I’m on the committee that creates proposed resolutions for grassroots activists to bring to their Minnesota DFL caucuses (DFL is code for “Democratic Party” here). Here are the resolutions we just finished, in case you are interested. Maybe some of them will apply to your particular politico-activist context!
BlackRock Inc is the world’s largest investment management company. It is headquartered in New York City, handling nearly seven trillion dollars in assets.
BlackRock is about to move away from investment in fossil fuels.
Bill McKibben notes, in a piece in the New Yorker, “If you felt the earth tremble a little bit in Manhattan on Tuesday morning, it was likely caused by the sheer heft of vast amounts of money starting to shift. “Seismic” is the only word to describe the recent decision of the asset-management firm BlackRock to acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and begin (emphasis on begin) to start redirecting its investments…By one estimate, there’s about eighty trillion dollars of money on the planet. If that’s correct, then BlackRock’s holding of seven trillion dollars means that nearly a dime of every dollar rests in its digital files, mostly in the form of stocks it invests in for pension funds and the like. So when BlackRock’s C.E.O., Larry Fink, devoted his annual letter to investors to explaining that climate change has now put us “on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance,” it marked a watershed moment in climate history.”
It is not a full-on divestment. For that matter, this might be greenwashing as much as anything else. But a major player in the financial market has declared fossil fuel and related investments risky because of the environmental damage they induce, because that damage is to be mitigated, and thus, assets are to be stranded. More or less. For example with respect to “Exiting Thermal Coal Producers” BlackRock says,
Thermal coal production is one such sector. Thermal coal is significantly carbon intensive, becoming less and less economically viable, and highly exposed to regulation because of its environmental impacts. With the acceleration of the global energy transition, we do not believe that the long-term economic or investment rationale justifies continued investment in this sector. As a result, we are in the process of removing from our discretionary active investment portfolios the public securities (both debt and equity) of companies that generate more than 25% of their revenues from thermal coal production, which we aim to accomplish by the middle of 2020. As part of our process of evaluating sectors with high ESG risk, we will also closely scrutinize other businesses that are heavily reliant on thermal coal as an input, in order to understand whether they are effectively transitioning away from this reliance. In addition, BlackRock’s alternatives business will make no future direct investments in companies that generate more than 25% of their revenues from thermal coal production.
McKibben agrees that this is that this change is not as powerful as it needs to be, noting that :BlackRock’s actual policy changes are modest compared with Fink’s rhetoric. At least at first, the main change will be to rid the firm’s actively managed portfolio (about $1.8 trillion in value) of coal stocks; but coal, though still a major contributor to climate change, is already on the wane, except in Asia. The companies that mine it have tanked in value—even Donald Trump’s coddling has been unable to slow the industry’s decline in this country. So an investor swearing off coal is a bit like cutting cake out of your diet but clinging to a slice of pie and a box of doughnuts.”
BlackRock is not to be congratulated here. This is not enough, and for much of the damage done, it is too late. The barn-door closers at BlackRock are still liable for being among the entrenched power and money brokers that have destroyed this planet for the future. This action will help the rest of us to rebuild our world a few decades sooner, and it may help some of them survive the turnover that has to happen eventually. In short, if you are an activist working toward divestment, know that your work is just starting, but now you have a new tool to use in convincing the complacent that there is a problem, and a partial solution.
Inspired by a post at the Northeast Metro Climate Action Facebook page, here are some suggested New Year’s resolutions related to climate change.
1) Normalize climate concern. When a relative or friend smirks at the idea of buying electric, or scoffs at the link between climate change and severe weather events, don’t sheepishly demure. Correct them. How you do that is something I can’t give you advice on, as it depends on the person and your relationship. But don’t let it pass, ever, in 2020.
2) Foreground climate concern. Don’t wait for Uncle Bob to say something stupid. Take opportunities to say something smart and poignant, or ear-catching and clever, or inspiring and helpful. For example, don’t just say “wow, I got 65 mpg on the trip here in my hybrid.” Add to that “That is equivalent to almost two thousand pounds of Carbon Dioxide.”
