale is necessary” to ensure that trading remains orderly.
…so…they only directly threw money at the government…which by most accounts caused…or indeed is…the problem…but that doesn’t mean that’s as far as it goes
The alternative would have been to risk a breakdown in the market for government securities, a development that would strangle credit throughout the economy. Already, some British lenders were freezing new mortgage loans, and pension funds were facing margin calls that would force them to sell bonds that were sinking in value, according to Barclays Bank.
Britain also must attract significant flows of foreign capital to finance its sizable trade and budget deficits, economists said.
…&…in terms of self-inflicted wounds…I don’t know if you’d be looking at the “apply pressure” bit before the medics are on scene…or more by way of a tourniquet…I’m leaning towards the latter, though…the pressure you’re supposed to keep constant but the other thing you have to release after a while or it makes things worse
But Britain is not out of the woods. The Bank of England said its bond purchase plan was “strictly time limited” and would expire on Oct. 14. Investors, meanwhile, are hoping that at next week’s Conservative Party conference, Truss will modify her fiscal stimulus plans.
“This is something that’s designed to buy time as opposed to cure a problem,” said David Page, the head of macroeconomic research at AXA Investment Managers in London, referring to the bank’s announcement.
…a week is a long time in politics & all that sort of thing…but considering how much of liz truss’ act is hung on a damn-the-critics approach to giving a select slice of the population what it thinks it wants…I hope the bank isn’t holding its breath while she struggles to emulate someone who famously announced that “the lady’s not for turning“…although…ironically enough, when maggie said that she was sort of in the middle of performing something of a U-turn…so…we’ll see?
The International Monetary Fund also weighed in, with an unusual rebuke for a Group of Seven economy. “Given elevated inflation pressures in many countries, including the U.K., we do not recommend large and untargeted fiscal packages at this juncture, as it is important that fiscal policy does not work at cross purposes to monetary policy. Furthermore, the nature of the U.K. measures will likely increase inequality,” the fund said.
Before the intervention announcement Wednesday, the Bank of England was planning next week to begin selling its holdings of government bonds. Those plans have been shelved until Oct. 31.
During the pandemic recession, the bank had purchased a large quantity of bonds to reduce borrowing costs and encourage economic growth. More than two years later, with inflation the main concern, central bank officials wanted to start withdrawing that extra economic spur.
Instead, the bank is now effectively helping the government to stimulate an economy that already is running too hot.
…it might be a little island just off a corner of a massive trading bloc…but thinking of it more as a canary in a coal mine…what’s bad for it is bad for a lot more besides
British financial markets are now pricing in rates of 6 percent early next year, up from the current 2.25 percent, a jump that investors say would devastate the economy.
The unemployment rate would double to 7.2 percent and the economy would fall into a deep recession, Samuel Tombs, the chief U.K. economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told clients on a webinar Wednesday.
Homeowners would be especially hard-hit, since most in Britain hold adjustable rate mortgages with repayment costs that reset every two or five years. With large numbers due to refinance in the coming months, a typical borrower who pays 900 pounds ($975) each month would face a jump in their mortgage payment to 1,500 pounds ($1,625), Tombs said.
Likewise, 80 percent of business loans carry floating interest rates. The share of profit the typical company must devote to debt repayment could triple, representing “a massive financing shock for businesses that few have anticipated,” Tombs said.
Rather than raise rates that much and incur a deep recession, the central bank is likely to allow the pound to fall further, he said.
The Bank of England is likely to disappoint investors by increasing rates at its next meeting in November by three-quarters of a percentage point, far less than the 1.8 percentage points markets are pricing in, Barclays global research chairman Ajay Rajadhyaksha wrote in a research note.
Truss and her chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, have defended their vision for the economy. But neither has made a public statement this week to address the unfolding crisis.
“They are prepared to risk unpopularity because they think it will work in the long term,” said Tony Travers, a politics professor at the London School of Economics.
…still…arguably beats talking about the weather
Packing peak winds of 150 mph, Hurricane Ian made landfall just after 3 p.m. near the barrier island of Cayo Costa, west of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, hours after a severe storm surge began turning roads into rivers. After rapidly intensifying overnight Tuesday, Ian tied for the fifth-strongest hurricane to hit the United States, and Gov. Ron DeSantis said he had asked President Biden to free up federal assistance by announcing a major disaster declaration for all 67 Florida counties.
