Today, 8 January 2020, it appears that the US is more relaxed about oil spike than Europe – which helps explain differences over Iran, according to Mueid Al Raee, of United Nations University.
Oil prices shot up following the US assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, rising more than US$5 per barrel to more than US$71 (£54) on January 6, its highest level since the Saudi oil refinery attack last September. Brent crude has since eased to around US$69 at the time of writing, though there is much discussion that it could climb a lot higher if the current crisis leads to an all-out war.
In keeping with many recent developments in US-Iranian relations, the Europeans have taken a dim view of America’s decision to take out the military commander. When trying to make sense of the very different approaches Iran on either side of the Atlantic, one factor that is often overlooked is that the US and Europe are affected in different ways by a rising oil price.
People tend to see more expensive oil as bad news for the global economy, but the reality is that it’s not necessarily bad for America. It may be that, in continuing to provoke Iran, driving up the oil price is almost seen by the Americans as an added incentive.
The complex oil effect
Oil pricing and its associated effects are often more complex than portrayed. As citizens, we are most often concerned with the price of fuel for our cars and the cost of heating our homes. This is the first way that oil prices affect the broader economy: if consumers have to spend more on fuel and associated taxes, they have less to spend elsewhere – and this can lead to a global slowdown.
Like all countries, the US is affected by this. Yet on previous occasions where US actions on the geopolitical stage drove up oil prices, there were also benefits to the country’s economy. Take the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which ushered in a period that would see the price of Brent nearly triple by the end of the decade. This led to a wave of investment into the US shale oil sector, which would eventually account for approaching two-thirds of the country’s total oil production.
Brent crude price, 1940s to present day
The trouble with shale oil is that it is expensive to produce, with average break-even of fields not far below US$50 per barrel. Shale oil wells also produce most of their oil in the first year of production, which means that producers have to continually drill new wells.
Due to the lower prices of the last few years, a large number of oil-related companies in the US have filed for bankruptcy, including both producers and services businesses. And while US production of shale oil managed to continue rising impressively throughout this period, mainly thanks to the bigger producers, it has been slowing down markedly in recent months.
If the oil price now trends higher, it could well mean that shale oil production in the US can resume its upward march. It also raises the prospect of US oil services companies earning more both locally but, most importantly, from foreign oil-production ventures, since there is a well-established correlation between their stock price and higher oil prices.
At the same time, six of the last eight recessions in the US were followed by high oil prices. One reason why this was not a hindrance for the economy is that, in the longer term, stable higher prices promoted the development of more energy-efficient technologies within the country.
The Americans can also argue that there are some longer-term economic benefits to higher oil prices that can help everyone. Oil-producing countries with surplus cash from oil profits invest in foreign technology and foreign assets. At the same time, oil-importing countries innovate to mitigate the profit-reducing effects of higher oil prices. These are both ultimately good for economic vibrancy and growth.
On the other hand, there are advantages to cheaper oil that are particularly important to countries in Europe – including the UK – because, unlike America, they are not oil self-reliant. Lower oil prices are shown to be beneficial for Europe’s highly energy-intensive economies and are expected to help with job creation. During the oil price drops of 1986 and the early 1990s, for instance, energy-intensive industries in Europe increased their earnings. Consumer product businesses and European airlines benefit from lower oil prices, too.
What happens next
Whether or not the Americans actually want higher oil prices, there are certainly good economic reasons why they probably won’t mind them. Deepening the chaos that started with the US withdrawing from the West’s nuclear deal with Iran is an “easy” way to achieve higher oil prices while meeting other strategic objectives.
Yet how the Europeans, China and Russia respond will also determine the global flow of oil from Iran and Iraq. Whatever the ultimate pros and cons of a higher oil price from an economic point of view, the Europeans clearly have more reasons to be unenthusiastic than the US. If the new exchange and payment instruments that have been developed by Europe to circumvent US sanctions are effective, and the US does not escalate the conflict, it may yet mean that oil prices remain stable at current levels.
As Yalies continue to push for greater Middle Eastern and North African representation on Yale campus, the student organization advocating for the creation of a MENA Cultural Center held a launch event Thursday.
While there are only four institutionalized cultural centers at Yale, the Middle Eastern and North African Students Association has advocated for MENA to become the fifth cultural center for the past two years. Spearheaded by members of the Arab Students Association and other cultural groups, the association is still in the midst of advocating for full-fledged cultural center status from the University. With support from the Yale College Council, the club plans to proceed in the meantime with programming similar to that of existing cultural centers.
Thursday’s MENA “Welcome Mixer” was intended to connect students and faculty who identify as Middle Eastern, as North African or who are interested in the region. The event was the club’s second official event since becoming a formally registered student organization last semester.