3) Learn something and tell something. There are multiple resources you can use to learn about both climate denialism and climate change itself. I’ve put some resources below. And, when you do learn something, be sure to mention it incessantly at every social event and opportunity. OK, maybe not EVERY one, but at least, now and then.
4) Take personal action. Each one of these, or sets of them, can each be considered a new year’s resolution. A few suggestions.
- Turn the heat down, use less hot water, all of that. Get a programmable thermostat if you don’t have one already.
- Insulate things. Every thing.
- Get a home energy audit from your power company. They may give you free stuff, or great discounts, on LED lights.
- Every light in your home should be an LED light. BUT don’t just remove the incandescent bulbs and screw in expensive LED bulbs in every case. Consider replacing built in fixtures with the new fangled fixtures that don’t actually take a bulb of any kind. Like this one.
- Don’t automatically use warm or hot water when you do your laundry, and keep the loads reasonably filled.
- Over time, replace all appliances that use gas with electric, and use heat pumps instead of traditional heating and cooling. This can save you loads of money, too. Remember this: There is no series of moral steps that lead to installing a natural gas appliance of any kind (including stove tops) in 2020.
- Drive and fly less, replacing high CO2-footprint transport with less energy demanding ways. One long distance family trip in an airplane is worth a LOT of CO2. If your family does that every year, just stop it. Do it every three years or less, find a different, less planet-destroying way to amuse yourself!
5) Keep up the pressure on your representatives. Remember, a lot of climate related fight-backs happen at the state level, some even at the local level. Find out if your city is in any sort of program to its reduce carbon footprint (in Minnesota, it is called “GreenStep Cities“). If it isn’t, make them joint one. Join your state level environmental political group (in Minnesota, that would include the DFLEC, but feel free to suggest other choices below in the comments). There is a misconception that contacting your state or federal rep is meaningless because, either they are already on board and your message isn’t necessary, or they are totally against addressing climate change, so your message is useless. Neither one of these things is true. Anti-climate science representatives need to be pressured, and your contact is pressure. Pro-environmental representatives need to be able to say “I got a zillion calls and notes from my constituents, so no, I can’t compromise on this important climate related bill.”
6) Give a few bucks to candidates who support aggressive action on climate change. Then contact their opponent and tell them why they did not get your money. Do the same thing with campaign-supporting volunteer time. Hit the streets.
7) Change your diet sensibly and effectively. Clearly, eating less meat will reduce your carbon footprint. When you do eat meat, the smaller the animal the better with respect to carbon footprint. That’s easy. But not all diet decisions are easy. People may over-estimate the importance of local eating, especially if they are driving their SUV to the grocery store two or three times a week, and don’t go to the nearest store because it doesn’t have their brand of cranberry juice. It is not clear that there is a difference, or what the difference is, between organic and non-organically grown food. One of the biggest things you can do is to monitor and manage the food you do buy so that very little is wasted because you let it go bad in the back of the refrigerator. Americans waste about a third of our food this way. Resolve to develop an effective, personal, method to avoid this.
The basics of climate change: Dire Predictions, Second Edition: Understanding Climate Change by DK Publishing (2-Jun-2015) Paperback
A long list of things that can be done by individuals, governments, corporations, etc.: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Personal financial decisions: Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know®
The fundamental political problem: The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It
On Line Classes:
If you are in Minnesota, and want to organize a talk on climate change, contact me. I do one, and I work with Phil Adam, and he and I have multiple offerings in the area of climate change and energy, and there are other local excellent speakers I can put you in touch with. Church? Rotary club? Local environmental group or Indivisible group? Let me know what you need.
The tempo of storms has changed with global warming. A single storm that might drop X amount of water across a zone one thousand miles in length and hundreds of miles wide may now drop that same amount of water over a zone that is only a few hundred miles in length. Major floods in Calgary, Boulder, Southeastern Minnesota, Duluth, and other very wet rainfall events are now on record as examples of this, and the cause is quasi-resonant Rosbey waves. Continue reading Hurricanes may start stalling more, and that is bad.
