Environment

Humanity on course to 'incinerate our only home' without transition to renewables: United Nations chief

The head of the United Nations on Wednesday criticized the "broken" global energy system that's leading humanity "ever closer to climate catastrophe" and urged world leaders to instead grab onto "the lifeline... right in front of us"—a transition to renewable sources.

"We must end fossil fuel pollution and accelerate the renewable energy transition, before we incinerate our only home," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

His remarks were delivered in a video address alongside the release of the World Meteorological Organization's latest flagship report, the State of the Global Climate 2021.

That publication, according to Guterres, represents "a dismal litany of humanity's failure to tackle climate disruption."

The report notes that four out of seven climate indicators hit record levels last year.

Since greenhouse gas concentrations hit a new global high in 2020, reaching 413.2 parts per million, real-time data from monitoring sites including Mauna Loa in Hawaii confirm the rising trend of CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide continued in 2021.

Additionally, 2015 to 2021 were the seven warmest years on record, the report states, while sea-level rise also hit a new record.

Ocean heating continued as well, with the heat content in 2021 marking the highest on record. "It is expected that it will continue to warm in the future—a change which is irreversible on centennial to millennial timescales," the report warns.

"It is just a matter of time before we see another warmest year on record," said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. "Our climate is changing before our eyes."

"The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come," Taalas continued. "Sea level rise, ocean heat, and acidification will continue for hundreds of years unless means to remove carbon from the atmosphere are invented."

He added that "some glaciers have reached the point of no return and this will have long-term repercussions in a world in which more than 2 billion people already experience water stress."

Despite investments made in disaster preparedness thus far, "much more needs to be done," said Taalas, "as we are seeing with the drought emergency unfolding in the Horn of Africa, the recent deadly flooding in South Africa, and the extreme heat in India and Pakistan."

To address the clear planetary crisis—and stressing that "we don't have a moment to lose"—Guterres said that dependence on fossil fuels must end.

He detailed five key actions to speed up a global transition to renewables.

First, renewable energy technology must be made "a global public good," which entails removing roadblocks such as intellectual property rights, he said.

Guterres also called for ensuring global access to renewable energy components and raw materials.

An additional step states must take is to "level the playing field" for renewables by eliminating systems that favor fossil fuels and instead fast-tracking approvals for green projects like solar and wind.

As a fourth step, the U.N. chief said that governments must eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

Lastly, Guterres called for a tripling of private and public investments in renewable energy to reach $4 trillion annually. Financial institutions have a role to play, he said, directing them to "fully align their entire lending portfolios with the Paris Agreement, by 2024 at the latest," and "to end all high-emissions high pollution finance."

"If we act together," said Guterres, "the renewable energy transformation can be the peace project of the 21st century."

Global warming will 'substantially exceed' 1.5 degrees Celsius unless fossil fuel production plummets: study

A new study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters shows that keeping global warming below the key 1.5°C threshold by the end of the century will require not just halting the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure, but also shutting down many existing sites.

Led by Kelly Trout of Oil Change International, the study estimates that 40% of fossil fuel reserves at currently operational development sites across the globe must be left in the ground if the world is to have a 50-50 chance of adequately slashing carbon emissions and limiting warming to 1.5°C or below.

If fossil fuel reserves at existing sites are extracted, the researchers find, nations will "substantially exceed" the 1.5°C carbon budget that corporations and governments are already burning through at an unsustainable clip.

The paper, which relies on a commercial model of the world's 25,000 oil and gas fields, leaves unanswered the question of precisely which existing development sites should be shut down, noting that "it requires considerations of equity and of the best mechanisms to manage a just transition away from fossil fuel jobs and revenues within and between countries."

One recent analysis suggests that some of the largest fossil fuel companies in the world are planning or already operating more than 190 "carbon bombs," huge oil and gas projects that could unleash nearly 650 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions and doom efforts to avert climate catastrophe.

"Our findings show that halting new extraction projects is a necessary step, but still not enough to stay within our rapidly dwindling carbon budget," said Greg Muttitt of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a co-author of the new study. "Some existing fossil fuel licenses and production will need to be revoked and phased out early."

"Governments need to start tackling head-on how to do this in a fair and equitable way, which will require overcoming opposition from fossil fuel interests," Muttitt added.

The research comes as the fossil fuel industry is exploiting Russia's assault on Ukraine—and the punitive measures the West has taken in response—to lobby for new fossil fuel development. In late March, the Biden administration pledged to ramp up U.S. gas exports to European Union members as they attempt to wean themselves off of Russian fossil fuels.

Climate advocates warned that the White House's initiative would likely spur the construction of new pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure, potentially locking in more planet-warming pollution as scientists say emissions must be halved by 2030.

"Our study reinforces that building new fossil fuel infrastructure is not a viable response to Russia's war on Ukraine," said Trout, Oil Change International's research co-director. "The world has already tapped too much oil, gas, and coal. Developing more would either cause more dangerous levels of warming, if fully extracted, or create a larger scale of stranded assets."

Thijs Van de Graaf of Ghent University in Belgium, a study co-author, similarly cautioned that "each new coal mine, gas well, or oil field that is developed deepens political entanglement with the fossil fuel industry."

"Increasing the scale of extraction-related jobs and investments," he added, "only makes it harder for governments to manage."

'We know where we are headed': humanity is sacrificing itself on the altar of corporate profits

Climate change is the result of a deadly calculus: human lives are worth risking and even losing over the profits of global corporations.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) recently dropped a bombshell announcement that should have garnered news headlines in the major global and U.S. media, but did not. New WMO research concludes that “[t]here is a 50:50 chance of the annual average global temperature temporarily reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level for at least one of the next five years.”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

WMO Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas explained, “The 1.5 degree Celsius figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.”

In 2015, the likelihood of reaching that threshold within five years was nearly zero. In 2017 it was 10 percent, and today it is 50 percent. As we continue to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in dizzying amounts, that percentage spikes with every passing year and will soon reach 100 percent certainty.

When average global temperatures hit the tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate scientists predict that most of the Earth’s coral reefs will die off. At 2 degrees Celsius, all will die off. This is the reason why United Nations members coalesced around staving off an average global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius at the last global climate gathering in 2021.

The planet has already heated up by 1.1 degrees Celsius, and the consequences are dire across the globe.

India is experiencing its worst heat wave in 122 years, and neighboring Pakistan has broken a 61-year-old record for high temperatures. Dozens of people have already died as a result of the extreme heat.

In France, farmers “can see the earth cracking every day,” as a record-breaking drought has thrown the country’s agricultural industry into crisis mode.

Here in the United States, across the central and northeastern parts of the country, there is a heat wave so large and so severe that people from Texas to Maine experienced triple-digit temperatures in May.

Even the wealthy enclave of Laguna Niguel in Orange County, Southern California, is on fire, and dozens of homes have been destroyed. Although moneyed elites have far more resources to remain protected from the deadly impacts of climate change compared to the rest of us, occasionally even their homes are in the path of destruction, indicating that nowhere on Earth will be safe on a catastrophically warming planet.

Ironically, as extreme heat waves become more likely with global warming, humans will burn more fossil fuels to power the air conditioning they need to cool off and survive, thereby fueling the very phenomenon that leads to more extreme heat waves.

In such a scenario, it is a massive no-brainer for the world to quickly and without delay transition to renewable energy sources. Instead, President Joe Biden in April announced the sale of new leases for oil and gas companies to drill on public lands, reneging on his campaign platform’s climate pledges.

Biden did so apparently in order to increase domestic fuel supplies and thereby lower gas prices. He also raised the percentage of royalties that companies pay the federal government from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent. But no amount of dollars saved by consumers or earned in royalties by the federal government can halt the laws of physics and protect the climate.

The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman explained, “The burning of fossil fuels extracted from public land and in federal waters accounts for 25 percent of the greenhouse gases generated by the United States, which is the planet’s second biggest polluter, behind China.” Here is one area where the federal executive branch has control, and yet financial considerations have been dictating responses rather than existential ones.

After climate activists vocally denounced the move, Biden did finally cancel the drilling leases for Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The Interior Department cited a “lack of industry interest” and “conflicting court rulings,” rather than pressure from activists, as the reason for the cancellation. Regardless, it is a small measure of relief for a planet that is on its way to burning to a crisp.

While Biden (and other lawmakers) claim they are driven by rising inflation and the impact of high gas prices on voters’ pocket books, it turns out the public doesn’t actually want a glut of oil and gas to help lower costs.

A new poll by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment found that there is no longer skepticism among the public that the effects of climate change are real, as 76 percent of respondents—the highest on record since the poll started—“believe there is solid evidence that temperatures on the planet have risen over the last four decades.”

The poll also notably concluded that “Americans continue to favor reducing greenhouse gas emissions as their preferred approach for staving off the worst impacts of climate change,” and that they “remain skeptical of any pivot from mitigation toward climate policy that prioritizes adaptation, use of geoengineering or subterranean carbon storage.”

So, rather than invest in mitigating climate change or adapting to it—which is what market-driven economies favor—people, sensibly, want to stop the planet from warming in the first place.

Still, there is growing concern among climate scientists that it may already be too late for a transition to renewables. In spite of energy sources like solar and wind becoming rapidly cheaper and more accessible, overall energy consumption is increasing about as fast, as per one recent study. Mark Diesendorf, the author of the study, explained, “it is simply impossible for renewable energy to overtake that retreating target. And that’s no fault of renewable energy. It’s the fault of the growth in consumption and the fact that action has been left too late.”

Because corporate profit-based considerations have constantly dictated our energy use and climate policies, we have effectively decided that major sacrifices of lives—most likely poor people of color—will be worth the pain of relying on fossil fuels for energy.