“[Last year], I started thinking about why a MENA house did not exist on campus to act as a [homey] umbrella for various students on campus who did not identify with the existing four institutionalized cultural centers,” MENA Co-Presidents Shady Qubaty ’20 and Yasmin Alamdeen ’21 said in a joint email to the News on Monday. “After all, breaking up the MENA region into an ‘Asian’ identifying region in the [Asian-American Cultural Center] and an ‘African’ identifying region in the [Afro-American] House disregards the social and cultural realities of Middle Eastern and North African identifying persons.”
Approximately 40 people attended the welcome mixer, including undergraduate Yale students, a student from Gateway Community College in New Haven and Jackson Institute World Fellows. They served a wide array of food, including treats from the MENA region such as baklava and grape leaves. The desserts came from Havenly, a startup bakery created by Yale students that employs refugee women in New Haven.
Qubaty and Alamdeen explained that the cultural house project first started to gain attention at the YCC Elections Debate in 2018, where Qubaty introduced the idea of a fifth cultural center to each of the candidates. They added that each candidate then incorporated the initiative into their platform, starting the YCC’s involvement in advocating for the MENA club.
According Qubaty and Alamdeen’s email, three questions related to the MENA club received a “nearly [unanimously]” positive reaction on the 2018-2019 YCC survey, motivating Qutaby and Alamdeen’s team to move forward with the project. Since then, they explained, the club has secured a base room at 305 Crown St., which is also next to the AACC and La Casa Cultural.
Qubaty and Alamdeen also emphasized that the momentum gained since receiving the official endorsement of the YCC signals that a MENA cultural center is “no longer just the demand of [their] association, but one concerning Yale’s official undergraduate student government.”
They added that this “huge step forward” has provided a YCC-based task force that has helped facilitate contact and advocacy on the prospective cultural center’s behalf.
“In addition, we have managed to garner the support of countless faculty members and are now in the process of forming an advisory board for the club consisting of Yale Alumni who are very passionate about this proposal,” the email said. “In that respect, we will have students, faculty and alumni all heading in the same direction.”
YCC President Kahlil Greene ’21 said that while MENA is “still in the process of advocacy that started last year,” the first step in establishing an official cultural center has already been achieved.
According to the email, Qubaty and Alamdeen characterized the process of achieving formal recognition as “very sticky” and one that “involves a lot of bureaucracy that is not just related to funding.”
They noted that the establishment of the other cultural houses took decades and that Yale administration has to be convinced that demand for a new cultural center is “real.” The email also explained that from there, the Administration will have to form a committee devoted to discussing its need and its feasibility “which takes time.”
Still, Qubaty and Alamdeen emphasized that formal recognition is “definitely possible” and that they “will not stop pushing” for a MENA house to be established.
Zakaria Gedi ’22, communications chair for the MENA Students Association, told the News that there is a large group of students who could be served by a MENA house and that this need applies “especially for a first-year who is trying to find their identity and make friends of similar heritage.”
Onur Burcak Belli, a Turkey-based journalist and Jackson Institute World Fellow at Yale, attended Thursday’s event and told the News that she was “really disappointed when [she] learned you don’t have a particular place to represent an area that has a lot to do with U.S. politics.”
She is proud of the students who have pushed for the establishment of the MENA Cultural Center and hopes to send a message that people living in the MENA region “are much more than victims.”
As the MENA Students Association does not currently have their own space, the Welcome Mixer took place on the first floor of the Asian-American Cultural Center.
We’re constantly encouraged to think of the next big climate summit, conference or protest as the most important one, the one that is about to make the all-important breakthrough. The UN’s Climate Action Summit on September 23 in New York is no different. The UN’s Secretary General António Guterres is calling on world leaders to come with concrete and realistic plans to bring their national net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050.
But amid the hype, it’s worth putting this UN summit in context against the history of 30 years of such international meetings. Is it a vain hope for 197 countries to agree on any meaningful climate action at all, especially when it involves so much money and power?
On the 1988 American presidential campaign trail, George Bush Senior promised to convene a global conference on the environment at the White House to “talk about global warming”. But when it finally happened it wasn’t truly global.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was born the same year, endorsed by the UN general assembly, and produced its first report in 1990. By then, there had been fine declarations of motherhood-and-apple-pie in various European cities, such as the Hague and Bergen. However, negotiations towards an international treaty to do something about climate change itself did not begin until February 1991. The world’s media largely ignored them, as the 1991 Gulf War was underway.
UNFCCC birth pangs
Very little progress was made – a sign of things to come – and with a hard deadline of May 1992 approaching, a month before the world’s nations were to gather in Rio de Janeiro for an “Earth Summit”, powerful countries were at loggerheads.
The birth pangs of this search for an international UN treaty on climate change still shape what is and isn’t possible today.
The sticking point was – and still is – what the US government, and the business lobbies behind it, would find acceptable. The French government was keen that any treaty include actual commitments to reduce CO2 emissions, with targets and timetables for the rich nations. The Bush government warned that if these were included in the text they would not attend the Rio summit, leaving any treaty languishing. The French blinked, the UK acted as a middleman, and a deal was done.