Hurricane Ian, which the National Hurricane Center referred to as “extremely dangerous,” shoved water over thresholds, bent some palm trees and plucked others from the ground, and overturned small airplanes with the ease of a giant. Nearly 2 million customers in Florida were without power as of 10:04 p.m. on Wednesday, according to PowerOutage.us, as Hurricane Ian continued to batter the state’s western coast.
Flooding from Ian’s storm surge — the rise in ocean water above normally dry land — probably peaked as high as 12 feet in some areas of Florida, the governor said. The surge increased to over seven feet in Fort Myers, nearly four feet higher than the next highest surge in 50 years of observations. The tide gauge in Naples also posted its highest level on record, with a surge of at least seven feet. Boardwalk cameras and videos captured from high-rises in Fort Myers Beach, a barrier island taking the brunt of Hurricane Ian’s strongest winds, showed pounding waves carrying large amounts of debris and, in at least one video, the roof of a building.
As the hurricane roared toward a stretch of southwest Florida coastal counties, the stream of evacuations ordered up and down the Gulf Coast slowed, with officials pivoting to the opposite message: Stay put.
“If you are in any of those counties, it is no longer possible to safely evacuate. It’s time to hunker down and prepare for the storm,” DeSantis said Wednesday morning. “Do what you need to do to stay safe. If you are where that storm is approaching, you’re already in hazardous conditions. It’s going to get a lot worse very quickly. So please hunker down.”
…as for where the storm is approaching…well, aside from being partial to our byanl, there’s a lot of folks who could find that a little close to home to give some thought to
Florida’s allure has been a constant for generations. But recent decades have brought more transplants — and more development — than ever. In few places is that more apparent than along the swath of coastline facing disastrous impacts from Ian, from the Tampa Bay area south to Fort Myers and Naples.
From 1970 to 2020, census records show, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area grew an astounding 623 percent, to more than 760,000 people. Over that same period, the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton area grew to 283 percent to nearly 834,000 residents. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater saw growth of more than 187 percent and is now home to more than 3.1 million people.
…picture…thousand words…all that…if you can click through without being defeated by the paywall there’s some graphics that are pretty good for conveying the scale of this part
[Stephen] Strader [a hazards geographer and professor at Villanova University] said the population surge in Florida in recent decades — along with the building boom that has accompanied it — has put exponentially more assets and more people in harm’s way.
“People want to live near the coasts and live near the beach, but that comes with a cost. Unfortunately, we have to bear the brunt of that risk,” Strader said. “There are more people than ever before in the path of these storms. Plus, a lot of people are going to be experiencing a hurricane for the first time.”
Strader and fellow researchers refer to such looming risks as the “expanding bull’s eye” effect — the notion that as more humans populate and build in an area, it creates an ever-larger opportunity for a weather-related disaster to wreak havoc.
“Then throw on sea-level rise and climate change on top of that, and you are looking at a multi-headed monster,” Strader said.
“Everybody in the room agrees this is a major problem that we still haven’t come to grips with,” said Rob Young, a professor of geology at Western Carolina University and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. “This is a national problem. But Florida has been particularly good at putting more things in harm’s way.”
…& natural phenomena aren’t the only thing causing turbulent seas
The European Union suspects that damage to two underwater natural gas pipelines was sabotage and is warning of retaliation for any attack on Europe’s energy networks, a senior official said Wednesday, as energy companies began ramping up security.
The episode underscored the vulnerability of Europe’s energy infrastructure and further heightened tensions in the continent that has been rocked by the seven-month war in Ukraine. Poland and some experts said Russia was probably to blame, and could benefit from further market instability.
Seismologists reported that explosions rattled the Baltic Sea before unusual leaks were discovered Tuesday on two underwater natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany. The incidents came as the EU struggles to keep a lid on soaring gas and electricity prices.
“All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on behalf of the bloc’s 27 members. “Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”
Gas pipeline leaks around 1/3 of Denmark’s yearly CO2 emissions, E.U. official says [NBC]
…you get leaks in more than one pipe…particularly more than one 5-inch-thick-steel pipe…buried under concrete…several hundred feet under water…yeah…I’m gonna go ahead & say that doesn’t happen on its own
“All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why.”
