I particularly wanted to welcome today all those people who have signed up this week as patrons. But I'm still waiting. However if you would like to support the Sustainable Futures Report by becoming a patron you can do so at patreon.com/SFR . Many thanks to all existing patrons for your loyalty and support.
This week I'm talking about the power of the press, about how the rich view the climate crisis and what are they doing about it, how NASA is saving the world and a different perspective on one of the oil majors. First, we are back to carbon offsets.
Only last week we were talking to Niklas Kaskeala of compensate.com about carbon offsets and about the controversy raised by the Guardian newspaper and Die Zeit in Germany about the value of different types of offsets. There was a claim, hotly disputed, that 90% of the offsets certified by an organisation called Verra were worthless. The argument was about the difference between avoided emissions and extracted emissions.
Extract v Avoid
You’ll remember that extracted emissions reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, while avoided emissions are based on a promise that emissions will not be created, such as by cutting down a forest or clearing land. Extracted emissions reduce emissions in the atmosphere. Avoided emissions only prevent the total from getting larger than it might have been. The problem is that these offsets were being sold in the market as though they were equivalent, when very clearly they were not.
But that was last week. Now Verra has announced that it will phase out and replace its rainforest offsets programme, which used avoided emissions, by mid-2025.
Power of the Press
The power of the press? Maybe. Maybe it was the fact that there were flaws in this system which were brought to the attention of the major international brands which were relying on the Verra certification. Reputation is all. These brands could never risk the charge that their green credentials were founded on greenwash.
What do the rich and famous think about climate breakdown? I had this message from a good friend of mine, Jay Allen, who is an executive coach and mentor and director of MyTrueNorth the ethical coaching company. He says,
“I had lunch with a former billionaire and press magnate yesterday in London.
“There were 12 of us at his table, that is until he said "Global warming is just a myth. It’s a Global government conspiracy so they can levy taxes on you for pretty much everything"
“I found it easier to stand and walk out, than to listen to such utter BS.”
Good on you, Jay.
Survival of the Richest
Jay Allen’s dining companion is clearly out of step with some other hyper-wealthy people. In his book, Survival of the Richest – escape fantasies of the tech billionaires, Douglas Rushkoff describes how he was called in to advise a group of such people. They had already decided that climate breakdown would be apocalyptic and the risks were unavoidable. They were already planning their boltholes and wanted advice on whether it was best to build them in Tasmania, New Zealand or Alaska.
The key question to which they wanted the answer was how they could retain the loyalty of their guards. Yes, they had already retained groups of former Navy seals and suchlike. These people are going around their daily lives just waiting for the call, and when it comes they will rush to the secret locations to protect their masters’ bunkers against a collapsing society. The trouble is that if there's no food in the shops, no petrol in the pumps, no cash in the cashpoints, which wouldn't have any value anyway, there is no hope of loyalty. Rushkoff suggested that the best way was to start now, to engage with these people and to create communities that could work together to face survival. That didn't go down well with his audience.
Millions of dollars are already being spent on luxury bunkers and boltholes and some of them have private gyms and swimming pools and cinemas and supplies of food for years and years. At the end of the day they will be little more than private prisons. Hopefully, those among the rich and powerful who realise that the climate crisis is just that, a crisis, will also realise that the solution is not just to hide away, but has to involve everyone and that much of the solution is in their hands.
And now for some good news
You may have heard last week that NASA the National Aeronautical and Space Administration has announced the success of its DART programme. The purpose of this mission was to send a missile to a distant asteroid and blast it off course. NASA now confirms that they have done this successfully and therefore they will be able to deflect any asteroid which risks impacting with the Earth.
We can now be reassured that we are safe from this danger to our civilisation which has an estimated probability of occurring of approximately 0.01%.
…but no plans yet for the climate crisis
Meanwhile, majority scientific opinion estimates that the chances of climate breakdown and devastation of the Earth and its peoples are better than 99%. So far we do not have a solution to this problem. Governments have made plans and pronouncements but the actions taken are dwarfed by the actions of such as some fossil fuel companies, working hard in the opposite direction.
Politicians, at least in the UK, are keen on three word slogans, like Stop the Boats, Get Brexit Done, Take Back Control and so on. They seem less keen on Action Not Words, but are confident that all will be solved by Net Zero 2050.
2050 is far, far too late, but it is popular and convenient for politicians because by then if they are not out of office they will probably be dead.
NET ZERO NOW
Make Net Zero Now your watchword.
