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Over 2 percent of the US’s electricity generation now goes to Bitcoin

While its analysis is preliminary, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates that large-scale cryptocurrency operations are now consuming over 2 percent of the US’s electricity. That’s roughly the equivalent of having added an additional state to the grid over just the last three years.

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Microsoft Needs So Much Power to Train AI That It’s Considering Small Nuclear Reactors

Training large language models is an incredibly power-intensive process that has an immense carbon footprint. Keeping data centers running requires a ludicrous amount of electricity that could generate substantial amounts of greenhouse emissions — depending, of course, on the energy’s source. Now, the Verge reports, Microsoft is betting so big on AI that its pushing forward with a plan to power them using nuclear reactors. Yes, you read that right; a recent job listing suggests the company is planning to grow its energy infrastructure with the use of small modular reactors (SMR)…

But before Microsoft can start relying on nuclear power to train its AIs, it’ll have plenty of other hurdles to overcome. For one, it’ll have to source a working SMR design. Then, it’ll have to figure out how to get its hands on a highly enriched uranium fuel that these small reactors typically require, as The Verge points out. Finally, it’ll need to figure out a way to store all of that nuclear waste long term…

Other than nuclear fission, Microsoft is also investing in nuclear fusion, a far more ambitious endeavor, given the many decades of research that have yet to lead to a practical power system. Nevertheless, the company signed a power purchase agreement with Helion, a fusion startup founded by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman earlier this year, with the hopes of buying electricity from it as soon as 2028.

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An Unintended Test of Geoengineering is Fueling Record Ocean Warmth

Regulations imposed in 2020 by the United Nations’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) have cut ships’ sulfur pollution by more than 80% and improved air quality worldwide. The reduction has also lessened the effect of sulfate particles in seeding and brightening the distinctive low-lying, reflective clouds that follow in the wake of ships and help cool the planet. The 2020 IMO rule “is a big natural experiment,” says Duncan Watson-Parris, an atmospheric physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “We’re changing the clouds.”

By dramatically reducing the number of ship tracks, the planet has warmed up faster, several new studies have found. That trend is magnified in the Atlantic, where maritime traffic is particularly dense. In the shipping corridors, the increased light represents a 50% boost to the warming effect of human carbon emissions. It’s as if the world suddenly lost the cooling effect from a fairly large volcanic eruption each year, says Michael Diamond, an atmospheric scientist at Florida State University. The natural experiment created by the IMO rules is providing a rare opportunity for climate scientists to study a geoengineering scheme in action — although it is one that is working in the wrong direction. Indeed, one such strategy to slow global warming, called marine cloud brightening, would see ships inject salt particles back into the air, to make clouds more reflective. In Diamond’s view, the dramatic decline in ship tracks is clear evidence that humanity could cool off the planet significantly by brightening the clouds. “It suggests pretty strongly that if you wanted to do it on purpose, you could,” he says.

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Earth Science Arctic Could Be Sea Ice-Free in the Summer by the 2030s

“We are very quickly about to lose the Arctic summer sea-ice cover, basically independent of what we are doing,” Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at the University of Hamburg in Germany tells the New York Times’ Raymond Zhong. “We’ve been waiting too long now to do something about climate change to still protect the remaining ice.” An ice-free summer, also called a “blue ocean event,” will happen when the sea ice drops below one million square kilometers (386,102 square miles), writes Jonathan Bamber, a professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol, in the Conversation. This equates to just 15 percent of the Arctic’s seasonal minimum ice cover of the late 1970s, per the Times.

Previous assessments using models have estimated an ice-free summer under high and intermediate emissions scenarios by 2050. But researchers noticed differences between what climate models predicted about what would happen to sea ice and what they’ve actually seen through observations, according to Bob Weber of the Canadian Press. “The models, on average, underestimate sea ice decline compared with observations,” says Nathan Gillett, an environment and climate change Canada scientist, to Weber.