There is an analogy to be found in the COVID-19 pandemic. For months, scientists sounded the alarm over prevention, endorsing lockdowns, masks, and vaccines to stop the spread of the deadly virus, just as climate scientists issued warnings against global warming for decades. Both science-based campaigns faced uphill battles, each with its own challenges in recommending the most rational guidelines to maximize public safety in spite of financial sacrifices (closing down most businesses and restaurants and canceling major sporting and entertainment events, in the case of COVID-19; promoting solar power subsidies, switching to wind energy, and manufacturing hybrid and electric vehicles, in the case of the climate crisis). All the while, corporate interests and right-wing political opportunists successfully pushed their own agenda in the halls of power, insisting that economic growth was the most important consideration.

Today, even as COVID-19 infection rates are skyrocketing, with cases having risen by 58 percent in the last two weeks alone, mask mandates are being dropped all over the country and COVID-19-related restrictions are ending. This is not because the virus is under control—it is clearly not—but because it’s no longer financially viable for corporate America to sacrifice profits for lives. So, it will sacrifice lives for profit—just as is the case with the climate crisis.

It is worth spelling out this equation so that we know where we are headed.

As the climate changes, we begin to see where the bodies are buried—literally. Water levels in Nevada’s Lake Mead have fallen so dramatically that the remains of at least two human bodies were recently discovered. What other disturbing discoveries are in store for us?

Author Bio: Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.

Humanity has to build a world 'bound by love and powered by popular sovereignty': Jeremy Corbyn

In April, the UN’s climate scientists warned it’s “now or never” to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. You can almost hear them screaming at their keyboards, desperate for governments to actually do something, when they outline the need for “rapid, deep and immediate” cuts in CO2 emissions. But their words are not just a warning about the future; they describe the present reality for billions of people.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

South Asia is now into its third month of extreme heat, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius day after day. And it’s not just South Asia that is sweltering. In March, both the Arctic and the Antarctic were 30 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius above their usual average temperatures, respectively. Ice is melting, and sea levels are rising. Thirty million people were displaced by climate shocks in 2020. And these shocks store up more strife to come by wrecking harvests.

The supply chains that connect the world’s farms, mines, factories, shipping lanes, ports, warehouses, delivery networks and consumers are already massively disrupted, even before the full effects of climate breakdown are felt. In the heavily integrated global capitalist economy, disruption spells disaster. Already, more than 800 million people—1 in 10 people of the entire world’s population—go to bed hungry.

The price of wheat has doubled already this year. And it could rise further as the effects of Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s resulting partial economic isolation are felt across the globe.

Wars lead to hunger, mental distress, misery and death for years after the fighting stops. There must be an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory and a negotiated settlement between the two countries.

If there isn’t, then not only will the Ukrainian people continue to face the horror of shells, tanks and air raid sirens; not only will Ukrainian refugees suffer uncertain futures and dislocation from their families and communities; not only will young Russian conscripts be sent off to be brutalized in the army and die in a foreign land for a war they don’t understand; not only will Russian people suffer under sanctions; not only will the people of Egypt, Somalia, Laos, Sudan and many others who rely on wheat from the belligerent nations continue facing rising hunger.

But everyone on earth faces the threat of nuclear Armageddon if the war in Ukraine continues. The threat of direct confrontation between Russian and NATO forces is a clear and present danger to all of us. That’s why it is so important that we support the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is now part of international law thanks to inspiring campaigning by countries in the Global South.

It will not be easy. Weapons companies do extremely well out of war. They fund politicians and think tanks. They have their many media mouthpieces. Those who strive for peace and justice are vilified because behind conflict stand the interests of the war machine. They threaten the ill-gotten wealth and power of the few.

We see it with painful clarity in the pandemic as Big Pharma refuses to share vaccine technology that was mainly developed with public funds. Who benefits? The pharma executives and shareholders. Who loses? Everyone else. More mothers and fathers die. More livelihoods are wrecked. And the threat of viral mutation hangs over everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

The state is used to prop up the wealth of the richest. Central banks pumped in $9 trillion in 2020 in response to the pandemic. The result? Billionaire wealth went up by 50 percent in one year, when at the same time the world economy shrank. The billionaires and corporations claim to hate government action. In reality, they love it. The only thing they hate is governments acting in your interests. And so, they fight to keep governments in their pocket and try to overthrow those that aren’t.

When we step back and survey all of these dynamics, a truth dawns on us. We used to think that there were a series of distinct crises: the climate crisis, the refugee crisis, the housing shortage crisis, the debt crisis, the inequality crisis, the crisis of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. We tried to isolate each one and solve it.

Now we can see that we don’t face multiple separate crises. The system itself is the crisis. The global system is not in a crisis that can be resolved. The system is crisis and must be overcome, replaced and transformed.

The end of the world is already here—it is just unevenly distributed. The image of apocalypse—bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion—is a reality for people across the planet.

The periphery is the future, not the past. We were told that developed countries give the developing world an image of their future. But the periphery sits at the vanguard of history—where the crises of capitalism hit hardest, the consequences of climate collapse arrive the quickest, and the call to resist them rings the loudest.

That resistance is powerful and inspiring. The world recently witnessed the largest strike in history when Indian farmers and their worker allies resisted the neoliberal bills that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government wanted to force through their parliament. The farmers stood up for themselves, their livelihoods and the needs of the poor. And they won.

Or take Amazon, the world’s sixth-largest company, which has made record profits during the pandemic. Its greed and exploitation are being fiercely resisted by workers, communities and activists on every continent in the world. They have come together to make Amazon pay.

In Latin America, the people are rallying to support progressive political leaders to say no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments.

But it’s not enough to just resist. We have to build a new world brimming with life, bound by love and powered by popular sovereignty.

How do we do that? We strengthen workers and rural workers in their struggles against exploitation, support people and communities in their fights for dignity and join progressive forces to mobilize state power. And we bring them all together into powerful people’s alliances with the capacity to remake the world. If we do that, we will breed hope over despair.

So I want you to commit today: Double your efforts in the struggles you are involved in. Join that campaign you’ve been thinking about joining. Show that real solidarity.

I want you to be able to look back in a generation’s time and say, yes, I built the trade unions, the community organizations, the social movements, the campaigns, the parties, the international platforms that turned the tide.

I want you to be able to say, yes, we produced and distributed the food, homes and health care so no one endures poverty; preserved and shared the wisdom of the people of this planet; spread love between people and communities; built the energy system to decarbonize our planet; dismantled the war machine and supported refugees; reined in the power of the billionaires; and secured a new international economic order.

Will it be easy? Of course not. We will face enormous resistance. Of course we will.

But, as the great and wonderful Chilean poet Pablo Neruda once wrote, “You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot stop spring from coming.”

And spring, my friends, is coming.

Adapted from Jeremy Corbyn’s inaugural speech to the Progressive International’s Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022.

Author Bio: Jeremy Corbyn is a member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and the founder of the Peace and Justice Project.

Ninety-one percent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef whitened in sixth mass bleaching event: study

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered through its sixth mass bleaching event and it was caused entirely by warming ocean waters due to anthropomorphic climate change.

A study published on Tuesday night by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Reef Snapshot: summer 2021-22, discovered that last year's La Niña pattern, which typically lowers sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, did not diminish the damage inflicted upon the world's largest reef.

"The Great Barrier Reef’s waters warmed early in December 2021, the hottest December on record since 1900, exceeding historical summer maximums that typically occur in the hottest summer months," the agencies, which monitor the Reef's conditions from May to November, say in their study. "Ocean temperatures continued to accumulate heat throughout the summer until early April 2022. This prolonged heat exposure prompted Reef-wide aerial surveys in the second half of March 2022 - specifically to assess the extent of coral bleaching on shallow-water coral communities."

The destruction observed by the Marine Park Authority and Institute of Marine Science through their aerial surveys was devastating. Almost all of the Reef's coral communities – an intricate network of 2,900 small reefs spanning 2,300 kilometers – experienced bleaching over the past year:

  • A total of 719 reefs were surveyed from the air between the Torres Strait and the Capricorn Bunker Group in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
  • Of these, 654 reefs (91 percent) exhibited some bleaching. Coral bleaching observed from the air was largely consistent with the spatial distribution of heat stress accumulation, with a greater proportion of coral cover bleached on reefs that were exposed to the highest accumulated heat stress this summer.
Watch the footage below:

Reef snapshot: summer 2021-22 youtu.be

While corals can recover from bleaching episodes under the right environmental circumstances, those have not been reliably present, and the overall health of the Great Barrier Reef has rapidly deteriorated since the end of the 20th century. Between 1995 and 2020, the uniquely biodiverse natural wonder lost half of its coral populations. A study released in early 2021 noted that 98 percent of the Reef has been affected by bleaching since 1998.

Reefs are home to countless species of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth, and they are threatened with extinction as the planet's reefs face the possibility of collapse.

Human activity – specifically the relentless burning of fossil fuels – is the unequivocal culprit behind the Reef's hastening ruination.

"This is the fourth mass bleaching event since 2016 and the sixth to occur on the Great Barrier Reef since 1998," the study explains. "Climate change is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Only the strongest and fastest possible actions to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions will reduce the risks and limit the impacts of climate change on the Reef. Further impacts can be minimized by limiting global temperature increase to the maximum extent possible and fast-tracking actions to build Reef resilience."

'Our house is truly on fire': Earth now has a 50 percent chance of warming 1.5 degrees by 2026

The World Meteorological Organization warned Monday that the planet now faces a 50% chance of temporarily hitting 1.5°C of warming above pre-industrial levels over the next five years, another signal that political leaders—particularly those of the rich nations most responsible for carbon emissions—are failing to rein in fossil fuel use.

In 2015, by comparison, the likelihood of briefly reaching or exceeding 1.5°C of global warming over the ensuing five-year period was estimated to be "close to zero," the WMO noted in a new climate update. The report was published amid a deadly heatwave on the Indian subcontinent that scientists say is a glimpse of what's to come if runaway carbon emissions aren't halted. Thus far, the heatwave has killed dozens in India and Pakistan.

