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The tide is rising against deep sea mining

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/07/2022 - 6:55pm in

Pacific nations are leading the campaign to protect the seas

Originally published on Global Voices


The #BlueMarch in Lisbon was attended by environmentalists and activists opposed to deep sea mining. Twitter Photo from The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition

Global leaders, scientists, environmental advocates, and civil society groups voiced their opposition to deep sea mining during the UN Ocean Conference held from June 27–July 1 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Deep sea mining is the practice of excavating the ocean floor to harvest rare minerals such as manganese, cobalt, copper, and nickel, which are often used for batteries, most notoriously those used in electric vehicles. The International Seabed Authority (ISA), a UN body, is currently drafting regulations that could be used by the mining industry in 2023. So far, the Pacific island nation of Nauru has expressed interest in allowing deep sea mining on its territory.

But Pacific communities are also among the most consistent in strongly opposing deep sea mining by citing the destructive colonial legacy of conducting nuclear tests in the region.

At the UN Ocean Conference, the leaders of Palau and Fiji led the launching of the Alliance of Countries Calling for a Deep-Sea Mining Moratorium. Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr. said during the event:

We all have to make sacrifices and come together as nations to achieve the greater good for our planet and our people. We know that deep-sea mining compromises the integrity of our ocean habitat that supports marine biodiversity and contributes to mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama added:

If allowed to go ahead, mining will irreversibly destroy ancient deep sea habits and impact those who rely on the ocean for their livelihood.

The Fiji government warned that deep sea mining will “further jeopardize” the lives of people “who are already suffering from climate change-induced disasters.”

During a separate event at the conference, French President Emmanuel Macron also stated his opposition to mining the high seas, although France has exploration agreements with ISA. The United States climate envoy called for more studies about the impact of deep sea mining. In a letter submitted to the annual meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in early June, Chile called for a 15-year moratorium on adopting regulations that would allow deep sea mining.

Greenpeace oceans project lead Arlo Hemphill noted the growing opposition against deep sea mining:

The wall of silence is finally being shattered as countries begin to speak out against the destructive deep-sea mining industry, which would put the health of the ocean on which we all depend and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people living in coastal communities at risk.

Meanwhile, 146 parliamentarians signed the Global Parliamentary Declaration Calling for a Moratorium on Deep Seabed Mining. The statement offers an alternative for states which wanted to pursue deep sea mining to extract minerals needed in the transition towards a so-called “green economy”:

Rather than launching a vast new extractive industry, States should be investing in new technologies and systems that reduce the demand for raw minerals through reuse, recycling and innovative design. The green transition must not come at the expense of biodiversity and our planet’s biggest natural carbon sink.

Infection of Wildlife Biologist Highlights Risks of Virus Hunting

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/07/2022 - 9:42pm in

Tags 

Environment

The illness was mysterious. A 25-year-old graduate student had been hospitalized with a high fever, muscle and joint pain, a stiff neck, fatigue, sores in her throat, and a metallic taste in her mouth. She soon developed an angry rash. To make the diagnosis, her doctors had an important data point to consider: Days earlier, the woman had returned to the United States from a field expedition in South Sudan and Uganda, where she had been capturing and collecting the blood and tissue of bats and rodents. That information proved critical — and is newly relevant given concerns that the pandemic may have come from a research accident. Three days after she was admitted to the hospital in 2012, tests determined that the student was infected with a novel virus that infects a type of fruit bat that lives in the rural areas of Uganda.

The graduate student recovered and left the hospital two weeks later. But the incident, which was written up in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases in 2014, proved scientifically important. Not only did it allow for the identification of the Sosuga virus — a paramyxovirus named for Southern Sudan and Uganda — and the knowledge that the bat virus can infect and sicken people, the woman’s infection also pointed to the dangers posed by the kind of research she was doing: trapping, manipulating, and dissecting animals suspected of being infected with novel disease-causing viruses.

Biosafety experts have long worried over the possibility that scientists seeking dangerous viruses in the wild could inadvertently become infected in the course of either capturing or coming into contact with the saliva, urine, or feces of the animals. The case of the Sosuga virus shows that those concerns are well founded.

Virus hunter Michael Callahan, an infectious disease doctor who has worked for federal agencies on global disease outbreak and the tracking of wildlife pathogens, has vividly described the high risks faced by field researchers. “Squirming, clawed and toothy animals bite and scratch during collection of body fluids. Teeth and talons easily penetrate the thin gloves required to maintain dexterity when handling fragile wildlife,” he wrote in Politico in 2021. “The fact that researchers are not infected every time they do a field collection is a question that continues to stump us.”

With more than 6 million people now dead from Covid-19, the catastrophic potential of a researcher becoming infected with a wildlife pathogen has become inescapable. While the origins of the current pandemic are still unclear, it remains possible that virus hunting could have been the cause. Rocco Casagrande, a biochemist who was hired by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Science Policy to assess the risks of gain-of-function research, thinks a natural spillover of the virus from animals to people, a lab accident, or what he calls a “prospecting based accident” are equally likely potential causes of the initial outbreak. He imagined the prospecting scenario as “the researchers in Wuhan looking for bat viruses found one and got infected outside of the lab.”

Even as the very real chance remains that the search for new viruses led to this cataclysmic event, scientists hoping to prevent viral outbreaks continue to seek out new bat coronaviruses and other potential pandemic pathogens around the world.

Ask the Bats

The search for pathogens that infect animals is driven by the desire to prevent and prepare for their possible transmission to people. But that work, which spans the globe and is funded in large part by the U.S. government, can sometimes result in human infection — exactly the outcome it is meant to prevent.

Virus hunting — or wildlife disease ecology, as DeeAnn Reeder prefers to call it — is a field that has come under increasing scrutiny during the Covid pandemic. For Reeder, a professor of biology at Bucknell College who led the 2012 expedition on which the graduate student was infected, one of the central purposes of her research in Africa on bats’ immune responses to viruses is to understand how humans might react to the same infectious agents, knowledge she says can protect us if the pathogens jump from animals to humans. “If you want to understand how to survive a coronavirus, or if you want to understand how to survive a filovirus — Ebola fits within that context — you need to ask the bats because they know how to do it,” said Reeder.

Reeder, who put up her first bat net in South Sudan in 2008, continues to do wildlife research in Uganda. No one has previously reported her connection to the work. “I’ve never been contacted by a reporter on that particular story,” Reeder said, after being asked whether the Sosuga virus infection occurred during research on one of her projects. “I’ve always been surprised about that.” Reeder would not confirm the identity of the researcher on her project who was sickened, citing privacy concerns.

The Sosuga case shows that concerns about viral transmission from wild animals to researchers are not just theoretical. It is still unclear exactly how the infection occurred. While the graduate student only occasionally used protective gear when working with animal specimens, when she visited the bat caves she wore a paper Tyvek suit that’s become the hallmark of virus hunters, gum boots, bite-resistant gloves, and even an air-powered respirator known as a PAPR that looks like an astronaut’s helmet. The researcher did not report being bitten or scratched by any of the animals she encountered.

“Maybe outside the cave before they put the respirators on, she leaned against a rock that had been peed on, because we know that it could be in the kidneys of this particular bat species,” said Reeder. “But that’s just conjecture, which is the scary part.”

CDC scientists approach Bat Cave in Queen Elizabeth National Park on August 25, 2018, Uganda.

CDC scientists approach Bat Cave in Queen Elizabeth National Park on Aug. 25, 2018, in Uganda.

Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Cowboys and Cowgirls

Reeder carries a card in her wallet she hopes medical professionals will read should she herself wind up in the emergency room with a mysterious infectious disease someday. “It says, ‘Attention medical personnel: I study wildlife disease. Here’s all the things you should test me for should I present to you in the emergency room,’” she explained.

Reeder describes herself and other researchers in her field as “a little bit like cowboys and cowgirls — we go to a foreign place and we catch exotic things.” Yet she’s grown increasingly cautious during her years in the field. “When I first started this work, nobody was wearing PPE. It just wasn’t a thing,” she said. “I thought we were good if I didn’t have my coffee cup on the same table when I was doing dissections.”

Despite her growing concern about biosafety, Reeder has still had a few worrisome interactions with bats herself. “I had one bite me. That big canine tooth went right into my knuckle, and for like two years, whenever it was cold, my knuckle would hurt,” she recently recalled. And in 2017, Reeder was stuck with a needle that had just come out of a bat that she knew could have carried the deadly Ebola virus.

“I was like, wow, OK. So I make notes in my notebook, started counting 21 days, which is the incubation period for Ebola,” said Reeder. “I’m mostly kind of flippant about that. But I can tell you I knew when that 21 days was up.”

Yet even after these experiences, Reeder said there are rare times when she still eschews personal protective equipment: “If I’ve got a live bat, I can’t go into a village and show up in my space suit.”

Most interactions with bats don’t cause disease. But the risk of viral infections remains — and many professional scientists and hobbyists don’t even take the basic precautions to protect themselves from it, according to a study published in 2021 in Biodiversity Data. The authors, who include Reeder, analyzed 759 of the more than 43,000 photos of people holding bats taken that were uploaded since the 1980s to iNaturalist, a popular biodiversity tracking app. While the percentage of the app’s users who wore gloves when they held bats has increased over time, even in 2021, less than half of the people holding bats, both dead and live, were wearing gloves.

“This lack of adherence to even minimal biosafety practices may jeopardize both the safety of the bat and the handler,” the authors concluded.

Reeder said those who continue to openly flout the recommendations to wear protective gear are increasingly met with disapproval within her scientific community. “If somebody is at a conference and they show pictures of themselves in the field not wearing a face mask, and not wearing gloves, even latex gloves, there’s a little bit of criticism,” she said. “A sort of public shaming.”

