This blog-post touches upon three absurdities of our time, and a new tool to work around them: crowdfunding.
The three absurdities of March 2013 are:
• Governments donate 1.9 trillion dollars annually as public subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, according to the IMF.
• Meanwhile, mainstream news journalists and editors take literally no interest in such scandalous circumstances, even though this is the most fundamental and important topic they could be using their time and communicative skills on, because it is the future of humanity which is at stake here.
• But not only is media coverage of climate change and how our politicians have failed us woefully inadequate. The media still opens it columns and programmes to a persistent choir of climate change deniers, who are either paid by the fossil fuel industry to create noise and confusion, or who are simply themselves not able to grasp or fully understand the scientific evidence.
— IEA (@IEA) November 28, 2014
Journalists of our time aren’t doing their job. That is my honest feeling, and I should speak for myself: I have been working 25 years in that profession. But really. The biggest scandal ever seen in human history is rolling right in front of our eyes, and where are the journalists of the mainstream media? Busy looking the other way, for some reason, keeping themselves occupied with all that kind of stories which are known to make people buy their newspapers and watch their tv-programmes. Struggling for survival, generally, in a time where information, like music, has become a free commodity on the Internet. The general feeling among media professionals is that since The Big Copenhagen Flop in December 2009, no one wants to hear more about the climate. Been there, done that.
What is the scandal? Not so much that there are people and companies who profit from wrecking the climate on this planet — but the fact that they do it with their respective governments’ blessing. They even get subsidised. What does that mean? It means that governments all over the world use public money to support the fossil industry.
According to IMF, the International Monetary Fund, the top three energy subsidisers are the United States (502 billion US dollars), China (279 billion US dollars), and Russia (116 billion US dollars).
The International Monetary Fund urges nations to slash their 1.9 trillion US dollars in annual energy subsidies. The removal of fossil-fuel subsidies would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 4.5 billion tonnes — or about eight times Australia’s annual emissions. (Sydney Morning Herald: Energy subsidies ‘aggravate global warming’: IMF, 28 March 2013)
If all the public subsidies in the fossil-fuel industry were moved to subsidise renewable energy, we’d have solved a large part of the global problem with carbon emissions, according to a UN report from February 2013.
Now that we have come to understand that carbon emissions will raise atmospheric temperatures to a catastrophic level, it is nothing less than a tremendous scandal that those governments who are supposed to be responsible for the well-being and security of their populations are letting this go on.
Who decided that the oil industry should be subsidised for ever? How many journalists from the biggest media houses around the world have spent time and resources on digging deep into these kind matters and then revealed their findings to the public? Governments keep a lot of critical information about fossil fuel subsidies hidden from view.
Uncover truth about oil subsidies
Meanwhile, luckily the Internet has given humans a new, brilliant tool which is called crowdfunding. This means that investigative journalists who are serious about their job and who can’t get employment in the big media houses any longer — because investigative journalism is “out of fashion” nowadays, considered unaffordable — are now able to describe their projects and receive the kind of funding they need to continue digging deeper directly from individuals who also believe that this is important.
For instance, to uncover the truth about how public taxes encourage polluting fossil fuels.
Since we can’t rely on the media houses, crowdfunding has become a tool for supporting freedom of information where journalists are able to join forces with NGOs and grassroots groups working for an important cause.
Julian from an Australian group which calls themselves Market Forces is an example of this new way of working. He explains:
Market Forces wants fossil fuel subsidies phased out and that money put into programs that build a stronger, more sustainable Australia:
“We already have some understanding about how some of these absurd subsidies work. For instance, we taxpayers are funding a fuel discount to the mining industry worth about 12 billion Australian dollars per year. Imagine the sort of positive programs we could fund with that money instead,” Julian explains on the crowdfunding site StartSomeGood, where he and his colleagues recently received 2,000 dollars in donations from individuals, which means that they are now set to continue their project. They want to expose the truth in order to force the government to cancel fossil fuel subsidies.
Washington Post – 27 March 2013:
IMF: Want to fight climate change? Get rid of $1.9 trillion in energy subsidies
What’s the simplest way to tackle global warming? Make sure that fossil fuels are priced properly and not subsidized. By Brad Plumer
IMF’s report: Energy Subsidy Reform: Lessons and Implications (PDF, 68 pages, 28 January 2013)
“How much renewable energy could Australia install for 10 billion bucks each year? We reckon a lot! Ten billion dollars is the amount of money the Australian Government hands over every year in subsidies to fossil fuel companies to help them keep polluting.
