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Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions are Fate

Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions are Fate

Mill, Halsey, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

I developed a model of Global Warming based on the anthropogenic perturbation of the Carbon Cycle. The essence of this model is a rate equation for the evolution of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere.

The interesting results from this model are projected trends for the CO2 concentration and the average global temperature during the next century. The character of those trends — whether rapid rises, shallow plateaus, or diminishment into the future — depend crucially on the magnitude of our civilization’s emissions of CO2, and whether those anthropogenic emissions increase or decrease with time. In the real world at present, they are increasing.

I have now been able to include the effect of linearly increasing or decreasing anthropogenic emissions into my Carbon Balance Model, which has been significantly improved.

This model also includes the effect of the increase in the rate at which atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by photosynthesis and the surface waters of the oceans, because those absorption rates are increasingly stimulated by the higher levels of CO2 in the air. This process of absorption-enhancement cannot continue indefinitely as the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, but at what point of elevated CO2 concentration it saturates and then absorption largely shuts down, is unknown.

The third process included in the model is that of the slow absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the chemical reactions of weathering on the surfaces of rocks and soils. CO2 not “quickly” scavenged from the air by photosynthesis or the surface waters of the oceans will stay airborne for 12,000 to 14,000 years. The ~2,500ppm spike of atmospheric CO2 that occurred 55.5 million years ago took 200,000 years to clear away.

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The Net Zero Emissions Lie

The Net Zero Emissions Lie

Cutting carbon emissions has become a central focus of countries and companies alike in the past decade. The oil majors are racing to ‘go green, Microsoft has pledged to go ‘carbon negative’, and over 20 nations have either committed to or achieved net-zero carbon targets. For public companies, the incentives to go green are clear, with a recent boom in ESG investing, the continued threat of activist divestment, and a growing body of government regulation. Meanwhile, for governments, the environment is becoming an increasingly important electoral issue and political parties are eager to be seen as being proactive on the issue. But just as the ESG investment boom has led to an increase in the phenomenon of ‘greenwashing’, countries who are eager to make grand statements about being carbon zero within a decade or two may be overselling exactly what it is that they are doing.

Climate change is, by its very nature, a global problem. With that in mind, it is possible for one country to reduce its carbon emissions to zero without any reduction in the level of carbon emitted worldwide. As long as that same country continues to trade and consume, the carbon-reliant products it needs will simply be imported from a nation without any limits on carbon emissions. To claim ‘real’ net-zero emissions, countries would have to go significantly further.

That isn’t to say that the net-zero initiatives are entirely without merit. Increasing renewable energy usage, building more energy-efficient homes, and electrifying transportation would all have a tangible effect on decreasing global carbon emissions. But, as economist Dieter Helm points out in his recent book, if an individual state wants to truly become a net-zero carbon emitter, then it would need to have a carbon tax at its border as well as reducing its production of carbon domestically.

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Big Oil’s Backers Are Jumping Ship — and That’s Good for the Planet

Big Oil’s Backers Are Jumping Ship — and That’s Good for the Planet

Investors, banks and even some oil and gas companies are breaking ranks on the future of high-emission energy.

The oil lobby’s political friends are melting away faster than an Alberta glacier. Every crack in that coalition is a foothold for a green and just recovery from the pandemic.

The latest sign was ExxonMobil being dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average on the same day that Storebrand, a major European investor, announced it was blacklisting the company over its anti-climate lobbying.

The Dow Jones Average is an index that tracks 30 large, publicly traded “blue chip” (read: financially sound) companies. Exxon and its predecessor companies had been part of the Dow Jones index since 1928, so that snub had to sting.

But Storebrand’s new climate policy is even more important.

The company is a major asset manager, with US$91 billion in investments. It announced that it would divest from companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron that are actively lobbying against the Paris Agreement or climate regulations.