Signatories to the Paris climate accord have agreed to act to limit the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C—preferably to 1.5°C—by the end of the century. Climate advocates have deemed the 1.5°C target "on life support" following world leaders' refusal to commit to more ambitious action at the COP26 summit in Glasgow late last year.

"We are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement," Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the WMO, said in a statement Monday. "The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet."

"For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise," Taalas added. "And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise and, our weather will become more extreme. Arctic warming is disproportionately high and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us."

Dr. Leon Hermanson, a climate expert at the U.K. Met Office who led the WMO report, stressed that a short-lived breach of the 1.5°C threshold would not mean that the world is guaranteed to fall short of the Paris accord's most ambitious warming target, which climate experts and campaigners have long decried as inadequate.

Such a breach, however, would "reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where 1.5°C could be exceeded for an extended period," said Hermanson.

The WMO's latest research also estimates that there is a 93% chance that at least one year between 2022 and 2026 will be the warmest on record. Currently, 2016 and 2020 are tied for the top spot.

Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C by 2100, countless people across the globe will still face devastating heatwaves, droughts, and other extreme weather, with the poor facing the worst consequences.

Meanwhile, key ecosystems could be damaged beyond repair in a 1.5°C hotter world. One recent study found that 99% of the world's coral reefs would experience heatwaves that are "too frequent for them to recover" if the planet gets 1.5°C warmer compared to pre-industrial levels.

Scientists behind the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report cautioned last month that if there's to be any hope of keeping warming to 1.5°C or below by 2100, "it's now or never."

"Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible," said Jim Skea, co-chair of IPCC Working Group III.

'Terrifying': British windshield 'splatometer' study finds 60 percent drop in flying insect populations

A survey published this week analyzing bug splat on U.K. motorists' license plates found that the nation's flying insect population has declined by nearly 60% over the past 17 years, indicating a "terrifying" loss of biodiversity among the planet's most numerous class of species.

"There is a growing amount of evidence of widespread insect population decline. These declines could have catastrophic impacts on the Earth's natural environment and our ability to survive on the planet," warns a summary of the Bugs Matter Citizen Science Survey, which was conducted by Buglife and the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT).

"However, there has not been enough data to draw robust conclusions about trends in insect populations in the U.K., because standardized surveys are not used for all insect groups or at a national scale," the publication continues. "Our study demonstrates the use of an innovative method for widespread monitoring of insect 'splat rate' to investigate changes in insect populations in the U.K. over a 17-year timeframe."

To collect survey data, U.K. drivers cleaned their front license plates before setting out on essential journeys. After trips, they counted the number of insects on the plate using a "splatometer grill" before submitting photos and count information via the Bugs Matter app.

The data showed the overall number of insects recorded had declined by 58.5% nationwide. England suffered the greatest loss, with 65% fewer insects recorded in 2021 than in 2004, while Wales had 55% fewer, and Scotland saw a decline of 27.9%.

"This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade—this is terrifying," Buglife CEO Matt Shardlow told The Guardian. "We cannot put off action any longer, for the health and well-being of future generations this demands a political and societal response. It is essential that we halt biodiversity decline now."

According to a 2020 British parliamentary report that noted a 38% to 75% loss in bug biomass throughout Europe: "Insects play a pivotal role in natural processes that support other living organisms, and human health and well-being. Roles include pollination, pest and weed regulation, decomposition, nutrient cycling, and provision of food for wildlife and humans."

KWT conservation director Paul Hadaway told the BBC Thursday that "declines are happening at an alarming rate and without concerted action to address them we face a stark future."

The U.K. survey's findings complement those of other studies conducted around the world.

Last month, researchers at University College London's Center for Biodiversity and Environment Research published one of the largest-ever assessments of global insect population loss, with the paper revealing that "farmland in climate-stressed areas where most nearby natural habitat has been removed has lost 63% of its insects, on average."

In 2020, 73 international scientists published a roadmap to battle that's been called the global "bugpocalypse." The researchers stressed the need to aggressively curb planet-heating greenhouse emissions, reduce use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, limit pollution of all types, and fund increased conservation efforts.

‘Moderation is madness’: Why Democratic centrism dooms us all

The scientific data behind the dire predictions about climate change is as unequivocally dependable as the Standard Model of particle physics. Despite decades of drastic warnings by the world's scientists and real-time consequences of the burning of fossil fuels, there are lawmakers within the Democratic Party who remain beholden to the interests of oil companies and refuse to accept that reliance on hydrocarbons is rapidly diminishing the habitability of our planet.

United States Senator Joe Manchin, the conservative Democrat from West Virginia, is the epitome of said politically indifferent, climate justice columnist Mary Annaïse Heglar wrote in a powerful essay in The New Republic on Tuesday.

Manchin has been ripped by critics as an "arsonist," a "villain," and a "threat to the globe" for torpedoing President Joe Biden's Build Back Better legislation, which contained provisions to tackle climate change that Biden promised during the 2020 campaign. And his centrist approach to combating global warming is hastening Earth's ecological apocalypse.

"There is no middle ground on the path to a livable future, at least not anymore. And especially not for the party that purports to 'believe in science,'" Helgar begins. "The science is screaming at us: We need to transition off fossil fuels, immediately. Any effort to drill new oil, lease new wells, build new pipelines is not just risky but suicidal."

According to Helgar, the chance to find a middle ground has long passed.

"The can has been kicked too far down the road. It’s created a world in which calls for extremely basic human necessities like clean water and breathable air are heard as radical. Bipartisanship is dead, and centrists killed it," she writes. "Every single time Democrats try to meet Republicans in the middle, they sprint further to the right—from policies like a carbon tax to individually mandated health insurance. There is no sense in going back to that waterless well."

While the Republican Party has devolved into a "fascist" lost cause, Heglar continues, liberals "have sat on the sidelines either willfully ignoring their new reality or, worse, pointing and laughing. Over and over, they fall victim to bad-faith arguments, mistaking pure shamelessness for stupidity."

She reminds her readers that the tenets of today's GOP are an indictment of modern society.

"The right-wing is a party of zealots. They believe in what they’re doing. They hurt LGBTQ people and people of color and refugees and women because they are bigots, point-blank. They believe in white supremacy, whether or not they call it that outright," Helgar notes.

Because his state is heavily right-wing, Manchin is in a unique position inside his caucus. Instead of leading, however, Manchin coddles the most extreme conservatives and their opposition to breaking our addiction to oil.

"Centrist is no longer the right moniker for politicians who want to 'compromise' with the radical right. Centrist implies reasonable—someone willing to meet in the middle and consider many approaches to reach a goal," Helgar writes. "But at this stage, if you’re in favor of new fossil fuel infrastructure when all the science says that’s a death sentence, what exactly is your goal?"

With Manchin, that is abundantly clear.

Manchin "is a literal coal baron and the fossil fuel industry’s inside man. If he’s supposed to be a centrist, what exactly is he in the middle of? Nazis on the one side and people who (checks notes) want a livable future on the other? There’s no way to label Joe Manchin a 'centrist' without validating folks who believe in actual lizard people as a legitimate side of the political spectrum," Helgar states. "In his enthusiastic and unquestioning support for a clearly violent industry, Joe Manchin is nobody’s centrist. He is a fossil fuel hawk, and we should call him that."

Helgar adds that the Democratic Party's abandonment of West Virginia has forced liberal voters into falsely believing that Manchin is an essential player simply because he is a Democrat. That, Helgar proclaims, is an insult to the constituency's collective intelligence.

"It seems clear to me that the reason we can’t get a more progressive Democrat in West Virginia is because the Democratic Party has disinvested from the South since the 1970s. It’s quite apparent when you look down the ballots and notice that so many Republican candidates run in the South unopposed," she explains. "When Democrats do compete in the races, their strategy is simply to meet voters where they are, but once elected, they never take them anywhere else."

Climate change, meanwhile, is the most imminent existential threat facing life on Earth. If Democrats are serious about dealing with it, callous centrists like Manchin need to go.

"How much longer can we do the same thing and expect different results? In the face of the climate crisis, moderation is madness. There is no more time for pussyfooting and half measures. The science is clear, and the fire is getting hotter," Helgar concludes. "If the Democrats believe the science, it’s time to act like it. We know what we need to do, and there’s nothing moderate or centrist about it."

Helgar's full column is available here (subscription required).

Can we abandon pollutive fossil fuels and avoid an energy crisis?

When it comes to maintaining energy flows, there is a closing window to avert both climate catastrophe and economic peril.

Similar to the two navigational hazards mythologized as sea monsters in ancient Greece—Scylla and Charybdis—which gave rise to sayings such as, “between the devil and the deep blue sea” and “between a rock and a hard place,” modern energy policy has its own Scylla and Charybdis. On the one hand is the requirement to maintain sufficient energy flows to avoid economic peril. On the other hand is the need to avert climate catastrophe resulting from such activities. Policymakers naturally want all the benefits of abundant energy with none of the attendant climate risks. But tough choices can no longer be put off.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s response of imposing sanctions on Russia are forcing a reckoning as far as global energy policy is concerned. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that the ongoing war and the U.S. sanctions may together reduce Russian oil exports by at least 3 million barrels per day—more than 4 percent of global supplies, which is a huge chunk of the delicately balanced world energy market. Some energy analysts are forecasting that oil prices could spike up to $200 per barrel later this year, exacerbating inflation and triggering a global recession. We’re facing the biggest energy crisis in many decades, with supply chains seizing up and products made from or with oil and gas (notably fertilizers) suddenly becoming scarce and expensive. Scylla, therefore, calls out: “Drill more. Lift sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Beg Saudi Arabia to increase output.” But if we go that route, we only deepen our dependency on fossil fuels, aggravating the climate monster Charybdis.