Ongoing Risk

As a recent report from the World Health Organization makes clear, there is still no definitive proof of how Covid-19 originated. And an infection that occurred during the collection of dangerous new coronaviruses from bats is among the possible explanations for the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in 2019. There is no question that the National Institutes of Health, which indirectly funded bat coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China, is still struggling to fully understand the biosafety precautions taken around that research. Yet the U.S. government continues to support similar research around the world, with grants to numerous organizations including EcoHealth Alliance, the NIH grantee that worked with the Wuhan institute.

EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research group based in New York, received a $3.1 million grant in 2014 from the NIH, some of which was spent on the collection of novel bat coronaviruses in rural China. Specifically, the organization awarded a subgrant of some $750,00 to researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In April 2020, at the request of President Donald Trump, the NIH suspended that grant. But four months later, the NIH awarded EcoHealth Alliance another, larger grant. (The Intercept obtained the grant documents via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with the NIH.)

Like the first grant, the second grant — titled “Understanding the Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emerging Infectious Disease Hotspots of Southeast Asia” — pays for the collection of what it calls “high zoonotic potential viruses” from remote locations in Southeast Asia. It also funds experiments involving the infection of humanized mice with hybrid viruses created from the new viruses, which are designed to gauge the threat those viruses pose to humans. The grant is funded through 2025.

Other branches of the U.S. government also continue to fund the collection and study of novel viruses that could infect humans, including DEEP VZN, a $125 million project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases Program, which is jointly funded by NIH, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Science Foundation.

“Everybody has been just kind of winging it.”

Despite concerns about biosafety lapses in U.S.-funded research in Wuhan and a lack of oversight from both NIH and EcoHealth Alliance, there are no agreed-upon standards for ensuring the safety of ongoing research.

“There is currently very little biosafety guidance specifically for this kind of biological fieldwork,” Filippa Lentzos, a biosecurity expert who works at King’s College London, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “This is a major gap in biorisk management that urgently needs to be addresses both nationally and internationally, not least because this kind of fieldwork is on the rise.”

During the pandemic, David Gillum, assistant vice president for environmental health and safety at Arizona State University, began meeting with a small group of experts over Zoom to discuss biosafety practices for researchers working with bats in the wild. “It’s guidance on what to wear as personal protective equipment, what vaccinations should you have before you go to a certain area, what medications should you bring,” said Gillum. The group’s recommendations are expected to be published soon in the journal Applied Biosafety. Up until now, he said, “Everybody has been just kind of winging it.”

While Gillum and other biosafety experts say they hope national and international field work guidelines will ultimately be put in place, they expect the process to take years.

In the absence of such clear recommendations — and with institutions coming up with their own varied approaches to biosafety — a range of researchers face the risk of infection from pathogens in wildlife, according to Casagrande, the biochemist. “And that includes people specifically trying to find viruses but also people who aren’t,” he said. “Plenty of biologists who work with wildlife also don’t take precautions. And many times they get infected by things.”

Researchers, from the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Center, take a saliva swab from a bat caught at Khao Chong Pran Cave, inside a makeshift lab set up nearby during a catch and release program in Photharam, Ratchaburi Province, Thailand, on Dec. 11, 2020.

Researchers from the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Health Science Center take a saliva swab from a bat caught at Khao Chong Pran Cave, inside a makeshift lab set up nearby during a catch and release program in Photharam, Thailand, on Dec. 11, 2020.

Photo: Andre Malerba/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Fine Balance

While the pandemic has sparked a debate about the safety of studying dangerous viruses, most scientists agree on the need for at least some viral surveillance. To Reeder, the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has made the value of her work only clearer. “Our understanding of the extraordinary diversity of SARS-related coronaviruses in bats in Southeast Asia is really critical for our pandemic preparedness, for our ability to predict what’s going to bind to human receptors,” she said. “We need to understand what’s there.”

As she sees it, that benefit is worth whatever risk it entails. And, in the case of the graduate student infected with the Sosuga virus, the cost wasn’t great. The virus didn’t kill her — and, critically, it didn’t spread from her to other people. Looking ahead, Reeder said, improved adherence to protective gear should protect against future viral jumps from animals to researchers.

“I think you just do your best, right?” said Reeder. “You try to look for those gaps. You put your gloves on, then you put your Tyvek suit on over those, and then you take Gorilla tape, and you wrap your wrist with Gorilla tape to make sure that you don’t have a gap as you move your arms,” she said, noting that colleagues in the field tend to help one another. “You can call each other out on stuff. You know, ‘Hey, it looks like your mask has slipped.’ But it’s never perfect, and this case just sort of illustrates that for us.”

The case of the woman who was infected working with bats in Uganda also taught Reeder how, at least that time, luck was on her side: “This could have been really, really ugly.”

The post Infection of Wildlife Biologist Highlights Risks of Virus Hunting appeared first on The Intercept.

How Charles Koch Purchased the Supreme Court’s EPA Decision

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 3:36am in

Tags 

Environment

Today’s 6-3 Supreme Court decision restricting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions will benefit power plants and fossil fuel companies throughout the U.S. and profoundly hobble the government’s ability to address the worsening climate catastrophe.

The decision, written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by conservative Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, finds that the EPA does not have the authority to impose caps on carbon emissions by mandating a shift to cleaner energy sources. The ruling means that Congress, rather than the EPA and its staff of scientific experts, will handle the critical task of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Today, the Court strips the EPA of the power Congress gave it to respond to ‘the most pressing environmental challenge of our time,’” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. “Whatever else this Court may know about, it does not have a clue about how to address climate change. Yet the Court today prevents congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. The Court appoints itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency—the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.”

A number of energy magnates and fossil fuel trade groups pushed for the case that could kneecap the agency and boost their profits. But perhaps no one did more to bring West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency to the Supreme Court — or ensure that ultraconservative justices would be on the bench to decide in the companies’ favor — than Charles Koch.

The billionaire energy executive who reigns over Koch Industries is known for playing the long game. He bought up pipelines in advance of the fracking boom — and waited calmly until they delivered billions in profits. He invested in obscure, failing companies even though he knew that it would take years before they could add to his bottom line. And he has been cautious as he’s ventured into new markets — his empire now includes glass, pulp and paper, chemicals, agricultural products, and commodities trading — making small acquisitions to see if they’d be profitable before gradually taking over.

Such patience and strategic use of his enormous wealth have benefited Koch handsomely. His net worth has steadily climbed to more than $60 billion. Koch Industries, which makes more than half of its money from fossil fuels and owns refineries, petrochemical plants, and thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines, is now the second-biggest privately held company in the country.

 Jaida Grey Eagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Koch Industries’ Flint Hills Resources Pine Bend refinery in Hastings, Minn., on July 12, 2021.

Photo: Jaida Grey Eagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Kochtopus

To ensure further growth of his riches even as science showed that the continued use of fossil fuels would accelerate climate disaster, Koch has funneled some of his vast fortune into an extraordinary network of political front groups, lobbying efforts, think tanks, and activist networks that aim to stifle climate action. For decades, the Kochtopus, as some call his many-tentacled political influence machine, has sought to undermine not just the environmental regulation in Koch Industries’ path but also the science and philosophy of government on which it is based.

Koch’s lobbyists and political operatives helped kill a 2009 bill aimed at tackling climate change through a cap-and-trade system that could have cut into his companies’ profits. While the mounting findings of climate scientists led other titans of industry to begin adjusting their business plans to lower carbon emissions, Koch-funded groups were among the first climate denialists, flatly lying about the well-documented planetary trend of global warming and then schooling lawmakers on the alternate reality they had crafted. Koch also pioneered the attack on Republicans from the right, pushing the party into its current extremism.

Today’s Supreme Court decision marks perhaps the biggest payoff yet for Koch’s decades of plotting against environmental regulations — and the most devastating loss for everyone else. Three of the extremist judges who joined the decision — Gorsuch, Barrett, and Kavanaugh — wound up on the Supreme Court in large part because of Koch’s activism and contributions.

Americans for Prosperity, an astroturf political group founded by Charles Koch and his brother David, conducted extraordinary campaigns to put all three judges on the highest bench. To support Kavanaugh’s nomination, the group reached out to more than 1.2 million Americans through mail, phone calls, and knocking on doors, according to a flyer released by the organization. The group also pushed hard for Barrett, whose father worked for Shell and the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful trade group for the oil and gas industry. And it campaigned for Gorsuch, whose mother presided — disastrously — over the EPA under President Ronald Reagan. Charles Koch is also closely connected to Leonard Leo, co-chair of the Federalist Society, a conservative organization Koch has supported directly and through his family foundation.

The case itself can also be tied directly to Koch. The challengers are 27 Republican attorneys general, who were supported by the Koch-funded Republican Attorneys General Association. At least four Koch-funded entities have filed amicus briefs in the case: the Cato Institute, which was co-founded by Charles Koch; the Competitive Enterprise Institute; the New Civil Liberties Alliance; and Americans for Prosperity. Another foundation that filed an amicus brief, the Landmark Legal Foundation, denied receiving Koch funding, though Jane Mayer reports in her book “Dark Money” that Koch helped subsidize it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, DC, on June 29, 2022. - The US Supreme Court has four decisions left to announce this term, one of which could severely limit the EPAs authority to regulate power plant emissions. A ruling against the EPA, could curtail plans by the administration of President Joe Biden to combat climate change. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP) (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on June 29, 2022.

