Environment News

Latest environment news, opinions and analysis.

California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency following a devastating oil pipeline spill along the unique Santa Barbara coast. The move will help free up resources which will help in the clean-up process – but experts say the local environment might never recover from this ecological disaster. It’s estimated that more than 400,000 litres of crude oil was spilled before the ruptured pipeline was discovered. Officials have estimated that around 80,000 litres of oil has reached the sea.
“This emergency proclamation cuts red tape and helps the state quickly mobilize all available resources,” said Governor Brown. “We will do everything necessary to protect California's coastline.”

Workers outfitted in protective suits and helmets are on the beach, shoveling up contaminated mud and rocks into plastic bags. Photo credit: Greenpeace USA.
The ruptured pipeline, which is owned and operated by the Plains All-American pipeline company (PAAP), was built in the late 1980’s and the company claims it was thoroughly inspected in 2012 and that it underwent similar test about two weeks ago – although those test results had not yet been analysed, Al Jazeera reports. Environmentalists are saying that this accident shows, yet again, that oil companies are incapable of regulating themselves.
“Oil spills are never accidents,” said Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, in a statement. “They are the direct result of substandard oversight of fossil fuel companies who put their profits above human and environmental impacts.”
Kathryn Phillips, California director of environmental group Sierra Club, asked: “How many more signals do we need from the oil industry that public health and the environment aren't at the top of its list when it decides how much to invest in creating its products?”
“It's time we all demand better from this incredibly wealthy industry,” Phillips said.

The pipeline company has said that they take full responsibility for the accident and that they will pay for all costs associated with this devastating oil spill.
“We apologise for the damage that has been done to the wildlife and to the environment and we’re very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience it has caused on the citizens and visitors to this area,” said PAAP’s boss Greg Armstrong.
Santa Barbara was the scene of a much bigger oil spill in 1969 which is said to have been responsible for launching the environmental movement in the US. The question is, will this oil spill will change anything?
Many observations have shown that sea level rose steadily over the 20th century – and at a faster rate than over the previous centuries. It is also clear from both satellite and coastal observations that seas have risen faster over the past two decades than they did for the bulk of the 20th century.
More recently, several studies have shown that the flow of ice and water into the oceans from Greenland and West Antarctica has increased since 1993. This raises an interesting question: has the rate of sea-level rise changed since 1993, when satellite observations began to give us a more complete picture of the global oceans?
Our new research tackles this question by comparing satellite observations of sea level with those measured at the coast by tide gauges. We use this comparison to determine small biases in the satellite data that have changed over time. Understanding how the land supporting the tide gauges is moving becomes an important part of these comparisons. We found three important results.
First, the seas really have risen faster since 1993, relative to the slower rate over previous decades as evident in the tide gauge data.
Second, comparison of the coastal and satellite measurements reveal small differences in the early part of the satellite record from 1993 to 1999. After allowing for land motion at the tide gauges, the first six years of the satellite record marginally overestimates the sea-level trend. Our revised estimate of global mean sea-level rise for the satellite era (1993 to mid-2014) is about 2.6-2.9 mm per year (the exact value depends on how we estimate land motion) – slightly less than the previous estimate of 3.2 mm per year.

Satellite altimeters measure sea level by measuring the time it takes a radar pulse to make a round-trip from the satellite to the sea surface and back. NOAA/STAR
Third, previous estimates of the rate of rise from satellite data that didn’t incorporate the careful comparison with coastal sea-level measurements, as we have done in our recent study, showed a slower rate of rise over the past decade relative to the one before. Our revised record is clearly different and suggests that the rate of rise has increased, consistent with other observations of the increased contributions of water and ice from Greenland and West Antarctica.
However, sea level varies from year to year, as water is exchanged between the land and oceans (for example during the Australian floods associated with the 2010-11 and 2011-12 La Niña events), and as a result the observed increase in the rate of rise over the short satellite record is not yet statistically significant.
