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Fossil fuel companies claim they’re helping fight climate change. The reality is different.



By Kathy MulveyMyles AllenPeter C. Frumhoff, December 17, 2019

Imagine Rip Van Winkle as a climate-conscious investor. If Rip had fallen asleep after the Paris climate agreement was drafted in 2015 and woken up today, he might conclude that the fossil fuel industry is rapidly transforming itself to prepare for a carbon-constrained world. ExxonMobil TV ads tout its investments in algal biofuels, Chevron offers electric car charging at gas stations, BP spots on National Public Radio boast of turning garbage into fuel, Shell has acquired a British utility company that now sells only electricity from renewable sources, and the American Petroleum Institute claims to be leading the world in cutting greenhouse gases. Big Oil also helped design a proposal it could get behind to establish a carbon price in the United States: BP, ExxonMobil, and Shell pledged $1 million each in support of the Climate Leadership Council’s “carbon fee and dividend” proposal, and ConocoPhillips pledged $2 million. If Rip were influential in Washington, he would be barraged with digital ads for the Climate Leadership Council’s plan.

But Rip would also be confronted with troubling news of heat waves, drought, flooding, and wildfires, all of whose increased frequency and severity is attributable to climate change. He would learn that a Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that what it termed “rapid and far-reaching” transitions would need to be made across major sectors of the global economy if we are going to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the target set at the Paris Agreement. Climate science tells us that carbon dioxide emissions must reach what is called “net-zero” (no more carbon dioxide being released to the atmosphere than is actively withdrawn from it) for temperatures to stabilize at any level, which means that we must reach net-zero by roughly mid-century to stabilize at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

And, most alarmingly, he would learn that behind the fossil fuel companies’ climate charm offensive, they are betting that global temperatures will rise well above the Paris Agreement targets. For example, in ExxonMobil’s 2019 Outlook for Energy, the company projects no reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector through 2040—and no date at which emissions reach net zero, implying indefinite warming. And ExxonMobil is not alone: Only 13 percent of the energy companies that follow the disclosure framework recommended by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures are even testing the resilience of their business strategies in a scenario where global warming is kept below 2 degrees. A Transition Pathway Initiative survey of 50 oil and gas companies conducted earlier this year found that only one company (the Italian multinational oil and gas giant Eni) had made a public commitment to reduce its emissions to net zero by any date—and Eni’s commitment covers only the modest direct emissions from the extraction, processing, and refining of its fossil fuel products, not the much larger emissions that result from the burning of those products.

One of the few exceptions to this alarming state of affairs came earlier this month, when the Spanish energy multinational Repsol broke from the oil and gas industry pack by pledging to achieve net zero emissions from its operations and the use of its products by 2050—with intermediate decarbonization targets in place for 2020 to 2040. Repsol has thrown down the gauntlet to its competitors, putting into stark relief the yawning gap between their climate claims and actions. Repsol’s announcement should awaken Rip and other climate-conscious investors to reality: Until now, none of these companies has been doing nearly enough, fast enough, to align their business models with the Paris Agreement that they claim to support. As the shareholder advocacy group As You Sow concluded: “The fact that global greenhouse gas emissions, and oil and gas company capital expenditures on exploration and production, keep rising signals a fundamental limitation of the current shareholder engagement strategy.”

So, how should Rip and other climate-conscious investors focus their efforts as the remaining carbon budget dwindles?

Let’s start by taking a look at climate change, corporate accountability, and the roles of fossil fuel companies and shareholder advocacy, back in the heady days of the adoption of the Paris Agreement—and again today.

What a difference four years has not made. On the whole, the nations of the world have not followed through on the ambitions surrounding the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015. Add to that the mounting urgency of the climate crisis, and the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the agreement, and one can see why greater attention is being focused on actions by cities, states, and corporations. National governments aren’t the only ones making decisions that will determine whether the world achieves the Paris goals.

Among corporations, major fossil fuel producers have the most influence over our collective success or failure in avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Many major oil and gas companies make the claim that they support the Paris Agreement.

But how far are the emissions cuts promised by the major oil and gas companies from reaching a point consistent with the Paris Agreement goals? And how does the advocacy of their industry groups undermine or even contradict these companies’ stated declarations to the public? (The American Petroleum Institute, for example, has been going all-out in its efforts to gut a federal rule about the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas).

Shareholder proposals for 2020. Now that this year’s UN climate conference in Madrid is finished, shareholders in US-based oil and gas companies are turning their attention to 2020. Shareholder resolutions must be filed by mid-December of  2019 for consideration at the 2020 annual general meetings of ExxonMobil and Chevron. While most are not binding on company decision-makers even if they win a majority vote, shareholder resolutions have become a cornerstone of investor strategies to engage with major oil and gas companies over climate change, lobbying, and political spending issues.

