This story was originally published in YaleE360 It is reproduced here as part Climate Desk.
It was a statisticMany people in Glasgow were shocked Monday by this shocking revelation. Global Witness conducted an examination of delegation lists and found that fossil fuel companies have been collaborating with trade associations. more than 500 representatives registered at the climate conference, more than the biggest national delegation, Brazil.
Fosil fuel lobbyists have every right to attend the event. They are almost certain outnumbered among the 11,000-plus nongovernmental delegates. But what are they trying achieve?
Are they encouraging holdouts against the banishment of coal and the end to oil exploration? Are they even here? pushing back against putative plans from the British hosts to announce a globally agreed target for cutting aviation emissions? Will their influence pave the way for massive investment in carbon-offset schemes—a path already heavily trodden by oil giants Shell and Total?
Fossil fuel companies claim they are here to assist delegates in the transition to a low carbon world through green technologies, emissions trading, and other fossil-fuel-fuel-related activities. Many of them have a history of denial and obfuscating the science of climate change. “Their influence is one of the biggest reasons why 25 years of UN climate talks have not led to real cuts in global emissions,” says Murray Worthy from Global Witness.
Aside from fossil fuel companies, the corporate world has played a skillful game in Glasgow, often receiving plaudits for signing up to new versions of pledges they have made before—and often failed to adhere to before.
More than 450 hedge funds, insurers, and bankers—including Citi, Morgan Stanley, BlackRock, and Bank of America—have declared their desire to green their financial portfolios to help drive the world to net-zero emissions by 2050. Alok Sharma, the British conference president, is a former financial expert and was so impressed that last week he told a room full that he had just been inspired by the conference. “you are the new Swampys,” a reference to a British environmental activist famous in the 1990s for living in trees to prevent their removal for new roads.
But Paul Griffiths of the French business school EM Normandie this week pointed out that many of these financiers also signed up two years ago to UN “principles of responsible banking” that included aligning with the Paris climate agreement—with no discernible impact on their portfolios.
Cargill and Wilmar, two of the largest agricultural commodity traders, have been working with governments to eradicate deforestation in their supply chains. But several of them—including Cargill and Wilmar—made the same promise at the UN in New York in 2014, and have allegedly since been complicit in rising deforestation rates in Brazil and elsewhere. Greenpeace UK’s head of forests, Ann Jones, said these companies have made “a litany of broken promises, while they continue to wreck forests and destroy the lives and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples.”
Nevertheless, corporate chiefs may be serious. Who, other than them? Who is going to provide the clean, cheap power, electric vehicles, green metal, and sustainably sourced commodities the world so desperately needs? Is capitalism the problem? These are some of the many after-hours drinking sessions that Glasgowers have been having this week.
The worst headlinesThe apparent addiction to private planes is what has attracted many industry leaders with poor climate track records to Glasgow. According to some estimates, 400 aviation gas-guzzlers flew into Scotland during the conference’s opening week. This included Jeff Bezos, who was carrying $2 billion. greening agriculture. (Joe Biden’s team came in four larger planes,Air Force One was also a carrier of a fleet armored vehicles, as well as delegates.
ForbesIt was noted that even a small plane flying from Rome to Glasgow would emit six tons of carbon dioxide. This is irony for many delegates. It’s also blasphemy. It reinforces the analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute showing that the average carbon footprint of the richest 1 percent on the planet “is on track to be 30 times higher than what’s needed to limit global warming to 1.5 C.” That’s some 70 tons per person annually, rather than the required 2.3 tons.
The institute predicts that this select 80 million or so of the world’s richest will increase their emissions twice as fast as those of the rest of us by 2030. They seem to have “a free pass to pollute,” said Naftoke Dabi of aid charity Oxfam, which commissioned the study.
We can be fairly sure that few of the 1 percent—mostly cocooned in an air-conditioned world—will be among the billion people that the UK Met Office today predicts will be the victims of life-threatening heat stress,Global temperatures will rise by 2 degrees Celsius in the next few decades.
Heat stress is estimated by what meteorologists call the “wet-bulb” temperature, measured by wrapping a thermometer bulb in a wet cloth. It is somewhat lower than the actual air temperature and reflects the body’s ability to cool down. Close to body heat is reached when the wet-bulb temperature exceeds 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees F). we can no longer cool ourselvesYou can sweat. Within a few hours, death may occur.
Past studies have shown that there is a risk of a few millions people being exposed to wet-bulb temperatures for decades to come. mostly in the Middle East. The Met Office analysis uses an international standard of heat stress for people who do physical work. It is 32 degrees Celsius (90 F) in the wet-bulb temperature. By this measure, one in eight of the world’s people—mostly in densely populated tropical countries such as India, Ethiopia, and Brazil—will be at risk.
Another study, due for publication this week, will list rising death rates over the past two decades in a region in Indonesia that is already suffering excessive heat from a combination climate change and deforestation.
Such grim prognosesIt is possible that air conditioning will soon be required to keep up with a billion people alive. As the conference winds down, it shouldn’t surprise that the price tag to keep developing countries habitable is increasing. Negotiators are examining the right level of climate finance for 2025, when the current commitment by rich nations to provide $100 billion annually to developing countries expires.
According to reports, African nations have sought to set a new benchmark for post-2025 at $700 billion per yr, rising to $1.3 trillion by 2030 with the support from major Asian countries like China and India. The money would be divided equally between reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting with changing climates and rising sea level.
They are also demanding that this should be “new money.” That imperative is made the more pressing after an analysis of existing climate finance, published Monday night, found that the majority of supposedly additional climate finance is currently just existing overseas development aid “badged with a climate objective.”
CARE International, an aid charity claims that 2018 was the smallest year for the charity. 46 percent of climate finance was clearly in addition to aid spending levels before the $100-billion target was agreed in 2009. The rest, said CARE’s John Nordbo, was “smoke and mirrors.”