Strikingly, our estimate of the increase in the rate of rise is consistent with the projections of future sea level published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Currently, these projections forecast a rise of up to 98 cm by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are allowed to continue unabated (and even more if parts of the Antarctic ice sheet collapse). If the world makes strong cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, the rise by 2100 is projected to be significantly less, somewhere between 28 cm and 61 cm.
Coping with the impacts
The increasing rate of sea-level rise is not good news for our coastal population, nor for the natural and built environment in the coastal zone. The world is currently not on track to achieve the lower range of projected sea-level rise. And of course, sea-level rise will not stop in 2100 – as in the current century, the magnitude of future sea-level rise will be linked to our greenhouse gas emissions.
Increasing rates of sea-level rise will place increasing stress on the coastal margin. Extreme sea level events will become more frequent. Inundation and erosion will affect our infrastructure, affect ecosystems and, in some regions, displace populations. Adaption in the coastal zone will occur – this adaption can be either planned or forced upon us by the natural environment. Information on regional sea level changes and their projections are needed to underpin adaptation and mitigation strategies.
It is important that agencies in Australia and worldwide consider the impact of accelerating sea levels and provide communities with advice and planning directions that are commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. Failure to consider these issues will mean painful and costly impacts, particularly during extreme events.
Continued monitoring of sea level is essential
Despite progress, our understanding of sea-level change is incomplete, particularly when it comes to forecasting contributions from the ice sheets. Currently, observed sea-level rise is consistent with the most recent projections. Continuing to know where sea level is tracking relative to projections is important for planning and early warning of any rate of rise that differs from current projections is vital.
Australia relies on other countries for launching and maintaining satellite missions such as those used in our study. We provide an important contribution to the long-term monitoring of altimeter data that spans several different missions and space agencies – this is why long-term government support via Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System is so valued.
As drought-stricken California struggles to meet the mandatory water use restrictions Gov. Jerry Brown announced earlier this month, the governor is urging a sharp increase in fines for the worst violators, and moving to help local water agencies conduct environmental reviews more quickly.
On Apr. 28, Brown called for legislation to sharply increase fines up to a maximum $10,000 for the worst violations of the conservation orders. The current maximum fine is $500 per day.
Also under Brown's proposal, wholesale and retail water agencies, as well as city and county governments, will be able to issue penalties. They could enforce both local water restrictions and restrictions ordered by the State Water Resources Control Board. Monetary penalties would go toward local conservation efforts.
In a separate action, Brown directed state agencies to help local water agencies cut the amount of time needed to comply with state-required environmental reviews.
The proposed new penalties come amid continuing debate about Brown's unprecedented April 1 executive order mandating that over 3,000 urban water districts in the state cut their water use by an overall 25 percent this year compared with 2013. The order also directs the state to provide financial help to homeowners shifting to drought-resistant landscaping, and rebates for new water-efficient appliances.
The order focuses mainly on urban water uses like lawns, parks, public medians and golf courses, which take up less than a quarter of water use by people in the state.
"I would hope that we don't see this in some punitive way, but that we see the challenge ... the climate is getting warmer, the weather is getting more extreme and unpredictable, and we have to become more resilient, more efficient and more innovative," the governor said then.
A major bone of contention is the omission from the April 1 order of any mandatory or voluntary conservation targets for agriculture, which uses nearly 80 percent of water not designated for environmental conservation. Instead, irrigation districts were told to develop drought management plans and monitor groundwater levels, and the State Water Resources Control Board was told to go after illegal and wasteful water users.
In exempting agriculture from cutbacks, Brown has sided with farmers who say they have already suffered four years of drought as well as sharp cutbacks by state and federal water providers, resulting in more land left fallow and lower income for the agriculture industry. Thousands of farm workers have also been put out of work.
Many water and conservation experts say agriculture should be included in the cutbacks. An often-cited issue is increasing pumping of groundwater, which in some Central Valley areas has already caused the land to sink measurably. Until 2014, California was the only western state not regulating groundwater withdrawals, and the new regulations don't become fully effective until 2022.
Another issue is planting of highly profitable but water-guzzling crops like almonds. Many farmers also continue to use flood irrigation rather than the much more efficient drip irrigation.