“We are not only vulnerable to the systemic disruptions that climate change will unleash on ecosystems, societies and our own portfolio companies,” said Storebrand CEO Jan Erik Saugestad. “We also have a key role to play in accelerating the de-carbonization of the global economy.”

Storebrand also blacklisted companies that get more than five per cent of their revenues from coal or oilsands. Major investors like BlackrockDeutsche BankHSBC and the Norwegian Oil Fund have announced similar exclusions as they, too, reduce their exposure to fossil fuels.

Yet Storebrand has consistently been about five years ahead of its peers on climate action, so expect “no lobbying against climate policy” to become the new norm amongst mainstream investors.

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What Kind of a World do We Want? (…really?)

What Kind of a World do We Want? (…really?)

Although this question is both enduring and familiar, its present urgency is fully accentuated in a typically brilliant, but viscerally terrifying, exposition by Noam Chomsky on the current frangible condition of the world, and its near-term prognosis. However, I am also reminded of the strapline from the International Permaculture Conference, held in London in 2015, offering the intention and perhaps the means for “Designing the world we want.”

Chomsky never pulls a punch, as he strikes at layer on peeling layer of mendacity and fragility, from a prevailing framework whose groans, under the cumulative stresses of “growth”, should be heard as cries of threatening systemic collapse. The intermeshing quality of the world’s many woes has been conveyed by the term “changing climate” (i.e. climate change per se being just one item on the list), and amid a morass of such magnitude, positives are apt to remain obscured and muffled. Thus acknowledged, there could hardly be a better time than now, for a recasting of the world, having decided how we want it to be, in the broadest context, while there is still sufficient residual integrity to the whole that change might yet be managed, and full collapse is not yet inevitable, or already crumbling out of our hands.

It is no surprise that Covid-19 is a principal feature on the current global stage, and is probably the major focus of our concerns and attentions just now. While we cannot know how exactly everything will pan out, it is likely that the virus will be with us for some time, and we are entering a period of “recalibration” rather than a Post-Covid “back to normal”. Hence, focussing more on local and community resilience increasingly seems to make sense. We will certainly need to share support with our family, neighbours and friends, in the time to come.

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Bigger cuts for Manchester – in its annual greenhouse gas emissions

Bigger cuts for Manchester – in its annual greenhouse gas emissions

Manchester now needs to make bigger cuts to its annual greenhouse gas emissions: A commentary on Manchester Climate Change Agency’s Annual Report

A brief Annual Report for 2020 has been issued by Manchester Climate Change Agency. It is not a long report so we encourage you to read it. However, we make the following comments.

A little background

The report is from the Manchester Climate Change Partnership. This is the arms length agency set up, but woefully under-resourced, by Manchester City Council. In principle that distance does give some scope for taking an independent line from the council, but the Partnership also has to keep the council “on-side”. For that reason independent critical voices are vital.

The introduction to the report refers to a letter the Partnership sent to the council. It makes the point that the Covid-19 pandemic gives us the

“… opportunity to reimagine the world we live in; the opportunity for citizens’ quality of life, health and wellbeing to become the overriding aim of politicians, business and community leaders; the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the global economy so it acts in the interests of people, planet and profits, and; the opportunity to ensure we can get on track to meet the 1.5-2°C aim of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.”

We agree. However, the council’s failure to seize the opportunity to put into place emergency and experimental mobility lanes for cyclists and other non-motorised road users, except within the city centre, would seem to indicate a reluctance to really seize the opportunity referred to. We will return to consider why actions are not meeting the scale of the climate challenge below.

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Global Warming and Cooling After CO2 Shutoff at +1.5°C

Global Warming and Cooling After CO2 Shutoff at +1.5°C

I have done further analytical modeling of global warming, using the same general method described earlier.

The question addressed now is: what is the trend of temperature change after an abrupt shutoff of all CO2 emissions just as the net temperature rise (relative to year 1910) reaches +1.5°C, given the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere?