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Taking Aim at the EPA

Koch’s antipathy for the EPA began with the founding of the agency in 1970. “It is the one regulatory agency that is on his ass every single day and has authority over all his operations,” said Christopher Leonard, author of “Kochland,” a history of Koch Industries and its political activities. “Every single day this agency is like a traffic cop clocking Koch’s speed on the highway. The EPA is sending agents to inspect Koch’s facilities. The EPA is monitoring the level of pollution coming out of spillways from Koch facilities. Koch has to employ almost buildings full of lawyers just to document their air emissions every year from their refineries, from their natural gas plants, from the Georgia-Pacific plant.”

The original case was about the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s effort to limit carbon emissions from power plants, which are the second-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But that plan no longer exists, having been struck down by the Trump administration. Nor does its Trump-era replacement. In practical terms, the ruling will hamstring the Biden administration, which has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent economywide by 2030. The administration is in the process of crafting its own rule affecting power plant emissions, which is expected next year.

“The decision takes off the table the approach that was used in the Clean Power Plan, the most efficient, effective way to address these emissions,” said Kirti Datla, director of strategic legal advocacy at Earthjustice. While the Biden administration will still be able to take less sweeping steps to limit carbon, such as requiring emissions controls on individual power plants, “this makes their job much harder,” Datla said.

Now Congress, rather than the EPA’s environmental experts, will be responsible for drafting the highly technical plan for limiting emissions from power plants. The regulatory process is expected to be far slower and less effective, which, according to Lisa Graves, executive director of True North Research, was exactly the point of the suit.

“These politicians in black robes know full well that, with Mitch McConnell in a leadership position doing the bidding of Koch and the oil and gas industry, this Congress will not pass any substantial climate change mitigation legislation,” said Graves, adding that the timing of the decision couldn’t be worse. “Now and in the coming years are the only window we have to really stem the tide of the truly devastating climate changes that are underway.”

Broader Implications

The motivations for the West Virginia case go beyond the individual and corporate pursuit of financial gain. “They’re doing it to make more money. But it’s also bigger in the sense they want to cripple the federal government,” said Leonard.

Indeed, the effects of the ruling will likely far surpass the EPA’s ability to limit carbon emissions from power plants. “It’s going to trim back the sets of regulations that they even consider,” said Leonard. “It’s a slow pushback of the EPA and a diminishment of its power over time.”

The West Virginia decision will also likely chasten other federal agencies, according to Datla. “It sends a signal to agencies that if they’re approaching big problems for the first time under their statutory authority, or if they’re tackling an existing problem, but using kind of a new approach, that either the court is going to be skeptical, or at the very least, somebody is going to bring a challenge based on all of the language that is in this opinion.”

Ironically, the decision that weakens the federal government follows on the heels of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and vastly extended the reach of the state to control what people can do with their bodies. That decision, too, grew out of seeds that Charles Koch planted years ago. But the profound step backward for reproductive freedom seems to have been an incidental result of the billionaire’s effort to grow his fortune.

One of Koch’s most effective policy creations is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing activist network that drafts model state legislation, which is then introduced around the country. “Koch funded ALEC to do stuff like deregulate the utilities industry,” said Leonard. “But what animated ALEC was anti-abortion laws.” Indeed, the grassroots network Koch created took up the issue even as he himself was indifferent about it.

“Koch doesn’t care at all about Roe v. Wade. Religious and cultural issues have zero relevance to him,” said Leonard, who added that Koch saw the abortion issue as a “sideshow.”

In contrast, Koch cares profoundly about West Virginia v. EPA. “This decision represents the culmination of years of attacks by Koch-funded groups on these rules,” Graves said. “It is a win for Charles Koch and the multibillion-dollar oil and gas industry and a huge loss for the American people.”

Update: July 1, 2022

This article has been updated to reflect the Landmark Legal Foundation’s denial that it has ever received Koch funding.

The post How Charles Koch Purchased the Supreme Court’s EPA Decision appeared first on The Intercept.

Driving NASCAR Off the American Cultural Cliff

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 1:40am in
by Brian Czech

In the heart of New York’s spectacular Finger Lakes region last Sunday, 40 drivers lined up to race—for six hours—round and round a circuitous route of doglegs four miles southwest of Seneca Lake. I don’t know who won, and I couldn’t care less, but I do know who lost. That would be people and planet.

Brian France

Brian France: Billionaire grandson of “Big Bill” France and master of NASCAR branding. (CC BY-SA 2.0, Zach Catanzareti)

Watkins Glen International Raceway, dubbed “the spiritual home of road racing in the USA,” is among six major car-racing tracks scattered about the state parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges of the Finger Lakes region. These six tracks are among 64 in the great state of New York, where they plunder the peace from the Pennsylvania state line all the way over to Long Island, up into the Adirondack Mountains and back down to the shores of Lake Ontario.

It’s unclear why Watkins Glen gets the “spiritual home” title. Could it be for the dozen spirits (eleven drivers and one spectator) who gave theirs up at “The Glen”? Or, maybe it has to do with the historical origins of the raceway, so parallel with the origins of NASCAR. Possibly it’s because of the diversity of racing styles that have convened there, including NASCAR, the Grand Prix, and GT World Challenge America.

Yet my guess is it’s the majesty of the Finger Lakes region that spiritualizes all who enter its hallowed valleys. The sweeping vistas, clear blue lakes, and cool, crisp air are inspiring and energizing to travelers, whether afoot, aboard a bike, or driving a Prius. By the time they arrive anywhere near Watkins Glen, their spirits are lifted and their psychological engines are revved.

And NASCAR capitalizes like a vulture on a Seneca Lake updraft.

Who Is NASCAR?

NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC. Don’t mistake it for a motorized version of the NFL, NBA, or NHL. It’s not a trade association designed to serve its constituent teams, complete with a commissioner holding teams and players accountable to fans and each other. Rather, NASCAR is a privately held corporation; held in particular by the France family ever since its founding by Bill France, Sr. in 1948.

While it’s not a trade association, NASCAR is somewhat of a syndicate, sponsoring races under twelve “series” across North America and another series in Europe. Most Americans can’t avoid some exposure to the “Cup Series” with its history of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt tearing up tires at Daytona, Talladega, and The Glen. The other two primary American series are the “Xfinity Series” for up-and comers—much like minor league baseball—and the “Camping World Truck Series” for pickup truck lovers.

Bib that says "I have a checkered future."

NASCAR fans are made, not born, but with NASCAR’s help, the making starts shortly after birth.

The latter two series remind us that NASCAR is also a brand, unto its own and as a mother brand for all kinds of offspring. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series used to be the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and for one brief year Gander got in on NASCAR glory.

Even the coveted NASCAR Cup Series has had its spin-off branding, with Winston (cigarettes), Sprint, and Monster Energy all putting their names on the cup over the recent decades of shifting consumer preferences.

Branding and sponsorship vis-à-vis NASCAR is a bewildering phenomenon. A logical start in sorting it out would be with the list of racing team sponsors. Most NASCAR teams have “partners” as well, including “primary partners” that evidently provide more money than regular old partners. NASCAR per se—the France family—has its “premier partners,” “official partners,” and “broadcast partners.”

Then there’s the straight-up NASCAR retail line, spread across a gazillion vendors including Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, JCPenney, and presumably every truck stop along the Interstate Highway System. You can get the goods directly from NASCAR’s own online NASCARSHOP, too. There, for example, you can get your NASCAR T-shirts (over a thousand choices), NASCAR earrings, NASCAR nightlights, NASCAR baby bibs, NASCAR leashes (presumably for pets), and all manner of NASCAR memorabilia and collectibles. But you’ll never collect it all, try as you might, because each year and each new team brings new combinations and permutations of drivers and cars (with a current collection of 730 diecasts in sizes up to 1/24th).

None of this stuff is cheap, but don’t worry; just use code “Lap25”—no kidding—to get 25% off!

NASCAR Money

It’s not easy to assess the financials of a privately held corporation, especially in the USA, but in 2015 Forbes managed to estimate the France family at #53 in “America’s Richest Families” with a net worth of $5.7 billion. Brian France alone (the grandson of “Big Bill”) evidently clocks in today around $1 billion, and the annual gross revenue of NASCAR is about $3 billion.

How do the Frances and NASCAR make all that money? A big chunk of it comes from the $8.2 billion, ten-year television contract NASCAR signed in 2014 for the period 2015-2024. NASCAR gets ten percent of it from the get-go. The rest is split primarily between racing venues and teams.

Now imagine if a Dan Snyder or a Jerry Jones (two of the more reviled NFL team owners, for non-Americans) owned legendary Lambeau Field, AT&T Stadium, FedEx Field, and the Superdome, plus ten more of the biggest NFL venues. That would be comparable to NASCAR and the France family with their fourteen racetracks. Along with Watkins Glen, the “spiritual home,” NASCAR properties include the iconic Daytona International Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Talladega Superspeedway.

Photo of race cars racing around Michigan International Speedway.

Cars and consumers on the fast track at Michigan International Speedway, a property of NASCAR, LLC. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Stephanie Wallace)

Since 2019 when the France family bought out the ISC (International Speedway Corporation), they’ve had only one rival in the hosting and scheduling of NASCAR races: Speedway Motorsports with its twelve tracks. Given 39 tracks where NASCAR races are held in the USA (38) and Canada (1), only thirteen are owned by others, including a handful of public entities (Los Angeles County with its Memorial Coliseum, for example).

While NASCAR and the France family used to be at odds with Speedway Motorsports, that seems to have changed since NASCAR took over the ISC. That same year, Speedway went private, emulating the France family. Now they’ve “entered a period of détente,” and we can only imagine the potential for collusion. With a little cooperation, the two entities—especially the France family—can fairly monopolize prime-time stock car racing and scheduling in the USA (which of course you can monitor at NASCAR’s own ESPN-like website).