The French, and others, had hoped that once the UNFCCC was signed and ratified, they could quickly address the question of rich country commitments to reduce CO2 emissions. But this didn’t happen.
When the Kyoto Protocol, which extended the UNFCCC, was agreed in 1997, despite the fact that carbon trading and other economic instruments within it were designed to keep the Americans happy, no serious commitment to reductions was made. The Americans then pulled out of the implementation process of the Kyoto Protocol in 2001, when George W Bush became president.
The process staggered on and there was another helping of motherhood-and-apple-pie at Copenhagen in 2009. Finally, in 2015 a non-binding Paris Agreement was cobbled together, based on a previously discarded “pledge and review” mechanism, which has created an endless round of promises that haven’t been met.
The scientist who had warned that climate change was upon us in 1988 – James Hansen – called the Paris Agreement a fraud, and since 2015, many nations are failing to meet their Paris commitments. Even if they did, global average temperature rise this century would be far in excess of the two degrees above pre-industrial levels that the deal is supposed to ensure.
Some would argue that trying to get 197 countries to agree on anything is a fool’s errand. For 20 years, critics such as the international relations expert David Victor have questioned whether the UN is the appropriate venue for climate negotiations. Victor argues that such a forum is inevitably going to lead to gridlock. He’s not alone in this – as early as 1983 some policy analysts in the US were saying that such a global problem could not be solved because of the complexity of its politics.
The counter argument is that if a deal is agreed outside of the UN process, between the world’s major emitters – the EU, US and China – then it will be perceived as illegitimate, and will likely involve an even greater reliance on speculative technologies than the current Paris Agreement.
Ultimately, it becomes a matter of trust: do those already suffering the impacts of climate change trust those who have caused it to sort it out.
In my experience of talking to people who work in and around the UNFCCC’s bodies, many speak knowledgeably without hesitation, deviation or repetition about the alphabet soup of climate change acronyms, but are completely oblivious of much of this awkward history. Yet what happened – straightforward veto power by the US of anything that would look like real action – remains with us today, and it doesn’t help to pretend otherwise.
Whether the world can a transition to sustainability – the stated aims of both the UNFCCC and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – remains to be seen. But the stakes could not be higher. If political, economic, technological and cultural solutions aren’t now found, the outlook for humanity – and the other species we share this planet with – is exceptionally bleak.
This article is part of The Covering Climate Now series This is a concerted effort among news organisations to put the climate crisis at the forefront of our coverage. This article is published under a Creative Commons license and can be reproduced for free – just hit the “Republish this article” button on the page to copy the full HTML coding. The Conversation also runs Imagine, a newsletter in which academics explore how the world can rise to the challenge of climate change. Sign up here.
So vital is education to the future of society, billionaire Jack Ma has just stepped down from Alibaba to focus on it. But does it matter where you go to be educated?
The former teacher, who studied for a BA in English at Hangzhou Normal University, told the World Economic Forum he was rejected from Harvard Business School 10 times, but it didn’t deter him from building a world-beating company.
Asia’s top two universities – Tsinghua (23rd) and Peking (24th) – are both in mainland China. With 81 institutions, China is also the fourth most-represented nation in the list for the fourth year in a row.
The ‘THE’ says: “Overall, China’s universities have improved in the areas of citation impact, share of international staff and share of international co-authorship over the past year, driven by higher levels of funding.”
There are 11 more Iranian universities ranked this year, taking its total up to 40, and new regions whose institutions join the list for the first time this year include Brunei, Cuba, Malta, Montenegro, Puerto Rico and Vietnam.
These are the top five:
1. University of Oxford
Topping the rankings for the fourth year in a row, Oxford prides itself on having an ‘international character’. It’s first overseas student, Emo of Friesland, was enrolled in 1190. Today, 40% of its faculty are from overseas.
Among its famous alumni are 30 modern world leaders, including Bill Clinton, Indira Ghandi and the current British prime minister, Boris Johnson.
2. California Institute of Technology
Despite having an unusual anti-growth model, Caltech has risen three places to take the second spot this year, thanks to an improvement in its score for international staff.
“We try to get better, not bigger,” says its president, Thomas F. Rosenbaum.
Along with MIT, it’s one of just two institutions in the ranking to achieve a score of more than 80 out of 100 in all five areas: teaching, research, citation impact, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
3. University of Cambridge
Like Oxford, Cambridge is a ‘good all-rounder’, but this year it slips from second to third place. It’s called home by more than 18,000 students – including 4,000 international students from more than 120 countries.
It also boasts more than 100 libraries, which hold 15 million books.
4. Stanford University
Stanford has also dropped one place this year, to fourth.
Like the other two US institutions in the top 5, MIT and Caltech, is known for its technology focus.
THE says: “Companies founded by Stanford affiliates and alumni generate more than $2.7 trillion annual revenue – which would be the 10th largest economy in the world.”
Among them are Google, Nike, Netflix, Hewlett-Packard and Instagram.