For this problem, it is assumed that when the temperature rise (relative to 1910) reaches ~+1.5°C, that:

– all greenhouse gas emissions cease;

– pollution grit (which scatters light) falls out of the atmosphere “instantly” (a few weeks);

– CO2 (greenhouse gas) concentration decays exponentially after emissions shutoff;

– for CO2 lifetimes [e^-1] in years: 20, 50, 100, 238.436, 500, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000;

– temperature sensitivities of cloud cover, ice cover and albedo are as in the previous model;

– all other fixed physical parameters are as in the previous model,

(https://manuelgarciajr.com/2020/06/13/living-with-global-warming/).

In general, for the 8 cases calculated, the temperature increases at a diminishing rate after the emissions shutoff, reaches a peak, then trends downward.

The longer the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the later and higher is the temperature peak, and the longer it takes to cool back down to the baseline temperature of 1910, which is 1.5°C below the starting temperature for this problem.

The 4 figures below show the calculated results.A close up of text on a white background Description automatically generated

Figure 1: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 20, 50, 100, 238.436 years.A close up of a map Description automatically generated

Figure 2: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 20, 50, 100, 238.436, 500, 1,000 years.A close up of text on a white background Description automatically generated

Figure 3: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 238.436, 500, 1,000, 10,000 years.A picture containing table Description automatically generated

Figure 4: °C change vs. years after shutoff, for lifetimes: 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 years.

It is evident from the figures that if the lifetime of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is greater than 500 years, that a temperature overshoot above +2.0°C (relative to 1910) will occur before cooling begins.

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What’s Next For Big Oil?

What’s Next For Big Oil?

  • The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant role to play in Big Oil’s shift towards cleaner energy.
  • Three of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies are planning to become net-zero carbon emitters by 2050.
  • Tech will not only help Big Oil become more efficient–it may turn out to be instrumental for their net-zero ambitions. 

Something unthinkable is happening in Big Oil, and it’s not the demand slump or the spending cuts or the layoffs. With the exception of the demand slump, we’ve seen all this before–more than once, in fact.  No, what’s unthinkable is that Big Oil appears to be planning to stop being Big Oil.

It’s not a joke. Three of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies are planning to become net-zero carbon emitters by 2050. And, as Energy Intelligence noted recently in an industry analysis, there are only two ways to attain the net-zero state: reduce the production of oil and gas, and capture the already emitted carbon dioxide.

The three top performers in the field seem to be focusing on the first way. Shell, BP, and Total—along with Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol—all plan to boost their output of renewable energy at the expense of oil significantly over the next few decades. And the U.S. supermajors, as reluctant as they have been to join the green wave in energy, might at some point simply be forced to do it by their shareholders and by the new, post-coronavirus world order.

It would be an understatement to say that the pandemic had some role to play in the transformation looming over the energy industry as we know it. The pandemic, and the oil demand slump it brought on the industry, had a significant role to play in that transformation. The extent and speed of this demand slump were literally unprecedented, but now that the precedent has been set, Big Oil is preparing for the future.

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Why Cleantech Investment Should be a High Priority Now and after COVID-19

Why Cleantech Investment Should be a High Priority Now and after COVID-19

Prior to the COVID crisis, progression to Net Zero carbon neutral emissions was rising to the top of the policy agenda in many countries. Understandably, the global health and economic crisis has thrown a spanner into the works. It is crucial though, Robyn Owen and Theresia Harrer write, that in our attempts to recover, we tie in the fundamental need for a better funded systematic government-led Green Deal approach to early stage Cleantech funding. 

CC.0 :: Casey Horner / Unsplash.com

The COVID-19 crisis threatens all of our lives. Understandably, it is currently the central focus of government policy globally. Yet history tells us that post-crisis economic reconstruction is most successful where investment is greatest in new emerging sectors. It is crucial, therefore, that investment in the UK is directed towards globally leading innovations for environmentally sustainable development, rather than simply to become more efficient at producing and selling more of the same.