For example, the current trend in climate risk reporting began after a decisive vote by ExxonMobil shareholders in favor of a 2017 resolution that called on the company to report annually on what climate change policies (set by governments) and technological advances (in the marketplace) designed to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius would have on the company’s business. This year, the Climate Action 100+ initiative, backed by 370 investors with more than $35 trillion in combined assets, secured an agreement from BP to support a shareholder resolution requesting the company to set out a strategy consistent with the Paris Agreement. With BP’s board supporting the resolution, 99 percent of shareholders voted for it: Unfortunately, neither the company nor its shareholders seem to appreciate—or at least are willing to acknowledge in public—that such a strategy must include a credible plan for achieving net zero emissions. In other words, the company and its shareholders approved the resolution without (apparently) accepting its necessary implications.

Regrettably, the success of public pension funds, faith groups, and other socially responsible investors in using shareholder resolutions to force publicly traded companies to plan for climate change has provoked a backlash. And that backlash has provided fuel to a long-simmering effort to quash shareholder democracy. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has just announced a new rule that would make it much harder for shareholders to file proposals on climate change and other environmental, social, and governance issues with publicly traded US companies.

Curtailing shareholder rights has long been on the wish list of industry groups such as the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the US Chamber of Commerce, which pushed for the rule change with a well-funded disinformation campaign. The National Association of Manufacturers—which includes BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Chevron among its members—houses the misleadingly named Main Street Investors Coalition, which leads the lobbying campaign for this SEC rule change. The Sierra Club is suing the SEC for information about Big Oil’s involvement in its decision-making process on climate-related shareholder proposals.

Principles and practices for climate-conscious investment in fossil fuels. The Oxford Martin Principles provide a scientific framework for engagement between climate-conscious investors and companies across the global economy. Drafted in 2018 at the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, UK, these principles build upon the science of long-term climate change, focusing on how investments contribute to the global stock of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. They complement other measures, such as carbon footprinting. These principles are premised upon two cold, hard, scientific facts: First, net emissions of carbon dioxide must fall to zero for temperatures to stabilize at any level. And second, for temperatures to stabilize at about 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, we must reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions roughly by mid-century—as well as make deep reductions in other heat-trapping gases, such as methane.

With these goals in mind, a climate-minded investor should look for companies to commit to net-zero emissions by a specific date, outline a business model consistent with that target, and establish quantitative mid-term milestones that allow users to assess progress. To boil things down further: Fossil fuel companies must commit to achieving net zero absolute carbon dioxide emissions by midcentury—and conduct all activities in ways that are verifiably consistent with this commitment.

To meet this core task, three methods of measuring progress, or metrics, are needed. They include disclosure of absolute emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from company operations and the use of company products until carbon emissions reach net-zero; disclosure of mid-term targets; and consistent, verifiable actions that support fair and effective climate policies—including the accurate portrayal of climate science in all communications.

Let’s look at each of these metrics, one-by-one.

Disclosure of absolute emissions and emissions intensities.  Companies must disclose the absolute emissions of heat-trapping gases from the use of company products as well as from the company’s extraction, refining, processing, and transportation of fossil fuels. The commitment to net-zero emissions by midcentury must encompass not only emissions from company operations but also emissions from the end-use of their products as well. Many fossil fuel companies have begun to set targets for reducing global warming emissions from their business operations—in other words, the greenhouse gases emitted from exploring for, extracting, processing, and bringing fossil fuels to market. But reporting on just this side of the ledger is not enough: Roughly 80-to-90 percent of fossil fuel companies’ carbon emissions result from end-users burning fossil fuel products.

(And we should take a moment here to note that fossil fuel companies have been attempting to shift the blame, by branding end-use emissions as “customer emissions”—as if to wash their hands of their product once it’s sold. But like consumers of tobacco products, consumers of fossil fuels use them exactly as the manufacturer intends them to be used.)

Major oil and gas companies take a variety of positions when it comes to their sense of responsibility for the emissions resulting from the use of their products. Repsol’s net zero target includes all product-related emissions, and Shell has set modest emissions-intensity reduction targets encompassing the use of its products. But BP and Chevron, meanwhile,reject the very notion that they bear any responsibility for these emissions.

Why is it justifiable to hold fossil fuel companies, instead of their customers, primarily responsible for bringing emissions from their products to net zero? The answer is threefold.

First, the products that they extracted and put into commerce are contributing the majority of global industrial carbon dioxide emissions driving disruptive climate change. This implies what ethical philosopher Henry Shue calls a “general, forward-looking responsibility to ‘do no harm.’”

Second, it didn’t have to be this way. Research shows that major fossil fuel companies knew at least 50 years ago that unabated burning of their products would change the Earth’s climate. And nearly 40 years ago, internal corporate and industry discussions identified alternatives to simply dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, including carbon capture and storage—but these companies failed to adapt their business plans.