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MIT rounds off the top five this year. Major scientific discoveries and advances accredited to the university include the development of radar, the first chemical synthesis of penicillin, the discovery of quarks, and the invention of magnetic core memory, which enabled the development of digital computers.
CleanTechnica Fossil Fuels elaborated on the more and more overwhelming tendency of eying Fossil Fuel complicity as no longer hidden in America’s investments institutions. as well as elsewhere in the world. Here it is.
They’re not giving up. Yes, several attempts were defeated to persuade the Massachusetts municipal and county retirement systems to remove fossil fuel investments from their portfolios. But the Massachusetts Legislature is still considering measures that open up possibilities for divestment. To do otherwise, they argue, is to engage in fossil fuel complicity.
And they’re not alone. All over the US, organizations are pushing for divestments within institutions and municipalities. Led by FossilFree.org, individuals and advocacy groups are raising the discourse around the necessity to stop and ban all new oil, coal, and gas projects bypassing local resolutions to divest and by building community resistance.
Divestment has been a tool used to promote social change since at least the 1970s, when anti-apartheid activists urged institutions to move their investment dollars away from companies that did business with South Africa. Fossil fuel divestment has been gaining momentum in recent years, with more than 1,000 institutions pledging to remove $8.55 trillion from investments in the fossil fuel sector.
Fiduciary Duty is Now a Companion Argument to Social & Environmental Reasons to Divest
In 2017, Somerville, Massachusetts’ governing board agreed to move $9.2 million — 4.5% of the total invested funds — out of fossil fuel investments. The regulatory body that oversees public pension systems rejected the move, however, with reasons ranging from procedural to breach of fiduciary duty. The Massachusetts Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) claimed Somerville was failing to put the financial needs of its beneficiaries ahead of social and environmental causes. PERAC oversees 104 public pension plans across the state, with about $86 billion in total assets.
Demand for fossil fuels is likely to drop as much of the global economy shifts to renewable energy.
Increased storm frequency due to climate change can cause supply chain disruption and infrastructure damage for oil companies.
“From the fiduciary perspective, there are a lot of questions as to the economic health of the fossil fuel sector moving forward,” Alex Nosnik, a member of the Somerville board, said. “Risk, certainly in concert with the environmental and social issues, was driving our decision to move forward.”
Ultimately, after lots of divestment advocates worked alongside sympathetic legislators to craft a local option bill that would authorize any municipal or county retirement system to divest from fossil fuels should they so choose. Standalone bills have been filed in the House and Senate; similar language has also been included in a wide-ranging clean energy bill pending in the Senate.
Several of the state’s environmental groups have come out in favour of these measures, including the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, the Green Energy Consumers Alliance, and the Climate Action Business Association.
“We have to stop putting money into fossil fuels,” said Deb Pasternak, director of Sierra Club Massachusetts. “We need to take our money and direct it toward the renewable energy economy.”
According to Yale Climate Connections, in a February 20, 2019, Food & Agriculture topic article, it is said that “Researchers look for ways to meet rising global food demand. The challenge: produce 50 percent more food while reducing GHG emissions by one-third.”
Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population –
currently at 7.6 billion and expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050 –
without exacerbating climate change will require the closing of three
significant gaps, according to a new report, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.”
The gaps highlighted in a recent World Resources
Institute (WRI) report involve:
supply, simply producing enough to meet rising demand;
for food production: The report estimates that if current production rates
continue with the same yields, an additional area almost twice the size of
India would be required to produce enough food; and
increased greenhouse gas emissions likely to be produced by the additional food
production needed by 2050.
Feeding a rapidly growing population in a
sustainable way is a challenge, researchers have grappled with for some time.
“If you just wanted to feed the world and you didn’t worry about the
environment at all, you know that’s probably not that hard because we just
basically go and chop down a lot more land, a lot more forest,” says lead
author Tim Searchinger. “But the challenge is inherently producing all that
more food plus not converting additional land – that’s where the challenge is.”
Searchinger is a Princeton University research
scholar who collaborated with an array of international researchers over the
past six years to produce the WRI report. A synthesis version was released in
December 2018, and the roughly 500-page full report is to be published this
Challenges in feeding 10 billion people by 2050
The synthesis report outlines a variety of options
and opportunities to meet the rapidly growing need for nutrition while at the
same time working to mitigate climate change. Ultimately, the authors seek to
answer the question: “How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion
people by the year 2050 in ways that help combat poverty, allow the world to
meet climate goals, and reduce pressures on the broader environment?”
“If you want to solve climate change, you have to
solve this question,” Searchinger says. He points to estimates that agriculture
and associated land use change could make up 70 percent of “allowable emissions
from all human sources” by 2050 if current practices continue.
“That would basically leave almost no room for any
other emissions, so it would basically make solving climate change impossible,”
he says. “So we have to figure out a way to do both and figure out a way to
produce 50 percent more food with [approximately] two-thirds fewer emissions –
so that’s the challenge.”
The report joins a growing list of documents
proposing solutions to climate change that revolve around food and agriculture.