Either way, NASCAR rakes in close to a billion more annually from its “venue share” of the TV contract combined with ticket sales ($660 million and $194 million in 2018, respectively). Some of the ticket sales go back to the drivers (40 of them in the Cup Series, including 36 chartered) and their teams (17 of them in the Cup Series). But then, teams and charters (the latter analogous to NFL franchises) pay hefty fees back into NASCAR.

Don’t forget those sponsorships and partnerships, too. Sprint, for example, is thought to have paid NASCAR between $50 and $75 million annually for some years before 2016.

All we can say for sure is, if you’d like a challenging accounting job, sign on with NASCAR.

NASCAR and Economic Bloating

What could contribute to GDP at a faster pace, in a fossil-fueled economy, than some of the planet’s fastest, most gas-guzzling machines tearing around in circles? Especially when a NASCAR race typically attracts around 100,000 attendees, many of them driving their own souped-up coups to the raceway in undying tribute to their favorite “sport.”  So, when NASCAR comes to town, the chamber of commerce listens.

A NASCAR race can bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in local revenue, most of it taxable and therefore good for the public goose as well as the private gander. Richmond International Raceway, for example, “generates $557 million for the state, including $36 million in local and state tax revenues.”

Don’t get me started on “generates.” At CASSE, we know how money is generated. Money is expended, “fast and furious,” at NASCAR races, but the money is generated at the ecological base of the economy, where it invariably entails an ecological footprint in addition to the one at the raceway. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to calculate that hundreds of millions of dollars are brought to the region of a NASCAR event.

Bimp of the Daytona International Speedway

Location, Location, Location. Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR’s corporate home, is next to Daytona Beach International Airport, and now next to a hundred-acre Amazon campus. (CC BY 2.0, Chad Sparkes)

Politicians want to be in on the action, too. Here’s how Illinois state senator Rachelle Crowe (a Democrat from Glen Carbon) puts it: “By bringing the NASCAR cup series to the [St. Louis] Metro East this summer, our state is solidifying its commitment to supporting regional development and driving economic growth throughout the area.”

Conversely, when NASCAR pulls out (as it readily can, given its control of venues and schedules), the locale feels the pinch. That’s precisely what happened at Watkins Glen in 2020, when the staunchly conservative France family moved the big event down to Daytona, blaming it on the differential in COVID regulations between New York and Florida.

NASCAR knows it brings the dough, and plays it up as needed. As Lesa France Kennedy, NASCAR’s executive vice chairperson, puts it, “We are proud to be a part of positive economic development in each market in which NASCAR races.” In a country where economic growth is a hot pursuit at every political level, pitching a race is easy, but NASCAR plays good growth citizen in other ways as well.

NASCAR recently cut a land deal with Amazon, which is developing 100 acres adjacent to Daytona International Speedway. The deal prompted France Kennedy to add, “As Amazon has continued to expand its operations within Florida, we’re excited to play a role in bringing new jobs and a first-class partner to Volusia County. We look forward to this project serving as a catalyst for future growth and development in the community.”

In other words, even where a lot of the townspeople might view NASCAR as an unwelcome intruder, it’s likely to horn its way in by “virtue” of its economic growth credentials. As with so many other questionable pursuits, NASCAR would be far easier to stop if growth itself were recognized as the problem it has become.

The Gas, the Materials, and the Waste

NASCAR has its own version of green energy: Sunoco’s 98-Octane Green E15. It’s literally green; think of it as Mr. Yuk green. By the end of 2016, after only five years of running on Sunoco Green, NASCAR was celebrating “10 million competition miles” fueled by this so-called “biofuel” containing 15 percent “American-made ethanol.”

Note that celebrated phrase “competition miles,” in cars that get 2-5 miles per gallon during competition.  That means somewhere between 2 million and 5 million gallons of Sunoco Green was combusted during the five-year period, just during the races. A lot more than that would have been burned up practicing. While most NASCAR races take about two hours (the Watkins Glen marathon being a notable exception), “NASCAR drivers must practice for hours at a time to develop sound habits at a racetrack.” Thus, NASCAR has a ridiculous carbon footprint: approximately 4 million pounds per year.

Another thing NASCAR burns is rubber. About 75,000 tires were used up by NASCAR in 2015, resulting in $35 million of expenditure on tires in 2016.

If we went down the list of supplies and materials used up for all this unnecessary “car circling,” we’d find steel, aluminum, plastic, paint, solvents, glass, fiberglass, lead, copper, titanium, magnesium, wood, sand, oil, and cement.

Meanwhile, NASCAR has tried to paint itself “green” with tree planting and recycling initiatives. Has there ever been a greasier splash of lipstick on a sloppier looking pig? The salient fact remains that the “sport” consists of circling around and around, ad nauseum, in gas guzzlers, for no apparent reason whatsoever than the “entertainment” of a crowd that could probably benefit from a little healthy exercise. Certainly their ears would benefit.

The Symbolism

Approximately 23 years ago, while writing Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, I recall finding (and duly reporting) that NASCAR was “the fastest growing spectator sport in North America.” I was shocked, not because it seemed untrue—it rang true indeed—but because of the absolute collapse of the American conservation ethic. I recall wondering, “What could the world possibly be thinking of us?”

On September 11, 2001 (a year after Shoveling Fuel was published), al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the symbols of American capitalism and the U.S. Government. Almost immediately, President George W. Bush hideously exhorted Americans to “go shopping” and travelling. “Get down to Disney World in Florida,” he said from O’Hare Field. “Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

Empty NASCAR stadium with one car racing the track.

Goodbye NASCAR.

NASCAR fans took Bush to heart, and NASCAR, as always, was ready to capitalize. In the first major spectator event after 9/11, on September 23, 140,000 screaming fans—with 140,000 NASCAR-provided American flags—packed the Dover International Speedway in Delaware. Lee Greenwood sang “God Bless the USA.” The fans chanted as one, “Wooo! U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!”

It’s understandable to have mixed feelings about the Dover event. Americans needed an emotional outlet, and it happened to be a time of year when NASCAR would likeliest provide it. Yet the symbolism was horrific at a time when the rest of the world was trying to sympathize with the USA. Everyone knew American tensions in the Middle East were all about the oil, and here were filthy rich NASCAR teams launching their legendarily gas guzzling noise makers into circles yet again.

The USA blew its opportunity to secure long-lasting international goodwill. Her citizens went shopping, to Disney World, and to NASCAR races. They practiced “consumer patriotism.” The tide of goodwill turned quickly, and in a matter of months one of the prevalent topics over the airwaves and in the think tanks became “Why do they hate us?” While President Bush kept that question focused on Islamic extremists, many of us understood it wasn’t just the extremists, but rather a whole world of nations with a growing resentment of “the way we want it.”

Fast-forwarding to now, consider how frustrating it must be for the world’s other nations to watch our obnoxious NASCAR spew carbon and particulates into the global atmosphere, again and again and again, for almost 75 years, as if we were kicking sand in their faces, while they meet in handwringing futility on reducing carbon emissions. It’s not so much about the pollution and global warming directly attributable to racing—industrial and military sectors cause far more of that—but the symbolism is as stark as a Confederate flag.  What could possibly be more symbolic of Americans’ casual disregard of the world citizenry, the global environment, and posterity, than NASCAR?

Fortunately, NASCAR is no longer “the fastest growing spectator sport in North America.” It’s on the decline with all kinds of political and financial problems, thanks to a toxic mixture of Trump, Confederate stain, France family greed, COVID, and environmental concerns. Now is no time to take our foot off the gas. The Frances made their billions, drivers made their millions, and fans had their fun. Let’s welcome the fans back to sanity; we need them on the team and in the pits, if not in the driver’s seat. Together, we’ve got to drive NASCAR off the cultural cliff and let it lie in the rusty pile of American mistakes.

Nothing could be more patriotic.

Brian Czech, Executive Director of CASSEBrian Czech is CASSE’s executive director.

The post Driving NASCAR Off the American Cultural Cliff appeared first on Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Documentos recién publicados revelan el rastro internacional de la financiación previa al asesinato de Berta Cáceres

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 30/06/2022 - 8:06am in

Tags 

Environment, World

Dos días antes de que a Berta Cáceres la asesinaran en Honduras, un banco en los Países Bajos transfirió mediante una cuenta extraterritorial poco más de un millón setecientos mil dólares a una compañía de concreto.

Dos años antes, el banco nacional holandés FMO se había unido a la financiación del proyecto controversial de la represa Agua Zarca, en Honduras. Encabezado por una compañía llamada Desarrollos Energéticos Sociedad Anónima, o DESA, el proyecto de la construcción de la represa fue un esfuerzo de David Castillo y de Daniel Atala Midence; el director ejecutivo y el director financiero de la compañía, respectivamente. Cáceres, una reconocida activista ambiental y líder de la comunidad indígena lenca, fue la fuerza motora de las protestas contra esta construcción.

Una serie de documentos legales y financieros holandeses y estadounidenses que se compartieron con The Intercept revelan, por primera vez, el rastro de la financiación internacional en los días antes del 2 de marzo de 2016, cuando un escuadrón asesino invadió el hogar de Cáceres para matarla. El banco les entregó los documentos a dos abogados holandeses de derechos humanos, Wout Albers y Ron Rosenhart Rodríguez, que han pasado los últimos dos años representando a la familia de Cáceres y al COPINH —la organización que cofundó— en una demanda civil que procura exigirle a FMO la rendición de cuentas por su rol en el proyecto de Agua Zarca. (La demanda se radicó por primera vez en el 2018, en Holanda; Albers y Rosenhart se integraron en el 2020). El martes, 28 de junio, la familia y los abogados presentaron una petición ante fiscales de los Países Bajos en la que piden una investigación criminal del FMO.

