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Green Blog posted a article in Business & PoliticsIt’s been revealed that the Gates Foundation, run by Bill and Melinda Gates, has held at least $1.4 billion of investments in some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies – while at the same time calling for immediate action against climate change. “The companies include BP, responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Anadarko Petroleum, which was recently forced to pay a $5bn environmental clean-up charge and Brazilian mining company Vale, voted the corporation with most “contempt for the environment and human rights” in the world clocking over 25,000 votes in the Public Eye annual awards,” the Guardian writes. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s largest charities with an endowment of $42.3 billion. Its primary aims are to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. The foundation has been giving billions in grants to various health programmes around the world since its launch back in 2011. Last year, it was involved in a health programme that helped rid India of polio. In its annual letter, titled Our Big Bet for the Future, Bill and Melinda Gates called on aggressive action against climate change: “The long-term threat [of climate change] 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.” But apparently, both Bill and Melinda have missed that their investments in oil, gas and coal helps fuel the climate change – a crisis which they themselves deem to be a serious threat. “At this critical moment in time, if you own fossil fuels, you own climate change,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, another charitable foundation that – compared to the Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation – has divested from fossil fuels. The actions by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is especially confusing considering that these fossil fuel investments puts the foundation’s hard work and progress at great risk. “The Gates Foundation has worked so hard to grapple with global poverty,” said Bill McKibben, who leads the fast-growing Go Fossil Free campaign. “But at the same time they’re investing in the same companies that drive climate change, which endless studies now show is one of the key factors behind ... global poverty. The developing world deserves better than this kind of tunnel vision.” So just why is the foundation acting in this morally and financially misguided way? Joe Romm, editor of Climate Progress, thinks it’s simply because Bill and Melinda Gates doesn’t understand the urgency of climate change. And this failure, Romm warns, will “most likely undo the foundation’s work” of ensuring long-term health and economic well-being in some of the poorest around the world. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has so far declined to comment on this story. A spokesman for Bill Gates's private office said: “We respect the passion of advocates for action on climate change, and recognise that there are many views on how best to address it. Bill is privately investing considerable time and resources in the effort [to develop clean energy].”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is in the process of finalizing the different sections of its massive every-seven-years report. The first portion of the 5th Assessment has already been released, and the next is scheduled for release in March. Copies of the draft of that section, about the impact of climate change on human society, have recently been leaked. While the draft is not finalized yet and may undergo revision, it offers dire warnings about the interactions between a warming world, other natural systems on which humans depend, and human social interactions. The latest leaked draft predicts that as global warming changes the climate, resulting in both more rain in some areas and more drought in others, extreme weather events and sea level rise, human societies will be increasing affected. This will lead in a variety of ways to increasing stresses on people, agriculture, water systems, the world's refugee crisis, and human habitation near oceans, among other impacts. The report predicts that as a result our future looks likely to be one with growing poverty, growing water and food stresses, flooding and the spread of desertification, ocean acidity and overfishing destroying many fisheries, spread of diseases, as well as extinction of many species of animal and plants that can't adapt quickly enough to changes in their habitat. Climate change is not just about the weather getting hotter. It is about the linked natural and human systems we all depend on. As severe drought causes crop failure in important agricultural areas, food prices increase. In an effort to increase the stressed food supply, some farmers draw down the water table for irrigation, mining water from underground aquifers that is not being replenished. As flooding impacts agricultural production in other areas simultaneously, prices rise even further. Over the past decade there have been several spikes in world food prices, leading to food riots. This was one factor in the Arab Spring revolts. This illustrates the interconnections affected by climate change. Climate change is not the sole or main cause of the problems the world faces, not by itself, not yet. But it makes virtually all other problems worse. A United Nations study of Darfur cited the effects of climate change on water and agriculture and land as one of a number of interlinked factors driving the conflict. Human access to protein is challenged by these physical changes to the climate and our agricultural practices. Meanwhile, even companies that occasionally admit that climate change is a problem (even as they fund climate change deniers) try to limit the impact on their particular company and business. For example, in Chevron's "7 Principles for Addressing Climate Change," they appeal to our sense of fairness: "Broad and equitable treatment of all sectors of the economy is necessary to ensure no sector or company is disproportionately burdened." At the same time, the industry is planning to take advantage of the melting of Arctic ice by drilling in the Artic Sea, in one of the areas most inhospitable for safe oil exploration. Fossil fuel companies are feeling pressure from the growing climate change divestment movement. While it will not likely cut into their massive profits soon, it places these companies on the defensive. Business professionals are beginning to build a case for divestment on purely financial terms. Cities and states around the world are attempting to grapple, sometimes in conflict with central governments, with necessary adaptations to climate change, including through divestment Issues related to climate change and fossil fuel use are beginning to affect local elections. Other environmental battles continue to play an increasing role in the public dialogue. Effort to build unity between environmental struggles and the labor movement and other progressive movements are growing. As news reports continue over the next months until the complete final IPCC 5th Assessment is released, the scientific arguments for more climate change activism are reinforced. The history of the coming decades will be one of massive environmental struggles, alongside the struggles of other progressive movements to save humanity from exploitation and oppression. The science is not divorced from these movements - it adds depth and detail to the reasons why humanity needs to fight to take more serious action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, and fight to demand that corporations pay the costs of their pollution. As prominent Indian activist Dr. Vandana Shiva says, "It is not an investment if it is destroying the planet." This article was first published in People's World by Marc Brodine. Photo credit: IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation (cc).
Last week, British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough devoted over a third of a widely reported interview to his claim that human beings are "a plague on the earth." "It's not just climate change; it's sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now." Attenborough cited Ethiopia as his only example of the natural world fighting back against the human plague. "We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that's what's happening. Too many people there. They can't support themselves - and it's not an inhuman thing to say. It's the case." In Attenborough's view, Ethiopians are starving simply because there are too many of them. Since they haven't voluntarily reduced their numbers, the natural world is doing so, by the "natural" method of mass starvation. But let's suppose that 50% of Ethiopians disappear today. That would take the country's population back to its level in the 1980s. If Attenborough's people-are-the-problem view is correct, hunger should not have been a concern then. In reality, more than 400,000 Ethiopians died of starvation between 1983 and 1985, in one of the worst famines of modern times. Clearly, reducing population would not make Ethiopia any less vulnerable to mass hunger. Ethiopia actually produces much more food per person today than it did when the population was much smaller. According to Oxfam, the country is now is "just 2% from being able to supply an adequate level of food energy to all its citizens." Despite that, at least thirty million Ethiopians go to bed hungry every night. The problem isn't human numbers or food production, it's an economic and political system that enriches foreign investors and a tiny urban elite, while nearly 80% of the people earn less than $1 a day. There's lots of food, but they can't afford to buy it. Cruel irony: the hungriest people in Ethiopia are farmers. In the past five years, hundreds of thousands have been driven off their land with no compensation, while the government has leased millions of hectares to foreign corporations that raise export crops. But in Attenborough's populationist worldview, there are no land grabbers stealing land from subsistence farmers. There is no history of colonial exploitation, slavery, and war, no extreme inequality reinforced by neoliberal policies. There are no international speculators driving up food prices, no agribusiness giants exporting food to richer countries while millions starve. There are just people, and people are a plague. Yes, there is a plague on the earth, but it isn't people. It's a social and economic system that puts profit before people, that treats food as a commodity instead of as a basic human right. So long as that system remains in place, hunger and poverty will continue, no matter what happens to birth rates. Films about wild animals have made David Attenborough famous. It's sad and appalling that he uses that fame to promote ignorance about human suffering.