Peter de Menocal, dean of science, professor of earth and environmental
sciences, and director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia
University, points to Project Drawdown as another analysis focusing on
Project Drawdown includes a ranked list of climate solutions, and three
of the top five involve food and agriculture. The third-ranked solution is to
reduce food waste, number four is a “plant-rich diet,” and fifth on the list is
“tropical forests,” which de Menocal notes is related to palm oil and other
agricultural uses. He emphasizes the need to take real actions soon.
“I think ultimately we’re in for a big surprise, a
big shock if you will, and so I think that transition can be lessened by
becoming aware of what the solutions look like and how individuals can change
their behaviors to align with the fact that we’re living on a single planet
with ever expanding numbers of people,” de Menocal said in an interview.
A menu of sustainable food futures — not a la carte
The WRI report provides a “menu for a sustainable food
future” detailing 22 approaches that could help fill the three gaps, including
ways to increase agricultural efficiency and produce more food while using less
land, fertilizer, and other resources. Along with other measures, the report
focuses on restoring certain types of land, like peatlands and forests;
reducing greenhouse gas emissions; holding steady the use of biofuels;
increasing fish stocks; and reducing the consumption of meat – particularly
ruminants like cows, sheep, and goats.
However, this “menu” isn’t an a la carte array of
pick-and-choose options. “Significant progress in all 22 menu items is
necessary to close the three gaps, requiring action by many millions of
farmers, businesses, consumers, and all governments,” the report cautions.
Getting the cooperation of all stakeholders –
essentially the entire world – is, unsurprisingly, a difficult feat.
Governmental cooperation to preserve land, rather than converting it to
agriculture, is imperative. That’s clearly a challenge for the many leaders who
are under pressure to convert forests and other types of land for agricultural
purposes to meet immediate food needs and produce foods for export.
Political leadership ‘just overwhelmingly
Changing political leadership can also speed-up or
slow-down change. According to Searchinger, Brazil had made a lot of progress
in reducing deforestation, but recent changes in leadership make the future of
such progress uncertain. “Politics is critical,” he says. “Politics is just
overwhelmingly important – this is mustering the political will,” Searchinger
says. “This is true of everything to do with climate change.”
Land use changes are critical especially in certain areas,
such as peatlands, wetland areas covering around 3 percent of the Earth and
storing massive amounts of carbon. When they are damaged, drained, or used for
agriculture, these areas contribute significantly to climate change. According to the International
Union for Conservation of Nature, damaged or drained peatlands are
“annually releasing almost 6 percent of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.”
Searchinger notes that restoring or rewetting
peatlands previously damaged, drained, or used for purposes like agriculture
can go a long way toward meeting climate change goals and restoring ecosystems.
Some of these opportunities are immediate, such as rewetting peatland areas
that are seldom used for agriculture. “[We have a] huge opportunity to do
something right away just by restoring water to those peatlands,” Searchinger
With food supply problems come ‘human conflict’
In addition to the 22 items listed in the report,
de Menocal notes a few additional food and agriculture-related areas relevant
to climate change and food. He points to climate-related vulnerabilities in the
food system, including food distribution; and points also to threats to the
crops themselves, including environmental shocks, such as crops being decimated
by sudden storms and heat waves.
“Those food shocks are going to become increasingly
frequent and I think that’s going to do two things,” de Menocal says. “One is
it obviously reduces the food supply, but it also introduces uncertainty in the
food supply, and both those things are not great.”
Human conflict goes hand-in-hand with food supply
issues, de Menocal cautions. “With food insecurity comes human conflict,” he
says. “This is something that’s been well documented both in the prehistorical
record but also in the recent historical record such as Syria and of course
migrations out of North Africa into Europe. When people are hungry, they
migrate, and they’ll migrate to places where there’s food, which is typically
the wealthier nations.” He cautions that this migration can also lead to
political instability, and says these types of geopolitical concerns are
monitored not only by climate modelers and researchers, but also by government
intelligence agencies seeking to anticipate and mitigate conflicts.
The need for innovation and change
While analysts work to predict future conflicts and
issues, scientists are striving to make progress in the laboratory. New technological
innovations could help alleviate some major issues, but predicting the
trajectory of scientific developments is a huge challenge since breakthroughs
looking out several decades are unpredictable.
New technology could help improve crop yields; produce
crops with resistance to pests, diseases, and climatic conditions; and even
help develop feed additives to reduce the amount of methane cows emit, among
many possibilities. But technology is a wild card dependent on countless
unknown future factors. Innovations could take the form of anything from
increasing the efficiency of current methods to developing technology far
beyond anyone’s current imagination.
That said, plant-based meat substitutes are one
area of potential innovation. Producing beef and other ruminant meat is
resource-intensive and a major source of greenhouse gases going well beyond
emissions from cows themselves.
Searchinger says a variety of meat substitutes, or
even half meat/half mushroom mixes, have great potential, especially if they
become more economical. They are already a tasty choice, he adds: “Hamburger
substitutes are getting really good.”