Rachel Maddow is the Charles Darwin of Cable News.
Darwin’s most important unsung contribution to science (even more important than his monograph on earthworms) was to figure out how to most effectively put together multiple sources into a single argument — combining description, explanation, and theory — of a complex phenomenon in nature. His first major work, on coral reefs, brought together historical and anecdotal information, prior observation and theory from earlier researchers, his own direct observations of many kinds of reefs, quasi experimental work in the field, and a good measure of deductive thinking. It took a while for this standard to emerge, but eventually it did, and this approach was to become the normal way to write a PhD thesis or major monograph in science.
Take any major modern news theme. Deutsche Bank. Trump-Nato-Putin. Election tampering. Go to the standard news sources and you’ll find Chuck Todd following the path of “both sides have a point.” Fox News will be mixing conspiracy theory and right wing talking points. The most respected mainstream news anchors, Lester Holt, Christiane Amanpour, or Brian Williams perhaps, will be giving a fair airing of the facts but moving quickly from story to story. Dig deeper, and find Chris Hayes with sharp analysis, Joy Reid contextualizing stories with social justice, and Lawrence O’Donnell applying his well earned in the trenches biker wisdom.
But if you really want to Darwin the news, and sink your natural teeth and claws into a story, go to Maddow. Continue reading Do Not Miss Rachel Maddow’s New Book: Blowout
If you do not understand that this is a valid question, then you do not actually deserve to be breathing our chemically-altered air right now. No excuses.
Are you following this story from Russia? The Russians lied about it numerous time, and I don’t think we can expect them to ever tell the truth. But it appears to have been a test of a highly improbably weapon (a nuclear powered missile) that resulted in either an explosion that shoved a lot of radioactive material into the atmosphere, or an actual but accidental nuclear explosion.
A village was ordered to be evacuated. Then they cancelled the evacuation.
There is evidence that the bodies of the slain scientists, and/or others injured at the site, who were blasted in the explosion, were so radioactive that the doctors that attended to them also need to be treated. It also may be the case that the nuclear device is in the sea and needs to be recovered.
This is a real mess.
For many years, scientists who studied biology, behavior, and ecology (under the name of various disciplines) looked at resources, including and especially food, as a major determinant of social structure in social animals, herd structure in herd animals, and so on. Then, there was a revolution and it quickly became apparent that sex, not food, underlies everything and is the ultimate explanation for the variation we see in nature. That pair of dimes lasted for a while, then the other penny dropped and thanks to key research done by a handful of people (including me, in relation to human evolution), it became apparent that there was a third significant factor, that ultimately trumped sex as an organizing force. Food. Continue reading Food Or War by Julian Cribb: Excellent new book
The year 2018 was warm, but since previous years had been super warm, it may have seemed a bit cooler. There was indeed a downswing, but only a little one.
However, 2019 is looking like an upswing year. It will not be as warm as the recent El Nino year, but it will be close, and it will follow the predicted upward course of global warming caused by our release of greenhouse gasses and the effect of those gasses on delicate and critically important atmospheric chemistry.
Climate Central has a a State of the Climate report here.
Note that the various predictions for the activity level of the 2019 hurricane season suggest an average year. The most common midpoint of estimates for the number of actual hurricanes is five, with 2 major ones, in the Atlantic. The long term average for those numbers is 6.4 and 2.7. However, the estimate for the total number of named storms is a bit higher than the average of 12.1, suggesting between 10 and 14 or so. We have already had one, before the official start of the season, but the Atlantic has been relatively quiet since then.
This Spring’s unprecedented flooding is of course directly related to climate change, and there isn’t a sane person on the Earth who doesn’t accept that as truth. You will have a harder time finding people accepting a link between tornado activity, which has been very high this year, and global warming, but it is also true that a) there has been a very well entrenched and active non-acceptance of that relationship for years in the meteorological community and b) it seems that having a few bad years in a row, as we have had with hurricanes, is required before enough people put their thinking caps on and think. So, I await a possible shift in position on tornadoes and global warming.