Sign the petition to end polluter handouts now: paidtopollute.org.au”
Australian Conservation Foundation:
Fossil fuel subsidies
In last year’s Federal Budget, big miners kept their taxpayer-funded handouts that encourage fossil fuel use. We must take the social licence for this kind of subsidy away. Many of our biggest wins took time. Let’s keep demanding change.
Reuters – 6 May 2013:
Scrap fuel subsidies and price CO2, urges World Bank
The world’s nations must scrap fossil fuel subsidies and put a price on emitting carbon dioxide if the planet is to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the president of the World Bank. The two measures are part of a five-point plan that the bank urged the world’s environment ministers to take, including building low carbon cities, improving agricultural practices and sharing new technology that will save energy. By Reuters Point Carbon
“In India, about $30-40 billion goes to subsidise diesel. If they stop subsidising diesel and put it into solar, they could bring 100 million people a year into solar.”
Tony Seba, an energy expert from Stanford University, author of the book ‘Solar Trillions’
Letter from Civil Society: World Bank Stop Funding Fossil Fuels
World Bank President Jim Kim continues to make strong statements about the threat of climate change to development and poverty alleviation, but the World Bank has still not put a stop to funding climate-changing fossil fuel projects.
Over 55 civil society groups from more than 20 countries have sent the following letter, demanding that the Wold Bank end support for all fossil fuel projects unless the project’s sole purpose is directly increasing energy access for the poor.
Feel free to copy the idea and send a similar letter to your bank or pension fund.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW Washington, DC 20433 USA
April 3, 2013
Dear Dr. Kim,
In your first months as President at the World Bank, you have spoken repeatedly about the severe consequences of climate change for people in developing countries. You have been forceful in your calls for reducing poverty in those same communities to increase their resilience to climate change. We thank you for calling attention to this critical issue and for committing to make climate change a top priority of your presidency.
However, we, the undersigned representatives of development, environment, faith-based, human rights, and community groups, also believe that the World Bank cannot meaningfully address climate change unless its lending practices, and core energy portfolio, do not further exacerbate the climate crisis and its impact on vulnerable communities. It is by this measure, rather than words, that we judge the World Bank’s commitment to addressing climate change.
We call on all international financial institutions to stop using public resources to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. These subsidies overwhelmingly fail to provide energy access to the world’s poor. Instead they fuel overconsumption in wealthy countries, benefit an already highly profitable and well-established industry, and compound many of the most urgent social and environmental problems facing humanity today, not the least of which is climate change.
The World Bank Group and other development financiers have long argued that continued fossil fuel lending is important to achieving development goals for the world’s poorest, but we have seen time and again that this is simply not true. A recent examination of the World Bank’s energy lending found that none of the World Bank Group’s fossil fuel finance in 2009 or 2010 directly targeted the poor or ensured that energy benefits reach them.(1)
In most instances, the one billion people globally who lack access to electricity have not benefited from continued investments in large, centralized fossil fuel power projects, particularly coal plants; even large increases in electricity supply have yielded little increase in electrification rates in many countries. Large-scale fossil fuel extraction projects have also brought with them a myriad of health, development and environmental problems while reaping little to no financial gains for poor communities.
In stark contrast, it is now clear that off-grid installations are dramatically cheaper than energy and infrastructure mega-projects, and are more efficient and cost-effective at providing energy access to the poor. Prioritizing interventions that catalyze off-grid renewable energy deployment will therefore significantly aid in the achievement of development goals targeted at the world’s poorest. These investments also increase the resilience of these communities to climate change.
As the World Bank again enters into discussions of its approach to energy and climate-related lending, it is time for the Bank to end support for all fossil fuel projects (other than assistance with transition, such as mine closure) unless it can be clearly demonstrated that (1) the project’s sole purpose is directly increasing energy access for the poor, and (2) a full examination of all costs — including damages to public health, welfare, the environment, and the climate — of the proposed project and any new renewable and efficiency alternatives demonstrates that it is the best alternative for delivering energy services to the poor. We believe that you will find few, if any, fossil fuel-based projects that meet these criteria.
