Fossil Fuel Complicity as No Longer Hidden

Fossil Fuel Complicity as No Longer Hidden

­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.

Fossil Fuel Complicity No Longer Hidden Behind ‘Fiduciary Duty’

May 7th, 2019 by Carolyn Fortuna 

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.

fossil fuel complicity

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.

fossil fuel complicity

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.

However, 2 counterarguments quickly made that position untenable.

  1. Demand for fossil fuels is likely to drop as much of the global economy shifts to renewable energy.
  2. 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.”

Read more on CleanTechnica.

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A Chaotic Tale of a Process Now Being Dismantled

A Chaotic Tale of a Process Now Being Dismantled

(Apparently)

Lost in Globalisation

By Baher Kamal on February 28, 2019

Lost in Globalisation

Do not panic! This is not about telling you how your bank accounts and pension funds have been used to finance the production of nuclear bombs (they call it ‘investment’).

Nor it is about the four dozens of major and minor wars that the so-called “traditional weapons,” which are being manufactured and exported by civilised, democratic countries, continue to systematically fuel.

It is not about the irrational depletion of natural resources, the destruction of forests, the massive provision of arms to “rebel groups’ to burn entire villages, rape girls and women, and recruit child soldiers in more than one African country, for the sake of ‘cleaning’ the mines area for big multinationals to continue extracting precious minerals which serve to produce more (and more expensive) smartphones. Not even it is about how today’s youth will see more plastic than fish in all seas.

More: this article will not focus on the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of so many mediocre apprentices of self-called ‘politicians’, who embrace dangerous fanaticisms while, in some ‘very democratic’ countries, calling their own selves “centre-right” (some dare saying they are simply “centre”), slipping further into ‘dictato-cracy.’

Nor it is about those so many States which were once net exporters of emigrants (Italy, Spain, Greece, etc), but which now stand as die-hard enemies of immigrants… all under the pretext of the “crisis” they have created and the resulting high unemployment rates, and “national security,” post-truth arguments.

Let alone big powers such as the United States, which have been entirely built up by migrants at the easy cost of exterminating the original, native populations. What to say about Canada? And Australia…?

Now those migrants who are forced to flee created armed conflicts, impoverishment, climate change (which they did not contribute to generate), are easy prey to arbitrary measures – walls, fences, and shame pacts to send them to detention centres and slavery markets in countries like Libya.

So What?

So, what the hell is this article all about? Well, it is about a scarce handful of examples on the biggest damages the so-called globalisation has caused to human species.

Let’s begin with the term globalisation itself, a process that was somehow formalised in the beginning of the 80’s with the performance on power stage of British “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher and US actor who became President, Ronald Reagan.

The Iron Lady-Premier and the Actor-President represented the visible face of the also so-called ‘neo-liberalism’, which in poor, simple words has led to the steady dismantlement of all aspects of painfully gained social welfare services – from public healthcare, to retirement pensions, through the suppression of workers rights, labour unions, public education and a very long etcetera. In short, it was about turning back to the Victorian era.

Instead, neo-liberalism rapidly paved the way to a wild wave of privatisation, the supremacy of the uncontrolled marked rules, record-high youth unemployment rates, abysmal inequalities…

Let alone infinite greed, including the unleashing of endless wars, for the sake of keeping happy gigantic weapons industry and the business of ‘reconstruction’ of destroyed countries, all in exchange of their generous funding for electoral campaigns.

This Anglo-saxon neo-liberal hegemony soon contagioned European States, which rapidly adapted their ‘values’ to those new ones coming from Washington and London. Business as usual for Europeans, some would say.

Rather than providing a longish list of documented, figure-supported examples of what such process has meant at the macro and micro-economic levels, this quick, chaotic tale modestly pretends to focus on some of its biggest impacts on human beings. Human beings that are now considered as mere numbers of ‘voters’ (mind you not any more ‘electors’).

Voracity

One point is that the term globalisation has consistently been systematically given positive connotations, while it could be rightfully interpreted as a process of gradual “monetisation” and even “dollaristaion” of livelihoods, and soon became an aggressive ‘massification’ of imported habits, blind consumption, hysterical greed, irrational imitation, the death of what used to be considered ‘truth’ (the post-truth era), the dominance of disinformation and misinformation (the ‘fake news’).

