Category Archives: Environment

Fossil Fuels: At What Price?

InterPress Service
By John Scales Avery
The author was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organising the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen. He was chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.env

A petrochemical refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland, UK.| Author: John from wikipedia | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

OSLO, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – We often read comparisons between the prices of solar energy or wind energy with the prices of fossil fuels. It is encouraging to see that renewables are rapidly becoming competitive, and are often cheaper than coal or oil. In fact, if coal, oil and natural gas were given their correct prices renewables would be recognized as being incomparably cheaper than fossil fuels.

Externalities in pricing
The concept of externalities in pricing was first put forward by two British economists, Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900) and Arthur C. Pigou (1877-1959).
In his book “The Economics of Welfare”, published in 1920, Pigou further developed the concept of externalities in pricing which had earlier been introduced by Sidgwick. He proposed that a tax be introduced to correct pricing for the effect of externalities.

An externality is the cost or benefit of some unintended consequence of an economic action. For example, tobacco companies do not really wish for their customers to die from cancer, but a large percentage of them do, and the social costs of this slaughter ought to be reflected in the price of tobacco.

The true environmental costs of fossil fuel use are much greater than those of smoking. Unless we stop burning fossil fuels within one or two decades, we risk a situation where uncontrollable feedback loops will lead to catastrophic climate change regardless of human efforts to prevent the disaster.

If we do not act very quickly to replace fossil fuels by renewables, we risk initiating a 6th geological extinction event. This might even be comparable to the Permian-Triasic extinction, during which 96 per cent of all marine species and 70 per cent of all vertebrates were lost forever.

Subsidies to fossil fuel companies
Far from being penalized for destroying the global environment and threatening the future of all life on earth, fossil fuel companies currently receive approximately $500,000,000,000 per year in subsidies (as estimated by the IEA).
They use part of this vast sum to conduct advertising campaigns to convince the public that anthropogenic climate change is not real.

Betrayal by the mainstream media
If we turn on our television sets, almost nothing that we see informs us of the true predicament of human society and the biosphere.

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John Scales Avery

Programs like “Top Gear” promote automobile use. Programs depicting ordinary life show omnipresent motor cars and holiday air travel. There is nothing to remind us that we must rapidly renounce the use of fossil fuels.
A further betrayal by the mainstream media can be seen in their massive free coverage of US presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is an infamous climate change denier.
Despite the misinformation that we receive from the mainstream media, we must remember our urgent duty to leave fossil fuels in the ground. If threats to the future are taken into account, the price of these fuels is prohibitive.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

Our Consumption Of Earth’s Natural Resources Has More Than Tripled In 40 Years

Huffington Post
Dominique Mosbergen Reporter, The Huffington Post

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We’ll need 180 billion tons of material annually to meet demand by 2050 if the world continues to use resources at the same rate it does today, the UN report finds. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Limestone and steel for our homes, wheat and vegetables for our dinner, fossil fuels for our industries: we rely heavily on our planet’s natural resources to survive.

Yet we’re using up these resources at such an unsustainable pace that we may be “irreversibly” depleting some of them ― and critically damaging our Earth in the process, according to a new United Nations report.

The report from the International Resource Panel, part of the UN Environment Program, said extraction of primary materials has more than tripled in 40 years. Rising consumption driven by a rapidly growing middle class is fueling the rate.

In 1970, about 22 billion tons of primary materials were extracted from the Earth. These included metals, fossil fuels like coal, and other natural resources, such as timber and cereals. In 2010, that number had ballooned to 70 billion tons.

We’ll need 180 billion tons of material annually to meet demand by 2050 if the world continues to use resources at the same rate it does today, the report estimates.

“The alarming rate at which materials are now being extracted is already having a severe impact on human health and people’s quality of life,” said IRP co-chair Alicia Bárcena Ibarra in a press release about the report, published late last month. “It shows that the prevailing patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable.”

“We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty,” she added. “This deeply complex problem, one of humanity’s biggest tests yet, calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction to maximize its contribution to sustainable development at all levels.”

The increase in the use of fossil fuels, metals and other primary materials fuels climate change, according to the IRP. Other dire environmental consequences include higher levels of acidification and eutrophication of soils and water bodies, increased biodiversity loss, more soil erosion and increasing amounts of waste and pollution.

There’s an urgent need to significantly reduce the amount of primary materials used to lessen these impacts, the report said. Material efficiency needs to improve to do this and “decoupling escalating material use from economic growth is … imperative.”

Decoupling ― the ability of an economy to grow without a corresponding increase in its environmental footprint ― “requires well-designed policies,” the report said. Investments in research and development, as well as improved public policy and financing, will be critical.