Two pieces of news about pipelines.
In a victory for Line 3 oil pipeline opponents, the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday reversed the state Public Utilities Commission’s approval of the Line 3 replacement project’s environmental review, saying it didn’t adequately address the potential impact of a spill in the Lake Superior watershed.
Last June, the PUC approved Enbridge Energy’s plan to replace its aging Line 3 oil pipeline, which has been transporting oil across northern Minnesota from Alberta, Canada, since the 1960s.
The Trump administration is joining calls to treat some pipeline protests as a federal crime, mirroring state legislative efforts that have spread in the wake of high-profile demonstrations around the country.
Bring it on, suckas. Even a conservative federal judge has read the constitution.
Voters seem to have liked many candidates endorsed by environmental organizations, or who had good climate change related policies. But, they seem to have rejected ballot initiatives, in Colorado, Arizona, and Washington, that would have moved us closer to the necessary energy transition. Continue reading Did Voters Vote Climate? Yes And No
Carbon dioxide emissions from US power generation have declined by over a quarter since 2005, according to a recent report from the US government. The largest part of this reduction is from reduced demand, with switching around among fossil fuels that are less vs more dirty and adding non carbon sources combine to make about the same difference. Like this:
The following graph shows the total generation and the total CO2 output of the US electricity generation system, comparing 2007 and 2017. Solar and wind don’t show up in 2005, but are a nice little chuck in 2017 (progress but too slow). Combined, non-carbon (still with nuclear as the largest part) went from 28% to 38% at the expense of fossil fuels. Within fossil fuel, there was a husge shift from coal towards natural gas. What we need to do now is to stop switching to methane, and start switching only to wind and solar. Right now.
Willard Munger served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for a total of 42 years and seven months, which is a record. He died while still in office, and beat another record as the oldest legislator in the state’s history. He was born and raised, and served in, the Fergus Falls area, which is in the northeastern part of the state.
Munger was a very significant environmentalist, and was responsible for a number of key legislative acts to protect Minnesota’s natural heritage. So, eventually, they named a trail after him, the longest segment of which runs from near Hinckley to near Duluth, about 63 miles, and as such is the fifth longest paved trail in the United States. (The trail follows the old railroad line, which I believe is the same line that passed through the Great Hinkley Fire of 1894, in which 418 people died.
They also named an award after Munger, the “Willard Munger Award for Distinguished Environmental Partnership.”
Rebecca Otto, my friend, is currently the Minnesota State Auditor. If you are in the State Auditor business, you will know that she has served in various auditor professional societies, and is recognized, nation-wide, as one of the best Auditors ever. When the US State Department is trying to help the novice government officials in newly minted democracies to find their way out of a history of dictatorship, corruption, etc., they send them to Minnesota to learn from Rebecca.
More recently, Rebecca ran for the DFL (Democratic) Party endorsement for Governor of Minnesota, and I helped where I could with her campaign. Sadly, she lost the endorsement. But it is notable that the outcome of that gubernatorial endorsement, along side a very odd Attorney General endorsement, led to one of the more chaotic phases of Minnesota politics. But I digress.
Here’s the point: Rebecca has always been the best pro-science and pro-environment candidate ever. Serving her local school district, the state legislature, the state as auditor, and as a civic leader, Rebecca has developed and promoted pro-environment policies that are so good, they will be part of statewide policy after the next election, even though she herself will not be.
For her life-long dedication to protecting and improving Minnesota’s environment and natural resources, State Auditor Rebecca Otto will receive the Willard Munger Award for Distinguished Environmental Partnership at the DFL Founders Day Dinner. The sold-out event takes place Saturday, Oct. 20 at the St. Paul RiverCentre. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is the keynote speaker.
See you at the dinner, Rebecca!
(By the way, if the name Otto is familiar to you, it could be because you know of Shawn Otto, author of The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It.)