Shell and Exxon’s secret 1980s climate change warnings — The Guardian #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From The Guardian (Benjamin Franta):

Newly found documents from the 1980s show that fossil fuel companies privately predicted the global damage that would be caused by their products.

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions. In 1982, for example, Exxon predicted that by about 2060, CO2 levels would reach around 560 parts per million – double the preindustrial level – and that this would push the planet’s average temperatures up by about 2°C over then-current levels (and even more compared to pre-industrial levels).

Exxon’s private prediction of the future growth of carbon dioxide levels (left axis) and global temperature relative to 1982 (right axis). Elsewhere in its report, Exxon noted that the most widely accepted science at the time indicated that doubling carbon dioxide levels would cause a global warming of 3°C. Illustration: 1982 Exxon internal briefing document

Later that decade, in 1988, an internal report by Shell projected similar effects but also found that CO2 could double even earlier, by 2030. Privately, these companies did not dispute the links between their products, global warming, and ecological calamity. On the contrary, their research confirmed the connections.

Shell’s assessment foresaw a one-meter sea-level rise, and noted that warming could also fuel disintegration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, resulting in a worldwide rise in sea level of “five to six meters.” That would be enough to inundate entire low-lying countries.

Shell’s analysts also warned of the “disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction,” predicted an increase in “runoff, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmland,” and said that “new sources of freshwater would be required” to compensate for changes in precipitation. Global changes in air temperature would also “drastically change the way people live and work.” All told, Shell concluded, “the changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”

For its part, Exxon warned of “potentially catastrophic events that must be considered.” Like Shell’s experts, Exxon’s scientists predicted devastating sea-level rise, and warned that the American Midwest and other parts of the world could become desert-like. Looking on the bright side, the company expressed its confidence that “this problem is not as significant to mankind as a nuclear holocaust or world famine.”

The documents make for frightening reading. And the effect is all the more chilling in view of the oil giants’ refusal to warn the public about the damage that their own researchers predicted. Shell’s report, marked “confidential,” was first disclosed by a Dutch news organization earlier this year. Exxon’s study was not intended for external distribution, either; it was leaked in 2015.

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell slightly in 2017 #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

From the U.S. Energy Information Administration (Laura Singer):

U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2017 fell to 5.14 billion metric tons, 0.9% lower than their 2016 levels, and coal emissions were the primary driver behind the decline. U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions have declined in 7 of the past 10 years, and they are now 14% lower than in 2005.

Both coal and natural gas consumption in the United States were lower in 2017 than in 2016, and as a result, coal- and natural gas-related CO2 emissions decreased 2.6% and 1.5%, respectively. Natural gas consumption has displaced coal consumption in the electric power sector in recent years, and total U.S. emissions from natural gas first surpassed emissions from coal in 2015. U.S. petroleum consumption increased in 2017, contributing to a 0.5% increase in energy-related CO2 emissions from petroleum, but this increase was offset by the decrease in coal and natural gas emissions.

The electric power sector was the only U.S. sector in which energy-related emissions decreased in 2017, and the 4.6% decline was enough to offset increases in all other sectors. In recent years, the generation mix has shifted away from coal and toward natural gas and renewables. The shift toward natural gas from coal lowers CO2 emissions because natural gas produces fewer emissions per unit of energy consumed than coal and because natural gas generators typically use less energy than coal plants to generate each kilowatthour of electricity. Electricity generation from renewable energy technologies has increased; these technologies do not directly emit CO2 as part of their electricity generation. In EIA’s emissions data series, emissions from biomass combustion are excluded from reported energy-related emissions according to international convention.

In addition to reduced CO2 emissions as a result of utilization of less carbon-intensive generation sources, CO2 emissions were also lower in 2017 because of lower electricity sales, which in 2017 experienced the largest drop since the economic recession in 2009. The decline in CO2 emissions in the residential and commercial sectors was largely attributable to milder weather. Cooler summers reduce electricity consumption for cooling, and warmer winters reduce electricity consumption for heating (and also reduce heating-related consumption of natural gas and petroleum). Electricity sales to the industrial sector were also lower in 2017, despite an overall increase in manufacturing output.

Energy-related CO2 emissions trends are often related to trends in energy consumption and economic growth. Trends in energy consumption and related CO2 emissions relative to economic activity can be measured in several ways. Energy intensity is the amount of energy consumed relative to economic activity, measured in British thermal units per dollar of gross domestic product. Carbon intensity of energy consumed relates CO2 emissions to the amount of energy consumed in a year, measured in metric tons of CO2 per billion British thermal units.

From 2005 to 2017, the U.S. economy grew by 20%, while U.S. energy consumption fell by 2%. Energy-related CO2 emissions also decreased during that time period, and as of 2017, they were 14% lower than their 2005 levels. Compared with the levels in 2005, U.S. economic growth in 2017 was 29% less carbon-intensive, and overall U.S. energy consumption was 12% less carbon-intensive.

@wradv Statement on the @POTUS Administration’s Rollback of the Clean Power Plan #ActOnClimate

From Western Resource Advocates:

Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois released the following statement today on the Trump administration’s proposal to gut the Clean Power Plan by dismantling the federal government’s framework for cutting greenhouse gas pollution.

“The Trump administration is backing away from action on climate change as communities across the West struggle through years of record drought and a summer choked with wildfire smoke – both fueled by global warming. We need leadership on climate change at the federal level. Today’s action is further abdication of the responsibility to act on climate to protect our health, livelihoods, and future generations. Fortunately, smart utilities in the West and nationwide are moving in the opposite direction, motivated by market forces and public demand for clean energy. We urge the administration to take its head out of the sand, listen to Westerners, consumers, and the marketplace, and honor its responsibility to cut carbon emissions.”