The IEA was created in the aftermath of the 1970s oil shocks to inform policymakers in times of energy supply crisis. The agency recently issued a 10-point emergency plan to reduce oil demand and help nations deal with looming shortages owing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its advice includes lowering speed limits, instituting car-free Sundays, encouraging working from home, and making public transport cheaper and more widely available.

All of these are good suggestions—and are very similar to what my colleagues and I have been advocating for nearly 20 years (some were even part of U.S. energy policy 50 years ago). Fossil fuel supply problems shouldn’t come as a surprise: we treat these fuels as though they were an inexhaustible birthright; but they are, of course, finite and depleting substances. We have extracted and burned the best of them first, leaving lower-quality and more polluting fuels for later—hence the recent turn toward fracked oil and gas and growing reliance on heavy crude from Venezuela and “tar sands” bitumen from Canada. Meanwhile, rather belatedly, it has gradually dawned on economists that these “unconventional” fuels typically require higher rates of investment and deliver lower profits to the energy industry, unless fuel prices rise to economy-crushing levels.

Indeed, it’s as though our leaders have worked overtime making sure we’re unprepared for an inevitable energy dilemma. We’ve neglected public transportation, and many Americans who are not part of the white-collar workforce have been pushed out from expensive cities to suburbs and beyond, with no alternative other than driving everywhere. While automakers have turned their focus to manufacturing electric vehicles (EVs), these still account for a small fraction of the car market, and most of today’s gas-guzzling cars will still be on the road a decade or two from now. Crucially, there are as yet only exploratory efforts underway to transition trucking and shipping—the mainstays of global supply chains—and find more sustainable alternatives. That creates a unique vulnerability: the current worldwide diesel shortage could hammer the economy even if the government and the energy industry somehow come up with enough gasoline to keep motorists cruising to jobs and shopping malls.

Then there’s the issue of the way fossil fuels are financed. They’re not treated as a depleting public good, but as a source of profit—with investors either easily enticed to plunge into a passing mania or spooked to flee the market. Just in the past decade, investors have gone from underwriting a rapid expansion of fracking (thereby incurring massive financial losses), to insisting on fiscal responsibility, while companies are now milking profits from high prices and buying back stocks to increase their wealth. Long-term energy security be damned.

Meanwhile, the climate monster stirs fitfully. With every passing year, we have seen worsening floods, fires and droughts; glaciers that supply water to billions of people melting; and trickles of climate refugees threatening to turn into rivers. As we continue to postpone reducing the amounts of fossil fuels we burn, the cuts that would be required in order to avert irreversible climate doom become almost impossibly severe. Our “carbon budget”—the amount of carbon we can burn without risking catastrophic global warming—will be “exhausted” in about eight years at current emission rates, but only a few serious analysts believe that it would be possible to fully replace fossil fuels with energy alternatives that soon.

We need coherent, bold federal policy—which must somehow survive the political minefield that is Washington, D.C., these days. Available policies could be mapped on a coordinate plane, with the horizontal x-axis representing actions that would be most transformative and the vertical y-axis showing what actions would be most politically feasible.

High on the y-axis are actions like those that the Biden administration just took, to release 1 million barrels a day of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve and to invoke the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production of minerals needed for the electric vehicle market. While politically feasible and likely popular, these efforts won’t be transformative.

An announcement by President Joe Biden of an ambitious energy-climate vision, with the goal of eliminating our dependence on foreign fuel sources and drastically reducing carbon emissions by the end of the decade, would probably fall somewhere in the middle, where the x- and y-axes meet. Such a vision would encompass a four-pronged effort being proposed by the government:

  • Incentivizing massive conservation efforts, including “Heat Pumps for Peace and Freedom” and providing inducements for businesses to implement telework broadly.
  • Directing domestic production of fossil fuels increasingly toward energy transition purposes (for example, making fossil fuel subsidies contingent on how businesses are growing the percentage of these fuels being used to build low-carbon infrastructure).
  • Mandating massive investments in domestic production of renewables and other energy transition technologies (including incentives to recycle materials).
  • Providing an “Energy Transition Tax Credit” to households or checks to offset energy inflation, with most of the benefits going to low-income households.

Ultimately, some form of fuel rationing may be inevitable, and it is time to start discussing that and planning for it (Germany has just taken the first steps toward gas rationing)—even though this would be firmly in the x-axis territory. Rationing just means directing scarce resources toward what’s vital versus what’s discretionary. We need energy for food, critical supply chains and hospitals; not so much for vacation travel and product packaging. When people first hear the word “rationing,” many of them recoil; but, as author Stan Cox details in his history of the subject, Any Way You Slice It, rationing has been used successfully for centuries as a way to manage scarcity and alleviate poverty. The U.S. SNAP (food stamp) program is essentially a rationing system, and all sorts of materials, including gasoline, were successfully rationed during both world wars. More than two decades ago, the late British economist David Fleming proposed a system for rationing fossil fuel consumption at the national level called Tradable Energy Quotas, or TEQs, which has been discussed and researched by the British government. The system could be used to cap and reduce fossil fuel usage, distribute energy fairly and incentivize energy conservation during our transition to alternative sources.

Also, we need to transform the ways we use energy—for example, in the food system, where a reduction in fossil fuel inputs could actually lead to healthier food and soil. Over the past century or so, fossil fuels provided so much energy, and so cheaply, that humanity developed the habit of solving any problem that came along by simply utilizing more energy as a solution. Want to move people or goods faster? Just build more kerosene-burning jet planes, runways and airports. Need to defeat diseases? Just use fossil fuels to make and distribute disinfectants, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. In a multitude of ways, we used the blunt instrument of cheap energy to bludgeon nature into conforming with our wishes. The side effects were sometimes worrisome—air and water petrochemical pollution, antibiotic-resistant microbes and ruined farm soils. But we confronted these problems with the same mindset and toolbox, using cheap energy to clean up industrial wastes, developing new antibiotics and growing food without soil. As the fossil fuel era comes to an end, the rules of the game will change. We’ll need to learn how to solve problems with ecological intelligence, mimicking and partnering with nature rather than suppressing and subverting her. High tech may continue to provide useful ways of manipulating and storing data; but, when it comes to moving and transforming physical goods and products, intelligently engineered low tech may offer better answers in the long run.

Further along the x-axis would be the daring action of nationalizing the fossil fuel industry. But at the very farthest end of the x-axis is the possibility of deliberately reining in economic growth. Policymakers typically want more growth so we can have more jobs, profits, returns on investment and tax revenues. But growing the economy (at least, the way we’ve been doing it for the past few decades) also means increasing resource extraction, pollution, land use and carbon emissions. There’s a debate among economists and scientists as to whether or not economic growth could proceed in a more sustainable way, but the general public is largely in the dark about that discussion. Only in its most recent report has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) begun to probe the potential for “degrowth” policies to reduce carbon emissions. So far, the scorecard is easy to read: only in years of economic recession (such as in 2008 and in 2020) have carbon emissions declined. In years of economic expansion, emissions increased. Policymakers have held out the hope that if we build enough solar panels and wind turbines, these technologies will replace fossil fuels and we can have growth without emissions. Yet, in most years, the amount of increased energy usage due to economic growth has been greater than the amount of solar and wind power added to the overall energy mix, so these renewable sources ended up just supplementing, not displacing, fossil fuels. True, we could build turbines, panels and batteries faster; but, as long as overall energy usage is growing, we’re continually making the goal of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels harder to achieve.

Wouldn’t giving up growth mean steering perilously close to the Scylla of economic peril in order to avoid the Charybdis of climate doom? So far, we’ve been doing just the reverse, prizing growth while multiplying climate risks. Maybe it’s time to rethink those priorities. Post-growth economists have spent the last couple of decades enumerating the ways we could improve our quality of life while reducing our throughput of energy and materials. Policymakers must finally start to take these proposals seriously, or we will end up confronting the twin monsters—economy-crushing fossil fuel scarcity and devastating climate impacts—without prior planning and preparation.

It was always clear that we would eventually have to face the music with regard to our systemic economic dependency on depleting, polluting fossil fuels. We have delayed action, making both the economic challenge and the climate threat harder to manage. Our possible navigation channel between Scylla and Charybdis is now perilously narrow. If we wait much longer, this channel will vanish altogether.

Author Bio: Richard Heinberg is a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival.

Social despair creates 'ideal conditions' for autocratic Republicans to seize power

Wynn Bruce was a climate activist and Buddhist who left Colorado to arrive in Washington on Earth Day. On the steps of the US Supreme Court, Bruce burned himself alive. Friends say it was a protest of government dereliction on the environment, according to USA Today.

Bruce’s suicide came a few weeks after the United Nations released a report showing urgent need for action. Empty promises and hostility toward climate counter-measures have “put us on a track toward an unlivable world,” according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

A heatwave in India over the weekend seemed to illustrate the UN’s findings. In some parts of the subcontinent, land surface temperatures reached 60 degrees Celsius – that’s 140 degrees Fahrenheit. A vast majority of that country’s 1.4 billion people don’t have air conditioning. Meanwhile, animals and plants can’t survive under that scorching heat.

Bruce’s self-immolation has raised concerns about a broader experience of despair in the face of ecological collapse. Young people, who will live in a future the rest of us won’t live in (because we’ll be dead) are especially prone to “doomism,” reports the Associated Press.

If Bruce wasn’t protesting, as his friends insist, he might have been expressing the hopelessness others feel. “It’s the feeling that nothing can be done, so why bother,” according to the AP. “It’s young people publicly swearing off having children because of climate change.”

While there’s much to be worried about – while there’s much to fear! – despair is never experienced in a vacuum. It’s felt in a social context.

Think of it this way.

Despair is similar to bothsidesism. In that way of thinking no one is doing anything to anyone. Everyone is as good or bad as everyone else, and nothing really matters. Like bothsidesism, despair is anti-moral. It refuses to see who’s doing what to whom. Instead, it blames everyone.