But with little evidence to go on — American officials said that explosive gas pouring from the broken pipes made it too dangerous to get close to the breach — the United States and most of its European allies stopped short of publicly naming any suspects. Still, some officials speculated about the many ways that Russia might gain, even though the pipeline carries its gas.
Poland and Ukraine openly blamed Russia, which pointed a finger at the United States, and both Moscow and Washington issued indignant denials. U.S. officials and outside experts also speculated over whether Ukraine or one of the Baltic states, which have long opposed the pipelines, might have had an interest in seeing them disabled — and in sending a message.
Some European and American officials cautioned on Wednesday that it would be premature to conclude that Russia was behind the apparent attacks on the Nord Streams, each of which is actually two pipelines. President Vladimir V. Putin likes to show he has his finger on the gas valve, they noted, but wielding that power could mean keeping the pipelines, whose main owner is Russia’s state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, in good working order.
But others noted that one of two Nord Stream 2 pipelines was undamaged, leaving Mr. Putin the possibility of using it as leverage if the winter turns particularly cold.
…so…however you look at it
There was no good time for Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked, idiotic invasion of Ukraine. But this is a uniquely bad time. Because it’s diverting worldwide attention and resources needed to mitigate climate change — during what may be the last decade when we still have a chance to manage the climate extremes that are now unavoidable and avoid those that could become unmanageable.
The best way to appreciate that is by talking to people who live in some of the world’s most remote ecosystems. I’m talking about Indigenous communities residing deep inside, and protecting, the world’s remaining forests, particularly the megaforests free of roads, power lines, mines, cities and industrial agriculture. These intact forests — from those in the Amazon and Congo River basins to ones in Canada, Russia and Ecuador — are the world’s life-support system. They sponge billions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, generating oxygen, filtering freshwater to drink and generally strengthening our resilience against the pressures of climate change.
These forests and their Indigenous people were already under pressure from global economic forces, but Putin’s war set off a cascade of negative effects: Russia is one of the largest fertilizer producers in the world. The largest oil exporter to global markets. And more than a quarter of the world’s wheat is normally exported by Russia and Ukraine, providing bread for billions of people, as well as barley, sunflower seed oil and corn. Because of both the war and sanctions on Russia, shortages and prices on these commodities have spiked, increasing pressures all over the planet to strip more intact forest to drill for oil, plant crops for agribusinesses and create land for cattle grazing.
Unfortunately, the more we destroy these forests, peat lands and mangroves, it also becomes far less likely that we will get anywhere near the goal of the Paris climate agreement of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.
As John Reid, the senior economist for Nia Tero, explained, “Supply shocks from Ukraine and Russia become demand shocks across the world, including in the intact forests, because the intact forests are all big potential suppliers of agricultural commodities, gold, oil, gas and wood.” (Reid and Thomas E. Lovejoy wrote “Ever Green: Saving Big Forests to Save the Planet,” an outstanding primer on the vital role intact forests play in sustaining the biosphere.)
“When the war started,” added [Hindou Oumarou] Ibrahim [a leader of the Mbororo pastoralist people in Chad], “the African countries were asked to choose a side. And all we were thinking is that we need food. This war has become a big problem for all of us.” Everywhere she turns now, she added, Chinese companies are looking for land for industrial agriculture, which is a huge problem for her pastoralist people.
“For Indigenous peoples, the land is everything,” Ibrahim wrote in an essay last week in The Mail & Guardian, which is based in South Africa. “It is the source of our food, shelter and medicine, as well as the wellspring of our culture and history. Over countless generations, we have learned to live well on our land. We know how to protect it, how to restore it and how to serve as its engineers and nurturers rather than its destroyers.”
Then there is Ukraine itself. Before the war, it had significant ancient forests, “which have been left untouched by human impact,” according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Since the invasion, Russian military activity has damaged “900 protected natural areas,” according to an O.E.C.D. report issued in July, “and an estimated 1.2 million hectares, or about 30 percent of all protected areas of Ukraine.”