En al menos cuatro ocasiones, según la documentación, el banco emitió fondos a una compañía afiliada con Castillo y Atala que no correspondía con el destinatario estipulado. El dinero se enrutó mediante una cuenta extraterritorial del Deutsche Bank en la Ciudad de Nueva York.

Castillo fue convicto por ser uno de los colaboradores de la muerte de Cáceres en el 2021, y recibió una sentencia de 22 años y seis meses en prisión el 20 de junio. Ocupaba puestos de liderazgo y activos financieros en varias compañías además de DESA. Algunas de estas eran PEMSA, una compañía fantasma panameña con accionistas anónimos; y CONCASA, una empresa concretera que casi no brinda información sobre su actividad en el registro corporativo hondureño. Su socio de negocios, Atala, es miembro de la poderosa familia Atala Zablah, que rige un imperio banquero y de industrias privadas casi sin igual en Honduras. Ningún miembro de la familia Atala Zablah ha sido acusado en relación con el asesinato de Cáceres.

Fue Atala el que dirigió el pago de un millón setecientos mil dólares a la compañía Concretos del Caribe S.A., o CONCASA, a pesar de que según revelan los documentos, otra aparecía como la destinataria prevista. Horas después de que el préstamo se completara, Castillo, en comunicaciones por WhatsApp que se divulgaron por el fiscal general de Honduras y que previamente publicara The Intercept, le envió un mensaje de texto al líder del escuadrón homicida de que el pago estaba en camino porque “puede tener disponible el préstamo solicitado”. No se sabe si Castillo se refería al dinero del préstamo enviado a CONCASA.

Menos de 48 horas después, Berta Cáceres estaba muerta.

“Los chats entre Castillo y el líder del escuadrón homicida sugieren que unos pocos días antes [del asesinato] todavía no tenían los fondos”, dijo Albers, el abogado principal del caso a The Intercept. “Después del pago, autorizado por FMO y llevado a cabo por Deutsche Bank como un banco offshore, los tenían”.

Cuando se le preguntó sobre el descuido el banco en cuanto a los pagos, la portavoz de FMO, Monica Beek, emitió las siguientes expresiones: “En vista de los procesos legales que el COPINH ha comenzado, una respuesta a ello corresponde principalmente dentro del marco de un proceso jurídico cauteloso y no ahora, de forma selectiva y sin contexto”. Refirió a The Intercept al sitio web de FMO para más información.

Antes de Castillo, siete de los ocho hombres enjuiciados por llevar a cabo el operativo fueron hallados culpables de asesinato en el 2018 y luego se les sentenció a 30 a 50 años de prisión. Sin embargo, más de seis años después de la muerte de Cáceres, los familiares y los trabajadores de derechos humanos alegan que los autores más poderosos de su muerte siguen impunes.

“Hemos quedado sorprendidas y muy impactadas sobre las prácticas de estas entidades financieras”, dijo Bertita Zúñiga Cáceres sobre las revelaciones. Como coordinadora general actual del Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH), continúa con la labor que comenzó su madre, Berta.

“Este tipo de transferencias no solamente son irregulares”, dijo Zúñiga Cáceres a The Intercept. “Hicieron transferencias para que prácticamente los dueños de DESA dispusieran de ese dinero a sus antojos sin tener medidas de verificación, sin saber cómo se ejecutaban, pues es algo que es muy impactante, y saber que iban a lugares y a fuentes donde no debían ir y para cosas que en realidad no estaban consensuadas.”

Una líder indígena reza en Tegucigalpa, Honduras, el 5 de abril de 2021 durante una ceremonia espiritual antes del comienzo del juicio contra uno de los supuestos ideólogos del asesinato de Berta Cáceres

Una líder indígena reza en Tegucigalpa, Honduras, el 5 de abril de 2021 durante una ceremonia espiritual antes del comienzo del juicio contra uno de los supuestos ideólogos del asesinato de Berta Cáceres.

Foto: Elmer Martinez/AP

En el 2015, Cáceres se llevó a sí misma a un sitial mundial —y a DESA a la infamia— cuando ganó el prestigioso Premio Ambiental Goldman, conocido como “el Nobel verde”, por liderar la resistencia indígena a la construcción de la represa de Agua Zarca. Como activista, ayudó a unir los movimientos sociales de Honduras en un frente de resistencia común contra los regímenes de derecha que ocuparon el poder luego de que las fuerzas de seguridad hondureña dieran un golpe en el 2009. La transferencia forzosa de poder trajo consigo un incremento mortal en la violencia general y por el Estado, lo que provocó que la administración de Obama la condenara públicamente a pesar de que el Departamento de Estado nunca la clasificó oficialmente como un golpe militar. Los profundos vínculos con los Estados Unidos de las fuerzas hondureñas eran más que evidentes y hubo informes posteriores que revelaron que la entonces secretaria de Estado, Hillary Clinton, procuró establecer comunicaciones con el gobierno golpista interino.

Desde entonces, Honduras ha atestiguado montones de asesinatos de defensores de las tierras y del agua —muchos de los cuales son indígenas o afroindígenas— que se oponían a las minerías, a las agroempresas y a los proyectos de represas que arguían que les desplazarían de sus tierras. Muchos de estos proyectos no contaron con consulta previa de los grupos indígenas, según se requiere por las convenciones internacionales a las que pertenece el gobierno hondureño. No obstante, incluso así recibieron apoyo de instituciones financieras transnacionales como el Banco Mundial, el Banco de Desarrollo Interamericano o —en el caso del proyecto de Agua Zarca— de FMO en Holanda.

FMO se vanagloria de invertir en países pobres plagados por la violencia y la corrupción y de inyectar dinero en proyectos de desarrollo en los que el “país… carece infraestructura financiera o se percibe demasiado ‘frágil’ por inversores privados”. La oportunidad de apoyar el proyecto de Agua Zarca parecía caerles como anillo al dedo.

La reina Máxima de Holanda, en el centro, visita un taller del “Fempower Your Growth Program” en el Banco de Desarrollo Holandés FMO en La Haya, el 11 de septiembre de 2019.

La reina Máxima de Holanda, en el centro, visita un taller del “Fempower Your Growth Program” en el Banco de Desarrollo Holandés FMO en La Haya, el 11 de septiembre de 2019.

Foto: Wesley de Wit/AFP via Getty Images

DESA, que se incorporó poco después del golpe de 2009 y que se contrató enseguida para el proyecto Agua Zarca, era propiedad tanto de Castillo —un ejecutivo y oficial de inteligencia del ejército hondureño que fue entrenado por los EE. UU.— como de la poderosa familia Atala Zablah. Cuando FMO acordó servir de prestamista para Agua Zarca, dijo que el dinero sería para los contratistas que construían la represa y no para DESA en sí, ni para ninguna transacción con una afiliada, lo que se define como una compañía directa o indirectamente controlada por DESA.

En el 2013, los residentes indígenas lenca comenzaron a protestar contra la represa. Reclamaban que no había habido una consulta previa y alegaban que el proyecto los desplazaría del sagrado río Gualcarque. Dirigidas por Cáceres y el COPINH, las protestas se intensificaron por los próximos dos años. La represión también. El ejército asesinó un manifestante antirrepresa en el 2013 y hubo contratistas de seguridad privada que luego se abalanzaron sobre los bloqueos contra la represa.

Al final, la violencia provocó que varios socios y prestamistas se retiraran del proyecto. Sinohydro, una compañía estatal china y la constructora más grande de represas en el mundo, abandonó el proyecto en el 2013; COPRECA, una firma de construcción guatemalteca, se fue en el 2014.

No obstante, nada de eso impidió que FMO invirtiera. Alrededor del 2011, varios actores consultaron con el banco la posibilidad de apoyar a Agua Zarca. Uno fue el Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, o BCIE, cuyo exdirector hondureño, José Eduardo Atala Zablah, provenía de la misma familia que invirtió en Agua Zarca y también era un exmiembro de la junta de DESA. La familia Atala Zablah no respondió a los intentos de The Intercept para que comentaran.

El 27 de febrero de 2014, FMO, junto con la participación de Finnfund, un financiador finlandés de desarrollos, acordó emitir un préstamo de veinte millones de dólares para financiar el proyecto de Agua Zarca. Bajo el mismo acuerdo, otros $24.400.000 surgirían del BCIE, que se registró como el agente administrativo.

La deuda a esos bancos constituiría el 70 por ciento del presupuesto estimado de $63.4 millones para el proyecto. El otro 30 por ciento se financiaría con equidad compuesta por acciones pertenecientes a Inversiones Las Jacarandas, una compañía de inversiones perteneciente a seis miembros de la familia Atala Zablah, así como Potencia y Energía de Mesoamérica S.A., una compañía fantasma panameña administrada por Castillo. La totalidad de las acciones de PEMSA son al portador, lo que significa que sus accionistas no pueden verificarse mediante registros públicos.

Como parte de un acuerdo prestamista, FMO y BCIE pactaron que el dinero se le transfiriera a DESA mediante una cuenta extraterritorial de terceros de Deutsche Bank, que se identificó en el acuerdo como el “agente de seguridad offshore”, en la Ciudad de Nueva York.

“Marina [Pannekeet, una empleada de FMO] quería que fuera a un reserve account”, le escribió David Castillo después a Daniel Atala en conversaciones de WhatsApp que luego extrajo el fiscal general de Honduras.

“No quiere [que] veamos dinero nunca”, contestó Atala.

En el 2016, la directora de energía de FMO, Elvira Eurlings, les dijo a periodistas holandeses que al banco le empezó a agradar la idea de financiar DESA en parte debido a sus conexiones con la gente participante. “Sabíamos que las dos familias responsables del proyecto DESA eran buenos empresarios con buenas reputaciones”, dijo Eurlings. “No estaban en ninguna lista negra; no había nada de corrupción ni de actividades criminales”. Cuando se le pidieron expresiones, FMO no contestó la solicitud de The Intercept para aclarar quiénes eran las dos familias mencionadas.