Minnesota Supreme Court allows “necessity defense” for pipeline protesters #ActOnClimate

A sign along U.S. Highway 20 in Stuart, Nebraska, in May 2012. Stuart is on the edge of the Sand Hills, a few miles from Newport. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2015/11/15/rural-nebraska-keystone-and-the-paris-climate-talks/#sthash.Hm4HePDb.dpuf

From the Associated Press:

Climate change protesters are claiming victory in their effort to present an unusual “necessity defense” against felony charges stemming from efforts to shut down oil pipelines.

The Minnesota Supreme Court declined Wednesday to review a ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that backed the protesters, who will still face an uphill legal battle when their case goes to trial this fall.

Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein acknowledge turning the emergency shut-off valves on two pipelines in 2016 in Clearwater County of northwestern Minnesota as part of a coordinated nationwide action. Eleven activists were charged in all.

The Court of Appeals ruled in April the two Seattle-area women can argue that they believe the threat of climate change from Canadian tar sands crude is so imminent that they were justified.

Governor Hickenlooper signs executive order addressing orphaned wells

Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

Gov. John Hickenlooper today signed an executive order that aims to address safety concerns with more than 260 orphaned wells and 360 orphaned sites in Colorado. The executive order follows a review that the governor ordered in the aftermath of the Firestone house explosion in 2017 that killed Joey Irwin and Mark Martinez and injured Erin Martinez.

“That tragedy was a catalyst that compels us to improve the safety of Colorado’s oil and gas industry,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “We send a strong statement of unity when stakeholders throughout the industry agree to take action to remediate orphaned wells and orphaned sites and prevent the issue in the future.”

The executive order provides the following directives:

  • A reduction in the backlog of high- and medium priority orphaned wells and orphaned sites to zero.
  • Engagement of the oil and gas industry in the plugging, remediation and reclamation of these wells and sites.
  • A system of financial assurance that prevents future orphaned wells and orphaned sites by providing sufficient funding for plugging, remediation and reclamation activities.
  • The public will have access to a list of known sites by Aug. 1, 2018. That list will be updated annually by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

    “The order announced today will accelerate our ongoing work to properly plug and safeguard orphaned wells,” said Julie Murphy, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. “This approach is designed to address the issue comprehensively – through more effective prevention of future orphaned locations and more aggressive work to remedy existing priority sites.”

    View the executive order here.

    Ireland votes to divest from fossil fuels #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    By Jeff Schmaltz – NASA Earth Observatory, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14627545

    From The Guardian (Damian Carrington):

    Bill passed by parliament means more than €300m shares in coal, oil, peat and gas will be sold ‘as soon as practicable’

    The Republic of Ireland will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament.

    The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which is expected to mean within five years. Norway’s huge $1tn sovereign wealth fund has only partially divested from fossil fuels, targeting some coal companies, and is still considering its oil and gas holdings.

    The fossil fuel divestment movement has grown rapidly and trillions of dollars of investment funds have been divested, including large pension funds and insurers, cities such as New York, churches and universities.

    Supporters of divestment say existing fossil fuel resources are already far greater than can be burned without causing catastrophic climate change and that exploring and producing more fossil fuels is therefore morally wrong and economically risky… [ed. emphasis mine]

    The Irish fossil fuel divestment bill was passed in the lower house of parliament on Thursday and it is expected to pass rapidly through the upper house, meaning it could become law before the end of the year. The Irish state investment fund holds more than €300m in fossil fuel investments in 150 companies.

    “The [divestment] movement is highlighting the need to stop investing in the expansion of a global industry which must be brought into managed decline if catastrophic climate change is to be averted,” said Thomas Pringle, the independent member of parliament who introduced the bill. “Ireland by divesting is sending a clear message that the Irish public and the international community are ready to think and act beyond narrow short term vested interests.”

    Éamonn Meehan, executive director of international development charity Trócaire, said: “Today the Oireachtas [Irish parliament] has sent a powerful signal to the international community about the need to speed up the phase-out of fossil fuels.”

    […]

    The bill defines a fossil fuel company as a company that derives 20% or more of its revenue from exploration, extraction or refinement of fossil fuels. The bill also allows investment in Irish fossil fuel companies if this funds their move away from fossil fuels.

    Gerry Liston at Global Legal Action Network, who drafted the bill, said: “Governments will not meet their obligations under the Paris agreement on climate change if they continue to financially sustain the fossil fuel industry. Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.”

    Oil and Gas Fields Leak Far More Methane than EPA Reports, Study Finds — Inside Climate News

    Colorado has led the way on regulations designed to limit emissions of methane. Photo/Allen Best

    From Inside Climate News (Sabrina Shankman):

    The amount of methane leaking from the nation’s oil and gas fields may be 60 percent higher than the official estimates of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study in the journal Science.

    The study, led by a group of scientists from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), presents some of the most compelling evidence to date that switching to gas from dirtier fuels like coal might not be as effective a climate strategy as its proponents suggest unless the gas industry improves how it controls leaks…

    The authors estimated, conservatively, that methane equivalent to 2.3 percent of all the natural gas produced in the nation is leaking during the production, processing and transportation of oil and gas every year. That doesn’t count leaks from local delivery lines, another widespread problem.

    This much leaked methane would have roughly the same climate impact in the short-term as emissions from all U.S. coal-fired power plants, the authors found.

    Another way to put it: This rate of leaking methane is just as bad for the climate in the short term as the carbon dioxide that results from burning natural gas for fuel.