Some environmentalists also call for limiting water use on land used to raise crops for animal feed.
The debate takes place against the background of an antiquated allocation system that gives priority, and lower rates, to holders of "senior" water rights - those claimed before California established a permit process in 1914 - with holders of "junior" rights claimed after that time receiving less.
Though California is the country's largest agricultural producer and employs over 400,000 people, the industry accounts for just 2 percent of the state's gross domestic product.
Meanwhile, cities facing the sharpest cutbacks are pleading for exemptions because they have invested in recycled or desalinated water, or face great demands for water during extreme summer temperatures, or rely on local sources rather than state resources.
Also sharply debated is the governor's failure to include the oil and gas industry in his mandatory restrictions. Environmentalists estimate that more than two million gallons of fresh water are used daily to stimulate oil wells through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and related processes. 
The oil industry contends that such drilling produces more water than oil, and much of that water is provided to farmers. But environmentalists also point out that earlier this year, California's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources required oil companies to shut down 12 wastewater wells in the Central Valley because they are located close enough to underground wells for drinking or agricultural water to threaten contamination. Another 176 wells are undergoing investigation, and over 2,500 more wells are in areas that were never approved for wastewater injection.
Zack Malitz of the social action organization CREDO told Reuters earlier this year, "Gov. Brown is forcing ordinary Californians to shoulder the burden of the drought by cutting their personal water use while giving the oil industry a continuing license to break the law and poison our water. Fracking and toxic injection wells may not be the largest users of water in California, but they are undoubtedly some of the stupidest."
As California continues to endure historic drought conditions, this and strong Santa Ana winds are two factors contributing to vicious and more frequent wildfires. Dry conditions are expected to continue this week, and in the southern part of the state, the National Weather Service has predicted conditions that will cause fires to quickly grow out of control. One such brushfire occurred on Apr. 18, forcing mandatory evacuations near LA and having scorched 1,020 acres by Apr. 20, when it was 55 percent contained. And the worst, experts say, could be yet to come.
The Apr. 18 incident was the result of an unattended cooking fire, and was, of course, exacerbated by the arid conditions, growing from 30 to 175 acres in just three hours. Even as evacuation orders have been lifted and the wildfire is now 60 percent contained, heavy, low-lying smoke is still expected to cling to surrounding areas throughout the early part of this week, causing potential visibility and breathing issues on roadways, according to CalFire. Fires like this are a problem, said meteorologist Brett Rathbun, who remarked, "The excessive drought across California can cause fires to spark even easier because the ground is so dry and lacks moisture."
"We don't know when the drought will end," said Felicia Marcus, chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board. "Californians need to step up. We don't even know if it will rain much in the next year." After four years of steadily worsening drought, as climate change continues to rear its ugly head, it's time for Californians to "make real lifestyle changes," which means, above all, adhering to water restrictions. But even such measures won't stop the problem of wildfires, especially if conditions continue to become drier.
And according to Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, that's exactly what's going to happen. He said, "Climate change is going to lead to overall much drier conditions toward the end of the 21st century than anything we've seen in probably the last 1,000 years."
And rain won't save us, added Noah Diffenbaugh, a climatologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. That's because the hotter weather means whatever water falls to the ground is going to evaporate that much more quickly. "We're on the cusp in California of having every year be a warm year, which means that when low precipitation does occur, there's going to be a much higher risk that that low precipitation produces drought."
"There are a lot of opportunities to deal with these potentially significant droughts in the future," said Cook. "But we just need to be a little bit proactive about it and we need to plan ahead."
In particular, said Diffenbaugh, issues like California water policy, water management, and infrastructure need to be changed to accommodate the climate that exists today. Those systems "were built in an old climate," he noted. "And the reality is, we're in a new climate."
Howard Kunreuther, professor of operations and information management at Wharton University in Pennsylvania, said this megadrought could serve as a harsh wake-up call to Californians, including Angelinos, who might become more aware of the importance of water conservation. "People forget how water is used in many different ways," he said. "The minute you bring up a point like that, people pay attention, and recognize that the things they do today could be beneficial for things that happen in the future that they hadn't really thought about."