 Bertha Zuniga Caceres, the 26-year-old daughter of the slain environmental activists, Berta Caceres, addresses a crowd after testifying at the Office of American States, OAS, in honor of the prominent indigenous activist who was killed in rural Honduras March 3, on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Washington, DC.  The daughter, Bertha Zuniga Caceres, is talking as if she wants to take over the work of her mother.  The watchdog group Global Witness ranked Honduras, which has one of the world's highest homicide rates, as the most deadly for environmental activism last year.  Caceres had held a news conference days before she was killed to denounce the killing of four fellow activists who, like her, opposed the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Berta Zúñiga Cáceres, la hija de la activista ambiental asesinada Berta Cáceres, se dirige a una multitud luego de testificar en la Organización de Estados Americanos el 5 de abril de 2016 en Washington, D.C.

Foto: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Cáceres la asesinaron casi dos años exactos después de que FMO emitiera el préstamo. En medio de una ola de cuestionamientos por los medios, el banco se retractó del proyecto, pero FMO no dejó de defender su apoyo por la represa hasta que el tribunal emitió el fallo de culpabilidad contra Castillo.

“FMO financió una compañía cuyo director ejecutivo ahora fue hallado culpable de estar involucrado en un asesinato”, leían las expresiones publicadas en el sitio web del banco. “Nos sentimos devastados por esto. En retrospectiva hubiéramos querido no haber invertido en el proyecto de Agua Zarca jamás”.

Albers y Rosenhart alegan, sin embargo, que FMO debió haber sabido que algo no andaba bien. Los documentos que compartieron con The Intercept ilustran que los registros internos de FMO con la cuenta extraterritorial de Deutsche Bank —a la que ambos bancos tenían acceso directo y repetido y que en algunos casos contaba con la firma de un representante de FMO— muestran que los beneficiarios hondureños del préstamo nombraban en varias ocasiones a un destinatario de las transferencias bancarias, pero luego las dirigían a otro. Con este proceso, FMO acabó enviando millones de dólares a CONCASA.

Para el primero de estos pagos —según un documento titulado “Requisición de construcción n.01” y con fecha del 12 de noviembre de 2014— Castillo solicitó la transferencia de más de un millón cuatrocientos mil dólares a COPRECA, la compañía guatemalteca de construcción que luego abandonaría el proyecto de Agua Zarca a fines de año. El pago parece que llegó a COPRECA, como se había previsto.

Después de algunas transacciones más, Daniel Atala firmó un documento llamado “Requisición de construcción n.05” con la fecha del 9 de junio de 2015, en el que solicita trescientos millones seiscientos mil dólares para COPRECA. Para aquel entonces ya COPRECA había abandonado el proyecto Agua Zarca. En la misma página, las instrucciones de pago dirigen el dinero a una compañía distinta: “Concretos del Caribe SA,” o CONCASA. (En enero de 2016, Castillo le dio a Daniel Atala el control administrativo sobre CONCASA).

FMO se negó a explicar estas transacciones.

Albers y Rosenhart dicen que no informar transacciones que pudieran ser sospechosas tiene posibles implicaciones legales. En los Países Bajos, por ejemplo, la ley Wwft (el acrónimo en holandés para la Ley contra el Lavado de Dinero y la Financiación Terrorista) requiere que cualquier banco, abogado o institución de inversiones reporten “transacciones inusuales” a la Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera del país. No hacerlo constituye un posible “crimen económico” según la ley holandesa.

Los pagos continuaron. El 14 de septiembre de 2015, en un documento titulado “Requisición de construcción n.o6”, Castillo solicitó cerca de un millón de dólares para COPRECA e identificó a CONCASA como beneficiaria de la cuenta.

G.W. de Boer, un gerente en FMO Bank, aprobó personalmente este documento, y Castillo hizo lo propio. (Después, en la página 446 de la respuesta de 676 páginas en el idioma holandés, FMO lo contradice y dice: “Todas las partes a las que se les proveyó dinero eran conocidas a FMO”. La respuesta nombra a COPRECA como un beneficiario del préstamo, pero no menciona a CONCASA).

Los pagos a CONCASA continuaron ese noviembre. En un documento titulado “Requisición de construcción n.o7” con fecha del 24 de noviembre, Castillo solicitó más de doscientos millones seiscientos mil dólares para COPRECA y de nuevo los envió a CONCASA.

Ya en este punto, a finales del 2015, Castillo estaba colaborando en la conspiración de asesinato. Castillo, junto con el exjefe de seguridad de DESA, Douglas Bustillo, había organizado un escuadrón asesino en el que un jefe de inteligencia del ejército de Honduras, Mariano Díaz, lideró a un exfrancotirador de las Fuerzas Especiales —que alguna vez estuvo bajo órdenes de Díaz— junto con tres sicarios más. No pudieron matar a Berta Cáceres el 5 de febrero de 2016, ya que, según uno de los sicarios, había demasiada gente cerca de la casa.

“Misión abortada”, Bustillo le escribió después a Castillo en registros telefónicos obtenidos por el fiscal general hondureño. “Esperaré lo que usted dijo: ya no tengo logística. Estoy en cero”.

La logística, sin embargo, llegaría pronto. A la misión le faltaba menos de un mes para ser exitosa.

Members of the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP) escort David Castillo, president of Desarrollos Energeticos S.A (DESA) and alleged intellectual author of the murder of Honduran environmentalist and indigenous leader Berta Caceres, upon his arrival at a court to listen to his sentence, in Tegucigalpa on July 5, 2021. (Photo by Orlando SIERRA / AFP) (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images)

Miembros de la Policía Militar escoltan a David Castillo, presidente de Desarrollos Energéticos S.A., o DESA, al tribunal para que se le dicte sentencia por la muerte de la ambientalista hondureña y líder indígena Berta Cáceres en Tegucigalpa, Honduras, el 5 de julio de 2021.

Foto: Orlando Sierra/AFP via Getty Images

En un último documento titulado “Requisición de construcción n.o9”, con fecha del 23 de febrero de 2016, Daniel Atala solicitó que se retiraran más de un millón setecientos mil dólares. Una vez más, la petición decía que el beneficiario del dinero sería COPRECA, pero en la misma página lo dirigía a CONCASA. El documento contaba con la firma de G.W. de Boer, el gerente de FMO.

Según las conversaciones telefónicas que obtuvo el fiscal general, alrededor de a la una de la mañana el primero de marzo, Castillo le envió un mensaje de texto a Bustillo para decirle que podía darle el dinero más tarde en la mañana porque “hoy en la noche me pagan y puede tener disponible el préstamo solicitado”.

A medida que los periodistas empezaron a investigar el caso, la mirilla se enfocó pronto sobre DESA. Uno de los cuatro sospechosos arrestados en mayo de 2016 en relación con el asesinato era empleado de DESA. FMO insistió con su versión: a pesar del asesinato de Berta, el financiamiento del banco a Agua Zarca todavía era un beneficio neto para la comunidad.

En julio de 2017, en respuesta a las tensiones sobre el proyecto, FMO y Finnfund le anunciaron al mundo que acabarían oficialmente con su relación con Agua Zarca. En la salida le perdonaron el préstamo; en otras palabras, le regalaron seis millones cien mil dólares al esfuerzo de construcción de la represa. Según la página 546 de la contestación en holandés: “FMO y FinnFund tuvieron que ceder los repagos de sus préstamos y los intereses sobre esos préstamos para poder llegar a una salida”.

En la salida le perdonaron el préstamo; en otras palabras, le regalaron seis millones cien mil dólares al esfuerzo de construcción de la represa.

Los fondos de CONCASA habían provisto otro apoyo al proyecto: mientras la Policía protegía el lugar de la construcción, hubo transferencias de la compañía concretera que se destinaron a adquirir muebles para mantener cómodos a los policías presentes. Tal y como se refleja en los documentos divulgados por el fiscal general de Honduras, dinero proveniente de CONCASA pagaba el salario de Sergio Rodríguez —un exgerente de DESA convicto de orquestrar el asesinato de Cáceres— mientras estaba detenido en espera de juicio.

El 29 de febrero de 2016 —seis días después de la petición del préstamo de un millón setecientos mil dólares y dos días antes del asesinato— Daniel Atala ordenó que se transfirieran un millón doscientos mil dólares de la cuenta de CONCASA en BAC Credomatic en Honduras a PEMSA, dirigido por Castillo en Panamá. El día antes del asesinato, la opción de acciones al portador de PEMSA —que permitía que los accionistas permanecieran en el anonimato— apareció como terminada en el registro corporativo panameño.

Para Albers y Rosenhart, la sucesión veloz de estos eventos —el pago, la matanza y el cambio en la estructura propietaria— era sospechosa.

En una conversación con The Intercept, Rosenhart arguyó que los documentos levantan cuestionamientos considerables sobre si parte del dinero del préstamo en efecto fue para el proyecto de la represa, y que revelaban “una negligencia grave por parte de los bancos a la hora de vigilar cómo el préstamo se gastaba por la otra parte. También demuestran que hay varias líneas de investigación financiera activas para que las autoridades hondureñas, panameñas, holandesas e incluso estadounidenses investiguen”.

An exterior view of Deutsche Bank US headquarters is seen on July 8, 2019 in New York City. - From Asia to the United States, disconsolate staff at Deutsche Bank dealt Monday with news of massive layoffs with some already heading to the exits to drown their sorrows.The German giant's share price fell to a low of 6.66 euros ($7.47) before closing down 5.4 percent at 6.79 euros, following Sunday's announcement of 18,000 job losses by 2022 as the company transitions out of high-risk investment banking. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Vista exterior de la sede en los Estados Unidos de Deutsche Bank el 8 de julio de 2019, en la Ciudad de Nueva York.