Unfortunately, the World Bank Group continues to promote interventions, such as providing subsides to the fossil fuel industry, that make trade-offs between the objectives of expanding energy access for the poor, promoting sustainable development, and averting climate catastrophe. Until the World Bank Group can show that it can more effectively align these goals in its work, we believe that it does not merit donor support as an agent in the fight against climate change.
We ask you to use your position of leadership within the World Bank Group to ensure that the Bank stops financing projects that contribute to the climate problem, and to put an end to the false rhetoric that fossil fuel projects promote energy access. We stand ready to assist you in this critical task.
11.11.11 - Coalition of the Flemish North-South movement (Belgium)
350.org Southeast Asia
Bank Information Center (USA)
BASIC South Initiative (International)
Beyond Copenhagen Collective (India)
Bretton Woods Project (UK)
CEE Bankwatch Network (Europe)
Center for Biological Diversity (USA)
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) (USA)
Centre for Civil Society Environmental Justice Project, Durban (South Africa)
Centre for Environmental Justice/Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka
Centre national de coopération au développement, CNCD – 11.11.11 (Belgium)
CESTA/Friends of the Earth El Salvador
Christian Aid (International)
Counter Balance (Europe)
Ecologistas en Accion - Spain
Earthlife Africa Jhb (South Africa)
Energy Action Coalition (USA)
Equity and Justice Working Group (EquityBD) (Bangladesh)
Forum for Civic Intiiative (FIQ) (Kosovo)
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Friends of the Earth Europe
Friends of the Earth US
Gender Action (USA)
groundWork (South Africa)
Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF (India)
INTACH - Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage, Udupi-Manipal Chapter (India)
Institute for Advanced Studies (GAP) (Kosovo)
Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (Philippines)
Institute for Policy Studies, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network (USA)
International Alternate Energy Trust (India)
International Forum on Globalization (USA)
International Rivers (USA)
Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement (Togo)
JVE (Sierra Leone)
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives (Canada)
Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID) (Kosovo)
Labor Network for Sustainability (USA)
Les Amis de la Terre (France)
NOAH, Friends of the Earth Denmark
National Alliance of People’s Movements, Hyderabad (India)
Natural Resources Defense Council (International)
North East Peoples Alliance (India)
Oil Change International (USA)
Opposing Coal Power (India)
Pacific Environment (USA)
Rainforest Action Network (USA)
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) / Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Sierra Club (USA)
Third World Network (International)
Vasudha Foundation (India)
Water Initiatives Odisha (India)
Waterkeeper Alliance (International)
Western Ghats Group (India)
(1) World Bank Group Energy Financing: Energy for the Poor? Oil Change International, October 2010. http://priceofoil.org/2010/10/01/world-bank-group-energy-financing-energy-for-the-poor/
Environmental reporting dying out
This is how bad the situation is with investigative environmental journalism:
Jeremy Grantham is a environmental philanthropist who pours an ever-larger amount of his personal wealth into funding environmental journalism at places such as the National Public Radio in the U.S., the Center for Investigative Journalism, grist.org, Media Matters and the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media. But in 2012, he decided investigative and environmental journalism was “dying out” due to cutbacks, and closed the world’s most lucrative journalism award, the annual $80,000 Grantham prize for environmental reporting, which he had been funding. This is quite telling of the difficult conditions investigative journalism has today.
PETITION IN AMERICA:
Tell News To Cover Climate Change
“Twelve. That’s the combined number of segments that ABC, CBS and NBC’s nightly news programs devoted to climate change throughout all of 2012. This is woefully inadequate. We need coverage that’s consistent with the importance of dealing with this issue.
That’s why Mediamatters for America and the Sierra Club are joining the League of Conservation Voters in asking those three nightly news programs to do a better job covering climate issues in 2013 than they did in 2012.
You can help out by signing the letter to Michael Corn, Executive Producer of ABC World News, Patricia Shevlin, Executive Producer of CBS Evening News, and Patrick Burkey, Executive Producer of NBC Nightly News, asking them to give Americans more frequent, accurate coverage of climate change this year.”
Similar petition in Denmark:
Crowdfunding renewable energy
In January 2013, an American company called Mosaic made a splash in the renewable energy world when it introduced a crowd-funding platform that makes it possible for small, non-accredited investors to earn interest financing clean energy projects.