In the course of this process, the so-called “low classes” have been provided with easy bank credits to purchase houses, last model of cars, travel across the world… Psychologically, this led them to believe that they had become “middle class” and later on “high middle class”, thus approaching the enviable status of “high class.”

Then came the crisis. With it, the most vulnerable groups, falsely transformed in privileged groups, lost everything—the loans, the houses, the cars, travelling, etc.

The result

One of the most dramatic consequences is the loss of identity—both individual and collective identity. Simply, identity has become ‘virtual.’

Such a dangerous consequence is now being rapidly aggravated by the arrival of hi-tech products—robots replacing humans.

Sorry for this quick, chaotic tale about some of the most perilous impacts of the globalisation process that, according to some interpretations, would be now dismantled. The fact is such massification appears to have no end.

In exchange, the ‘voters’ hare now being told that they will receive, sooner or later, a basic income (also called unconditional basic income, citizen’s income, basic income guarantee, universal basic income or universal demo-grant), which implies that all citizens or residents of a country will regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.

According to its defenders, this would be financed by the profits of publicly owned enterprises. A difficult exercise given that the private sector has been taking over the roles of the states, which have been gradually dismantled.

This way, the citizens will be kept alive, will complain less about the evident failure of governments to create job opportunities, while doing what they are expected to do: that’s to consume all what industries produce and, by the way, continue playing their role as ‘voters’ (not electors, mind you again!).

Baher Kamall is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular journalist, with over 45 years of professional experience — from reporter to special envoy to chief editor of national dailies and an international news agency. Baher is former Senior Advisor to the Director general of the international news agency IPS (Inter Press Service) and he also contributed to prestigious magazines such as GEO, Muy Interesante, and Natura, Spain. He is also publisher and editor of Human Wrongs Watch.

Ways to meet rising global Food demand in a Warmer World

Ways to meet rising global Food demand in a Warmer World

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 10 billion people by 2050 in a warming world

By Kristen Pope


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:

  • food supply, simply producing enough to meet rising demand;
  • land 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
  • mitigating 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 spring.

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.

How to produce 50 percent more food with two-thirds fewer greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? Click To Tweet

“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 solutions.

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 important’

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 says.

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 long way.

“If we don’t meet these goals, we won’t solve climate change,” Searchinger says.

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No longer Climate Change but an Environmental breakdown

No longer Climate Change but an Environmental breakdown

“To confront environmental catastrophe, we need urgent political transformation.” Professes Laurie Laybourn-Langton in this article where he maintains that:

It’s no longer climate change we’re living through. It’s environmental breakdown

Getty

In 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 environmental change.

I’m a 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.

In a 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 ways.

First, 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.

We 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.

Second, 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.

Our age of environmental breakdown has inaugurated a new “domain of risk,” unprecedented in its complexity and the potential severity of its impact.

Finally, 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 suffice.

The consequences of environmental breakdown will fall hardest on the poorest, who are most vulnerable to its effects, and the least responsible for the problem.

The 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.

The 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.

To confront environmental breakdown, we need two overall transformations.

The 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.

The 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.

Policies 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 breakdown.

Younger 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.

The 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. 

Laurie Laybourn-Langton is a senior research fellow at IPPR. He tweets @Laurie_L_L

Renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016

Renewable energy investments grew to $297 billion in 2016

Solar Overtakes Fossil Fuels for the First Time

North Hollywood, CA — (ReleaseWire) — 12/07/2018 –

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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Human-caused Climate Change is a major global threat

Human-caused Climate Change is a major global threat

How Big Oil distorts climate change reality with tweaks in language

 

Sylvia Jaworska, of University of Reading explains that :

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.

‘Climate change’ or ‘global warming’? ‘Fixable problem’ or ‘unavoidable risk’?
Giorgiogp2 / NCDC, CC BY-SA

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.

The rise and fall of ‘climate change’ (frequency per million words).
Sylvia Jaworska, Author provided

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.

The ConversationIn 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.

Sylvia Jaworska, Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics, University of Reading

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation