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Climate Change In The US: Are Oil Industries And Fossil Fuels To Blame?

Global warming. Climate change. These terms are often used interchangeably. However, they have differing, distinct meanings.

Global warming is the increase of mean temperatures on the Earth. Climate change affects ecosystems, habitats, and plant and animal life.

As scientists have been searching for ways to combat both and one source of environmental change keeps coming up: the use of oil and other fossil fuels.

Yes, this is a potentially sensitive subject, but we need to discuss it. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is Climate Change?

What Is Climate Change?

Climate change happens when a location’s usual weather is altered. This could be a change in rain levels or usual temperatures. Climate change is also a global phenomenon, including changes in global temperatures or where snow falls on the planet. Climate change takes hundreds to millions of years.

In one sense, Earth’s climate changes frequently. There have been times in history when Earth’s climate has been warmer and times when it has been cooler.

Current climate change scientists say that the Earth’s temperature has gone up about one degree (F) during the last century. Though it doesn’t seem like a big deal, even small changes in global temperatures can cause big changes.

We are seeing evidence of the Earth’s warming right now, with rising oceans and altered life cycles for certain plant life.

Oil Companies and Climate Change

Oil Companies and Climate Change

In a 1988 Shell report, the company reveals what it knew about climate science, as well as its own role in raising global CO2 emissions.

“The Greenhouse Effect,” was written by members of Shell’s Greenhouse Effect Working Group. The company plainly stated that fossil fuels play a dominant role in driving greenhouse gas emissions, its own products’ contribution to global CO2 emissions, a detailed analysis of potential climate impacts, and a discussion of the potential impacts to the fossil fuel sector itself.

Shell was not only aware of the potential threats posed by climate change, but it also admitted to its own role in creating global warming through the burning of fossil fuels – like oil. Documents by ExxonMobil, oil trade associations, and utility companies have also written and released reports acknowledging their contributions to climate change.

But the reports of the late 1980s up through the turn of the century were just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Oil Company’s Hidden Knowledge

Oil Company’s Hidden Knowledge

The oil industry’s knowledge of climate change goes back to the 1960s, with uncovered documents showing that oil producers were warned of serious worldwide environmental changes more than 55 years ago.

Stanford’s Research Institute offered a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1968 that warned the growing releases of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels into the atmosphere could result in deadly consequences for Earth.

The 1968 Stanford report, uncovered and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, states: “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis.”

Thanks to huge increases in CO2 emissions since the late 1960s, the primary culprit of the greenhouse effect, global temperatures have risen by 1C over the past century. Scientists estimate that the world’s known fossil fuel reserves will have to remain in the ground if humans are to avoid the worst ravages of climate change, such as floods, droughts, and barrages from rising seas.

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) said “hundreds of documents show oil and gas executives met in 1946 to agree that they should fund research into air pollution issues. The subsequent findings were then covered up to protect company profits.”

Holding Them Accountable

A wave of legal challenges currently washes over the gas and oil industry, demanding accountability for climate change. It began after ExxonMobil was outed for having had long recognised the threat burning oil and gas poses to the planet.

After the release of internal Exxon documents, a spotlight on the conduct of the fossil fuel industry emerged in 2015. Investigative journalists wrote stories disclosing that the oil company understood global warming, predicted its consequences, and then spent millions of dollars on a misinformation campaign.

Such evidence was enough to birth a legal demand that included calls for a criminal investigation of Exxon at the federal level. The challenges grew when attorneys general from Massachusetts and New York subpoenaed Exxon for internal climate change-related documents.

The various court cases, strengthened by science, have the potential to alter the way the world thinks about energy production and climate change. The legal actions highlight moving away from fossil fuels and moving toward renewable, sustainable energy.

In fact, in California, where lawsuits seek billions of dollars to pay for climate change mitigation measures, such as sea walls, the gas and oil companies tried to move the cases to federal courts, where the nuisance suits were less likely to succeed. The California lawsuits have been happening since summer of 2017:

July 17, 2017: San Mateo County, Marin County and Imperial Beach file separate lawsuits in California Superior Court seeking damages from 37 fossil fuel companies

Sept. 19, 2017: San Francisco and Oakland file lawsuits in California Superior Court seeking damages from five fossil fuel companies over sea level rise

Dec. 20, 2017: Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz County file lawsuits in California Superior Court against 29 fossil fuel companies, seeking compensation for climate change-related damage.

Jan. 22, 2018: City of Richmond files lawsuit in California Superior Court against 29 fossil fuel companies.

March 16, 2018: Federal judge rules some of the cases should be tried in state court, creating a conflict with another judge who ruled similar cases belong in federal court.

March 21, 2018: Federal judge overseeing the San Francisco and Oakland cases hosts a climate change tutorial for the court.

June 25, 2018: Federal judge dismisses the San Francisco and Oakland cases, saying the dangers of climate change are “very real” but that the issue should be solved by Congress.

It seems reasonable to hold oil giants like Exxon and Shell responsible for driving climate change. But, what can the world do to reverse the damage?

What Is Being Done to Reverse Climate Change?

Weather Map/What Is Being Done to Reverse Climate Change?

American scientists have been involved in a concentrated effort to determine how quickly our current technology can be deployed to slow and stop global warming.

The researchers looked deep into the specifics of converting from fossil fuels to clean energy. Numbers show that about four-tenths of one percent of America’s landmass could produce renewable, solar energy. But to make that work, we would need to build the factories necessary to churn out thousands of acres worth of solar panels, as well as wind turbines and electric cars and buses.

It’s important to remember that global mobilization to rout climate change would provide a host of economic and social benefits. Deaths from air pollution would be greatly reduced and there would be safer, better-paying employment for energy workers.

In America, a widespread campaign has stymied Arctic drilling and banned fracking in key states. Cities and counties are building more bike paths. Legislators and lobbyists are proposing several ideas, including a carbon tax, a worldwide fracking ban, mandating that federal agencies get their power from green sources, and a prohibition against mining or drilling on public lands.

Should these initiatives be implemented, major fossil fuel companies face the risk that large parts of their reserves will be worthless, leaving BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Exxaro’s coal reserves in the ground and BP, Lukoil, ExxonMobil, Gazprom and Chevron’s huge gas and oil reserves untapped.

If the nations of the world honor their pledge to fight climate change, the prospects are dreariest for coal, the mother of all polluting fossil fuels. Eighty-two percent of the global supply would have to stay underground.

For gas, 50% of global reserves would have to remain unburned. Geographical variations mean that colossal gas producers in Russia and the Middle East must leave huge quantities underground, while the US and Europe can use more than 90% of their reserves in place of coal.

And while the politicians and policy makers bicker about the solutions for the future, progress had been made in several areas: cutting ozone-damaging chemicals and increasing energy from renewable sources – but these are small steps.

Nevertheless, in the past 25 years, according to the UK’s Independent:

  • The amount of fresh water available per head of population worldwide has reduced by 26%.
  • The number of ocean “dead zones” – places where little can live because of pollution and oxygen starvation – has increased by 75%.
  • Nearly 300 million acres of forest have been lost, mostly to make way for agricultural land.
  • Global carbon emissions and average temperatures have shown continued significant increases.
  • Human population has risen by 35%.
  • Collectively the number of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish in the world has fallen by 29%.

Conclusion

The evidence is overwhelming. The burning of oil and other fossil fuels have had a significant impact on the environment. And while oil and coal companies have made efforts to encourage development of cleaner, renewable energies, they still rely on their mainstay products.

The generations inhabiting the Earth in 2018 may or may not see any significant climate changes in their lifetimes. The goal is to preserve the planet for the generations yet to come.

Republished with permission – iqsdirectory.com

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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