He is undaunted by the notion of many people having
to shift their dietary habits. Searchinger points out that most of the world
doesn’t consume much beef, and that people in the U.S. and Europe eat about
one-third less beef today than they did in the 1960s.
Eating less meat is important, de Menocal agrees,
and he encourages his students to consider trying out “Meatless Monday” as part of a campus
initiative. “It’s just introducing people to the idea that you can eat well and
still do well by the planet,” de Menocal says. “Even small changes like that
make a big difference in terms of collective behavior.” Additionally, he points
to meat subsidies as a factor that impact consumption, particularly in the U.S.
These subsidies make meat far more affordable than it is in some other parts of
the world. “As long as there’s no accounting for the accompanying environmental
risks that come with meat production, then I think the price of meat will not
reflect its true cost to society,” de Menocal says.
By thinking about what’s on their plate and what’s
in their fridge, people can take their own steps toward a sustainable food
future. Searchinger urges people to cut down on eating ruminant meat – such as
beef and lamb – and work to avoid tossing out food. “[In the U.S.] people tend
to buy a lot of food and throw it in the back of the refrigerator and
‘rediscover’ things,” he says. Planning meals and shopping more efficiently,
keeping track of food items and using them before they spoil, and being sure to
eat leftovers before they go bad are just a few steps people can take that go a
“If we don’t meet these goals, we won’t solve
climate change,” Searchinger says.
1962, American playwright James Baldwin wrote that “Not everything that is
faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Today, his
words should give us succour. We need more than ever to face the reality of
researcher at IPPR, a think tank. We have been observing warnings of rapid,
negative environmental change from the scientific community. So we decided to
understand what that means for our work, for policy, and for politics.
report released today,
we bring together the latest science on human-induced environmental change and
seek to understand how politicians should respond. We conclude that when it
comes to climate change, political debate has failed us in three different
the term “climate change” no longer captures reality. The scale of
environmental change that our earth is currently experiencing far exceeds it.
We are depleting soil, killing species, damaging oceans. This is happening at a
pace that is unprecedented in human
history and in some cases millions, or even billions, of years.
call this what it is: the age of environmental breakdown – a term that is a
more proportionate description of the totality that the earth presently faces.
political debate does not adequately recognise the consequences of
environmental breakdown. This isn’t just about saving polar bears or the health
impacts of air pollution, however crucial these issues are. It is about higher
incidences of drought, an impaired ability to grow food, cities afflicted by
extreme weather events. It is about the resulting consequences: famines, forced
migration, economic crises – and war.
age of environmental breakdown has inaugurated a new “domain of risk,”
unprecedented in its complexity and the potential severity of its impact.
current political debates skirt around the urgent need to transform our social
and economic systems in response to environmental breakdown. Tinkering in the
margins and providing quick fixes or short term measures will no longer
consequences of environmental breakdown will fall hardest on the poorest, who
are most vulnerable to its effects, and the least responsible for the problem.
poorest half of the global population account for around 10 per cent of yearly
global greenhouse gas emissions; half of global emissions
are attributed to the richest 10 per cent of people. In the UK, per capita
emissions of the wealthiest 10 per cent are up to five times higher than those
of the bottom half.
question of how we confront environmental breakdown, and who will feel its
effects, intersects with inequalities of class, ethnicity and gender.
Environmental breakdown isn’t just about climate change: it’s about justice.
confront environmental breakdown, we need two overall transformations.
first is to make to make societies sustainable and just, bringing human
activity within environmentally sustainable limits while ensuring a decent
quality of life is available to all. This sits at the heart of arguments for a Green New Deal.
Programmes to halt environmental breakdown can and should include measures to
improve social and economic outcomes, including providing good jobs for all,
tackling structural discrimination, and expanding free education.
second is to build societies that are prepared for
environmental breakdown. Infrastructure, markets and political processes need
to be resilient to environmental breakdown resulting from past and future
activity. We don’t talk about this enough. While it may be scary to think about
preparing for environmental catastrophe, it is fast becoming necessary. In
particular, we need to develop a politics that runs counter to the nativist
right, whose programme of anti-migrant and anti-environmental could win big as
the seas rise and the food runs out.
like the rollout of renewable energy and the successful efforts to stem the
breakdown of the ozone layer have made progress towards realising these
transformations. But most efforts have neither adequately focussed on all
elements of environmental breakdown, nor sought to fundamentally transform key
social and economic systems. Little attention has been given to ensuring
societies are robust enough to face the increasingly severe consequences of
generations are now faced with a daunting twin task: preventing environmental
breakdown and responding to its growing impact. IPPR will be exploring how to
help younger generations find the energy that often eludes them as they
confront a rapidly destabilising world.
scale and pace of environmental change confirms that the only credible way
forward is systemic transformation of societies and economies. To change the
path that lies ahead, we must first admit that we are entering an age of
unprecedented breakdown. Time is running out.