But we know who’s doing what to whom. We know because we know the answer to this question: who benefits when individuals, especially the young, are so hopeless they wonder if they bother exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights as free citizens in a free society?

It’s not the Democrats, though some, like US Senator Joe Manchin, do indeed depend for their political livelihood on pleasing West Virginia’s atavistic coal industry. But even Manchin’s political livelihood doesn’t benefit from hopelessness, because he isn’t threatened by democracy.

The Republicans, however, are.

Citizens who give in to despair are citizens who won’t fight back.

Given that the Republicans benefit from despair, it’s fair to ask: is this done on purpose? On one level, you could say they’re merely serving the very obscenely rich. But on another, you could say a consequence of that is the broad feeling of climate change being so planetary in scale that nothing can be done. Live today, because tomorrow, we die!

Are there better conditions for the party of autocracy?

Political attitudes – despair is one – are similar to a person’s health. They can be healthy or unhealthy. The GOP doesn’t want healthy political attitudes. The public square, therefore, shouldn’t be a marketplace for the exchange of ideas for the purpose of vetting the greatest ones for the greatest good. Istead, it should be a brownfield.

In fact, the more poison, the better.

A public square poisoned by enemies foreign and domestic animates the very worst our society has to offer in ways impossible to achieve when the very best our society has to offer is equally animated.

But the poison works both ways.

It lifts the bottom to the top. It pushes the top to the bottom. The people most needed to democratically force the government to act on climate change are the same people most consumed by the experience of despair. They are people like Wynn Bruce – thoughtful, caring, principled and politically active – who light themselves on fire.

Ideal conditions for the Republicans.

Once you see that despair isn’t an inevitable consequence of faceless forces beyond your control determining the fate of humanity – once you see you’re not facing a god – you can liberate yourself. You can take action. You can make choices. You can act democratically.

It’s still unclear why Wynn Bruce self-immolated. Perhaps he’d given in to despair. I would like to think, however, that he did it for a good reason – to show the planet is going to burn as his body burned.

Now act.

Study warns only 'rapid action' can prevent worst marine extinction in 250 million years

Research published Thursday in the journal Science warns that runaway global warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions has put marine life at risk of the most catastrophic mass extinction since the "Great Dying" 250 million years ago, when 90% of all ocean species were wiped out.

Using models of varying emissions scenarios, Princeton University scientists Curtis Deutsch and Justin Penn found that the continued burning of fossil fuels and "business-as-usual global temperature increases" are likely to result, by 2300, in mass extinctions of marine systems "on par with past great extinctions."

"With accelerating greenhouse gas emissions, species losses from warming and oxygen depletion alone become comparable to current direct human impacts within a century and culminate in a mass extinction rivaling those in Earth's past," the researchers write. "Polar species are at highest risk of extinction, but local biological richness declines more in the tropics."

While their findings are dire, Deutsch and Penn go out of their way to emphasize that the new research should be a catalyst for "rapid action," not despair.

"Reversing greenhouse gas emissions trends would diminish extinction risks by more than 70%, preserving marine biodiversity accumulated over the past ~50 million years of evolutionary history," they write.

Speaking to the New York Times, Deutsch and Penn explained that the decision to underscore the possibility of averting the most cataclysmic extinction scenario was an active one, leading to a last-minute change in the study's pre-publication headline: "Marine Extinction Risk From Climate Warming."

"We were about to send it in and I thought, 'Gee, it sounds like a title that only has the dark side of the result,'" said Deutsch, a professor of geosciences. "Not the bright side."

The headline they ultimately landed on—"Avoiding Ocean Mass Extinction From Climate Warming"—centers the element of choice: If humanity acts swiftly to bring carbon emissions into line with the limits set out by the Paris agreement, warming can be dramatically slowed and devastating marine life extinctions can be prevented.

"Our choices have huge impacts," said Deutsch.

The barriers to the kind of sweeping, global climate action that the scientific evidence demands remain immense, however, as the rich countries most responsible for planet-warming emissions burn fossil fuels at a rate that spells disaster for the future.

In 2021, ocean temperatures were the highest ever recorded for the third consecutive year. Oceans have absorbed over 30% of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by human activity over the past two centuries and 90% of the excess heat.

The consequences for marine life are immense. One study published earlier this year warned that "by 2080, around 70% of the world's oceans could be suffocating from a lack of oxygen as a result of climate change, potentially impacting marine ecosystems worldwide."

At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow late last year, nations adopted a pact stressing the "importance of protecting, conserving and restoring natures and ecosystems, including... marine ecosystems."

But climate advocates were dismayed by how little concrete action the gathering spurred, given the enormous consequences of failing to slash carbon emissions worldwide.

Malin Pinsky, a Rutgers University biologist, told the Washington Post on Thursday that Deutsch and Penn's research shows, "If we're not careful, we're headed for a future that I think to all of us right now would look quite hellish."

"It's a very important wake-up call," Pinsky added.

United Nations warns that humanity has 'degraded' 40 percent of Earth's land

A new United Nations report released Wednesday shows farming, mining, and logging has marred more than half of the planet. In a portrait of land degradation across the globe, the report describes entire forests razed for timber or pasture; sensitive grasslands and wetlands lost to sprawling cities; and over-exploited lands that have dried up into desert.

This story was originally published by Grist. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.

People have altered 70 percent of Earth’s lands from their natural state and degraded up to 40 percent. This threatens “many species on Earth, including our own,” the report warns. If these trends continue, experts expect growing disruptions to human health, food supplies, migration, and biodiversity loss driven by climate change, in what the authors calls a “confluence of unprecedented crises.”

“The human-environment relationship must drastically change to avoid catastrophic tipping points whereby the human power of exploitation is overwhelmed by the power of nature,” the report says, noting that half of humanity already feels the effects of degraded land.

The report, called the Global Land Outlook 2, comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and follows a landmark UN report earlier this month that called for “rapid and deep” emissions cuts to avoid the worst effects of global warming. The authors stressed that combating the erosion of the world’s lands actually makes a lot of economic sense: More than half of the global economy — about $44 trillion a year — relies on the natural world. At the same time, restoring lands and protecting forests could stem the rippling effects of poverty, hunger, conflict, and disease. And that, in turn, could contribute more than a third of the efforts needed to sequester carbon and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

More than anything, industrial agriculture has played an outsized role. The cultivation of cattle, palm oil, and soybeans in particular has led to depleted freshwater, widespread deforestation, and rampant extinctions, all of it underwritten by $700 billion in government subsidies each year that support unsustainable, polluting practices. In turn, this has unleashed tons and tons of greenhouse gasses each year.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, Ibrahim Thiaw, executive secretary of the U.N. organization, said that for too long, people have mined the earth, used its resources, and thoughtlessly discarded the rest. He pointed to his suit jacket: “This is fiber, this is cotton, this is land, this is water, this is carbon.” Thiaw said humanity must abandon this approach and adopt a more sustainable mindset of management.

The report warns that if nothing changes, by 2050, we can expect significant hits to crop yields, the degradation of an additional expanse of land the size of South America, and the loss of carbon locked up in poor soils and threatened peatlands. On the other hand, committing to conservation and restoring about a third of the world’s lands would not only improve yields and lock in carbon, but also prevent a third of expected extinctions.

The authors used “restoration” to refer to sustainable management of land and water. That includes practices like “rewilding” natural areas, protecting wetlands and waterways, prioritizing ecosystems in agriculture, and building green spaces in cities. They pointed to a number of success stories, such as efforts to rewild Argentina’s Iberá wetlands and prepare for dust storms in Kuwait.

“It’s not complicated,” Thiaw said. “It is actually low-tech, and it is accessible and achievable.” That is, if humanity can muster up the political will.

Hundreds of organizations press POTUS to 'end the fossil fuel era' and 'save life on Earth'

Over 520 organizations told President Joe Biden on Wednesday to urgently "end the fossil fuel era" and commit to a rapid renewable energy transition rooted in justice and a more peaceful world.

The demand was delivered in a letter that points to a "cascade of emergencies" currently facing humanity including the climate crisis and Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine, which "share the same dangerous thread: dependence on fossil fuels."

"Russia's invasion into Ukraine is fueled by their fossil fuel extraction power, and the world's reliance upon it," the signatories, including global groups like Climate Action Network International and 350.org, wrote.

The letter declares that "war makes it more apparent that fossil fuel dependence puts people at risk and makes energy systems insecure" and points to fossil fuel extraction and combustion's wide-ranging adverse impacts from driving the biodiversity crisis to causing deaths worldwide.

In order "to preserve a livable planet," the letter outlines four broad steps to make an exit from fossil fuels. They include a stop to any new permits or financing for coal, oil, and gas extraction and related infrastructure. The letter puts a 2030 deadline for coal extraction and 2031 deadline for gas extraction by richer nations such as the U.S.

Nuclear must also be phased out, given it's "an inherently dirty, dangerous, and costly energy source," the letter asserts.

Economic policy must also advance a fossil fuel exit; that necessitates no further subsidies for the industry but instead a tax on "windfall profits."

The letter additionally calls for the creation of "an international plan for an equitable phaseout of fossil fuel production and use in line with the 1.5ºC target" of the Paris climate agreement, one that recognizes "the historical responsibility of rich industrialized countries for the climate crisis and the necessity of their leadership, and the different capacity of countries to rapidly transition and diversify their economies."

Additional steps are needed, the coalition says, to ensure a future renewable energy system doesn't "repeat the violence of the extractive, fossil fuel past."

On this front, the signatories say global cooperation is a must. Related steps include ensuring renewable energy deployment goes to the Earth's estimated one billion people still without electricity. And, where possible, decentralized renewable energy-based systems—like roof-based and community solar—should be prioritized.

