LAST YEAR, 331 HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS WERE MURDERED, MOST OF THEM ECO-ACTIVISTS
The watchdog group Front Line Defenders has published its 62-page Global Analysis 2020 documenting the murder of 331 human rights defenders worldwide in 2020, exceeding the record killings tallied in 2019. More than two-thirds of the killings were of Native peoples, typically working on Indigenous or environmental rights, and more than half—177—were killed in Colombia.
Besides the killings, human rights violations ranged from public smears to government detention on dodgy or fabricated justification. The three most targeted sectors were land, environmental and Indigenous peoples’ rights (21%), LGBTIQ+ rights (14%), and women’s rights (11%). Defenders were at special risk in 2020. And, as the report notes, “Temporary relocation to another country is sometimes the most effective protection response in situations of severe risk. Last year demonstrated how quickly this measure can become extremely difficult or impossible when borders are shut overnight.”
CLIMATE SCIENCE DENIERS DISINFORM PUBLIC BY LYING ABOUT RENEWABLES’ AFFORDABILITY
Justin Mikulka at DeSmog blog points to a climate lie being pushed by the same old liars using a new angle: claiming that natural gas offers a more affordable future than renewable energy sources. They’re avoiding outright denial because that just doesn’t cut it anymore. Their objective now is delaying the transition to a new energy system that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels. A focus right of these liars right now is New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan (EMP) introduced last year by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. The EMP goal is 100% clean energy by 2050. In October, the Affordable Energy New Jersey (AENJ), a coalition of labor, business, and energy groups, released a report claiming the EMP would cause an “astronomical” rise in energy costs, $2 billion extra a year. That is despite solar power now being the cheapest form of energy, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020.
Simultaneously, the liar group claimed that natural gas is a “clean” form of energy. These assertions simply don’t mesh with the reality happening around the planet. In New England, for instance, officials chose a battery storage project this year over natural gas. Tests by international utility company National Grid found that batteries reduced costs by 40% compared to natural gas “peaker” plants (which usually only run at times of peak energy demand). While the details of disinformation are different, some of the same players are engaged. The AENJ report was produced by Jonathan Lesser, an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which has claimed that climate science was “muddled.” Lesser himself has a history of attacking the green transformation, having previously blasted electric vehicles on the specious ground that “widespread adoption of electric vehicles nationwide will likely increase air pollution compared with new internal combustion vehicles.” As Mikulka notes, AENJ’s natural gas arguments are an echo of the coal industry’s disinformation efforts in promoting coal as a reliable and inexpensive energy source.
NOBEL WINNER PAUL CRUTZEN, INVENTOR OF “ANTHROPOCENE” DIES AT 87
He was just six when the Nazis stomped into Amsterdam in 1940 and, like other Netherlanders, his impoverished family suffered through the hongerwinter of 1944-45 that killed many of his classmates and their families by starvation. He became a civil engineer, then a computer programmer when that world was new, and eventually a chemist whose seminal work on the formation and decomposition of atmospheric ozone from nitrogen oxides—in particular their emissions from supersonic aircraft—led to a better understanding of atmospheric chemistry and eventually big changes in regulation. Soon, Frank S. “Sherry” Rowland and Mario Molina showed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in refrigerants and in aerosols were eating atmospheric ozone. This led to a major battle between environmental advocates and corporations like DuPont over whether CFCs were actually a problem, a fight that led in 1987 to the Montreal Protocol that phased out production of CFCs. The work of all three men won them the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1995. Over the next few years Crutzen delved further into atmospheric science. The Economist reports:
The year was 2000, and he was in Cuernavaca at a scientific meeting devoted to understanding the way that the Earth operates as a system. In one session the word “Holocene” was used again and again. An unfamiliar word to many outside science, an unexceptionable one to those within: a simple and value-free way of referring to the little sliver of geological time that began in the last throes of the most recent ice age, 11,700 years ago. But he found himself increasingly irritated by hearing the term used to encompass both the world of today and the world of the first farmers, a world of a few million people and of a few billion, a world of fires in hearths and a world of oilfields. He could not accept the view that humans just happened to occupy their period in the same way that dinosaurs happened to occupy the Jurassic and trilobites the Ordovician. And so he interrupted. “Stop saying the Holocene! We’re not in the Holocene any more.” Hubbub; surprise: “So where are we then, Paul?”, his colleagues asked. “When are we?” He cast around, hesitated, then decided: “The Anthropocene.”
No cause was cited for Crutzen’s death on Jan. 28, but he reportedly had been treated for Parkinson’s disease.
BLACKROCK OFFERS NEW CLIMATE INSTRUCTIONS TO COMPANIES
BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest shareholder, published a five-page document Wednesday explaining how it wants company directors to address climate risk. Last month, Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink called on firms to put themselves on a trajectory to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. “We expect directors to have sufficient fluency in climate risk and the energy transition to enable the whole board—rather than a single director who is a ‘climate expert’—to provide appropriate oversight of the company’s plan and targets,” the document reads. Unless asset managers are satisfied with company climate plans, Blackrock states, they could vote against other directors. But critics are skeptical and say the new instructions aren’t good enough. In a statement, Katrin Ganswindt, a finance campaigner with nonprofit Urgewald, said, “Voting against boards is an important way for the world’s largest asset manager to take its massive responsibility seriously. However, without the actual threat of exclusion, this policy update remains yet another paper tiger.”
- Messing with Texas: The Lone Star state’s power grid is working exactly as designed, by Mark Sumner.
- Do we need more scary climate change articles? Maybe, by Kate Yoder. Hope, fear, and the “Greta effect.”
- Why the Poor in Baltimore Face Such Crushing ‘Energy Burdens,’ by Agya K. Aning. Darlene Jenkins couldn’t understand why her gas and electric bills were so high. Then she met an advocate in a North Baltimore parking lot.
- When Climate Change and Xenophobia Collide, by Cristina Baussan, Letícia Duarte, Ottavia Spaggiari, and Sarah Stillman. During a hurricane, migrants in the Bahamas were told that they could seek shelter without fear. More than a thousand were deported, reflecting a global trend.
- The Auto Industry Bets Its Future on Batteries, by Jack Ewing and Ivan Penn. Carmakers, government agencies and investors are pouring money into battery research in a global race to profit from emission-free electric cars.