Part of the problem, he noted, is that, while another enormous wildfire "is not necessarily going to happen tomorrow, it could happen a few months from now. But it isn't on people's agenda to think about it, and they normally don't think about the water tied into the forest fires." You can "start constructing scenarios as to what could happen," but "how do you get those people to take those scenarios seriously?"
"This isn't something that's going to be solved overnight," he concluded. "But taking steps along the lines of conserving [water] will be a way to deal with [the drought]. The more people do that, the more they will benefit."
During what is now California's worst drought in at least 1,200 years, agencies are ambivalent over how to convince Angelenos to cut water usage. Potential options include everything from educating residents to rationing, fines, and threats. While a recent executive order was issued by Gov. Jerry Brown requiring a 25 percent cut in water use from 2013 levels, communites are left to struggle with how exactly to achieve that goal. Part of the solution may be getting the wealthy to cooperate with working class people.
Retired resident Dorothy, 65, has lived in LA's Palms neighborhood for 11 years. She told the People's World, "For people who have a decent salary, life is quite comfortable. But we do have a big problem with the water. Unless we cut consumption by a quarter or even a third, we could end up with a real disaster. And so far, many people are not doing their part to save water, despite what they say. They're just going about business as usual. And bottled water and those types of solutions are sometimes out of reach for the poor."
The woman, who emigrated from Germany, said she never ceases to be amazed by how people come along to make a quick buck off of every crisis. She referred to the recent trend of lawn-painting companies - organizations that dye the dried lawns of the upper class a healthy shade of green to keep up appearances. One such company is LawnLift, started by 45 year-old mortgage broker Jim Power, who said, "Most homeowners have no clue how to water their lawns" anyway. According to the LA Times, Escondido resident Sean McDaniel, holding his two pet poodles and gesturing at his emerald lawn, said, "I painted the lawn two days ago." One can buy a 32 oz. bottle of this lawn paint from LawnLift's website for the not-so-low price of $45.95.
"It's all well and good that the wealthy are having their lawns painted green," Dorothy remarked, "but that's not a solution."
Newsha Ajami, director of Urban Water Policy at Stanford University's Water in the West program, said communities need to employ a wide range of conservation measures, rather than just expecting residents to act on their own. She said that levying fines for wasting water is likely a fast way to change behavior. "You need to quickly get to the point," she said.
Jonathan Parfrey, a former LA Department of Water and Power commissioner and executive director of Climate Resolve, added, "We need to soak the rich for soaking their lawns. You gotta price water accordingly so it gets their attention."
One extreme, said Beverly Hills resident Daniel Fink, could be curbing lawn-watering entirely for a while. "California is in the fourth year of the worst drought, and has about a year's worth of stored water left," he said. "But one wouldn't know it looking at all the still-green lawns. We have to stop watering our lawns. The water just isn't there anymore. I know that would be unpopular, but is it better to wait until the taps run dry?"
This drought, Dorothy lamented, "is one example of how we're all going to suffer from climate change."
Costa Rica has been getting all of its electricity from renewable energy sources since the beginning of the year. “The year 2015 has been one of electricity totally friendly to the environment for Costa Rica,” the state-owned power supplier Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced in a press release.
The country hasn’t had to use any fossil fuels so far in 2015, much thanks to heavy rain that has kept the country’s hydroelectric power plants working at full capacity without any interruptions. This accomplishment is no random luck, it’s the result of hard work to reach the country’s goal to become carbon-neutral by 2021, as Costa Rico announced back in 2009.
“We are declaring peace with nature,” Costa Rican ambassador Mario Fernández Silva said in 2010 when his country won the Future Policy award. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility about looking after our wealth of biodiversity. Our attitude is not progressive, it is conservative. Our view is that until we know what we have, it is our duty to protect it.”