And third, the fossil fuel companies have a well-documented history of involvement with spreading climate disinformation and seeking to block climate action, as exemplified by a 1998 internal memo written by a team convened by the American Petroleum Institute. Major fossil fuel companies consequently have what Shue terms a “special, backward-looking causal responsibility to ‘clean up your own mess.’ ”

Disclosure of mid-term targets for implementing and investing toward net-zero. If investors are going to assess the climate plans of companies, then it is absolutely necessary for companies to disclose their mid-term targets for reducing their carbon emissions. Consequently, shareholders should require that companies set, publish, and report on progress toward targets for reducing both the companies’ absolute emissions and their emissions intensity (carbon dioxide emissions per unit of production). Otherwise, it’s too easy for companies to game the system. For instance, while increasing the volume of its oil and gas production, a company could achieve a modest emissions intensity reduction target by making its operations and its products less carbon-intensive: A somewhat larger amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere divided by a much larger volume of oil and gas produced would result in a lower emissions intensity. Conversely, a company could reduce its absolute emissions through spinoffs and restructuring that would make it difficult to trace emissions back to the ultimate corporate owner of the polluting assets. That is why investors need to track both absolute and intensity metrics: Neither system of measurement stands alone.

For example, while Shell says its ambition is to reduce the global warming emissions from its operations, energy usage, and use of its products by 50 percent by 2050, Shell also plans to spend $30 billion per year during the period of 2021-to-2025 on average investments in oil and gas infrastructure and exploration. Crucially, Shell cites no plans for any accompanying equivalent investment in carbon capture and storage, the only option available for the large-scale disposal of carbon dioxide other than dumping it into the atmosphere. (As is typical of the industry as a whole, Shell’s investment in carbon capture technology is dwarfed by its investment in exploration for new fossil fuel resources.) There is enough fossil carbon stored in existing fossil fuel reserves to take the world well beyond 2 degrees Celsius. So, to comply with the Paris Agreement, companies would need to dramatically redirect their investments. For every metric ton of fossil carbon identified in a new oil or gas field, the industry must, at a minimum, identify options for the permanent geological storage for 3.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide—and invest to ensure that storage capacity is available on time. This will likely entail a dramatic redirection of investment away from exploring for new fossil fuel resources towards carbon dioxide capture and disposal. If fossil fuel companies aren’t doing so—and they aren’t even remotely close—then they are planning on letting their products take the world past two degrees.

It really is that simple.

Suggestions that any more than a modest fraction of this fossil carbon could be mopped up by forests, soils, and mangroves just don’t add up.

Consistent, verifiable actions that support fair and effective climate policies. The third reason that it is essential to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for bringing emissions from their products to net zero lies in the companies’ past and ongoing conduct. Even as some fossil fuel companies have begun to acknowledge climate change and claim to support climate policy, many still do not back up their words with consistent action. In other words, fossil fuel companies have a habit of saying one thing while doing another.

Misrepresentation of climate science and climate risks is getting fossil fuel companies into legal trouble, drawing parallels with the litigation against the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries. ExxonMobil, for example, was recently sued by the Massachusetts attorney general for misleading investors and engaging in deceptive advertising to consumers—including “greenwashing” campaigns that portray the company as a clean energy innovator. The environmental law organization Client Earth has filed a complaint against BP, saying that the fossil fuel company’s global ad campaign is misleading consumers by falsely claiming that the company is focused on renewable energy and climate solutions.

Given the fossil fuel industry’s history of deception, disinformation, and intimidation, the burden of proof rests on these companies to dispel skepticism. Instead, many continue to earn distrust. For example, the oil industry—led by Climate Leadership Council founding member BP and other companies that claim to support a price on carbon—bankrolled the successful campaign against a proposed carbon fee in Washington state in 2018. Investors must insist that a fossil fuel company making a net-zero commitment back it up with consistent, verifiable actions, including accurately representing climate science in its communications, supporting fair and effective climate policies, ensuring that its lobbying matches its stated positions on climate science and policy, and publicly disavowing positions and actions taken by affiliated third parties that are inconsistent with company positions.

The pressure on them to do so is mounting. In September, 200 institutional investors with a combined total of more than $6.5 trillion in assets urged publicly traded US corporations to align their climate lobbying with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nongovernmental organizations that engage with business on environmental issues followed with an open letter in The New York Times setting new standards for corporate leadership on science-based climate policy.

Guidance for corporate engagement and investment decisions. These recommendations—along with those of the Climate Action 100+ initiative, which has secured emissions-reduction commitments from companies including BP, Equinor, and Shell—should elevate the issue of climate policy alignment. But short-term, incremental reductions are not enough. These companies are among the few today that are actively investing in plants and equipment that will define the world in 2050. Investors have a right to know how these investments square with net-zero emissions.

If we want to avert disruptive climate change, we must not only reduce emissions, we must fully  decarbonize our economy. And decarbonization has a hard and fast deadline. The principles and practices outlined here should also be applied to escalate pressure on laggard companies. (For example, with no-confidence votes in corporate leadership targeting particular board members or the entire board.) They should be used to challenge a company’s refusals to consider shareholder proposals about reaching net zero—including, if necessary, through the courts. And these principles and practices must be used to determine when to give up on an engagement that’s securing only incremental changes, and decide when it is time to divest entirely. Institutions such as Barnard College, the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System, the Church of England, and Legal & General Investment Management are now divesting in ways that differentiate among fossil fuel producers, in order to provide a financial incentive to companies to accelerate their climate actions.

The Madrid climate conference has reminded us of the urgency of climate action by all sectors of society. 2020 will be a pivotal year for shareholders seeking to hold major fossil fuel companies accountable to the science of meeting the Paris Agreement targets. We urge investors to take up the Oxford Martin principles and expect more, question more, and tolerate less from the fossil fuel companies. These major contributors to global warming must swiftly get on board with climate action—or get out of the way.

Source: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Kathy Mulvey

Kathy Mulvey is accountability campaign director in the Climate & Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, where she guides engagement with major fossil fuel companies, conducts research and analysis, builds national and international coalitions, and mobilizes experts and supporters. She has designed and led corporate accountability initiatives and campaigns for three decades. Previously, she held leadership roles with EIRIS Conflict Risk Network and Corporate Accountability.

Myles Allen

Myles Allen is a professor of geosystem science at the Environmental Change Institute in the School of Geography and the Environment, and a professor the Department of Physics, both at the University of Oxford, UK. He was coordinating lead author of Chapter 1, “Framing and Context,” of the IPCC Special Report on a Global Warming of 1.5°C, published in October, 2018. He is also an author of the Oxford Martin Principles for Climate Conscious Investment.

Peter C. Frumhoff

Peter C. Frumhoff is the director of science and policy, and chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. An author of multiple Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, he works at the nexus of science and policy on fossil fuel company climate responsibility, forests and land-use in climate mitigation, and solar geoengineering as a potential climate response.
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Energy and Transportation

The UN climate panel still doesn’t understand technology – and it matters



The UN climate panel still doesn’t understand technology – and it matters

Source: RethinkX

With the Sixth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) being released, it’s important to revisit the climate scenarios that are its centerpiece. These scenarios form the basis of the climate science community’s modeling and projections, which in turn affects governance and investment decisions across the world. Trillions of dollars and the policymaking of the entire planet thus ride upon these climate scenarios, and so the cost of getting things wrong is extremely high.

Scenarios past and present

The previous generation of climate scenarios published in the Fifth Assessment Report in 2014 were known as Representative Concentration Pathways, or RCPs. The RCP scenarios were labeled according to the amount of radiative forcing expected by the end of the century in each case. Radiative forcing is the scientific term for the change in the balance between the Earth’s incoming and outgoing energy. The Fifth Assessment Report focused on four of these scenarios, with RCP2.6 having the least warming and thus being the “best case”.

In the eight years since then, a new generation of scenarios has been developed for the Sixth Assessment Report, referred to as Shared Socioeconomic Pathways, or SSPs. The five main SSP scenarios are also labeled according to radiative forcing, but in addition each has a subtitle that tells a story about an imagined future:

  • SSP1-1.9 – Sustainability (Taking the Green Road)
  • SSP1-2.6 – Middle of the Road
  • SSP2-4.5 – Regional Rivalry (a Rocky Road)
  • SSP3-7.0 – Inequality (A Road Divided)
  • SSP5-8.5 – Fossil-Fueled Development (Taking the Highway)

Flaws in climate scenarios

A scenario is only as plausible as the assumptions it makes. Unfortunately, the technology assumptions made in both the RCP and SSP scenarios are not remotely plausible, and as a result they are extremely misleading. If there were even one scenario that made genuinely plausible assumptions, then the others could be useful for comparison. But the lack of any properly plausible one means that, taken together, these scenarios will only cause harm by leading decision-makers and the public badly astray.

First and foremost, all RCP and SSP climate scenarios get technology wrong because they fail to understand the forces that drive technological change, how quickly the shift to new technologies occurs, and how quickly old technologies are abandoned as a result.

Our team at RethinkX has shown that the same pattern of disruption has occurred hundreds of times over the last several thousand years. Again and again, for technologies of all kinds – from cars to carpenter’s nails, from arrowheads to automatic braking systems, from insulin to smartphones – we see that technology adoption follows an s-curve over the course of just 10-20 years. The first phase of the s-curve is characterized by accelerating (or “exponential”) growth, which is driven by reinforcing feedback loops that make the new technology increasingly more competitive while at the same time making the old technology increasingly less competitive.

Unfortunately, the RCP and SSP climate scenarios show no sign that their authors understand technology disruption at all. For example, the “best case” RCP2.6 scenario in the Fifth Assessment Report published in 2014 assumed that less than 5% of global primary energy would come from solar, wind, and geothermal energy combined in the year 2100.

Source: Adapted from Van Vuuren et al., 2011, and IPCC, 2014.

In reality, the exponential trend in the growth of solar and wind power had already been clear for over two decades at the time the Fifth Assessment was published in 2014, and the trend since then has only continued – as shown in the chart below.

(Note that the vertical axis of the chart is logarithmic, increasing by a factor of 10 at each major interval, which means the trajectory is exponential).

On their current trajectory, which has been extraordinarily consistent for over 30 years, solar and wind power will exceed the RCP2.6 assumption for the year 2100 before 2030, 70 years ahead of schedule on an 86-year forecasting timeframe.

This is an egregious error that was entirely avoidable. The energy sector has shown every sign of becoming a textbook example of disruption for more than 15 years, and technology theorists were noticing the signs well before 2014. Indeed, Tony Seba – co-founder of RethinkX – had already published an analysis of the energy disruption in his book Solar Trillions in 2010.

Since 2014, the exponential growth of solar power has become common knowledge, as have similar trajectories for batteries and electric vehicles. It is therefore completely inexcusable that the same mistakes have continued in the new SSP scenarios for the Sixth Assessment Report in 2022. The SSP5-8.5 scenario, for example, is titled “Fossil Fueled Development”. Here is its description:

This world places increasing faith in competitive markets, innovation and participatory societies to produce rapid technological progress and development of human capital as the path to sustainable development. Global markets are increasingly integrated. There are also strong investments in health, education, and institutions to enhance human and social capital. At the same time, the push for economic and social development is coupled with the exploitation of abundant fossil fuel resources and the adoption of resource and energy intensive lifestyles around the world.

This logic around “rapid technological progress” is not just wrong, it’s backwards. The faster we make technological progress, the less fossil fuels we will use. The more global markets are integrated and the more human and social capital we have, the faster we will decarbonize.

The SSP3-7.0 scenario contains the same error:

Technology development is high in the high-tech economy and sectors. The globally connected energy sector diversifies, with investments in both carbon-intensive fuels like coal and unconventional oil, but also low-carbon energy sources.

Again, the basic premise here is false. Technological progress will result in less fossil fuel development, not more. The collapse of coal demand is already well underway in the wealthy countries of the Global North, and all fossil fuels in all countries will follow suit as clean technologies rapidly disrupt the energy and transportation sectors over the next two decades.

The SSP2-4.5 scenario assumes that, “The world follows a path in which social, economic, and technological trends do not shift markedly from historical patterns.” But the authors of this scenario do not understand what those historical patterns of technological change actually are.

As our research at RethinkX has shown, the pattern throughout history has been an s-curve of rapid technology adoption over the course of just 20 years or less once new technologies become economically competitive with older ones – as is now the case for clean energy, transportation, and food technologies. The data throughout history simply do not support the assumption that the shift to new, clean technologies will be slow and linear between now and the year 2100.

The SSP1-1.9 scenario, “sustainability”, is allegedly the most sustainable, but this too is based on false assumptions – namely that lower material, resource, and energy intensity are necessary for reducing environmental impacts, and that they are compatible with increasing human prosperity. Neither is true. The solution to environmental impacts is not less energy, transportation, and food. That would be like thinking that if your house is on fire, the solution is to extinguish some of the flames. That’s madness. The solution is to put the fire out, which means switching rapidly and completely to clean energy, transportation, and food.

If we want to be truly sustainable, we must have a superabundance of clean energy, clean transportation, and clean (i.e. non-animal-derived) food that slashes our environmental footprint and gives us the means to restore and protect ecological integrity worldwide. Any attempt to mitigate our ecological footprint by reducing economic prosperity would be disastrous because the scale of cutbacks needed to have any significant effect on sustainability would be utterly catastrophic to the global economy and geopolitical stability.

Projections to 2100… seriously?

It is worth stepping back a moment and recognizing that the RCP and SSP scenarios make quantitative projections to the year 2100. This in itself is flatly preposterous.

Five thousand years ago, you could have made a reasonably accurate prediction about what life would be like 80 years in the future. After all, not much changed from one generation to the next. Your children’s lives were likely to be very similar to your parents’ lives.

Five hundred years ago, in the year 1522, it would have been considerably more difficult to make an accurate prediction about life 80 years hence. The invention of the moveable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg 80 years earlier in around 1440 had helped turbocharge the Renaissance, setting the stage for the Scientific Revolution. Life in 1602 was still quite similar to life in 1522, but an explosion in the growth of useful knowledge was laying the groundwork for massive social, economic, political, and technological transformations to come.

A century ago, in 1922, it would have been very hard for anyone to predict with any accuracy what the world 80 years in the future, in 2002, would be like. Nobody could have imagined the role that nuclear weapons or computers or the Internet would play in our lives, for example.

Today, it is absolutely impossible to predict in any detail what the world will be like 80 years from now, around the year 2100. The rate of technological change is so fast now that our team at RethinkX never makes any quantitative forecasts more than 20 years into the future, because to do so is undisciplined in the formal sense. And technological progress is only accelerating.

Although we cannot know what the world will be like in 2100, we can say that it is implausible to presume the conditions and constraints of today will continue to hold. And this is why we can say that all of the RCP and SSP climate scenarios are implausible: they all presume life in 2100 will be more or less the same as today – still governed by material scarcity, regional resource conflicts, food insecurity, demographic transitions, health and education challenges, and even fossil fuel use. None of these makes even the slightest sense in the context of technologies that we fully expect to see from mid-century onward.