Now, in a new study published in Nature Communications, Notz, Gillett and their colleagues tweaked these models to more closely fit satellite data collected over the past 40 years. Using these modified models, the researchers projected ice changes under different possible levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Their paper suggests that regardless of emissions scenario, “we may experience an unprecedented ice-free Arctic climate in the next decade or two.” Under a high emissions scenario, the Arctic could see a sustained loss of sea ice from August until as late as October before the 2080s, lead author Seung-Ki Min, a climate scientist at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea, tells CNN’s Rachel Ramirez.

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Increased in 2022 as Crises Roiled Energy Markets

This year, nations are projected to emit roughly 36.6 billion tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide by burning coal, natural gas and oil for energy, according to new data from the Global Carbon Project. That’s 1 percent more than the world emitted in 2021 and slightly more than the previous record in 2019, which came before the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary drop in global energy use and emissions.

The findings were released at the United Nations climate change summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, where world leaders have gathered to discuss how to avert catastrophic levels of warming. Scientists have warned that the world as a whole will need to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by around midcentury in order to stabilize global temperatures and minimize the risks from deadly heat waves, sea-level rise and ecosystem collapse. That deadline is getting harder to hit, experts said, with each passing year. “Every year that emissions go up makes it that much more challenging to bring them back down again by a certain date,” said Glen Peters, a research director at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, who is one of more than 100 scientists involved in the research.

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Atmospheric Levels of All Three Greenhouse Gases Hit Record High

The WMO found there was the biggest year-on-year jump in methane concentrations in 2020 and 2021 since systematic measurements began almost 40 years ago. Methane levels have risen rapidly in recent years, puzzling scientists. Some blamed it on an increase in fracking in the US but this came into doubt as industrial emissions were not showing a similarly sharp rise.

Now the theory is that the methane rise could be caused by activities of microbes in wetlands, rice paddies and the guts of ruminants. Rising temperatures have caused the ideal conditions for microbial methane production, as they enjoy warm, damp areas. Carbon dioxide levels are also soaring, with the jump from 2020 to 2021 larger than the annual growth rate over the past decade. Measurements from WMO’s global atmosphere watch network stations show these levels continue to rise. These greenhouse gases cause global heating, with the warming effect rising by 50% between 1990 and 2021. Carbon dioxide comprised about 80% of this increase. According to the WMO, carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 were 415.7 parts per million, methane was 1908 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide was 334.5 ppb. These are respectively 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels.

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Europe Warming Twice As Fast As Rest of the World, New Report Reveals

The European continent is bearing the brunt of climate change, warming at a rate that is twice as fast as the global average, a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found. The report analyzed 30 years’ worth of data from 1991 onwards, revealing a disconcerting trend of speedy warming across Europe that is faster than the warming experienced by any other continent. Average temperatures in Europe were rising at a rate of 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade over the studied period, reaching an overall average of 2.2 degrees C (4 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels. That is way above the 1.5 degree C (2.7 degrees F) limit set by the international climatology community with the goal of minimizing devastating environmental effects of climate change.

The report, which was compiled in cooperation with the European Earth-observation program Copernicus, stated that Europeans are already feeling the pinch of this warming. According to estimates, the summer of 2022 was the driest in 500 years, with widespread water shortage and wildfires affecting even those nations that are usually accustomed to wetter summers. Alpine glaciers lost about one hundred feet (30 meters) in ice thickness from 1997 to 2021 as a result of the warming, according to the report. In 2021 alone, weather related disasters, mostly related to floods and storms, caused damages worth $50 billion across all European countries.

Scientists don’t know exactly why Europe is warming so fast, Samantha Burgess, deputy director for climate change services at Copernicus told Space.com in a previous interview. The fast-paced warming may have something to do with the proximity of the Arctic, which is by far the world’s fastest warming region. “We know that the Arctic is warming about three times faster than the global average rate,” Burgess told Space.com last year. “It’s already 3 degrees C [5.4 degrees F] warmer than in the pre-industrial times. It is quite complicated to unpick the scientific reasons behind why the warming is happening so much faster there.” […] The new WMO report states that regardless of emission reduction efforts, temperatures in all regions of Europe will continue to rise at a rate higher than the global average.