Costa Rica has also generated additional electricity from various other renewable energy sources – such as wind, biomass, geothermal and solar energy. Last year, hydropower accounted for 80 percent of the total electricity used while geothermal reached upwards of 10 percent.
Approximately 94 percent of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable energy sources. But their energy system is sensitive to climate and weather disruptions due to their hydro power plants being based on so called run-of-the-river systems. They can therefore be hindered because of seasonal changes in water flow or drought – something which is becoming far too common due to climate change.
CleanTechnica reports that Costa Rica are planning to build three new geothermal projects, capable of generating 50-55 MW each, to help diversify their energy portfolio. These new geothermal plants will help Costa Rica to continue to produce clean, renewable energy when the country’s hydropower plants are unable to produce electricity.
It’s worth pointing out that Costa Rica is a small nation with a population of only around 4.8 million people. The country also does not have much heavy and energy-intensive industries, and mainly relies on tourism and agriculture. Despite this, Costa Rica’s accomplishment gives us hope and it should inspire other nations to increase their renewable energy efforts.
In just 15 years the world could suffer a catastrophic global water crisis, the United Nations (UN) warn in its annual World Water Development Report. The UN report forecasts that global water demand will increase by 55 percent by 2050. If current trends of water usage continues the world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water supply as early as by 2030 – which could potentially have catastrophic consequences.
Groundwater supplies are quickly diminishing and the report estimates that 20 percent of the world’s aquifers are currently over-exploited. There is an urgent need to manage water more sustainably, the UN report concludes. If we fail to do this, the competition for water will increase and lead to “significant impacts” on both the economy and human well-being. It will also increase the risk of conflicts, the UN report warns.
Safe drinking water supplies will continue to dwindle as long as water pollution continues to be ignored and go unpunished by local authorities, and water use remains wasteful and unregulated, as it unfortunately does in many nations, the UN says in its report. In order to mitigate this water crisis, the UN is urging politicians, communities and industries to rethink its water policies and to make a greater effort to conserve water.
The 55 percent increase in water demand is mainly due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use. But due to increasing population numbers and consumption levels, agriculture will also need to substantially increase its food productions to keep up with demand – and this will in turn increase water usage.
“By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60 percent more food globally, and 100 percent more in developing countries […] global water demand for the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by 400 percent from 2000 to 2050, leading all other sectors, with the bulk of this increase occurring in emerging economies and developing countries,” the UN report said. “Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit.”
Considering that current demands for water in the agriculture sector is already unsustainable, this will be a difficult task. The agriculture sector must increase its water use efficiency by reducing water losses in the production process, and to “increase crop productivity with respect to water” availability and demand, the report says.
The UN report also points to two worrying global trends that are converging: climate change and growing economic development in poor developing countries. This convergence will especially “intensify the water insecurity of poor and marginalized people in low income countries.”
“Water resources are a key element in policies to combat poverty, but are sometimes themselves threatened by development,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova. “Water directly influences our future, so we need to change the way we assess, manage and use this resource in the face of ever-rising demand and the over exploitation of our groundwater reserves.”
When Francois Hollande was elected President of France in 2012, he pledged that he would reduce the nuclear energy contribution to the country's electricity mix from 75% to 50% by 2025.
But this pledge might no longer be a reality.
Energy Minister, Ms Segolene Royal, said last month that it was no longer a high priority to do so. She said that she was not in favour of quitting nuclear power and added that France needs to continue investing in it, particularly in fourth-generation reactors which will consume less nuclear fuel and recycle nuclear waste.
Last year, the lower house of the French parliament voted on a bill that would cap nuclear production at current levels.
But earlier this month the senate, in which the conservative opposition has a majority and which has the power to amend but not block laws, scrapped the cap and removed any reference to 2025.
Royal refused to confirm whether the government would stick with the 2025 deadline, one of President Francois Hollande's key election promises, and enter the new amendments to the text.
All eyes are on France as it prepares to host the crucial COP 21 summit at the end of this year, a summit which many believe to be the last chance to salvage a global deal on combating climate change.
Due to the large share of nuclear energy in France’s electricity mix, its CO2 emissions are among the lowest in Europe.