So, what happened? Why did the RCP and SSP climate scenarios get technology so wrong?

Anti-technology sentiments in conventional environmental orthodoxy

At least part of the explanation for fundamental errors and misunderstandings around technology we see in the RCP and SSP climate scenarios is that they were developed by a small group of academic authors operating inside an ideological bubble.

One of the features of this ideological orthodoxy is that it holds long-standing anti-technology sentiments dating back over two centuries to the rise of Romanticism and Transcendentalism. On the one hand, the orthodoxy holds that the arc of history ought to be viewed largely through the lens of human behavior and institutions, minimizing or outright rejecting the causal power of technology to shape societies. There even exists a pejorative term, technological determinism, that is used to label and reflexively dismiss any claims that technology has played a key role in steering the course of human affairs across the ages. Yet, at the same time, this orthodoxy holds technology largely to blame for the massive ecological footprint humanity has imposed upon the planet.

It can’t cut both ways. Either technology has enormous causal power, or it doesn’t.

If it does, then that means technology is also the key to transforming our world in positive ways – including achieving genuine sustainability. We don’t see this accurately reflected anywhere in the RCP or SSP climate scenarios because it runs contrary to the anti-technology sentiments of the prevailing orthodoxy.

When you don’t know enough to know you’re being fooled

The climate science community failed to realize the importance of consulting technology experts in the development of climate scenarios. Instead, they made the mistake of relying on conventional forecasts for technologies like solar and wind power from incumbent energy interests such as the International Energy Agency and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This would be a bit like relying on Blockbuster Video to accurately forecast the future of streaming video, or Kodak to forecast the future of digital cameras, or the American Horse & Buggy Association to forecast the future of automobiles.

The charts below show the laughably poor forecasting track record of the IEA and U.S. EIA.



Note that the unreliability of these two ‘authoritative’ sources was already clear when the Fifth Assessment Report was published in 2014. Would you depend on advice in a critical situation from someone who had gotten things wrong over and over again?

More cynically, it’s very difficult to see how the IEA or U.S. EIA making the same “errors” year after year for almost two decades could be an honest mistake. At the same time, it’s very easy to imagine that there are powerful incentives for these incumbents to ignore technological change, or even to deliberately troll others about it.

Regardless, trusting the wrong sources and failing to consult actual technology experts was an inexcusable mistake that the climate science community is unfortunately continuing to make.

Predicting the future is hard

The future is obviously uncertain, and the further ahead we look, the blurrier the picture becomes. At first, it might seem reasonable to err on the side of conservativism – after all, if you don’t know exactly how the world will change in the future, isn’t it best just to assume it won’t change much from the present? The answer is no, but the reason why this logic is flawed is rather subtle.

There are dozens of major dimensions and countless minor ones along which change can occur, all of which move us away from our present condition. The fact that these changes are unpredictable does not imply that the noise will somehow cancel out and leave us close to where we started.

By analogy, imagine assembling a complex machine like a car. If you don’t follow the exact steps in the exact order with the exact parts, you aren’t going to end up with a working car. And if you randomize the assembly process, you’re going to end up with a useless pile of junk. This is why tornadoes don’t spontaneously assemble new cars when they pass through a junkyard. The reason why has to do with entropy: there are almost infinitely more ways to incorrectly assemble things than to correctly assemble them.

This analogy helps show why any movement through a large possibility space is only likely to take you away from your current position. This is why the future will be very different from the present, even though those differences are unpredictable.

So, how should we deal with all the uncertainty of the future? The correct response is indeed to construct multiple scenarios that chart the general trajectory and broad outlines of possible futures based on plausible assumptions about what might change between now and then. The trouble with the RCP and SSP climate scenarios, however, is that none of them make plausible assumptions about technological progress.

Refusing to admit past mistakes only feeds conspiracy theories

The climate science community has made very serious technology forecasting errors in its climate scenarios, but has so far refused to acknowledge and take responsibility for them. This is a losing strategy.

Failure to admit and correct the technology forecasting errors in climate scenarios plays right into the hands of conspiracy theorists, because the longer we refuse to admit we’ve made mistakes, the more it looks like they were deliberate. These mistakes are too large to brush under the rug, and so there is no painless option here. We either admit we were fools, or we look like we are liars.

Admitting our mistakes and taking the heat for it is the right move. The alternative only indulges the worst extremist narratives that claim the scientific community has deliberately inflated the threat of climate change and misrepresented our options for solving it in order to advance an agenda of more taxation and more government control over private industry and individual consumer choices.