Prior to the COVID crisis, progression to Net Zero carbon neutral emissions was rising to the top of the policy agenda in many countries. There was a widespread declaration of the climate crisis and climate war and a proliferation of Green New Deals—overarching policies for integrated government-led approaches to delivering reduction in carbon use and emissions.

We have argued that an essential element of climate change policies is a recognition that investing in early stage SME Cleantech innovators is crucial. These are companies developing technologies that lower carbon use and which are key to reaching the ambitious goals of an at least 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions set by the UNFCCC Paris Agreement of 2015. However, the costs and risks of investments in the cleantech sectors such as renewable energy, transport, building and communications infrastructure are high.

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The Recent History of GDP Growth, CO2 Emissions, and Climate Policy Paralysis, All in One Table-Runner

The Recent History of GDP Growth, CO2 Emissions, and Climate Policy Paralysis, All in One Table-Runner

Note: I began designing this table-runner just before the COVID-19 pandemic blew up in the United States. In the time I have been embroidering it, rates of death and misery have soared while wealth generation and carbon emissions (the two subjects of this work) have ended their decades-long rise and have plummeted. A deadly virus is a terrible means of slowing greenhouse warming. Whenever we come out the other side of the pandemic, we must pursue a rapid, humane, ecologically sound, and guaranteed-effective course of action to drive greenhouse emissions down to zero. Here’s how— P.G.C.

tablerunner

The color of money is the color of calamity

This table-runner illustrates, from left to right, the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from 1946 to the present. Each year is represented by two adjacent stripes: one in gradually deepening shades of green representing that year’s U.S. gross domestic product (adjusted for inflation) and one in increasingly intense shades of yellow-orange-red, representing CO2 concentration.

There are nine shades for GDP and eleven for CO2, with shades indicating roughly equal intervals of increase in each. The shades of both types of stripes darken as the years go by, in accordance with the increases that occurred in both GDP and CO2. (For hi-res, zoomed-in images of the table-runner, see here.)

The shades of yellow-orange-red in the table-runner darken more and more rapidly as the years pass, illustrating how emissions of CO2 accelerated as industrial output and fossil-fuel use rose more rapidly throughout the world. The concentration of COrose at an annual rate of about 0.8 ppm from 1945 to 1980; 1.5 ppm from 1980 to 1995; and 2.1 ppm from 1995 to 2019. (The United States accounted for almost 20 percent of the rise in atmospheric CO2 during those years.)

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Sprawling Our Way to Climate Catastrophe

Sprawling Our Way to Climate Catastrophe

The best way developers can help cut emissions is by redesigning suburbia. Make them to do it.

CoquitlamSuburbs.jpg
Subdivisions in Coquitlam, BC. Ending sprawl is a tough conversation, which is why we seem to be putting it off. Photo via Alamy.

There’s a hole in B.C.’s climate plan big enough to drive a subdivision through.

While civil servants in Victoria diligently seek emissions reductions throughout the province to hit our climate targets, the people working in B.C.’s municipal governments routinely approve more suburban sprawl, meaning more drivers in private vehicles pushing emissions up.

More frustrating is that local governments are ultimately creatures of the provincial government. This means the B.C. government is essentially working against itself.

The CleanBC plan includes all kinds of policies, from efficient buildings to promoting electric vehicles to workforce training. But it’s strangely silent on the number one municipal climate issue: suburban sprawl.

Transportation accounts for the most emissions at the city level, and those emissions are driven by development patterns. If municipalities approve dense development close to services, people can walk, bike or be well served by transit. If they approve spread-out subdivisions far from services, people have no choice but to get in their vehicles every time they leave the house.

And no, electric vehicles will not save us from bad development decisions. While a growing minority of people are indeed going electric, they still account for less than four per cent of new car sales in Canada. Meanwhile, many buyers are increasingly shifting to gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, making Canada’s fleet the least efficient in the world.

This is a policy failure in itself, but also a reminder that there is no one fix to climate change. We need to do it all, and local governments must play their part.