But France is also standing by its goals on renewable energy generation, which by 2030 should account for 40% of its energy mix. Ms Royal says it’s more important to focus on reaching this goal than to reduce nuclear capacity.
It is possible that France could expect higher electricity demand in 2030 than today. As a part of its green initiative, and as an attempt to combat the big problem of air pollution, France plans a lucrative electric car scheme. Such a scheme, if successful, could dramatically increase electricity usage.
Therefore it does not looks as if France is gearing up to quit nuclear, something Royal herself has been quite clear about.
France is also a key player in nuclear research into a new generation of sodium-cooled nuclear reactors.
These latest announcements put France on an entirely different nuclear path from neighbouring Germany, which wants to free its entire energy sector from nuclear by 2022.
This week, The Guardian newspaper has campaigned for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to divest its fossil fuel investments – which the newspaper claims are worth US$1.4 billion.
The foundation can and should address the climate crisis, particularly given the threat it poses to food security, public health, human rights, and the development agenda.
Practical responses
The Gates Foundation has made a significant contribution to practical responses to poverty, and Bill Gates has been a long-standing advocate of “creative capitalism” to address global development issues.
To their credit, Bill and Melinda Gates have shown great personal engagement with larger questions about human development, and their foundation has been a significant actor in the fields of agriculture, global health, education, and population.

Bill Gates during a 2013 speech on climate change. Photo: Matthew Rimmer.
Yet it has also been reluctant to address the climate question directly, stating:
"The foundation believes that climate change is a major issue facing all of us, particularly poor people in developing countries, and we applaud the work that others are doing to help find solutions in this area,"
and:
"While we do not fund efforts specifically aimed at reducing carbon emissions, many of our global health and development grants directly address problems that climate change creates or exacerbates."

Sign on climate change at the Gates Foundation. Photo: Matthew Rimmer.
For instance, the foundation highlights its agricultural development initiative, which it says will “help small farmers who live on less than $1 per day adapt to increased drought and flooding through the development of drought and flood resistant crops, improved irrigation efficiency, and other means”.
While this certainly involves indirectly responding to climate change, it doesn’t put the issue of preventing climate change at the heart of the issue.
In his annual letter, Bill Gates noted:
"It is fair to ask whether the progress we’re predicting will be stifled by climate change… The most dramatic problems caused by climate change are more than 15 years away, but the long-term threat is so serious that the world needs to move much more aggressively — right now — to develop energy sources that are cheaper, can deliver on demand, and emit zero carbon dioxide."
This is a somewhat curious statement, given the real and present danger already posed to food security, biodiversity, public health, and human security.
The energy question
Bill Gates has another keen interest: energy security. He has discussed what he sees as the need for an “energy miracle” to remedy the climate:
"To have the kind of reliable energy we expect, and to have it be cheaper and zero carbon, we need to pursue every available path to achieve a really big breakthrough."
He seems to have been interested in nuclear power, carbon capture, and geo-engineering - rather than renewable energy.
For her part, Melinda Gates has been highly critical of climate deniers, emphasising the need for politicians to heed climate science.
The Naomi Klein factor
See video: This Changes Everything - Naomi Klein
In a 2013 article in the Nation, the writer Naomi Klein expressed concerns about the huge fossil fuel holdings of some charities, including the Gates Foundation, and argued that this was inconsistent with public health goals:
"A top priority of the Gates Foundation has been supporting malaria research, a disease intimately linked to climate… Does it really make sense to fight malaria while fueling one of the reasons it may be spreading more ferociously in some areas?"
In her 2014 book, This Changes Everything, she went on to criticise the efforts of green billionaires to save us from climate change. Of Bill Gates and his foundation, she wrote:
"Though he professes great concern about climate change, the Gates Foundation had at least $1.2 billion invested in just two oil giants, BP and ExxonMobil, as of December 2013, and those are only the beginning of his fossil fuel holdings."
Gates has been directly questioned on this issue, both in an interview with a Dutch journalist and during a 2013 appearance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q&A program.
