Notes from Underground: Proceed with Precaution, Part II

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Notes from the underground blue 2Our prior Notes from Underground post offered Precautionary Principle 101. To reiterate, the Principle is simple and even obvious: one should not carry out a plan until one has some understanding of the likely consequences – that is, until one can be reasonably certain that enacting said plan will not lead to disastrous outcomes that outstrip the plan’s resulting benefits.

Like many legal principles, Precaution is a balancing test – measuring benefit versus the likelihood and potential gravity of risk. A greater benefit – such as reliable energy – may justify considerable risk. But significant potential risk to the well-being of most life on the planet will tilt the balance in any argument.
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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Obama Climate Plan, Science-Policy Interaction, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Notes from Underground: Proceed with Precaution, Part II

Notes from Underground: Proceed with Precaution, Part I

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Notes from UndergroundThe smoking of e-cigarettes on airplanes has been banned by the FAA. Why? Because studies have not conclusively shown that “vaping” has no adverse impacts on human health.

And why is an article ostensibly about fracking and pipelines starting with this information? Because it is a rare example of the correct application of the Precautionary Principle.
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ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K (1993-2000)

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(Part One of Three)

Exxon1Climate Science & Policy Watch is keenly interested in recent developments regarding various investigations into ExxonMobil Corporation, spurred by a growing concern that the company has chronically and grossly misrepresented to its investors and the public the risks it faces as a result of impacts and other factors associated with global climate disruption.

As part of an ongoing investigation of our own, we have reviewed all of the 10-K forms ExxonMobil has submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1993 (the furthest back these forms are available online) to the present, in an effort to better understand how this oil giant has addressed the climate change threat — a threat Exxon itself has been shown to fully grasp going back four decades, despite its rhetoric to the contrary. No doubt, the Attorneys General in New York and California investigating ExxonMobil have tasked their staffs with a similar exercise. These comprehensive, mind-numbingly detailed reports must not only address the financial health of the company and all of its operations, but must also address the full set of risks it faces in the marketplace and in the geographic areas in which it operates. From what we see in the 10-Ks, each over a hundred pages long and requiring, on average, 2,000 hours to complete, Exxon has done a masterful job of hedging its bets, both by omission and commission: omitting mere mention for many years, and then grossly understating, the vast array of direct and indirect risks it faces as a result of climate change. Even worse, Exxon has overtly and flagrantly overstated possible financial and economic risks associated with regulating carbon and other GHGs, both here in the US and in nations around the world.

Exxon23ExxonMobil has a simple but admittedly very difficult Darwinian choice to make: Will the oil giant continue with the defiant, rosy-scenario, thumbs-up, “bidness”-as-usual approach going forward, or will it continue to feel the heat — politically, socially, economically and quite literally on our warming planet — and eventually, burn.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch an Exxon Tiger by the toe.
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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity | Comments Off on ExxonMobil and Climate Change: A Story of Denial, Delay, and Delusion, Told in Forms 10-K (1993-2000)

Notes from Underground: Stupid-Cali-Frack-Logistics: Gas Leak is Atrocious

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NFTU, SOCALGASBy now, you may have heard about the massive natural gas leak in Southern California, which has been ongoing since late October; then again, given the dearth of major media coverage, you very well may not have.

It is an environmental catastrophe that The Guardian has called “the climate equivalent of the BP disaster.” [http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/04/california-natural-gas-leak-methane-climate-change-old-infrastructure] GAP knows this to most definitely be the case given our critical ongoing investigation in the Gulf region into the disaster which has garnered significant media attention and attracted over 25 whistleblowers exposing significant environmental and public health threats. Over 80,000 metric tons of natural gas – which is primarily composed of methane, a potent greenhouse gas – have been released from the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage site, which is owned by the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas). This represents a substantial percentage of California’s total GHG emissions – as well as a threat to Porter Ranch, a community located near the site, due to other hazardous substances present in natural gas. But if this toxic cloud has a silver lining, it is that California might finally bring its legal stance on fracking and natural gas up to par with its other environmental policies.
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Trial for Climate Activists Protesting “Bomb Trains” Carrying Oil Makes Legal History

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56952b1ec36188ab7f8b459cA recently concluded criminal trial in Washington State drew national attention when five defendants became the first group of climate activists ever to be granted the right of using the “necessity” defense in a US court to justify their actions. Five ordinary citizens, drawn together by a common concern for public health and safety, had broken into a railyard and successfully blocked a mile-long freight train carrying crude oil for the better part of a day before being arrested. Climate activists in similar legal predicaments have been consistently denied this line of defense. In a packed courtroom near Seattle the so-called “Delta 5” testified and brought in expert witnesses to argue that their deliberate act of civil disobedience was needed to prod policymakers to more aggressively face climate change, and to impose restrictions on the burgeoning but dangerous practice of transporting crude oil by rail through the Pacific Northwest. Washington State is a hub of oil-by-rail activity coming through the region; oil trains have increased in number from 9,500 in 2008 to over 400,000 in 2014, with even further significant projected increases slated for 2020 and 2025.