The report also revealed the enormously uneven distribution of material use worldwide. “The richest countries consume on average 10 times as many materials as the poorest countries, and twice the world average,” it said.

The IRP ranked countries by the size of their per capita material footprints, or the amount of material required for total consumption and capital investment.

Europe and North America, which had annual per capita material footprints of about 20 and 25 tons respectively in 2010, topped the list. In contrast, the footprints for Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean were between 9 and 10 tons. Africa’s was below 3 tons.

Green machines

New Internationalist

The complex chemistry of forests is still largely unknown. Diana Beresford-Kroeger examines the intimate relationship between trees and the air we breathe.

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From a distance you never see the leaves for the trees. But if you look closely you can see the natural aerosols. They rise spectre-like from the forest and linger as a blue haze on the horizon almost everywhere on Earth.

The global forest produces this invisible, protective mantle of airborne molecules. These chemicals hold a design for lift much like a bird or a bee. They float away to join the tide of atmospheric gases and water vapour that guard this planet. Continue reading Green machines

Berta Cáceres Lives On, And So Does Violence By Honduran Government and Dam Company

By Beverly Bell

In Other Words

HONDURAS CACERES MURDER

Fifteen hundred people from at least 22 countries convened in Honduras from April 13-15, 2016 for the “Peoples of ¡Berta Vive!” International Gathering. They came to honor slain global movement leader Berta Cáceres and to commit themselves to keeping her legacy alive.

Members of the international gathering also experienced the violence of the Honduran government and Desarrollos Energéticos S.A. – DESA, the foreign-backed company illegally constructing a dam on the indigenous ancestral Gualcarque River – which shadowed Berta throughout her final years and ended her life this past March 2.
Berta Cáceres’ “Emancipatory Vision”

The Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), the group Berta founded in 1993 and ran until her assassination, and two other Honduran organizations hosted the gathering. The final declaration gave the context of the meeting. Continue reading Berta Cáceres Lives On, And So Does Violence By Honduran Government and Dam Company

Major church investors declare support for climate change resolution at ExxonMobil AGM

Independent Catholic News

Institutional investors with more than six trillion US dollars (4.21 trillion pounds) under management have declare they will support a shareholder proposal urging ExxonMobil to disclose the impact of climate change policy on its business.

The resolution was co-filed by the Church Commissioners for England and New York State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli as Trustee of New York State Common Retirement Fund. It asks Exxon to disclose how resilient its portfolio and strategy would be were policy measures to restrict global warming to 2 degrees, as agreed in Paris in December 2015, to be successful.

The resolution will be put before ExxonMobil’s AGM on 25 May. More than 30 institutional investors have declared that they will vote for the motion so far, including major fund managers and pension funds Amundi, AXA Investment Management, BNP Paribas, CalPERS, Legal & General Investment Management, Natixis, New York City Retirement Fund and Schroder’s.

Edward Mason, Head of Responsible Investment for the Church Commissioners, said: “We are delighted with the scale of support this resolution has received so far. The resolution is part of a much wider trend following the Paris Agreement for investors to ask companies to improve disclosure on how they are positioned for the risks and opportunities posed by climate change.” Continue reading Major church investors declare support for climate change resolution at ExxonMobil AGM

World water day: how the poor pay more in west Africa – in pictures

The Guardian

For many people in west Africa, accessing water is a lot more complex than just turning on a tap. While wealthier communities may benefit from a relatively regular supply of clean water and adequate sanitation, people living in poorer areas are rarely connected to the subsidized network and end up paying more for a basic necessity. All photos by Tara Todras-Whitehill for WaterAid.

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For more photos visit

Forests Help Quench Urban Thirst – René Castro Salazar

InterPress Service

René Castro Salazar

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ROME, Mar 21 2016 (IPS) – The next time you turn on the tap to fill the kettle, you might want to spare a thought for the forest that made it possible. It may be a hundred kilometres away or more from where you are sitting, but the chances are that you owe your cup of tea, in part at least, to the trees that helped to capture the water, and to filter it on its long journey to you the consumer.

The importance of forests to the water cycle cannot be overstated. They slow down the flow of water, percolating it gently through the soil, ensuring stable year-round supplies even during drier seasons. At the same time, forests filter the water that enters our rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater, increasing the quality of this life-giving resource. Research in Burkina Faso has shown how a single tree can help with groundwater recharge, protecting water from evaporating from the soil, its root system allowing rainwater to filter more deeply into the ground, providing clean, safe drinking water. Continue reading Forests Help Quench Urban Thirst – René Castro Salazar