The public needs to be able to trust the environmental science community, and they can’t do that until we come clean about how wrong we’ve gotten renewable energy and other technologies in our climate scenarios. The longer we pretend nothing happened, the more our legitimacy will erode in the public sphere at a time when trust of scientific authority is already low in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Getting technology wrong in climate scenarios does real harm

Given the enormous stakes involving trillions of dollars and all of the world’s policymaking, the errors around technology in the RCP and SSP climate scenarios have had serious consequences. They have misled policymakers and the public alike into believing that the only means to solve climate change are punitive – that we must atone for our past environmental sins by sacrificing human prosperity, tightening our belts, and giving up our indulgent personal lifestyles. They have demonized the prosperity of the rich nations of the Global North as unsustainable, and condemned the aspirations of poorer countries of the Global South as unattainable. They have led nations to waste time and resources trying fruitlessly to achieve sustainability through austerity, when this approach is hopelessly counterproductive as I have previously explained.

Austerity cannot solve climate change even in principle, let alone in practice. Prosperity has always been a necessary precondition for solving big problems, both personal and collective, and so it is the only real path to sustainability as well. Technological progress in general will inevitably play an outsized role in bringing the prosperity we need to tackle major challenges to billions worldwide, and specific technologies like solar power and electric vehicles will give us the tools we need to directly reduce emissions and draw down carbon. The IPCC climate scenarios must reflect these facts so that we can all make well-informed decisions about how best to solve climate change together.

Source: RethinkX

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Energy and Transportation

How Will Electric Vehicles Pave a Way towards a cleaner energy future, today?



There is change in the air.  And at the forefront of systematic change is the transformation of transportation, from fuel to electric.

And the good news is that electric vehicles (EV’s) are coming down in price.  New power grids are being established. In Europe, especially in Norway , EV’s are much more than a “fad” but they’re heading into the ‘norm.’ In the not- distant future,  EV’s just might be one of the paradigm shifts that get us off our addiction to fossil fuels, OPEC, and keep us enslaved in constant struggle and wars.

Jeff Van Treese II, Mobilized News TV host, has an enlightening conversation with Joel Levin of Plug in America, America’s leading organization for the transition to Electric Vehicles.

About Plugin America

Plug In America is a non-profit, supporter-driven advocacy group. We are the voice of plug-in vehicle drivers across the country. Our mission is to drive change to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation’s dependence on petroleum, improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We help consumers, policy-makers, auto manufacturers and others to understand the powerful benefits of driving electric. We provide practical, objective information to help consumers select the best plug-in vehicle for their lifestyles and needs. Plug In America founded National Drive Electric Week, the world’s largest celebration of the plug-in vehicle, which welcomed over 180,000 attendees across 324 events in 2019, spanning all 50 states.


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Energy and Transportation

Windsor, Ontario, Canada Announces $4.9B electric vehicle battery plant



Source: CBC:Kaitie Fraser · CBC News

Premier Doug Ford along with federal and municipal officials confirmed on Wednesday that Windsor, Ont., will be home to an important electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant. (Mike Evans/CBC)

Canada’s first lithium-ion electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturing plant is coming to Windsor, Ont., as part of a $4.9-billion joint-venture deal between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution, federal and provincial officials announced Wednesday.

The operation is set to create 2,500 jobs in the region, with each level of government offering incentives for the project.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Economic Development Minister Vic Fedeli, federal Minister of Innovation François-Philippe Champagne, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens were among those at the facility’s future site in the southwestern Ontario city for the announcement Wednesday.

“This is the largest automotive investment in the history of our province and the country as well,” said Ford.

“This game-changing battery plant will help guarantee that Ontario is at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution and ensure we remain a global leader in the auto manufacturing just as we have been for over 100 years.”

The companies say they’ve “executed binding, definitive agreements” to establish the factory, set to have an annual production capacity of 45 gigawatt hours.

Stellantis chief operating officer Mark Stewart said the facility will supply a “substantial amount” of EV batteries.

“This battery plant is going to supply across North America for us as one of two that we have envisioned,” said Stewart, adding the factory’s proximity to the U.S. makes Windsor an ideal location for business.

Government officials as well as senior representatives from Stellantis and LG Energy Solution spoke at the announcement about the EV battery plant on Wednesday, touting benefits for the local community and Canadian auto sector as a whole. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Stellantis plans to announce their second EV battery manufacturing plant, which will be in the U.S., in the coming weeks.

Stewart said Windsor’s new facility will be the size of about 112 NHL hockey rinks, with Champagne calling it Canada’s first gigafactory.

Governments, Windsor provide incentives

While each level of government has partnered in the deal to create massive incentives to the companies, it’s unclear how much funding the federal and provincial governments have kicked in.

When CBC News asked for details about the amount of taxpayer money that will be spent, Ford said: “I can’t divulge that. It would compromise some negotiations moving forward with other companies as well, but it’s a massive investment and its hundreds of millions of dollars.”

WATCH | Ford says he ‘can’t divulge’ how much Ontario, Ottawa have spent on the deal:

Ontario premier won’t say how much taxpayer money dedicated to new EV battery plant in Windsor, Ont.

18 hours ago

Duration 1:55

When asked how much federal and provincial funding is going toward a new $4.9-billion electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont., Premier Doug Ford said he could not say for now. 1:55

For its part, the City of Windsor kicked in a land assembly deal for the massive factory, money toward infrastructure development if needed and a long-term tax grant, according to an official with the city.