When Mosaic posted its first four investments online — solar projects offering 4.5 percent returns to investors who could participate with loans as small as US$ 25 — the company’s co-founder, Billy Parish, thought it would take a month to raise the $313,000 required. Within 24 hours, 435 people had invested and the projects were sold out. The company had spent just $1,000 on marketing. All told, by 6 March Mosaic had raised $1.1 million for a dozen solar projects.
The New York Times – 6 March 2013:
Crowdfunding Clean Energy
Solar Schools is an innovative project to help schools crowdfund the cost of solar panels from their local community. | More at: solarschools.org.uk
Renewable Energy World – 11 March 2013:
Crowdfunding Coming of Age in Cleantech
With early stage capital for cleantech innovation becoming increasingly scarce, crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and a new crop of clean/green ones are beginning to emerge as significant sources of funding for selected next-gen clean technologies. By Dallas Kachan
Crowdfunding-platform for solar projects in developing countries
Another group has set up a site which is equivalent to kickstarter.com, called sunfunder.com — a crowdfunding platform to finance off-grid solar projects in developing countries. It was chosen as winner of Facebook’s ‘Cleantech Goes Social Contest’ 2013.
Podcast by Social Media Examiner – 22 March 2013:
Kickstarter: How Crowd Funding Is Changing Business
Do’s and don’ts when it comes to creating a Kickstarter project. By Michael Stelzner
Expose the ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’
The film ‘Greedy Lying Bastards’ investigates the reason behind stalled efforts to tackle climate change despite consensus in the scientific community that it is not only a reality but also a growing problem placing us on the brink of disaster. It details the people and organisations casting doubt on climate science and claims that greenhouse gases are not affected by human behavior. From the Koch Brothers to ExxonMobil, to prominent Senators and Justices, this provocative exposé unravels the layers of deceit threatening U.S. democracy.
“The bastards that have played a role in the attack on the science of climate change.” | exposethebastards.com
Huffington Post – 23 March 2013:
‘Greedy Lying Bastards’ Takes On Climate Deniers, Big Oil
Should Climate Deniers Be Forced To Watch This Documentary? By Jon Bowermaster
Is ‘X-Factor’ more important than climate change?
“Let the climate campaign ‘Earth Hour’ be a wake up call — even to the media,” writes Jens-André Herbener in the Danish newspaper Politiken today. He believes that “the exceptional importance of climate change basically requires and justifies a media-wise state of emergency,” and argues like this:
“According to WWF’s latest monthly magazine in Denmark, the expression ‘climate change’ appeared 278 times in the Danish media in 2012. The entertainment programme ‘X-Factor’, however, was mentioned 8,723 times. Over 30 times more frequently.
What causes this outstanding asymmetry between importance and publicity?
Why was ‘climate change’ not mentioned 30 times more frequently than ‘X-Factor’, yes, or 100 or 200 times as often in the media?
‘X-Factor’ is entertainment and games. Nothing else.
Climate change, in contrast, is the actual branch that we are sitting on. The foundation on which all life depends. All things considered nothing is more important than this. Therefore, there is no way around the fact that the media have failed in their responsibilities. Big time.”
As mentioned above, I couldn’t agree more. Reading the comments below Jens-André Herbener’s piece, however, is astonishing, sadly symptomatic of the current state of mind which probably not only the Danes, but people all over the world are in:
One writes that “as citizens we can’t think about this on a daily basis. We would lose our good spirit and would no longer be called The Happiest People on the planet. We are bombarded with so many negative news through the media.”
Another thinks Jens-André Herbener is “outright ridiculous,” and is of the opinion that environmental organisations produce scam and fake information “like any other lobby group”.
A third commenter thinks that most Danes have realised that it does not help much to bother, so what we are seeing at the moment is “a convenient collective concealment of the problem”:
“Personally I do not believe it helps to make stupid rules and bother people in their everyday lives, on the basis that you want to cut carbon emissions. I do not think the United Nations will ever manage to organise anything that can be effectful either, and the NGOs are stuck. The world runs off at lightning speed, and all around people get access to more and more resources, which they will use whether we like it or not. Personally, I have been the one to shout at people to give up the car, force them into hopeless public transport, etc., but I have realised that it is naive to try and transform people’s lives and that these kind of thoughts were easier when one was a student.”
