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A few seconds of video
That sum up the climate fight right now
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This is going to be short (and sour), an atypical edition of this newsletter. I just wanted to share with you this video that was shot this week in the ongoing epic Greek floods, in a strip of tourist restaurants not far from the Acropolis—one of the birthplaces of what we sometimes call western civilization. I hope it works when you click on it; if not, this link to journalist Daphne Tolis’ twitter feed should do the trick.
The video demonstrates what happens when warmer air soaks up more water vapor, and hence produces unprecedented deluges. Parts of Greece got 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, producing incredble floods across the Thessaly Plains, with entire villages “wiped out.” At least ten are dead, at least four are missing. We have all the usual pictures, of waterlogged houses collapsing into rivers and people climbing on to roofs for rescue. Sadly, we’re getting used to that in this incredible overheated summer. (While Greece was drowning, pretty much the same thing was happening in Hong Kong).
Probably we’re getting too used to it. The thing that won’t let me go about this video is the image of a table with a tablecloth on it being washed down the street, upright and ‘normal’ but vanishing. And the people still sitting, watching, in the cafe, as the water surged beneath their feet. It’s a picture of our general disbelief that the world we’ve always known could be washing away before our eyes. Surely normal will return.
Those cafe goers are most of us, this summer. We’ve seen things no human has ever seen. But it hasn’t yet stirred us to action; if we’re going to get back to anything even remotely resembling normal, we’re going to have to fight for it. That’s got to be the job for the next 12 months; we can’t just sit there stunned. I hope you can make the March to End Fossil Fuels a week from Sunday in New York, but that will be just the start. Stay tuned for more, and bigger, responses to the gravest crisis humans have ever known.
Let me repeat: we can’t just sit there stunned.
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In other energy and climate news:
+Hurricane Lee jumped from a tropical storm to a Cat 5 hurricane inside of 24 hours. That kind of rapid intensification has become a hallmark of our globally warmed world
+The ardent and dauntless Emily Atkin has a nifty account of where the anti-ESG investing movement sprung from. Not surprisingly it had a lot to do with fossil fuel:
Before the anti-ESG movement was the anti-ESG movement, it was the anti-CSR movement, the acronym standing for Corporate Social Responsibility. The two leaders of the anti-CSR movement were Steve Milloy and Tom Borelli.
Milloy is a former coal company executive and paid advocate for Phillip Morris and ExxonMobil. His career focus is developing communication strategies to deny or downplay the risks of tobacco and fossil fuel pollution. He is among the most prominent people “clouding the climate change debate,” according to the The Washington Post.
Borelli is “one of the best-known of the science corrupters who worked for the tobacco industry,” according to The Center for Media and Democracy. In the 90s, while working for Phillip Morris, he led the tobacco industry’s efforts to team up with other polluting industries—like coal and chemicals—to promote anti-science rhetoric. “The climate denial movement is a direct result of these coalitions,” according to CMD. (He now promotes climate denial).
+The first draft of a comprehensive “global stocktake” on how well nations are doing meeting the Paris climate agreement makes for dismal reading. As Brad Plumer reports:
“The United Nations’ polite prose glosses over what is a truly damning report card for global climate efforts,” said Ani Dasgupta, president of the World Resources Institute. “Carbon emissions? Still climbing. Rich countries’ finance commitments? Delinquent. Adaptation support? Lagging woefully behind.”
One perennial sticking point in global climate talks is that developing nations say they can’t afford to shift rapidly away from fossil fuels and adapt to fiercer heat waves and storms without outside help.
Under the Paris deal, wealthy emitters like the United States and Europe vowed to provide $100 billion per year from public and private sources by 2020 for this purpose. But they have yet to fulfill that promise. In 2020, industrialized countries provided $83.3 billion in climate finance. And only a small fraction of that money goes toward adaptation, such as building sea walls or helping farmers cope with drought, which is often the most pressing need.
+And a small piece of happy news. The largest known eastern white pine—151 feet tall and sixteen feet in circumference—has been discovered in a remote patch of forest in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. It’s been there a long time—just a reminder that this remains a beautiful and extraordinary planet, even as we do our damnedest to dismantle it.