After several days of testimony the judge determined the strict terms for a necessity defense had not been met and instructed the jury to disregard all they had heard. Nonetheless, the six jurors had been swayed and they acquitted all five of the more serious charge of “blocking a train” and declared them guilty only of the lesser charge of “trespassing.” The five activists were spared any jail time at sentencing. Following the trial, observers reported good will and hugs between jurors and defendants, expressions of thanks offered by the judge and jury for the education, and invitations to join the activists at future events. Does the Delta 5 trial signal a shift in attitudes towards climate activism?
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Notes From Underground: The Success of Paris…Pending

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NfU COP21, cThe year 2015 ended on an up note, but the real work lies ahead. An election year begins in the US, and the success or failure of the Paris agreement could come down to who, come 2017, controls the White House and the Senate, and whether the agreement is ratified.

The agreement reached in Paris in December is already being hailed as a success, and rightly so; perhaps most of all from the perspective of environmentalists in the US – where consensus even on scientific fact is apparently unachievable. Nearly 200 nations reaching an agreement on climate change is a tremendous victory for hope and reason.

However, anyone looking for many substantial elements to the agreement will be disappointed. A survey of the document forged in Paris will show no mention of fracking or pipelines, no discussion of nuclear power or wind turbines, and no firm timeline by which renewables must overtake fossil fuels as the chief source of global energy. The agreement simply points its signatories in the right direction, with the hope of stronger, bolder signposts along the way.

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Notes From Underground: Pipeline to Paris

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Notes from the underground parisThe 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Paris until December 11th.

The Paris Conference will hopefully yield real solutions to climate change — that is, provide measures to achieve sufficient mitigation of CO2-equivalent emissions to make adaptation to the unavoidable impacts of climate change possible. But even as the plans and deals are being hammered out, two things are clear: first, that the lead up to the conference has already forced important action on the part of various stakeholders, and second, that any resulting plan could still be dismantled before it can be carried out.
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Posted in Activism, Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Congress: Legislation and Oversight, Energy, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, International Climate Policy, Obama Administration, Obama Climate Plan, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction | Comments Off on Notes From Underground: Pipeline to Paris

The Importance of Paris: What’s the Climate Now?

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shutterstock_110244986_news_featuredIn the past year alone, there has been a marked sea-change in the wider American public and international discourse on climate change. For far too long, it seems, the world has had to endure the prolonged grieving process of the fossil fuel industry.

The debate over climate change has been dominated by a fossil fuel industry in a deep state of denial (Stage 1) and anger (Stage 2) and which, so far, has refused to accept that the age of fossil fuel dependence is dead.
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Posted in Activism, Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Attacks on Climate Science and Scientists, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, General, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, International Climate Policy, National Security, Obama Administration, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, Whistleblowers | Comments Off on The Importance of Paris: What’s the Climate Now?

Notes From Underground: Fracking – The Bridge to Nowhere, Part II

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NFUG, CSPW Fracking 2Its defenders like to claim that fracked natural gas is providing a bridge between the traditional fossil fuels of oil and coal, and clean, renewable energy like wind and solar power. I suggest that such a bridge is unnecessary, and that the investment in fracking and its associated infrastructure represents a step backward in the pursuit of widely available, sustainable energy, creating illusory benefits with real, negative side effects.
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The United States is Dangerously Unprepared for Risks Imposed by Climate Change Impacts — Is Exxon Mobil Corporation Much to Blame?

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Exxon Knew PIC2

Excerpt of internal Exxon memo from August 1988 titled “The Greenhouse Effect.” Available at: http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-research/

As we immediately posted on CSPW’s social media sites late yesterday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon — signaling the beginning of what The New York Times reports to be “a sweeping investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how those risks might hurt the oil business.” This has been long in coming and joins the chorus of what has been a nascent, but rapidly growing movement calling for at least two separate, but related, federal investigations into oil giant Exxon Mobil Corporation.

Climate Science & Policy Watch is launching a set of articles that will complement and strengthen this movement. CSPW will do so by providing the narrative, disclosing details of material damage inflicted on taxpayer-funded US climate science and communications programs, and concrete examples of instances in which Exxon engaged in obstructing the Executive branch from fulfilling obligations under the law to assess the likelihood of potential climate change impacts and to communicate those impacts to Congress and the American people.
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Posted in Assessments of Climate Impacts and Adaptation, Climate Change Education and Communication, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Preparedness, Climate Science Censorship, Climate Science Watch, Global Climate Disruption and Impacts, Global Warming Denial Machine, National Security, Science Communication, Science-Policy Interaction, Scientific Integrity, U.S. Global Change Research Program | Comments Off on The United States is Dangerously Unprepared for Risks Imposed by Climate Change Impacts — Is Exxon Mobil Corporation Much to Blame?