Senior consultant John Christensen writes: “We simply refuse to listen to this ridiculous climate nonsens any longer!” (“Vi gider simpelthen ikke høre på dette latterlige klimanonsens længre!”) and refers to a report from East Anglia University which allegedly claims that the planet’s temperature has been steady since 1997.
Kim Goltermann asks why media should be writing about that “old climate fraud” even once.
Jan Niels Peter Sørensen, construction leader, writes assuringly that “a look out in the garden and on the outdoor thermometre assured him that everything was as it used to be.”
Ricky Vous notes that the climate change Denmark is experiencing is not warming, but rather longer and colder winters.
This is the level of the around 30 comments which ticked in during the first 24 hours after the article was posted on politiken.dk.
And by the way — if you go to the newspapers section — or rather, what used to be its special section for climate crisis stories some years back — politiken.dk/klima, you will see a section which contains only one single article. The climate is not important any longer in Danish news journalism, certainly not in Politiken’s.
It is all symptomatic and explains why creating climate safety remains an uphill battle, even in a relatively educated and wealthy country such as Denmark.
At the end of the article is a little sign of light in the Danish darkness, though: While 30 people were busy making noise and complaints in the comment-fields, some 250 people silently pressed the Facebook-‘like’-button.
Why we resist the truth about climate change
‘Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change’ is a 2010 book by Australian academic Clive Hamilton which explores climate change denial and its implications. It argues that climate change will bring about large-scale, harmful consequences for habitability for life on Earth including humans, which it is too late to prevent. Hamilton explores why politicians, corporations and the public deny or refuse to act on this reality. He invokes a variety of explanations, including wishful thinking, ideology, consumer culture and active lobbying by the fossil fuel industry.
The book builds on the author’s fifteen-year prior history of writing about these subjects, with previous books including Growth Fetish and Scorcher: ‘The Dirty Politics of Climate Change’.
GreenBiz.com – 7 February 2013:
Why We’re Turned Off and Tuned Out to Environmental Crises
“When it comes to climate change, the fall in concern since 2009 has eroded the head of steam that appeared to be building around this issue over the course of more than a decade. Now, barely half of those polled consider it a “very serious” problem.” By Sam Mountford
“There’s not a lot about climate change and its effects that horrifies me anymore. I guess you could say that I’m desensitised to it — melting permafrost? Yeah, I’ve read about it. Losing the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Going to visit it before it’s all gone, but yeah, we’ll lose that too. A friend is buying a house? I’m cracking the jokes about how high above sea level it is and whether we’ll need to fortify it for the ‘end of the world’.
Most of the research that is coming out now looking at climate models and the potential feedbacks we may get from complex climate systems are thinking we may have underestimated how fast climate change is going to kick us in the ass. If we’re lucky, and none of the non-linear feedbacks kick in too fast, we’re looking at experiencing between 1-3oC of global warming by 2050, and it’s likely those estimates will be conservative.
The key word in that sentence is experiencing. I’ll be 65 in 2050, so this is something I’m going to see, experience, live, breathe and feel in my working lifetime.” …
Read the article
Vancouver Observer – 23 March 2013:
Climate changes before I retire
By Amy Huva, an environmental chemist and writer from Melbourne, Australia
Act over the loud objections of vested interests
“We need leaders with the courage to steamroll the deniers and the vested interests. After a very short respite greenhouse gas emissions are getting worse. The Great Recession largely stalled U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for several years (though globally CO2 increased thanks largely to China). The respite ended in 2012, which saw the biggest jump in CO2 in the atmosphere in this millennium. The journal Science just published a reconstruction of past climate that showed that current temperatures are the highest in 4,000 years. Still, this won’t convince the deniers – nothing will – and the U.S. and the rest of the world are going to have to act over the loud objections of vested interests just as the government took action on smoking over the objections of the tobacco lobby,” wrote Eugene Linden, who argues that at this point, climate change is unstoppable. The time to act was at least 25 years ago.
“So how should we respond? Most obviously, we should stop making things worse. Tax penalties, tax credits, and import tariffs can nudge consumers, producers, and exporters towards reducing emissions without wasting more years on fruitless international negotiations or creating cumbersome new bureaucracies.”
Read the article
The Daily Beast, 30 March 2013:
Climate Change is Here, Ready or Not. So What Now?