Laybourn-Langton is a senior research fellow at IPPR. He tweets @Laurie_L_L
2019 is just around the corner, and across the globe observations and statistics indicate that clean, renewable energy production is growing faster than fossil fuels, and multiple studies predict that this trend will continue to grow. Renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016 (the last time full-year data was collected), while only $143 billion was spent on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports renewable energy will be cheaper than fossil fuels as early as 2020. Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2018 forecasts that “By 2050 wind and solar technology provide almost 50% of total electricity globally – ’50 by 50′ – with hydro, nuclear and other renewables taking total zero-carbon electricity up to 71%.”
Developing nations are now forging ahead of the wealthiest countries (and previous leaders in renewable energy) by practicing the use of producing energy through environmentally friendly methods, like wind and solar, more than traditional, harmful methods.
Because many developing countries are plentiful in natural resources and equipment costs are relatively low, clean energy has been shown to be financially beneficial for less wealthy countries allowing them to dominate in clean energy production. In fact, research shows that, in many cases, due to the sharp decline in prices of solar technology in recent years, the same amount of energy produced from fossil fuels can be produced by solar panel systems at half the cost of coal.
According to an article on Bloomberg News, “Emerging markets added the least new coal-fired power generating capacity last year since at least2006.” The article continues, “New coal plants in these countries slumped 38 percent from a year earlier to 48 gigawatts in 2017, which was about half of the peak in 2015, according to BNEF.”
Countries like the US can learn from these developing nations. Nicki Zvik, founder of Green Solar Technologies, states, “As resources for fossil fuels diminish, and as the need take measures to prevent climate change remains at the forefront of people’s minds, it is essential that wealthier nations take advantage of the flourishing clean energy market, and thankfully, they are.”
According to an article published on Engadget,”Renewable energy played an important role in the US last year…” The article continues to note, “solar and wind power represented 94.7 percent of the net new electricity capacity (15.8GW out of 16.7GW) added in 2017.”
2018 has been a banner year for renewable energy. The rapid progression of investment in clean, reliable, eco-friendly renewables continues at record-breaking levels, and all indicators point to strong and steady growth in renewable energy into the foreseeable future. More than ever, global awareness that renewable energy is the only viable answer to the world’s growing energy demands, and hope for the future grows apace.
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Almost every climate scientist agrees human-caused climate change is a major global threat. Yet, despite efforts over the past 30 years to do something about it, emissions keep increasing.
Any successful coordinated international response will require action from businesses. However, some organisations, especially those in sectors that significantly contribute to environmental degradation such as the oil industry, seem rather reluctant to embrace the challenge.
Those climate initiatives they have embraced were more often than not prompted by litigation risks or enforced by governmental policies rather than a result of an intrinsic “green” commitment.
This isn’t the impression the industry likes to give off, of course, and it’s no wonder oil companies’ statements on corporate social responsibility and environmental reporting tend to highlight their greenest side. Yet the fact these documents give the oil firms the opportunity to construct their own narrative means they are a useful source for my research in applied linguistics. When a huge volume of language is analysed, features and patterns can emerge that would be invisible to the casual human reader.
My latest study looked at the “climate change reality” constructed by oil industry in its corporate reporting, what language was used to create this reality, and how this changed over time. This sort of analysis of language is important. Language not only mirrors the social world but acts as a lens through which objects, situations and people are given meaning. Features and associations that are foregrounded can point to some level of significance, while what is kept in the background or not mentioned at all can highlight a lack of interest.
This is why I used corpus-linguistic tools – essentially, using a computer to analyse vast amounts of text for certain patterns – to investigate nearly 500 corporate documents produced between 2000 and 2013 by major oil companies (including all the big names). This comprised some 14.8m words published in corporate social responsibility and environmental reports and relevant chapters in annual reports. That’s a lot of words – roughly equivalent to 25 copies of War and Peace.
Using software program Sketch Engine, I looked at how frequently the key corporate terms “climate change”, “greenhouse effect”, and “global warming” were used in each year to reveal how patterns of attention changed over time.
My analysis shows that the most frequently adopted term in the studied sample is “climate change”, while other terms such as “global warming” and “greenhouse effect” are rarely used. The preference for “climate change” and near absence of “global warming” reflects patterns observed in public and media discourse, too.
The use of the term “climate change” experienced peaks and troughs over time, with most mentions between 2004 and 2008, and fewer and fewer mentions since 2010. Less attention to climate change in public debates and overt anti-climate change attitudes on the parts of some governments in recent years might have contributed to the decline in attention given to climate change in corporate reporting.
I then looked at words used alongside “climate change” to gather clues as to the company’s attitude towards it. This showed a significant change in the way it has been portrayed. In the mid-2000s, the most frequent associated terms were “tackle”, “combat” and “fight”, showing climate change was seen as a phenomenon that something could be done about.