Extraction of minerals needed for green technology must not run afoul of human and Indigenous rights, nor unleash devastation on ecosystems, Biden was told.

From the local to the global level, "agreements and approaches to drastically scale up the transfer of technology and finance" must additionally be undertaken.

"This is the opportunity of our lifetimes to stop the violence of fossil fuels and build a new era of peace and justice to confront the climate crisis," the signatories conclude.

Jean Su, Energy Justice Program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the U.S. signatories to the letter, said some of Biden's recent actions on fossil fuels—including resumption of oil and gas lease sales on public lands and plans to increase gas exports to Europe as a response to Russia's invasion—are steps in the absolutely wrong direction.

"The fossil fuel blood money funding Russia's war machine reveals the link between dirty energy and deadly conflict," she said. "But instead of working to break this vicious cycle, President Biden is doubling down on fossil fuels with expanded exports and broken-promise federal leasing."

The right response to Russian's invasion, said Su, "isn't more drilling, but an energy transformation built on renewables, justice, and peace. The good news is that President Biden has the executive tools to break free from fossil fuel oligarchs and turn the U.S. into a renewable-energy powerhouse."

"The violence of fossil fuels," she added, "must come to an end to save life on Earth."

Activists stage massive rallies across the United States demanding decisive action on climate change

Scores of people in communities around the United States took to the streets on Saturday to demand swift and bold legislative and executive action to tackle the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis as well as skyrocketing inequality.

At "Fight for Our Future" rallies held in Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Atlanta, and more than 40 additional cities across the country, the message was simple: Time is running out for Congress and President Joe Biden to make the bold investments needed to create millions of unionized clean energy and care sector jobs that can simultaneously mitigate greenhouse gas pollution along with economic and racial injustice.

The nationwide mobilization—organized by a coalition of more than 20 labor, civil rights, and environmental justice groups including SEIU, NAACP, the Sierra Club, the Sunrise Movement, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Green New Deal Network—took place one day after Earth Day.

It also came just weeks after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reiterated in its latest report that "it's now or never" to confront the planetary emergency. Although Biden has vowed to "listen to the scientists," he and the leaders of other wealthy countries have so far ignored their numerous warnings to leave fossil fuels in the ground and embark on a rapid transition to renewable energy and a more sustainable built environment and food system.

Prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Biden had already approved more permits for drilling on public lands and waters than former President Donald Trump did in his first year. Since the start of Moscow's war, Biden has taken steps to boost domestic oil extraction and fracked gas exports to Europe, threatening to lock in polluting infrastructure for decades at precisely the moment when experts say emissions must be slashed.

"In this unprecedented moment of climate crisis, rising prices, energy insecurity, and racial and environmental injustice, it's vital that our leaders fight to establish a livable, just, and healthy planet for all," Ramon Cruz, president of the Sierra Club, said Saturday in a statement. "The latest IPCC report made clear that we not only have an imperative to address the climate crisis, but also the means to do so."

What's required is "the political will to make transformational investments at the scale and speed the crisis demands," said Cruz. "There's a clear path forward for critical investments in climate, care, jobs, and justice, and Congress must seize this crucial opportunity to truly ensure the future we all deserve."

Previous attempts to advance House-passed social welfare and climate investments—rejected unanimously by Republican lawmakers—through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process have been stymied by right-wing Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), whose votes are needed in the evenly split upper chamber.

In addition to being Congress' top recipient of fossil fuel cash this election cycle, Manchin makes nearly $500,000 per year from investments in his family's coal empire. Despite obvious conflicts of interest, Manchin has refused to answer questions about his ties to the industry.

Earlier this month, several West Virginians were arrested while protesting outside the plant that contracts with Enersystems, which is owned by Manchin's son and has paid the senator millions during his time in office.

The "Coal Baron Blockade" was just one of several direct actions organized in recent weeks by academics and activists around the globe, part of an apparent wave of non-violent civil disobedience to demand urgent decarbonization.

On Friday, a group blocked the entrance of a printing plant in New York City in an effort to hamper the distribution of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other corporate-owned newspapers to protest their failure to cover the climate emergency with "the frequency it deserves." The Times, for its part, did report on Saturday's nationwide day of action.

"Momentum is at our backs right now," Mary Kay Henry, president at SEIU, said Saturday in a statement.

"Now is the best and potential final opportunity for Congress to take action on climate and create millions of good-paying union jobs across our care economy," said Henry. "We simply cannot afford inaction: It's time to make a real investment in making our nation safer, cleaner, healthier, and also more equitable and resilient."

"Caregivers and the people who depend on their services—young children, seniors, people with disabilities, and others—face grave danger in the event of life-threatening climate disasters," she added. "That's why we're joining with the 'Fight for Our Future' coalition to mobilize a massive nationwide coalition to call for action on climate and care."

Speaking at the D.C. rally in Lafayette Square, Ramón Mejía from Grassroots Global Justice Alliance said, "Imagine instead of military recruiters asking you to join the war machine, we recruited care workers?"

"We must radically transform our world," said Mejía, who pointed out that "any plans to confront climate change must address militarization."

On the other side of the country, in a separate but related effort, peace and environmental activists from the Seattle metropolitan area planned to gather at the Manchester Fuel Department, which they called "the Pentagon's largest gas station," to protest what scholars have labeled the U.S. military's massive "carbon bootprint." With approximately 750 bases around the planet and a gargantuan annual budget expected to soon exceed $800 billion, the U.S. military emits more heat-trapping gases than 140 nations.

Meanwhile, DaMareo Cooper, co-executive director at the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement that "we've already waited too long to enact reforms that address this climate emergency."

"The suffering endured by people living in every corner of the world proves the immediacy of this crisis," Cooper continued. "Heat is rising, storms are worsening, and vital resources increasingly flow to the powerful at the expense of poor, rural, Black, and Brown people. The irreversible impact of global warming is no longer theoretical. From Alaska to Puerto Rico, our communities can't afford more bureaucratic delays in short and long-term solutions that develop clean energy and prevent natural disasters, massive community displacements, and crisis profiteering."

"The president and Congress," he added, "must protect our planet and the people who call Earth home—now."

Progressive advocacy groups and lawmakers have long stressed that in the likely event Biden does continue to face staunch opposition from the GOP and a handful of corporate Democrats, he can still help secure a livable planet by immediately exercising his far-reaching executive authority.

Josh Mandel lambasted for ‘idiotic’ Earth Day tweet

Former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel and his allies suffered a major disappointment when former President Donald Trump endorsed “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance in Ohio’s 2022 GOP U.S. Senate primary. Mandel and Vance have been fighting an ugly, mudslinging battle to show who is the most MAGA, and Mandel views Vance as a pretender. But Mandel hasn’t given up on trying to “own the liberals.” And on April 22, Mandel — a climate change denier — decided to thumb his nose at environmentalists by posting, “Let’s celebrate Earth Day by building more pipelines.”

This wasn’t the first time Mandel has made a ridiculous comment about the environment. On Valentine’ Day, he tweeted, “Climate change isn’t a threat to our national security, Joe Biden’s open borders are.”


In MAGA World, supporting fossil fuels over green energy has become part of identity politics. The April 22 tweet, as silly as it is, was obviously part of his effort to remind Republican primary voters in Ohio how MAGA he is. But Twitter users haven’t hesitated to let Mandel know how ridiculous that tweet makes him look.

Twitter user @BPasquantonio, using a photo of Judy Garland in the famous 1939 adaptation of “The Wizard of Oz,” humorously posted:

Some Twitter users responded to the April 22 tweet by mocking Mandel over Trump's decision to endorse Vance:


Here are some more responses to Mandel’s April 22 tweet:






'Let these trees grow': climate groups press POTUS to protect old-growth forests on Earth Day

U.S. President Joe Biden's reported plan to protect old-growth forests—which help combat global temperature rise by storing planet-heating carbon—is "grossly inadequate," one climate advocacy group said Thursday.

Biden will mark Earth Day in Seattle on Friday with an executive order on the issue, according to The Washington Post, which cited five unnamed sources briefed on the plan.

Responding in a statement, Food & Water Watch national organizing manager Thomas Meyer declared that "President Biden seems to think we're celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970, rather than in [the] depths of the climate crisis in 2022."

"Protecting forests without addressing the root cause of the climate crisis, namely the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels, will do very little to slow global warming," he warned.

"The president has many effective tools at his disposal to address the climate and public health impacts of fossil fuels in a serious way," Meyer added. "He should start by following through on his pledge to end fracking on public lands and stop offshore drilling, and directing his agencies to reject all new fossil fuel infrastructure."

The forthcoming order will direct the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to "define and inventory mature and old-growth forests nationwide within a year," as well as "identify threats to these trees, such as wildfire and climate change, and to use that information to craft policies that protect them," the Post reported.

As the newspaper detailed:

The president's order, however, will not ban logging of mature and old-growth trees, they added, and the administration is not considering a nationwide prohibition.
It will include initiatives aimed at restoring U.S. forests ravaged by wildfire, drought and insects, requiring federal agencies to come up with a reforestation goal by 2030. It will also address major problems facing tree planting efforts in the West—insufficient seeds and seedlings—by directing agencies to develop plans to increase cone and seed collection and nursery capacity.
Other pieces of the order are aimed at curbing deforestation overseas, promoting economic development in regions with major timber industries, and calculating the economic value of other natural resources such as wetlands.

WildEarth Guardians, in a tweet Thursday, highlighted that the order reportedly does not ban logging and urged Americans to pressure the administration on that front.

In February, more than 70 groups including Environment America launched the Climate Forests Campaign to push Biden to take executive action on protections for mature trees and forests on federal lands.

"We need to protect more of our forests across the globe to fend off the impending biodiversity and climate crises," said Ellen Montgomery, Environment America's Public Lands Campaign director, at the time.