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Fertilizing a Garden Entirely for Free

Fertilizing a Garden Entirely for Free

At our house we have a goal to produce 80% of our fruit, veggies, meat and dairy within five years of moving onto our land. We only eat a little meat and dairy, but we eat tons of veggies, so we grow a great big garden. Gardening is full of setbacks such as this summer’s drought, and successes such as this fall’s greens, but it’s always interesting. And it’s a powerful tool in the face of global environmental problems and personal health issues.

A vegetable from your garden measures its travel in feet, not miles. According to How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee, a local apple in season emits only 10 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent, while an apple that is “shipped, stored and inefficiently produced” emits fifteen times that (if you can’t find that book at your local library, that’s an affiliate link. My commission doesn’t raise the price of your item, and it supports this site first and then The Cool Effect). Asparagus packaged and air-freighted emits 28 times as much pollution as a local bunch. Plant foods are kinder to the planet than animal foods, and whole foods are kinder than processed foods, but garden foods are best of all.

Eggplant growing in sheet mulch
Eggplant growing in sheet mulch

Eggplant did well in my garden this summer, growing in sheet mulch and fertilized entirely with household waste.

A vegetable from your garden is grown safely and nutritiously with no E. coli contamination and no chemicals you don’t know about. A vegetable from your garden is fresh, giving you the biggest possible dose of vitamins and the most interesting variety through the seasons. Even people with tiny yards or just a balcony can grow something, thereby gaining knowledge and skills that will be valuable as we continue trying to live on this damaged planet.

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Guest post: The irreversible emissions of a permafrost ‘tipping point’

Guest post: The irreversible emissions of a permafrost ‘tipping point’

Across vast swaths of the northern hemisphere’s higher reaches, frozen ground holds billions of tonnes of carbon. 

As global temperatures rise, this “permafrost” land is at increasing risk of thawing out, potentially releasing its long-held carbon into the atmosphere.

Abrupt permafrost thaw is one of the most frequently discussed “tipping points” that could be crossed in a warming world. However, research suggests that, while this thawing is already underway, it can be slowed with climate change mitigation.Tipping pointsThis article is part of a week-long special series on “tipping points”, where a changing climate could push parts of the Earth system into abrupt or irreversible change

Yet, what is irreversible is the escape of the carbon that has been – and is being – emitted. The carbon released from permafrost goes into the atmosphere and stays there, exacerbating global warming.

In short, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.

Permafrost and the global climate

Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for at least two consecutive years. Its thickness ranges from less than one metre to more than a kilometre. Typically, it sits beneath an “active layer” that thaws and refreezes every year.

A warming climate puts this perennially frozen ground at risk. When temperatures rise, permafrost thaws – it does not melt.

There is a simple analogy: compare what happens to an ice cube and a frozen chicken when they are taken out of the freezer. At room temperature, the former will have melted, leaving a small pool of water, but the chicken will have thawed, leaving a raw chicken. Eventually, that chicken will start to decompose.

This is exactly what happens to permafrost when temperatures increase. One quarter of the landmass of the northern hemisphere is underlain by permafrost, which acts like Earth’s gigantic freezer and keeps enormous amounts of organic matter frozen.

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What is Low-Carbon Living?

WHAT IS LOW-CARBON LIVING?

It’s re-imagining our lives to be more resilient, more abundant and more luxurious, while also being gentler on the Earth. Sound impossible? It’s not! My little family of four utilizes appropriate technology to lower our homestead’s carbon footprint, and it makes us happier, healthier and better connected to our community. Check out what we’re doing to learn how.

husking roselle.jpg

The Truth About: Carbon Footprint Calculators

A carbon footprint is a best guess about how much greenhouse gas my actions (and those taken on my behalf) cause to be put into the atmosphere. It’s an attempt to measure the harm I do, understand it and then reduce it by making different choices. If you’re wondering whether it matters, I recommend reading The Uninhabitable Earth. (If you can’t find it through your local library, that’s an affiliate link. My commission doesn’t raise your price and supports The Cool Effect.)