See video: Bill Gates on ABC’s Q&A
Klein has also criticised Bill Gates' technocratic approach to the climate crisis, considering him to be overly dismissive of renewable energy:
"When Gates had his climate change epiphany, he too immediately raced to the prospect of a silver-bullet techno-fix in the future - without pausing to consider viable - if economically challenging - responses in the here and now."
Will The Guardian’s campaign succeed?
The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger has pledged to put climate change at the “front and centre” of the newspaper’s coverage, lending support to the global divestment movement and urging philanthropic trusts like the Gates Foundation and Britain’s Wellcome Trust to follow the example of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
See video: Keep It In The Ground
The Guardian said it recognised that the Gates Foundation has made “a huge contribution to human progress and equality by supporting scientific research and development projects”, but warned that “investments in fossil fuels are putting this progress at great risk, by undermining your long term ambitions.”
The campaign urges the Gates Foundation “to commit now to divesting from the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years and to immediately freeze any new investments in those companies”. Rusbridger wrote that this would be “a small but crucial step in the economic transition away from a global economy run on fossil fuels”.
Hopefully, the campaign will be successful. Bill and Melinda Gates have certainly shown a willingness in the past to revise their approach, in light of new evidence, and both have been disturbed by the politics of climate denial.
The Gates Foundation can make a stronger contribution to the battle against climate change, especially given how the climate issue cuts across its food security, public health, and human rights aims. This is one way it can do so.
US President Barack Obama has signed an executive order to cut the federal government’s carbon pollution emissions by 40 percent by 2025. The new plan is expected to result in a reduction of 21 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions – which is equal to taking 4.2 million cars of the road for a year. Alongside of this, the share of renewable energy used by the federal government will increase to 25 percent. The plan is also expected to save taxpayers up to $18 billion in reduced energy costs.
“Today’s action builds off of the strong progress the federal government has made over the past six years,” the White House writes in a statement. “Already, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent since the President took office, and increased the share of electricity consumed from renewable sources from 3 percent to 9 percent in 2013.”
Other measures included in the plan consist of a reduction in energy use in federal buildings by 2.5 percent a year, a reduction in water intensity by 2 percent over the next decade, and a 30 percent reduction of per-mil greenhouse gas emissions from the federal vehicle fleet by 2015 – while at the same time increasing the use of zero-emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
The reduction plan will be based on emission levels from 2008 and will only involve the US federal government. Although the federal government only contribute modestly to the US’s total greenhouse gas emissions, many see this as a move that’ll hopefully spur other sectors of the country into action, and especially the federal government’s supply chain.
The Department of Defense currently has the largest carbon emissions of the US federal government. So far the department has reduced its emissions by 10 percent and is now aiming to install another 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on military buildings by 2025 — enough to power 750,000 homes.
“Earthjustice applauds President Obama for issuing an Executive Order today that aims to make a significant cut in carbon pollution—the pollution responsible for climate change—from the government sector,” said Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice’s vice president of litigation for Climate & Energy. “The President recognizes that the federal government can lead the way in expanding our use of clean, renewable energy, a key step on the path to end our nation’s unnecessary dependence on fossil fuels that harm our health and the environment.”
The US government hopes that this new sustainability plan will strengthen the country’s “leadership on the international stage”, while “ensuring that we can tackle the global threat of climate change and leave behind a safer, more prosperous world.” But for that, we’ll need to see much tougher climate ambitions from the US – something which today unfortunately seems highly unlikely.

Follow Green Blog

Subscribe to our RSS feed and stay updated with out latest posts and articles. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and get weekly updates. Follow us on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.

About Green Blog

Green Blog has been online since 2007. We have green news from authors around the world, environment forums and member blogs.

We believe that human and civil rights, global peace, equality and democracy all plays central roles in safeguarding our environment and improving - in a sustainable and non-destructive way - the lives of all people on this fragile planet. Green Blog encourage people to take direct non-violent action against CO2 emitting sources and protest against the current climate change inaction.