On top of that, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine accounted for a quarter of the worldwide timber trade last year. Because of the war and sanctions on Russia, other timber-producing and -exporting nations are doubling down to make up the shortfall by loosening environmental protections, The Financial Times reported: “Soon after February’s invasion, Kyiv lifted a regulation that prohibits logging in protected forests during spring and early summer” to help raise money for the war. “Environmental groups fear the decision could lead to large-scale losses in areas where illegal logging and forest mismanagement are already rife.”
Over the past half century, noted Reid, “countries have taken big collaborative leaps in protecting the environment and its stewards — whether it is the Clean Air Act of 1970 in America or Brazil’s 1988 Constitution recognizing the rights of its Indigenous peoples to control the lands they have protected for millenniums. Protected land has more than doubled worldwide since 1990.” And now, out of nowhere, one man launches a murderous war in the heart of the world’s breadbasket, and suddenly all the progress on norms and laws risks going up in smoke, right along with the forests.
…that ain’t good
What’s happening beneath the surface, though, is a thoroughly modern crisis. The bubbles are methane gas, escaping from underwater pipelines after an apparent act of sabotage. The mild disturbance shown in the photograph actually captures a complex mix of geopolitical tensions, the back-and-forth of energy markets and, both directly and indirectly, climate change.
A little over a decade ago, the U.S. energy industry underwent a revolution. The development of new systems of hydraulic fracturing — using water to break apart shale to allow pockets of natural gas to escape — meant deposits like the Marcellus Formation became gold mines. North Dakota spent years at the top of the list of state population growth as people moved there to extract oil and gas from the Bakken Formation. The “fracking” boom was born.
This boom overlapped with domestic politics in an important way. Just as new deposits of natural gas were being unlocked, public awareness of climate change began to spike. Activists and then politicians began advocating for phasing out coal-burning power plants — a process made easier by the sudden availability of cheap natural gas, which also burns cleaner than coal. Electricity plants began retrofitting to burn gas.
[…this is another one where the images it loads are helpful…but I’ve not got time to clip ’em out today, I’m afraid]
This transition was theoretically a net benefit for the climate. Burning coal produces carbon dioxide, the most abundant greenhouse gas present in the world’s atmosphere; burning natural gas creates much less of it. (Greenhouse gases are ones that can absorb heat that would otherwise escape the atmosphere into space. Often the captured heat is redirected back to Earth.) But there was a problem: Natural gas is methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas. It is more than 25 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat. And extracting methane from the ground often meant that some escaped into the atmosphere, dampening the climate benefit.
Over the past 30 years, Western Europe (here meaning members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) has seen an increase in its use of natural gas relative to other energy sources. In many European countries, though, fracking is banned, meaning that there’s a need to import natural gas to meet demand.
As in the United States, there is a web of pipelines crisscrossing Europe. But we have an advantage that they don’t: Nearly all of our pipelines are contained within the same country. In Europe, the web sits on top of the existing web of national boundaries. Meaning that pipelines moving gas west from Russia often have to go through multiple countries — at times subjecting them to geopolitical pressures and varying laws.
In 2011, a pipeline was constructed that avoided much of that problem. Running from Russia in the northeastern corner of the Baltic Sea southwest to Germany, the Nord Stream pipeline allowed for a direct connection between those two countries. Earlier this year, Nord Stream 2 was completed, largely running in parallel to the first iteration, though originating from a different location. Its central advantage was that it doubled the amount of gas that could be carried.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine. Suddenly, Europe’s reliance on Russian gas became a serious problem. The international community imposed severe sanctions on Russia, but the battle over importing Russian oil and gas was much more fraught. Germany froze the Nord Stream 2 project — but Nord Stream 1 was still flowing. Russia has leveraged its control over that pipeline to pressure Western Europe ever since. Several times, Russia has claimed that it had to restrict or stop transmission of gas through the pipeline, notably blaming sanctions for a lack of availability of parts. Earlier this month, Russia shut down Nord Stream 1 entirely.
Which brings us to the past few days. On Monday, Sweden detected a pair of underwater explosions in the region where the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines began. The implication is that the lines were sabotaged. On Wednesday, German officials expressed concern that the lines could not be repaired, rendering them permanently inoperable.
First, of course, there’s the climate question. An enormous amount of methane was released when the pipelines were ruptured, perhaps 500 metric tons per hour. More methane release means more warming, however incrementally.