However, in recent years, the corporate discourse has increasingly emphasised the notion of “risks”. Climate change is portrayed as an unpredictable agent “causing harm” to the oil industry. The industry tends to present itself as a technological leader, but the measures it proposes to tackle climate change are mainly technological or market-based and thus firmly embedded within the corporate world’s drive for profits. Meanwhile, social, ethical, or alternative solutions are largely absent.
It seems that climate change has become an elusive concept that is losing its relevance even as an impression management strategy. The proactive stance of a decade earlier is now offset by a distancing strategy, often indicated through the use of qualifying words like “potential” or “eventual”, which push the problem into the future or pass responsibility to others.
In doing so, the discourse obscures the oil sector’s large contribution to environmental degradation and “grooms” the public to believe that the industry is serious about tackling climate change.
Clean Technica in an article dated April 10th, 2018 by Joshua S Hill reported that the world’s most powerful wind turbine, the first of two 8.8 megawatt (MW) turbines, has been successfully installed at Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre off the coast of North East Scotland, which is set to be a ground-breaking test bed for new offshore wind technologies.
Vattenfall is a leading European energy company, that for more than 100 years has electrified industries, supplied energy to people’s homes and modernised our way of living through innovation and cooperation.
The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay, Scotland, was conceived as a 92.4 MW, 11 turbine offshore wind test and demonstration facility. The project was initially caught up in a protracted legal battle with none other than then-real estate magnate Donald Trump — who promptly lost all legal challenges to prevent the construction of an offshore wind farm he considered would be an eyesore for members of his nearby Trump International Golf Club.
Since then, however, progress has proceeded rapidly, and the hopes of many have come to fruition with the creation of a next-generation testbed for new offshore wind technologies, such as the recently demonstrated suction bucket jacket foundations — which I maintain are cooler than they sound. Supported by the massive 25,000 tonne Asian Hercules III floating crane (seen below), the foundations for the EOWDC are being installed using a new method of securing the massive towers to the seafloor that is faster, more environmentally friendly and quiet, and much easier to uninstall if and when necessary.
Now, the next phase of construction has resulted in the installation of one of two wind turbines which have been specifically enhanced to increase their output by modifying their internal power modes. Specifically, the two turbines have been increased from 8.4 MW to 8.8 MW, which in turn increases EOWDC’s output to 93.2 MW, and as such it will generate 70% of Aberdeen’s domestic electricity demand while displacing 134,128 tonnes of CO2 annually. This is the first time an 8.8 MW wind turbine has been installed for commercial application.
It might not sound a lot — an increase of 0.4 MW — but the EOWDC is intended to serve as a demonstration facility, first and foremost, and testing the application of these incremental increases to wind turbine output could yield significant benefits. Two wind turbines modified such may only increase overall output by 0.8 MW, but a wind farm made up of 100 of these turbines would benefit from a 40 MW increase, simply by modifying existing turbines.
“The turbines for the EOWDC, Scotland’s largest offshore wind test and demonstration facility, help secure Vattenfall’s vision to be fossil fuel free within one generation,” said Gunnar Groebler, Vattenfall’s Head of Business Area Wind. “The EOWDC, through its innovative approach to cost reduction and pioneering technologies, leads the industry drive towards generating clean and competitive wind energy power – one that will reinforce Scotland’s global energy status.”
The V164-8.4 MW and V164-8.8 MW wind turbines were manufactured and modified by MHI Vestas, and have an enormous tip height of 191 meters, with 80 meter blades.
“The first turbine installation is a significant achievement and credit to the diligence and engineering know-how of the project team and contractors,” added EOWDC project director at Vattenfall, Adam Ezzamel. “For it to be one of the 8.8MW models makes it an even more momentous moment because it further endorses the EOWDC as a world-class hub of offshore wind innovation.
“We are very excited by the cutting-edge technology deployed on all the turbines and it is remarkable that just one rotation of the blades can power the average UK home for a day.”
The news was unsurprisingly met with appreciation from UK environmental groups as well.
“Scotland is home to approximately 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resource and projects like Vattenfall’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen promise to harness this potential on a massive scale,” said Stephanie Conesa, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables. “This ground-breaking facility leads Aberdeen’s ongoing transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and reinforces Scotland’s global energy status.
“As the windiest country in Europe with some of the deepest waters, we should be proud of Scotland’s burgeoning offshore wind industry,” Conesa added. “With many more promising offshore wind sites on our doorstep, we hope to see similar facilities deployed in Scottish waters in future so we can fully utilise our country’s natural resources.”
“The installation of the first of these powerful turbines at Aberdeen Bay is another milestone in Scotland’s renewables story,” added Gina Hanrahan, Acting Head of Policy at WWF Scotland. “Offshore wind, which has halved in cost in recent years, is critical in the fight against climate change, helping to reduce emissions, keep the lights on and create thousands of jobs across the Scotland and the UK.
“Developments like this have an important role to play in securing the Scottish Government’s target to meet half of all Scotland’s energy demand from renewables by 2030.”
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