"This campaign calls for the Biden administration to take the first step toward meaningful safeguards for forests in the U.S.—by protecting the most important standing trees in those forests," she added. "We can no longer allow our forests to be logged to the detriment of biodiversity and the climate crisis. It's time to adopt a new policy: Let these trees grow."

Donald Trump's cult heading down a path toward where 'everything collapses': Jamie Raskin

Right-wing extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, who played a major role in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection as they sought to keep former President Donald Trump in the White House, also are exerting a harmful influence on American politics and standing in the way of progress on climate change and other important societal issues.

That's the opinion of Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) in an interview with the Guardian, Reuters news agency and the Climate One radio program. Raskin led the House effort to impeach Trump for the second time and is a prominent member of the House Select Committee that is investigating the role of Trump and his allies in inciting the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The Maryland congressman has vowed to develop a complete picture of what happened that fateful day - and why - as rioters attempted to stop certification of the 2020 presidential election. Public hearings by the committee, chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), are expected to resume next month.

“This was a coup organized by the president against the vice-president and against the Congress in order to overturn the 2020 presidential election,” Raskin said.

The congressman added: “We don’t have a lot of experience with coups in our own country and we think of a coup as something that takes place against a president.” Jan. 6, however, was not what is typically regarded as a coup because it did not involve the military or another faction in society attacking the head of the government.

If the attack on the Capitol were to have succeeded, Raskin believes that “Trump was prepared to seize the presidency and likely to invoke the Insurrection Act and declare martial law. It’s what the political scientists call a self-coup … It’s a president fearful of defeat, overthrowing the constitutional process,” Raskin said.

He also believes that the extremist groups who support Trump are endangering the planet.

Raskin said: “We’re never going to be able to successfully deal with climate change if we’re spending all our time fighting the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers and Ku Klux Klan, and the Aryan nations and all of Steve Bannon’s alt-right nonsense.”

“We’ve got to save the democracy in order to save the climate and save our species,” he told the Guardian, Reuters and Climate One in the interview, as part of the Covering Climate Now media collaboration.

'We demand a liveable future': extinction rebellion activists flood New York City streets

As part of a series of actions this spring, climate activists rallied and marched in New York City on Monday "to demand that our tax money stop being used to fund endless war and environmental destruction."

Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) marked Tax Day with the "No Wars, No Warming" demonstration outside a federal building in NYC where various agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), have offices.

"We recognize that the people who are most often placed in harm's way from armed conflict are also the people who have and will continue to face the brunt of the climate crisis," says the XR event webpage. "In this moment, after two years of Covid-19, our tax money should be funding social services that benefit the communities most impacted by the climate crisis and most affected by decades of systemic underfunding."

"The U.S. has no problem dumping over half of its federal budget into policing the rest of the world through the Pentagon but refuses to cover the things people actually need," the page adds. "Join us to demand that our tax money stop fossil-fueling endless war, and start funding healthcare, green jobs and infrastructure, other climate adaptation measures, and housing. We demand a liveable future."

The action outside the IRS is part of XR's Spring Rebellion, which is a "massive, sustained civil disobedience campaign in NYC" from last Wednesday through Saturday.

"Our tax money should be funding a mass mobilization off fossil fuels, supporting the communities most impacted by the climate crisis, and addressing mitigation and adaptation measures," said XR activist Emma Jacobs in a statement Monday. "Fossil fuel use is a direct cause of the climate crisis, yet still the Biden administration continues to gaslight us and call himself the 'climate president' all while perpetuating environmental destruction."

"We cannot be reliant on the fossil fuel economy and have a military and defense industry which is one of the highest emitters in the world," the activist asserted. "Reliance on fossil fuels propagates wars and forces relationships with governments who control the fossil fuel supply. Plus, the U.S. military produces more carbon dioxide than countries including Denmark, Sweden, and Portugal."

Noting that "since 2001 alone, our military has emitted nearly 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases," Jacobs argued "this is unsustainable for our country and our planet. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, our hard-earned tax dollars should be spent avoiding catastrophic climate change, lifting up the least advantaged, and creating opportunities in a more peaceful, environmentally stable society."

The NYC campaign follows a recent global uprising of scientists affiliated with the group. The protests—including one that led to 13 arrests this past Saturday—also come after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which was released in early April and underscored the necessity of bolder action to cut planet-heating emissions.

Recognizing that "no one societal branch is fully responsible for the failure of our leaders to act," the XR organizers in NYC have demands directed at the government, financial institutions, and media.

XR isn't alone in calling for taking tax dollars from the U.S. war machine and instead investing in initiatives that serve people. Other groups involved in Monday's action included 350 NYC, Brooklyn for Peace, CodePink, NYC War Resisters League, Peace Action NYS, Resistance in Brooklyn, Roses and Bread, Veterans for Peace, and the World Can't Wait.

Additionally, the National Priorities Project (NPP) at the Institute for Policy Studies on Friday released a breakdown of how much the average taxpayer paid toward various government expenses last year.

For example, NPP found that the average taxpayer paid $929 for Pentagon contractors compared with just $171 for K-12 education.

NPP also revealed that the average taxpayer paid $62 for nuclear weapons versus only $27 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The main message?" the group said Friday. "We are investing too much in the military and law enforcement, and not enough on prevention, people, and communities."

Global warming can be kept under 2C if humanity acts quickly: study

In the early 2010s, climate scientists were painting a grim picture of the future: If humans didn’t curb carbon dioxide emissions, the world was headed toward 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming by the end of the century.

This story was originally published by Grist. You can subscribe to its weekly newsletter here.

A decade later, the planet is on a different path. Scientists now estimate that current emissions trajectories make a 4-degree scenario highly implausible, even as total carbon emissions continue to rise. In fact, a new study estimates that if countries fulfill the climate pledges they made at the United Nations climate change conference known as COP26 last year, warming could be limited to just below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.

That’s a more optimistic outlook than those found in the assessments released in the months leading up to COP26. Based on the pledges that countries had made prior to the conference, those studies found that there was a less than 50 percent chance of keeping warming to below 2 degrees C, the goal set by the world’s countries in the 2016 Paris Agreement. Indeed, the commitments prior to COP26 put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees.

“Our results provide a reason to be optimistic,” the researchers noted in the new study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature this week. “Warming could be limited to 2 C or just below, if the pledges on the table are implemented in full and on time.”

It’s a big “if.” The study assessed 154 pledges submitted by countries at the end of COP26. All 154 commitments included targets to cut emissions by 2030, and 76 included long-term targets stretching out to 2050 and beyond. In modeling temperature increases, the researchers assumed full implementation of countries’ pledges and took into account both short-term and long-term commitments. For countries that only pledged short-term reductions through 2030, the researchers extrapolated a similar trajectory to the end of the century. (The study also noted that a handful of countries — including Pakistan, Turkey, and Vietnam — had set unusually high emissions targets that would be reachable without any new policy initiatives and do little to reduce warming.)

There are already some indications that countries are not on target to meet their pledges. Last year, a United Nations report found that G20 countries, the world’s 20 largest economies, are likely to collectively fall short of their initial climate pledges by 1.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year — roughly 3 percent of their total annual emissions. Of the nine G20 countries that the report examined in detail, all had promised to eventually reach net-zero emissions, but none of them had reduction benchmarks that would actually put them on the path to net-zero.

In an analysis accompanying the new Nature study, climate scientists Zeke Hausfather and Frances Moore said that long-term targets should be “treated with skepticism” if they’re not backed by strong short-term commitments that drastically cut emissions as soon as possible. “It is easy to set ambitious climate targets for 30, 40 or even 50 years in the future — but it is much harder to enact policies today that shift energy systems towards a more sustainable future,” they wrote.

The new study also adds to the growing consensus that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C — the target that became a global rallying cry following the advocacy of vulnerable island nations during the 2015 U.N. climate negotiations — is basically out of reach, even under the most ambitious policy scenario modeled by the researchers.

The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming is the difference between life and death for many of the world’s most vulnerable people — and the difference between survival and extinction for some entire countries subject to sea level rise. The prime minister of Barbados, for instance, called 2 degrees of warming a “death sentence.”

While the 1.5-degree target is increasingly unlikely, it’s not yet entirely impossible, according to the researchers.

“Strong action will leave us with peak warming around 1.5 °C, whereas weak action will see temperature continue to rise to 1.7, 1.8, 2.0 °C or higher,” they noted. “Any delay in reversing the upward trend of emissions, phasing out the unabated use of fossil fuels and developing sustainable, additional and permanent negative-emissions options will put this target out of reach.”

'It’s about saving the world': Thom Hartmann calls on POTUS to 'nationalize the fossil fuel industry'

If you want to trigger a conservative, just suggest nationalizing the US gas and oil industry. “Venezuela!” they’ll scream hysterically, perhaps adding a few, “Iran!” squeals. (Somehow, they always forget to yell about Norway…)

Within minutes they’ll be croaking about that time back in 2008 when Maxine Waters — a Black woman with power and therefore the most terrifying thing Republicans can imagine — threatened oil industry CEOs who were giving Congress deliberately deceptive and incomplete answers with “socializing… taking over and the government running all your companies.”

Immediately, Fox “News” was all over it, as were dozens of rightwing sites.

In that, they’ve completely ignored (or never knew) the long American history of taking over industries during a time of national crisis.

And, as we re-enter a cold war with Russia and face unprecedented human death and property damage from climate change, it’s hard to claim we’re not in the midst of a national crisis that has fossil fuels at its foundation.

We’re at least 40 years behind where we should be in dealing with the fossil fuel/global warming crisis because giant oil companies have run massive disinformation campaigns while funding the political careers of hacks in Congress willing to lie to the public for them.

President Jimmy Carter, for example, declared a national crisis in 1979 and proposed legislation to create “this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”

FDR had sold bonds to the public to fund a government corporation that would develop synthetic rubber for fighter jet tires back in the day, and Carter wanted to do the same to end our dependence on fossil fuels:

'Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II,' Carter said, 'so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war.'