The geopolitics of natural gas, explained [WaPo]
…& that’s just one flavor of pipeline…pretty much all of them come with an unpleasant aftertaste
More than 24,000km of new oil pipelines are under development around the world, a distance equivalent to almost twice the Earth’s diameter, a report has revealed. The projects, led by the US, Russia, China and India, are “dramatically at odds with plans to limit global warming to 1.5C or 2C”, the researchers said.
The oil pumped through the pipelines would produce at least 5bn tonnes of CO2 a year if completed, equivalent to the emissions of the US, the world’s second largest polluter. About 40% of the pipelines are already under construction, with the rest in planning. Global carbon emissions must drop by 50% by 2030 to keep on track with internationally agreed targets for limiting global heating.
The developers of the 10,000km of pipelines in construction stand to lose up to $75bn (£70bn) if action on the climate crisis prevents the new pipelines being fully used, according to the analysts at Global Energy Monitor (GEM) who produced the report.
“For governments endorsing these new pipelines, the report shows an almost deliberate failure to meet climate goals,” said Baird Langenbrunner at GEM. “Despite climate targets threatening to render fossil fuel infrastructure as stranded assets, the world’s biggest consumers of fossil fuels, led by the US and China, are doubling down on oil pipeline expansion.”
The oil industry enjoyed record profits in the last year, the report said, and “is using this moment of chaos and crisis to push ahead with massive expansions of oil pipeline networks”.
The Guardian revealed in May that the world’s biggest fossil fuel firms are planning scores of “carbon bomb” oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past the temperature targets with catastrophic global impacts. In May 2021, the International Energy Agency said new oil and gas fields were incompatible with the world remaining within relatively safe limits of global heating.
The new report found that the length of pipeline in construction has more than doubled compared with GEM’s assessment in 2019, while the length of proposed pipeline has roughly halved.
The US is the world leader for pipelines in development. “A major push to increase crude oil export capacity out of the Permian basin [in Texas and New Mexico] along the Gulf coast is arguably a make-or-break moment for the industry, which is gradually losing its social licence to build new projects as the impacts of the climate crisis become more severe,” the report said.
Russia is aiming to expand its oil exports along the Northern Sea Route, which is becoming more accessible as global heating melts Arctic sea ice. The proposed Vostok oil pipeline is 1,600km long.
…&…well…if the central banks are supposed to be playing the part of the white knight riding to the rescue…that armor’s looking pretty tarnished
The Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are among the institutions that have bought millions of dollars in bonds issued by companies linked to deforestation and land-grabbing, according to the report Bankrolling Destruction, published by the rights group Global Witness.
“Because these programmes are guaranteed by the respective governments in the UK, the US and EU Member States, this means taxpayers throughout those territories are unwittingly underwriting companies engaged in the destruction of the Amazon and other rainforests,” according to the report.
The banks buy corporate bonds issued by big companies in an attempt to inject liquidity into financial markets when the private sector is reluctant to lend. Known as “asset purchase programmes”, these measures aim to reduce the cost of borrowing for companies and were used extensively during the pandemic as a way of bolstering economies.
Some of the companies that sold bonds are linked to environmental destruction, the report says, naming Cargill, Inc., the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) and Bunge Ltd Financial Corp, three of the biggest agri-business conglomerates operating in Brazil.
But it was the central banks that bore the brunt of the criticism. “Since 2016, the Bank of England has also purchased an undisclosed share in a £150m corporate bond issued by Cargill, Inc., and the European Central Bank has bought an undisclosed amount of debt issued by Bunge Finance Europe B.V.,” the report says.
And in just the last two years “the US Federal Reserve has bought a combined total of $16m of bonds issued by the Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) Bunge Ltd Financial Corp, and Cargill, Inc.
“All this comes despite the repeated public statements from all three central banks stressing the risks that climate change poses to financial stability and long-term economic growth.”
…& it turns out that doesn’t go great for you even when you can literally fly off in search of somewhere that sucks less
The State of the World’s Birds report, which is released every four years by BirdLife International, shows that the expansion and intensification of agriculture is putting pressure on 73% of species. Logging, invasive species, exploitation of natural resources and climate breakdown are the other main threats.