The city is buying land for the site located at 9865 Twin Oaks Dr. at a cost of between $45 million and $50 million. The city will then lease the land to the joint venture between Stellantis and LG Energy Solution.

The official said the city has negotiated conditional offers with each of these corporate owners, in case either backs out.

Windsor is in the process of securing two sections of land needed for the site — one owned by Enwin and another owned by a private resident.

Government officials and business executives stand in front of the site of the planned EV battery plant in Windsor that’s expected to be operational in 2024. An official said the new facility will be the size of about 112 NHL hockey rinks. (Mike Evans/CBC)

“This was a whole-of-government approach, and so this is a highly competitive space — not just city versus city, within the province, across the country, throughout North America,” said Dilkens.

The mayor said the city would do everything in its power to make a smooth transition to the new plant, which is set to break ground later this year.

Our local roots are in manufacturing and automotive, and we’re darn good at it.

– Drew Dilkens, mayor of Windsor, Ont.

“Our local roots are in manufacturing and automotive, and we’re darn good at it,” said Dilkens.

“We’ve lived through the ups and downs of the global economy and we have lived through the ups and downs of he automotive industry. The men and women who work here never give up hope that there’s better days ahead.”

Wednesday’s announcement is the latest injection to Ontario’s car sector, part of Ford’s ongoing “driving prosperity” auto manufacturing strategy.

Nearly a week ago, Ford announced his government’s “critical minerals” strategy, aimed at capitalizing on the global demand for minerals crucial to items like EV batteries, and ensuring Ontario become a consistent supplier of those goods.

Heading into the official announcement, the prospect of an electric vehicle battery plant being built in Windsor sparked optimism about what it could mean for the region and the auto industry.

“This will put us on the map, not just here in North America, but globally,” said Rakesh Naidu, president and chief executive officer of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. “There’ll be a recognition of what Windsor-Essex can do in terms of not just how good we are in the conventional auto sector, but also in terms of the the new generation of auto technologies, and the new … EVs sector.”

Yvonne Pilon, president and CEO of WEtech Alliance, said the project would be great for talent retention and startup development in the region.

“There is a lot of technology in the electric vehicle, electric batteries, so from a startup perspective, we look at what this will mean for new companies coming to the region, new companies starting based on, again, a diversified and different supply chain,” she said.

With files from Kris Ketonen, Dale Molnar

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Energy and Transportation

The Case for Electric Mobility



Nikola Tesla would be happy.

As technology and innovation continues at lightning speeds, a new world of systems, services and policies is emerging.  Electric vehicles will replace the internal combustion engine, putting an end to the need for fossil fuels and the policies that keep them in place.  The price of electric vehicles is coming down, and the smart grids for charging have already emerged.

Mobilized spoke with Phillipe Vangeel, the Secretary General of AVERE about how e-mobility is shifting the power landscape, with an understanding of how–and WHY—Norway is a leader in the movement to cleaner energy systems.  Let’s hope the rest of the world catches on soon!

AVERE (The European Association for Electromobility) is the European association that promotes electromobility and sustainable transport across Europe.

AVERE is the only European association representing and advocating for electromobility on behalf of the industry, academia, and EV users at both EU and national levels.

Their Members consist of Companies, Research Institutions, and National Associations supporting and encouraging the use of Electric Vehicles and electromobility across Europe. We currently have active members in 21 European countries, notably some of the most successful EV countries like Norway, France, The Netherlands and Belgium. The association is governed by their Board.

Within these Associations, there are close to 2.300 industry members, ranging from SME’s, OEM’s, and other companies with a commercial interest in electromobility and about 100.000 EV users. Furthermore, AVERE’s network includes Users of Electric vehicles, NGOs, Associations, Interest Groups, Public Institutions, Research & Development Centres, Vehicle and Equipment Manufacturers and other relevant Companies. This extends beyond Europe into global outreach.

On top of advocacy, AVERE provides its members with a unique forum for exchanging knowledge, experience, and ideas on how to stimulate electromobility throughout Europe. Our Working Groups analyse the most important EV themes. We engage in European and international projects promoting sustainable transportation across the EU and we have often joined other international initiatives to support electromobility.

Philippe Vangeel is the Secretary General in one of the fastest changing and growing technologies: e-mobility.

In electronics by background, Philippe has always worked as a manager in the sector. Strong of 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, he brought a practical outlook to the association that enabled it to seize the moment: his vision is to make AVERE a protagonist in the growth of the e-mobility sector. In his five years, the AVERE’s membership grew significantly, while the association affirmed itself as the go-to expert for e-mobility in Europe.

As part of his broader approach, he also ensured that the entire e-mobility value chain would get visibility through AVERE. He made it the potential home of every player in the sector, from companies extracting the materials to build EVs, to vehicles manufacturers, charging point operators and final consumers.

His native language is Flemish, he is fluent in English and French, and is happy to help you in Norwegian and German.


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