In that same July 15, 1979 speech, he proposed the government issue bonds that would fund:

[T]he creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America’s energy security.

It all came crashing down 42 years ago this coming January when the fossil fuel industry’s candidate, Ronald Reagan, replaced Carter, killed the solar bank and the bond program, and even took Carter’s solar panels off the roof of the White House.

If ever there was an industry that merited nationalization, the fossil fuel industry is it. They manipulate prices to both enhance profits and swing elections, bribe their way through the halls of Congress, and pump out a steady stream of lies about climate change. All while pouring hundreds of billions into the money bins of their morbidly rich CEOs, shareholders, and senior executives.

America has a long and proud history of taking on companies that put profits over the public good during a time of crisis. And we could acquire controlling interest of the nation’s three largest fossil fuel players — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — for, according to Robert Pollin writing at The American Prospect, fewer than a half-trillion dollars.

For less than a quarter of the cost of Trump’s billionaire tax cuts we could rapidly move a long way toward saving our nation and the world from climate destruction. But is it even possible? Turns out that history says an emphatic, “Yes!”

During the crisis of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized the country’s railroads, phone companies, and telegraph operators. He did the same with the nation’s radio networks and radio stations. All were returned✎ EditSign to private ownership after the war, but that temporary nationalization helped get America through the crisis.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same during World War II, nationalizing airplane manufacturers, gun manufacturers, over 3,300 mines, the nation’s railroads, dozens of oil companies, Western Electric Co., Hughes Tool Co., Goodyear Tire and Rubber, and even one of the nation’s largest retail outlets, Montgomery Ward. He also nationalized 17 foreign companies doing business in the US.

After FDR died, President Harry Truman continued seizing companies that were using the war as an excuse to jack up profits to the detriment of the nation. He nationalized meatpacking facilities across the country, the Monongahela Railroad Company, the nation’s steel mills, and hundreds of railroad companies.

Like with Wilson’s nationalizations, nearly all were returned to the private sector after the war was over, although it took until 1965 before all were privatized. Many had had their boards of directors and senior management replaced with people who’d put the interests of the nation ahead of their greed for profits.

In the 1970s, in the wake of the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad, President Richard Nixon oversaw the voluntary nationalization and transfer of 20 railroads into the newly created National Rail Passenger Corporation, now known as Amtrak.

In 1974 Congress created another nationalized entity to deal with freight rail, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which absorbed dozens of failing rail companies. Conrail was government-held until 1987, when it was privatized in the then-largest IPO in American history.

In 1984, when the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company was in a crisis, President Ronald Reagan’s administration oversaw the FDIC nationalizing it by acquiring an 80 percent ownership share in the company; it wasn’t re-privatized until 1991, and was bought by Bank of America in 1994.

Also in the 1980s, after Reagan recklessly deregulated the Savings & Loan industry, bankers made off with billions leaving the wreckage of crushed S&Ls all across the nation.

When the government agency that insured them, FSLIC, went bankrupt itself in 1987, Reagan and Congress created an umbrella agency — the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) — to nationalize 747 of America’s S&Ls with assets of over $400 billion. Their assets were sold back into the private market in 1995 as the RTC shut itself down, having averted a 1929-style banking crisis through temporary nationalization.

When George W. Bush was handed the White House by five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, the nation’s airline security system was entirely in private hands.

They failed miserably on 9/11, so Bush didn’t even bother with the normal acquisition process that would protect the hundreds of small contractors running security at airports across the nation: he simply nationalized the entire system and created a government agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to take over airport and airline security.

President Bush also partially nationalized the nation’s airlines, creating the Air Transportation Stabilization Board that traded around $10 billion in loans to airlines in crisis (air traffic collapsed after 9/11) in exchange for company stock. We (through our government) ended up holding 7.64 million shares in US Airways, 18.7 million shares of America West Airlines, 3.45 million shares in Frontier Airlines, 1.47 million shares in American TransAir, and 2.38 million shares in World Airways.

Congress had deregulated the nation’s banks in 1999 when Republicans pushed through an end to the Glass-Steagall Act and Bill Clinton signed it into law. The resulting banking system crash in 2008 forced the Bush administration to nationalize the country’s two largest mortgage lenders (they held about 40% of all US mortgages), Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The Bush administration then additionally nationalized a 77.9% share in AIG, a 36% share of Citigroup, and a 73.5% share of GMAC, forcing out GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner, who’d been a particularly terrible manager of that company and was actively lobbying against what Bush thought were America’s interests.

As President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of collapse. His administration created a new company, NGMCO, Inc., that nationalized the assets of GM and was 60.8% owned by the federal government.

GM was finally fully re-privatized by the Obama administration in 2013. Chrysler went through a similar process, although both the UAW and the Canadian government were part owners when it was temporarily nationalized.

Thomas M. Hanna, Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, compiled most of the data above in a brilliant paper titled “A History of Nationalization in the United States 1917-2009.”

Toward its end, he summarizes brilliantly the case for nationalizing — perhaps only temporarily — America’s largest oil and gas companies:

In such times of political and economic crisis, policymakers of all ideological persuasions in the United States have never been hesitant to use one of the most powerful tools at their disposal: nationalization of private enterprises and assets.
This included the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who nationalized railroads, and the telephone, telegraph, and radio industries (among others), and the Republican Ronald Reagan, who nationalized a major national bank; the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who nationalized dozens of mining and manufacturing facilities, and the Republican George W. Bush, who nationalized airport security and various major financial institutions; the Democrat Barack Obama, who nationalized auto manufacturers, and the Republican Richard Nixon, who nationalized all passenger rail service.

Today’s climate crisis dwarfs the threat of Nazism in the 1940s, Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack, or the massive bank robberies that took place during the Reagan and Bush administrations. It literally threatens all life on Earth.

Yet the fossil fuel industry continues to fund climate denial and lobby against any meaningful solutions, as we saw when every Republican in the Senate along with Joe Manchin killed the $500 billion investment in clean energy the Biden administration proposed in their Build Back Better legislation.

Squeals of “socialism!” and “Venezuela!” aside, we know how to nationalize industries that are working against our nation’s interests and have done it before, repeatedly.

This time it’s not just about saving our banks or fighting a war. This time, it’s about saving the world.

Nationalize the fossil fuel industry!

Atmospheric methane '162% greater than pre-industrial levels': greenhouse gas traps '87 times' more heat than CO2

Climate scientists on Thursday stressed the need for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions following new data showing a record increase in atmospheric methane levels for a second consecutive year.

"Our data show that global emissions continue to move in the wrong direction at a rapid pace," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement. "The evidence is consistent, alarming, and undeniable."

As NOAA notes, carbon dioxide remains the biggest climate change threat. However, scientists say that reducing methane emissions—the largest anthropogenic sources of which are animal agriculture and energy production—is relatively easy.

Spinrad said that "reducing methane emissions is an important tool we can use right now to lessen the impacts of climate change in the near term, and rapidly reduce the rate of warming. Let's not forget that methane also contributes to ground-level ozone formation, which causes roughly 500,000 premature deaths each year around the world."

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute, said that "this report is especially alarming because if carbon dioxide is the fossil-fueled broiler of our heating planet, methane is a blow torch, with 87 times more short-term heating power. Yet despite methane reductions being a relatively cheap and easy way to get phenomenal climate benefits, the industry has fought regulations at every turn."

"Polluters' record profits must be used to properly seal and remediate every well and fix every methane leak," she added. "But methane reductions have to be one part of a transformative global effort to phase out deadly fossil fuels in favor of truly clean renewable energy. Anything less puts us on a catastrophic path to an unrecognizable world."

According to NOAA:

Preliminary analysis showed the annual increase in atmospheric methane during 2021 was 17 parts per billion (ppb), the largest annual increase recorded since systematic measurements began in 1983. The increase during 2020 was 15.3 ppb. Atmospheric methane levels averaged 1,895.7 ppb during 2021, or around 162% greater than pre-industrial levels. From NOAA's observations, scientists estimate global methane emissions in 2021 are 15% higher than the 1984-2006 period.
Meanwhile, levels of carbon dioxide also continue to increase at historically high rates. The global surface average for carbon dioxide during 2021 was 414.7 parts per million (ppm), which is an increase of 2.66 ppm over the 2020 average. This marks the 10th consecutive year that carbon dioxide increased by more than two parts per million, which represents the fastest sustained rate of increase in the 63 years since monitoring began.

Scientists fear soaring concentrations of methane—which is up to 87 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period—may have triggered a potentially irreversible climate feedback loop.

Last September, the European Union and the United States pledged to voluntarily reduce methane emissions 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade. More than 100 nations have signed on to their Global Methane Pledge.

The world's three leading methane emitters—China, Russia, and India—have not joined the effort, nor have other major methane polluters like Australia and Iran.

Critics call the 30% target a step in the right direction but insufficient to adequately address the emissions crisis. The International Energy Agency said last October that a 75% reduction in methane emissions by 2030 is "essential" to combating the climate emergency.

Other U.S. efforts to slash methane emissions have been hampered by opposition from the fossil fuel industry and the politicians it influences through campaign contributions. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), whose family owns a coal brokerage and who is currently by far the largest recipient of oil and gas industry contributions, has been a staunch opponent of a proposed fee on methane pollution.

NOAA's methane report comes days after the United Nations published its latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, whose findings U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called "a file of shame, cataloging the empty pledges that put us firmly on track towards an unlivable world."

NOAA's Spinrad stressed that "we can no longer afford to delay urgent and effective action needed to address the cause of the problem—greenhouse gas pollution."

Xin Lan, a scientist at NOAA's Global Monitoring Laboratory, said that "we need to aggressively reduce fossil fuel pollution to zero as soon as possible if we want to avoid the worst impacts from a changing climate."