Globally, 49% of bird species are declining, one in eight are threatened with extinction and at least 187 species are confirmed or suspected to have gone extinct since 1500. Most of these have been endemic species living on islands, although there is an increase in birds now going extinct on larger land masses, particularly in tropical regions. In Ethiopia, for example, the conversion of grassland to farmland has caused an 80% decrease in endemic Liben larks since 2007. Just 6% of bird species globally are increasing.
Since 1970, 2.9 billion individual birds (29% of the total) have been destroyed in North America. The picture is just as bleak in other parts of the world – since 1980, 600 million birds (19%) have been destroyed in Europe, with previously abundant species such as the common swift, common snipe and rook among those slipping towards extinction. Europe’s farmland birds have shown the most significant declines: 57% have disappeared as a result of increased mechanisation, use of chemicals and converting land into crops. In Australia, 43% of abundant seabird species have declined between 2000 and 2016.
Dr Stuart Butchart, chief scientist at BirdLife International, said: “We have to stop these declines and start getting on track for recovery. Our future, as well as the world’s birds, depends on it. If we continue to unravel the fabric of life, we’re going to continue to place our own future at threat.”
The report is made up of a compendium of other studies, and because birds are the best-studied group on the planet, it gives an idea of the state of nature more generally. “Birds are useful for telling us about the state of the planet. What they say is that nature is in poor condition, lots of species are in decline,” said Butchart.
The previous State of the World’s Birds report, released in 2018, found 40% of bird species worldwide in decline.
The report comes ahead of the Cop15 meeting in Montreal in December, a once-in-a-decade opportunity to create new legislation to tackle the biodiversity crisis. Butchart hopes the findings will feed into the final statement from Montreal. “The key action needed now by governments is to make sure a really ambitious and bold global biodiversity framework is adopted. We’ve got to bend this curve, so by 2030 we’re on a mission of being nature positive,” he said.
The report is not all gloom. According to BirdLife, between 21 and 32 bird species would have gone extinct since 1993 without conservation work. It cites the creation of a new seabird haven the size of France in the North Atlantic, estimated to protect 5 million birds.
Juliet Vickery, chief executive of the British Trust for Ornithology, who was not involved in compiling the report, said: “The fact that nearly half of all bird species are declining and one in eight is at risk of extinction reinforces the fact that we are living through a biodiversity crisis. It requires action at every level, from local to global. This carries a strong warning about the health of our natural world.”
…& while you’re keeping your fingers crossed for the natural world…maybe cross ’em a little extra for the not-so-natural one we like to hang about in, too?
A little-known election will be held Thursday for the top post at the International Telecommunication Union — the U.N. agency that facilitates international connectivity in communications networks and is responsible for setting standards for emerging technology.
The candidates represent two very different visions for the future of our global internet. The election pits Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a veteran U.S. diplomat with a track record of expanding internet access, against Rashid Ismailov, a Putin-backed former Russian deputy minister of telecommunications and mass communications and former Huawei Technologies executive. Should Ismailov win, he would serve as a conduit for the government of Russia’s internet policy goals, which historically have included censoring dissent.
The internet has remained largely open and free because of deliberate policy choices by the United States, our allies and multilateral standard-setting bodies that value free speech.
Our adversaries are eager to dismantle this model. Just last year, Russia and China signed a joint statement committing to preserve “the sovereign right of States to regulate the national segment of the internet”— in other words, the right of states to censor political dissidents. Last year, at least 48 countries pursued new restrictions on content, data and technology, in many cases attempting to subdue free expression and gain greater access to private data.
This is the vision Russia and China are trying to bring to the internet. One of China’s Huawei-supported proposals for the International Telecommunication Union would fundamentally redesign internet protocol (IP) addresses into a less secure, state-controlled model. Since its invasion of Ukraine last year, Russia has significantly tightened its digital information space by blocking more than 2,384 websites and passing a law punishing citizens who spread “false information”.
…&…I guess that might be more than enough out of me…hopefully as we shift over from thor’s day to the relative luxury of freya’s promise the weekend will arrive things will start to look better…but there don’t look to be a shortage of black clouds on the horizon?
[…& hopefully some tunes…but…short on time as I am those might be a little late…umm…later than this, that is…which is only a little late?]
…hmm…feeling like I might be on the wrong side of the “don’t let the bastards get you down” line after all that
…so here’s something a little more upbeat