Let’s Stop Oil
The consumption of the typical refined products from one barrel of crude oil yields between 300 and 400kg of CO2. And CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas which is accelerating climate breakdown.
I'm no advocate of the fossil fuel industry as you well know, but it is inescapable that we are where we are. The oil industry has been driving our industries and our prosperity for more than a century and is essential to the daily lives of all but a very few of the world’s 8 billion inhabitants. Every day that we burn fossil fuels and create greenhouse gas emissions we make the climate situation worse. But without fossil fuels in the world as it is today, the world cannot exist. It’s an overarching dilemma. Unless we are very, very clever we are not going to be able to solve one crisis without creating another.
People are cynical about the oil industry ever since they started lobbying to discredit climate science back in the 70s, using all the tricks and misinformation that the tobacco industry had perfected. People are angry too, to see the massive pay packets of Chief Executives, especially when they have been generated from rocketing prices caused by international crises such as the Ukraine war. As a result, people are very sceptical and cynical if an oil company ever talks about sustainability or low carbon. Nevertheless, it would make sense for an oil company to use its expertise to transform its operations in the face of a radically changing future.
With that in mind I want to tell you about a brochure I received recently produced by Phillips 66, the oil company which is best known in the UK for its Jet service stations.
It says, “We aim to deliver affordable, reliable and abundant energy whilst leading UK efforts to achieve a lower-carbon future.”
In addition to the Jet service stations, Phillips has a major refinery on Humberside, claimed to be one of the most efficient refineries in Europe. It's clear that Phillips is reinventing itself as an energy company rather than exclusively a fossil fuel company so that it is installing electric car charging points on its for Coates. I'm very pleased to see that any credit card will switch them on, because as an electric car driver I know that when you arrive at many charging points they may be operated by any of a number of different companies requiring different apps or different cards.
Phillips divides its UK objectives into three categories:
Processing lower carbon feedstock
Decarbonising the value chain
That means it is using things like use cooking oil and getting involved in the circular economy of plastics. It is developing renewable hydrogen and working on carbon capture and storage. It is also researching manufacturing and/or distributing lower carbon energy products, including sustainable aviation fuel, renewable diesel, hydrogen as fuel and EV battery coke. This last is a component of batteries for electric vehicles.
This is a company facing up to the eventual phasing out of fossil fuels for sensible commercial reasons. How much faster could it go with targeted government strategies; penalties and rewards for urgent decarbonisation?
Well that's it for this week but there's a lot coming up in future episodes. Esteban Velez Vega recommends I look at micro mobility and I'm going to combine that with 15-minute communities as well. This Friday there is a special edition on insurance in the context of the climate crisis and I've already recorded an interview for the future about biodiversity and the liability for directors and corporations who fail to protect it. There is another perspective on the oil industry: this time I’ll be looking at the oil industry in Guyana with an expert guest. I mentioned the other day the book Hothouse Earth, an inhabitant’s guide by Bill Maguire. I've just finished reading it and strongly recommend it. I'm delighted to say that Bill has agreed to be a guest, although we don't have a date yet. Then there's a suggestion from Ashari Ali that I should look at renewable energy in Indonesia. That's a country of 275 million people spread over 17,000 islands. We don't hear a lot from there very often, although my grandchildren are learning to speak Indonesian at school. But that's another story. It's time to bring some balance to the Sustainable Futures Report..
So there's plenty there and a lot more in planning as well. Plenty for you to look forward to and plenty of work for me to do.
Thank you as always for listening and thank you, if you are, for being a patron. Your support is very much appreciated.
Power of the Press
This has been about the power of the press. Let's not underestimate the power of people for taking action or for simply ignoring what goes on. When people are being sent to prison for trying to explain to a jury that climate crisis was their motivation, as they are now, in the UK, we all need to take care. We cannot afford to ignore what goes on.
Let me remind you of this poem by Martin Niemöller
First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
I shall be in London with XR on 21st April. More on that next week.
That was another edition of the Sustainable Futures Report.
I’m Anthony Day.
Until next time.
Verra changes mind
Jay Allen - My True North
Douglas Rushkoff - Survival of the Richest
NASA asteroid protection
Co2 per barrel
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/engin_akyurt-3656355/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2333328">Engin Akyurt</a> from <a href=“https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2333328">Pixabay</a>
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/luiz-jorge-artista-2114853/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1332506">Luiz Jorge de Miranda Neto- Luiz Jorge Artista</a> from <a href=“https://pixabay.com//?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1332506">Pixabay</a>