Foto: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Según fluía de los Países Bajos a Centroamérica, el dinero de FMO hacía varias paradas en una cuenta extraterritorial domiciliada en la Ciudad de Nueva York. Mientras Albers y Rosenhart se enfocan en FMO, dos abogados en los Estados Unidos levantaron cuestionamientos sobre si Deutsche Bank en Nueva York posiblemente también esté violando la ley.

Deutsche Bank no contestó las llamadas que hiciera The Intercept para pedir una reacción.

El banco multinacional tiene una historia de prácticas financieras cuestionables. En abril de 2022, las oficinas alemanas fueron allanadas por las autoridades del país a raíz de informes de actividad sospechosa. Más de un año después, se le obligó a pagar cuarenta y tres millones de dólares a la Comisión de Bolsa y Valores luego de “no poder implementar un sistema de controles internos de contabilidad”, mientras que los documentos filtrados del 2020 mostraban que en la pasada década el banco ayudó a lavar cientos de miles de millones de dólares de dinero malversado así como fondos conectados con el crimen organizado.

Que Deutsche Bank no informara las transferencias de CONCASA no sorprende a Kelsey Jost-Creegan, una abogada graduada de Harvard que trabaja con defensores de tierras en Centroamérica como parte de la organización EarthRights International.

Jost-Creegan revisó las transferencias bancarias a CONCASA y sugirió examinarlas bajo la Ley de Secretividad Bancaria y regulaciones relacionadas que requieren que los bancos de EE. UU. y las instituciones financieras desarrollen e implementen controles antilavado de dinero.

“El hecho de que estas transacciones se hicieron mediante Deutsche Bank New York significa que hay leyes federales y del estado de Nueva York contra el lavado de dinero que están implicadas”, dijo Jost-Creegan, alegando que las transferencias de los préstamos estaban plagadas de banderas rojas que debieron haber comenzado la debida diligencia según estas leyes. Resaltó que en el 2015 el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos nombró a Honduras como una “jurisdicción de interés” por lavado de dinero y crímenes financieros.

“La cantidad de transferencias sobrepasó los límites de las leyes contra el lavado de dinero”, le comentó a The Intercept. Como Albers y Rosenhart, Jost-Creegan subrayó las discrepancias entre el beneficiario declarado y el que recibió, finalmente, el dinero.

Sarah “Poppy” Alexander, una abogada de California que representa a denunciantes de esquemas financieros, fue informada sobre las transacciones y argumenta que las instituciones como Deutsche Bank son responsables bajo la ley estadounidense de reportar transacciones sospechosas en informes de actividad sospechosa. “Si Deutsche Bank tenía cualquier razón para temer que las transferencias se usaban para un propósito sospechoso, normalmente tendrían que divulgarlo”, comentó. “Si el dinero se movía a una cuenta distinta o no estaba conectado con la represa debería ser algo que generalmente levante cuestionamientos”.

“Si FMO logra superar su crisis existencial como un banco de desarrollo, debería reexaminar el modus operandi falto de ética de ser el facilitador de multimillonarios extranjeros para el desarrollo, con el objetivo de que parte de ese dinero acabe donde se pueda usar para una buena causa”, dijo Rosenhart. “En el caso de Agua Zarca, esto era una ilusión desde el principio”.

Las fuerzas detrás de Agua Zarca pertenecen a una red amplia que incluye a algunas de las personas más adineradas de Honduras, incluso de dos poderosas familias cuyos miembros nunca se han enfrentado a la justicia en relación con el asesinato de Cáceres.

Las fuerzas detrás de Agua Zarca pertenecen a una red amplia que incluye a algunas de las personas más adineradas de Honduras.

Varios miembros de la familia Atala Zablah son familiares consanguíneos de otra, pero también poderosa, familia: los Atala Faraj. Seis hermanos Atala Zablah —todos accionistas de “Inversiones Las Jacarandas”, que en sí es el accionista principal de DESA— son primos hermanos del multimillonario Camilo Atala Faraj. Tres de estos, así como uno de sus hijos, eran miembros de la junta o tenían puestos en DESA: Pedro Atala Zablah, dueño de CAMOSA, la distribuidora hondureña de John Deere y copresidente del Club Deportivo Motagua; Jacobo Atala Zablah, presidente del banco hondureño BAC Credomatic; y José Eduardo Atala, exdirector del BCIE y copresidente actual del Club Deportivo Motagua. El hijo de José Eduardo es Daniel Atala Midence, quien era el ejecutivo financiero de DESA y que tenía control administrativo de CONCASA a partir de enero de 2016, cuando recibió los pagos finales de dinero proveniente de FMO.

José Eduardo Atala Zablah, Pedro Atala Zablah y Daniel Atala Midence eran parte de un grupo de WhatsApp corporativo con David Castillo llamado “Seguridad PHAZ”, en donde se discutía la seguridad y la estrategia de medios de DESA, así como la  relación del grupo con Cáceres en los días cercanos a su asesinato.

Por años, los abogados en los Estados Unidos que representan a la familia Atala Faraj han exigido correcciones por parte de los periodistas que investigan el asesinato de Cáceres. Alegan que ambas familias son independientes y que la familia Atala Faraj no tenía nada que ver con la represa. Camilo Atala Faraj, el propietario del banco FICOHSA, es uno de los hombres más ricos de Honduras. David Castillo, Daniel Atala Midence y los miembros de la junta de DESA se han referido a los préstamos de FICOHSA en conversaciones de WhatsApp presentadas por el fiscal general de Honduras, a pesar de que FICOHSA ha negado en varias ocasiones estar involucrados en el proyecto de DESA.

El COPINH y la familia de Cáceres insisten que Castillo es un mero coautor del asesinato de Cáceres. “Faltan los Atala”, dicen del crimen. Las ramas Atala Zablah y Atala Faraj de la familia han negado rotunda y constantemente esta acusación. The Intercept intentó en repetidas ocasiones contactar a las familias Atala para que se expresaran al respecto.

“Nadie ha sido investigado por todas estas irregularidades [financieras]”, expresó Zúñiga Cáceres. “La búsqueda de la justicia para mi madre, nuestra compañera Berta Cáceres, es la oportunidad que tiene no solo el COPINH sino que Honduras de evidenciar el papel nefasto de estas entidades bancarias que hablan de supuestamente un falso desarrollo pero que finalmente sólo están interesados en sus bolsillos, en perjuicio de la población y en perjuicio de quién sé”.

El 25 de mayo, el Congreso Nacional de Honduras decretó que Berta Cáceres sería condecorada como una heroína nacional. Para algunos fue extraño que se le ubicara en este pedestal simbólico, ya que los problemas sistémicos que llevaron a su muerte, como la violencia, la corrupción, la impunidad y los proyectos extractivistas permanecen vigentes. Los defensores ambientales, después de todo, siguen siendo asesinados en cantidades alarmantes en Honduras. Todavía se desconoce el entramado completo de la red involucrada en la planificación de su asesinato. Algunos cómplices de su muerte hoy todavía pudieran superar el alcance de la justicia.

Traducción al español de Teresa Córdova Rodríguez

The post Documentos recién publicados revelan el rastro internacional de la financiación previa al asesinato de Berta Cáceres appeared first on The Intercept.

The World Needs ‘Rapid Climate Cooling’ as 2℃ Overshoot Now Likely, New Research Warns

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 6:45pm in

Scientists are warning that the climate situation is so dire that we will not only need to withdraw carbon from the atmosphere but begin exploring controversial solar geoengineering technologies to cool the planet, reports Nafeez Ahmed

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A recent paper in Nature Climate Change found that there is now a two-thirds chance of exceeding the 1.5℃ climate safety threshold after 2030 and breaching 2℃ by 2057. But this was not the first time that experts had pointed out how rapidly the world is hurtling toward dangerous global heating.

Last year, a paper published in the Climate Risk Management journal concluded that “dangerous climate target overshoot is almost inevitable” and the only way to now mitigate this is to stop carbon emissions as soon as possible, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and deploy technologies “for rapidly cooling global temperatures”.

“At this critical time, the international community must prioritise researching and developing a feasible overshoot risk management plan or risk irreversible catastrophic damage to the biophysical and physiochemical systems that support human civilisation,” Dr Graeme Taylor, of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, the report's co-author, said.

Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe

According to the UN Environment Programme’s 2021 Emissions Gap report, to limit global heating to 1.5C, the world must halve greenhouse gas emissions in just eight years.

“This will not happen,” Dr Taylor told Byline Times. “Despite new national pledges, emissions are forecast to keep rising, not falling. The 1.5°C target will be passed next decade, with potentially catastrophic consequences.”

Although many scientists insist that this is ‘technically’ possible, an increasing number of privately believe that, due to the reality of political inertia, we are bound to breach this limit. This could have catastrophic consequences.

Warming above 1.5°C would kill off most coral reefs and make much of the tropics unliveable. At 1.6°C, most of the Greenland ice sheet would melt, eventually raising sea levels by as much as seven metres. And some 20 to 30% of the world’s land surface would become significantly drier.

Yet the biggest risk, according to Dr Taylor, is that global heating at this level could “trigger uncontrollable feedbacks".

"The first climate tipping point, the complete melting of summer Arctic Sea ice, could occur in a decade,” he told this newspaper.

