Worried about the cost of climate change? Here is some hope.
Worried about the cost of climate change? Here is some hope. Palo Alto Online
California Sues Oil and Gas Companies for Climate Misinformation
Many of us are wondering how we are going to fund efforts to limit global warming and adapt to the changes we cannot prevent. In California, we are rapidly building out clean power plants, new transmission lines, and EV charging stations. We are fighting fires, building sea walls, and hardening homes and infrastructure. We are treating patients for heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation, and wrestling with how to limit biodiversity loss. Periods of extreme drought and flooding are forcing us to rethink how we grow crops, manage forests, and add housing. How are we going to pay for all of this?
California’s Lawsuit Against Oil and Gas Companies
California has been getting some money from oil and gas companies via its cap-and-trade program, but now the state is going after the industry more directly. On Friday, California issued a scathing lawsuit charging Exxon, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and the American Petroleum Institute for intentionally spreading misinformation and delaying action on climate. The lawsuit details a history of egregious behavior by these companies to protect their business interests regardless of the damage it would cause. This is not the first such lawsuit, but it is arguably the most important, coming from a large state with a sizable oil and gas industry.
History of Knowledge and Misinformation
The lawsuit begins by summarizing how much these companies knew and for how long. As early as the 1950s and through the 1980s, the American Petroleum Institute, Exxon, Shell, and others were not just learning about but in fact funding research into the effects of carbon dioxide on our climate. A sampling of that history is listed below.
The lawsuit says that “By 1981, Exxon and other fossil fuel companies were actively monitoring all aspects of CO2 and global warming research, and Exxon had recognized that a shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources would be necessary to avoid a large CO2 build-up in the atmosphere and resultant global warming.”
Exxon predicted how CO2 would increase over the coming decades in this graph from 1982. Source: Lawsuit
But after that, their forthright approach changed. In the 1980s, the US Congress began to consider policy to address climate change. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change held its first conference. The lawsuit claims that this political momentum caused the fossil fuel companies to become more circumspect about their findings and to activate an aggressive defense that involved raising doubts about the science. “The Fossil Fuel Defendants — both on their own and jointly through industry and front groups such as API (American Petroleum Institute) and the GCC (Global Climate Coalition) — funded, conceived, planned, and carried out a sustained and widespread campaign of denial and disinformation about the existence of climate change and their products’ contribution to it.”
This is clear in statements they issued in the 1990s. The suit points to a published Shell report from 1994 that says “Scientific uncertainty and the evolution of energy systems indicate that policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions beyond ‘no regrets’ measures could be premature.” In 1996, the CEO of Exxon says that “taking drastic action immediately is unnecessary since many scientists agree there’s ample time to better understand the climate system.” And in 1996, the American Petroleum Institute said that “no conclusive—or even strongly suggestive—scientific evidence exists that human activities are significantly affecting sea levels, rainfall, surface temperatures or the intensity and frequency of storms.”
A consultant for Exxon during the 1980s acknowledged this discrepancy between internal knowledge and external statements. “The advertisements that Exxon ran in major newspapers raising doubt about climate change were contradicted by the scientific work we had done and continue to do. Exxon was publicly promoting views that its own scientists knew were wrong, and we knew that because we were the major group working on this.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that: “A quantitative analysis of Exxon’s climate communications between 1989 and 2004 found that, while 83% of the company’s peer-reviewed papers and 80% of its internal documents acknowledged the reality and human origins of climate change, 81% of its advertorials communicated doubt about those conclusions.” At the same time the companies were denying the science, they were hardening their drilling platforms and pipeline infrastructure to account for more severe storms and sea level rise.
Fossil fuels are by far the largest contributor to anthropogenic emissions. Source: Global Carbon Project, as presented in the lawsuit.
In the late 1990s and 2000s, the communication strategy shifted again, away from outright denial and toward emphasizing doubt and uncertainties. Tactics included funding and promoting scientific outliers, hiring a tobacco lobbyist to magnify uncertainty, and generally discrediting the scientific consensus. “According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, from 1998 to 2017, Exxon spent over $36 million funding numerous organizations misrepresenting the scientific consensus that fossil fuel products were causing climate change, sea level rise, and injuries to California, among other communities.”
The campaign was effective. The lawsuit continues: “A 2007 Yale University-Gallup poll found that while 71% of Americans personally believed global warming was happening, only 48% believed that there was a consensus among the scientific community, and 40
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators Analysis
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- SDG 15: Life on Land
The article discusses the need to limit global warming, adapt to climate change, and address biodiversity loss. These issues are directly connected to SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 15 (Life on Land). Additionally, the article mentions California’s efforts to build clean power plants and EV charging stations, which relates to SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy).
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- SDG 13.1: Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters
- SDG 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
- SDG 15.1: Ensure conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems
- SDG 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats
Based on the issues discussed in the article, the following targets can be identified:
– SDG 13.1: Strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters is relevant as California is facing extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding, and wildfires.
– SDG 13.2: Integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning is important to address the impacts of climate change and transition to a low-carbon future.
– SDG 15.1: Ensuring conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems is necessary to protect biodiversity and ecosystems affected by climate change.
– SDG 15.5: Taking urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats is crucial to mitigate the loss of biodiversity caused by human activities.
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
- Indicator: Number of clean power plants and EV charging stations built
- Indicator: Amount of funding allocated to climate change adaptation and mitigation measures
- Indicator: Area of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems under conservation, restoration, and sustainable use
- Indicator: Reduction in the degradation of natural habitats
The article mentions the construction of clean power plants and EV charging stations in California, which can be used as an indicator to measure progress towards SDG 7. The funding allocated to climate change adaptation and mitigation measures can serve as an indicator for SDG 13. The conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems can be measured by the area of ecosystems under these practices, which relates to SDG 15. Additionally, the reduction in the degradation of natural habitats can be used as an indicator for SDG 15.
4. Table: SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 13: Climate Action||13.1 Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters
13.2 Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and planning
|– Number of clean power plants and EV charging stations built
– Amount of funding allocated to climate change adaptation and mitigation measures
|SDG 15: Life on Land||15.1 Ensure conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems
15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce degradation of natural habitats
|– Area of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems under conservation, restoration, and sustainable use
– Reduction in the degradation of natural habitats
The table presents the identified SDGs, their corresponding targets, and the specific indicators mentioned in the article. It highlights the connection between the issues discussed in the article and the relevant SDGs, as well as the targets and indicators that can be used to measure progress towards those targets.
Behold! This splendid article springs forth from the wellspring of knowledge, shaped by a wondrous proprietary AI technology that delved into a vast ocean of data, illuminating the path towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Remember that all rights are reserved by SDG Investors LLC, empowering us to champion progress together.
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