All carbon footprint calculations are incomplete because the economy is complex. A gallon of gas burned in your car directly emits CO2 and other greenhouse gasses (usually measured in CO2 equivalent). The equipment that mines petroleum also gives off pollution, as does the equipment that refines and transports it, and the equipment that makes that equipment. Add this in and the total emissions from a gallon of gas rise by a third to 27.6 lbs.

What about the emissions that occur when the road between the oilfield and the refinery is repaved? Are they divided between the footprints of all humans who drive that road, or all humans who consume the products that travel on it?

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Empty Gestures on Climate Change

lomborg176_Maskot Getty Images_electriccarcharginghand

Empty Gestures on Climate Change

When climate campaigners urge people to change their everyday behavior, they trivialize the challenge of global warming. The one individual action that citizens could take that would make a real difference would be to demand a vast increase in spending on green-energy research and development.

MALMÖ – Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, wash your clothes in cold water, eat less meat, recycle more, and buy an electric car: we are being bombarded with instructions from climate campaigners, environmentalists, and the media about the everyday steps we all must take to tackle climate change. Unfortunately, these appeals trivialize the challenge of global warming, and divert our attention from the huge technological and policy changes that are needed to combat it.1

For example, the British nature-documentary presenter and environmental campaigner David Attenborough was once asked what he as an individual would do to fight climate change. He promised to unplug his phone charger when it was not in use.

Attenborough’s heart is no doubt in the right place. But even if he consistently unplugs his charger for a year, the resulting reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions will be equivalent to less than one-half of one-thousandth of the average person’s annual CO2 emissions in the United Kingdom. Moreover, charging accounts for less than 1% of a phone’s energy needs; the other 99% is required to manufacture the handset and operate data centers and cell towers. Almost everywhere, these processes are heavily reliant on fossil fuels.

Attenborough is far from alone in believing that small gestures can have a meaningful impact on the climate. In fact, even much larger-sounding commitments deliver only limited reductions in CO2 emissions. For example, environmental activists emphasize the need to give up eating meat and driving fossil-fuel-powered cars. But, although I am a vegetarian and do not own a car, I believe we need to be honest about what such choices can achieve.

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In “Historic” Ruling, Dutch Supreme Court Says Government Must Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 25%

In “Historic” Ruling, Dutch Supreme Court Says Government Must Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 25%

In a move that has “put the rest of the world on notice,” the Dutch Supreme Court has upheld a landmark climate change ruling that requires the Dutch government to accelerate cuts of carbon emissions. 

It was called an “immense victory for climate justice,” according to AP

The Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings that the severity of the climate change crisis demanded greenhouse gas reductions of at least 25% by 2020, according to the Guardian. This is higher than the 17% drop in emissions that was planned by Mark Rutte’s liberal administration. 

The ruling was greeted with cheers in the courtroom an will act as a tailwind for similar cases worldwide. Similar cases are being planned in places like Norway, New Zealand, Uganda and the UK. 

Marjan Minnesma of the Dutch Urgenda Foundation said: “I am extremely happy that the highest court in the Netherlands has confirmed that climate change is a real, severe problem and that government should do what they themselves have declared for more than 10 years is necessary, namely between 25% and 40% reduction of CO2.”

Jesse Klaver, the leader of the Dutch Greens, said of the original ruling that it was “historic news” and said  “Governments can no longer make promises they don’t fulfil. Countries have an obligation to protect their citizens against climate change. That makes this trial relevant for all other countries.”

To comply with the ruling, one new coal plan would have to be shut down. The state had argued that the judges were “sidelining democracy” by trying to force the policy change. 

But Judge Tan de Sonnaville was unconvinced, ruling: “Climate change is a grave danger. Any postponement of emissions reductions exacerbates the risks of climate change. The Dutch government cannot hide behind other countries’ emissions. It has an independent duty to reduce emissions from its own territory.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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