As the research concludes that dangerous climate change is virtually inevitable, it argues that it is now urgently necessary to explore technologies that can rapidly cool global temperatures and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“Global average temperatures are already measurably impacting the Earth’s systems at 1.2 °C above preindustrial levels,” it states. “Many human and environmental systems cannot adapt to higher temperatures, which may exceed critical tipping points in physical climate and ecological systems.”

Global Cooling

These risks are compounded by the probability of overshooting the international 2°C limit “due to political obstacles and systemic inertia from existing greenhouse gases, warming oceans, and the decades required to replace existing infrastructure”.

While most UN mitigation scenarios involve various forms of large-scale carbon dioxide removal to return temperatures to safe levels, one of the biggest problems is that this “will act too slowly to prevent dangerous overshoot”.

There is therefore an urgent need to investigate “whether rapid climate cooling measures may be required to reduce the risks associated with high temperatures” in the period in which global heating is likely to breach the danger zone while we are still decarbonising the global economy.

One of the most promising approaches to such climate cooling – Dr Taylor and the report's co-author Sue Vink, a Principal Research Fellow at the University of Queensland conclude – is solar radiation management.

This can involve many different technologies designed to reflect solar energy back into space. Some are as simple as painting roofs white to reduce urban heat or creating marine clouds to reduce the likelihood of corals bleaching. Other more controversial technologies involve releasing reflective aerosols into the atmosphere or placing giant mirrors in orbit around the Earth.

Dr Taylor said that “these technologies cannot be used until their risks are understood and mitigated”. But he also argued that they will be required “to constrain temperature overshoot until greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilised at safe levels” – so we need to understand their potential risks and benefits.

“Dangerous climate target overshoot is almost inevitable,” Dr Taylor told Byline Times. “The planet is already suffering dangerous climate change and we urgently need to reduce average global temperatures to prevent the loss of the Arctic, coral reefs, rainforests and other critical ecosystems and avoid crossing climate tipping points and triggering runaway climate change.”

Critics of solar geoengineering have argued that even discussing the technology increases the risk of unilateral actions and could fuel delays to decarbonisation. Currently, geoengineering technologies are already being explored by various governments without global public accountability.

Earlier this year, a team of scientists writing in the Wiley Interdisciplinary Review Climate Change argued that “solar geoengineering at planetary scale is not governable in a globally inclusive and just manner within the current international political system”. They argued that the risks and benefits are “poorly understood” and might not ever be properly understood before deployment – with too much uncertainty about the impacts on regional weather patterns, agriculture and availability of food and water.

Their biggest concern is that fair, collective and responsible use of such technologies requires the most powerful countries to grant multilateral institutions overarching veto power and control over their deployment, to ensure the interests and rights of the most vulnerable countries. But, as such international structures and organisations “with convincing means of democratic control and unprecedented enforcement powers” don’t even exist, then the fair and responsible use of solar geoengineering is impossible.

They have therefore called on governments and the UN to immediately take political control of these technologies and to agree an "International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering” to ensure they are not deployed.

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A Precautionary Approach?

Perhaps the most basic problem with this line of argument is that it fails to credibly address the key issue – the high and currently increasing probability that we will breach the climate danger zone.

The other problem is the solution: after dismissing the prospect that existing multilateral institutions could provide a mechanism to regulate solar geoengineering, the study goes on to advocate that multilateral institutions and governments get together to regulate these technologies by collectively agreeing and enforcing their non-use – which is, in effect, exactly what they just said is going to be impossible.

According to Dr Graeme Taylor, critics of these technologies raise important and legitimate questions about their potential risks, but overlook that the best scientific evidence suggests we are now already too far gone. The onus then is not to simply ban all geoengineering approaches wholesale, but to identify the safest approaches.

Dr Taylor also emphasised that geoengineering should not be used to legitimise business-as-usual. Instead, the Paris Agreement needs to be supplemented with what he and Vink call “a realistic overshoot risk management plan”, combining three approaches.

First and foremost, they argue, we must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible. Secondly, as dangerous climate change is already here, we will need deploy large scale carbon dioxide removal measures to draw down atmospheric carbon. And thirdly, they believe that we will need to use solar radiation management technologies to keep temperatures within safe limits until CO2 levels have been reduced to a level that stabilises the climate.

“I believe governments will inevitably use solar geoengineering to prevent increasingly extreme weather causing catastrophic crop failures,” said Dr Taylor. Many governments may even start taking unilateral action and have already started doing so – meaning that we need global regulation right now and cannot have that without better research.

The paper thus calls for a robust global research programme led by the UN “on the risks, costs and benefits of all potential mitigation methods versus the likely risks and costs of overshooting safe temperatures” – alongside an international agreement that doesn’t ban geoengineering, but governs its use to avoid the possibility that governments might take dangerous unilateral action.  

Dr Taylor referred to the 'precautionary principle' as the basis for recognising the urgent need to scientifically evaluate both carbon removal and solar radiation management technologies.

“While it could be very dangerous to deploy untested technologies, the consequences could be catastrophic if climate interventions were not used in time to prevent dangerous overshoot," he said. "Opponents need to recognise that the alternative to researching and deploying geoengineering is to leave all efforts to limit temperature increases to reducing emissions, a strategy that would be almost certain to fail.”

He argues that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should coordinate the urgently needed research so that we can understand the risks and effectiveness of these technologies more clearly.

Transforming the System

As Byline Times has previously reported, other research shows that existing technologies in the energy, transport and food sectors are on track to disrupt carbon-intensive industries, responsible for 90% of emissions, within the next two decades. While these disruptions cannot be stopped, they can be delayed.

But, if dangerous climate change is already here, the risk is that delaying these disruptions by clinging onto the incumbent industries as long as possible places Earth in the climate danger zone for far too long – potentially triggering dangerous feedback effects that could, in turn, trigger worst-case scenarios.

As a consequence, for Dr Taylor, carbon removal and solar radiation management may be the only ways to ensure a stable climate.

“While I agree that new technologies will cause massive, rapid shifts in energy, food and transportation”, he said, “the process will be uneven and delayed due to the combination of economic and political opposition and lags caused by the difficulties and costs of changing behaviours and transforming existing infrastructure. Although we can expect exponentially accelerating change, I expect it will still take decades to achieve net zero. During this time, total atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to rise, as will oceanic thermal inertia”.

The combined effect of the deployment of these disruptive technologies – solar, wind and batteries; electric vehicles (EV), eventually autonomous EVs, and Transport-as-a-Service; and precision fermentation and cellular agriculture (PFCA) – will be to dramatically reduce the costs of deploying potential CDR and SRM technologies.

Clean and abundant electricity combined with machine labour and new advances in materials would make these and many other such exotic technologies that are too expensive today, commercially viable and technologically feasible for the first time.

In other words, those CRD and SRM technologies will only become truly feasible once we’ve actually transformed and decarbonised our energy, transport and food systems. While that transformation involves more than just technology – governance, economic structures, values, mindsets, and beyond – we can accelerate the path to systems change by leveraging existing technologies in these three key sectors.

A growing number of scientists are warning that it may already be too late to avoid dangerous climate change. But it’s not too late to get out of the danger zone and speed ahead to a safe climate. Yet if we are going to succeed in doing so, we’ll need much more robust conversations to help inform the stark and difficult choices ahead.

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What can we do about a government that is in denial of climate change? Very little, except boot them out.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 5:37pm in

As the Guardian notes this morning:

The government is failing to enact the policies needed to reach the UK’s net zero targets, its statutory advisers have said, in a damning progress report to parliament.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) voiced fears that ministers may renege on the legally binding commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, noting “major policy failures” and “scant evidence of delivery”.

Lord Deben, the chair of the committee and a former Conservative environment secretary, said the government had set strong targets on cutting emissions but policy to achieve them was lacking. “The government has willed the ends, but not the means,” he said. “This report showed that present plans will not fulfil the commitments [to net zero].”

I always presumed there would be climate backtracking. The future is, after all, a very distant country as far as most politicians are concerned, even though those of us old enough to remember 1994 will appreciate just how recent that seems to be, and the equivalent time period going forward is all we have in which to deliver the exceptional change demanded of us. In that context, the failure is staggering and makes the many others of this seem less significant (but by no means insignificant) as a result.

What can we do about a government that is in denial of climate change, as many of us always thought it to be? Very little, except boot them out.

Net 0 by 2050 – How big is the challenge?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/06/2022 - 1:31pm in

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Environment

By Newman Fergard   Given Angus Taylor’s figures have at times been rubbery (ref: Clover Moore’s travel “spend”) and the following based on figures published by the LNP government, this might not be accurate but the concept can be updated with real numbers when available. If you take a look at the 2019-20 tab you will…

The post Net 0 by 2050 – How big is the challenge? appeared first on The AIM Network.

The oil companies are saying they’ll quit UK oil exploration, which is great news

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 4:33pm in

I was pleased to read this in the FT:

UK oil and gas producers on Thursday warned Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, that his new windfall tax on their profits could force the cancellation of projects as well as prompt investors to deploy their capital elsewhere.

They might think this a threat.

I think it the evidence we need that tax can play a part in bringing the fossil fuel era to an end when that has to happen if our climate crisis is to be contained.

I suspect Sunak thinks it vital that we find more oil and gas in the North Sea. I don’t. He needs to take the oil companies’ long undertaxed profits and divert them to investment in renewable energy now in the way these oil companies will never do.

In other words, a little adherence to the message of COP26 might help right now.

There is a silver lining to the windfall tax after all.

EPBC Act and regional landscape and resilience plans

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/06/2022 - 4:57am in

The new Australian Government is well positioned to pick up the challenges from the Samuel review of the EPBC Act and the IPCC’s adverse comments on Australia’s institutional performance in managing climate risks. A way forward could involve formal recognition of a regional landscape planning approach in partnership with States and Territories. In the final Continue reading »

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