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Atmospheric Levels of All Three Greenhouse Gases Hit Record High

The WMO found there was the biggest year-on-year jump in methane concentrations in 2020 and 2021 since systematic measurements began almost 40 years ago. Methane levels have risen rapidly in recent years, puzzling scientists. Some blamed it on an increase in fracking in the US but this came into doubt as industrial emissions were not showing a similarly sharp rise.

Now the theory is that the methane rise could be caused by activities of microbes in wetlands, rice paddies and the guts of ruminants. Rising temperatures have caused the ideal conditions for microbial methane production, as they enjoy warm, damp areas. Carbon dioxide levels are also soaring, with the jump from 2020 to 2021 larger than the annual growth rate over the past decade. Measurements from WMO’s global atmosphere watch network stations show these levels continue to rise. These greenhouse gases cause global heating, with the warming effect rising by 50% between 1990 and 2021. Carbon dioxide comprised about 80% of this increase. According to the WMO, carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 were 415.7 parts per million, methane was 1908 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide was 334.5 ppb. These are respectively 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels.

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World Heading Into ‘Uncharted Territory of Destruction,’ Says Climate Report

Despite intensifying warnings in recent years, governments and businesses have not been changing fast enough, according to the United in Science report published on Tuesday. The consequences are already being seen in increasingly extreme weather around the world, and we are in danger of provoking “tipping points” in the climate system that will mean more rapid and in some cases irreversible shifts.

Recent flooding in Pakistan, which the country’s climate minister claimed had covered a third of the country in water, is the latest example of extreme weather that is devastating swathes of the globe. The heatwave across Europe including the UK this summer, prolonged drought in China, a megadrought in the US and near-famine conditions in parts of Africa also reflect increasingly prevalent extremes of weather. The secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, said: “There is nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters. They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction. This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction.”

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During COP26, Facebook served ads with climate falsehoods, skepticism

Days after Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, touted the company’s efforts to combat climate misinformation in a blog as the Glasgow summit began, conservative media network Newsmax ran an ad on Facebook (FB.O) that called man-made global warming a “hoax.” The ad, which had multiple versions, garnered more than 200,000 views.

In another, conservative commentator Candace Owens said, “apparently we’re just supposed to trust our new authoritarian government” on climate science, while a U.S. libertarian think-tank ran an ad on how “modern doomsayers” had been wrongly predicting climate crises for decades. Newsmax, Owens and the Daily Wire, which paid for the ad from Owens’s page, did not respond to requests for comment. Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta, does not have a specific policy on climate misinformation in ads or unpaid posts. Alphabet’s Google said last month it would no longer allow ads that contradict scientific consensus on climate change on YouTube and its other services, though it would allow content that discusses false claims.

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Earth is Warming Faster Than Previously Thought, and the Window is Closing To Avoid Catastrophic Outcomes

As the world battles historic droughts, landscape-altering wildfires and deadly floods, a landmark report from global scientists says the window is rapidly closing to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and avoid catastrophic changes that would transform life as we know it. The state-of-the-science report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world has rapidly warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, and is now careening toward 1.5 degrees — a critical threshold that world leaders agreed warming should remain below to avoid worsening impacts.

Only by making deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, while also removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, can we halt the precipitous trend. “Bottom line is that we have zero years left to avoid dangerous climate change, because it’s here,” Michael E. Mann, a lead author of the IPCC’s 2001 report, told CNN. Unlike previous assessments, Monday’s report concludes it is “unequivocal” that humans have caused the climate crisis and confirms that “widespread and rapid changes” have already occurred, some of them irreversibly.

That is due in part to the breakneck pace at which the planet has been recently warming, faster than scientists have previously observed. Since 2018, when the panel published a special report on the significance of 1.5-degrees, greenhouse gas emissions have continued mostly unabated and have pushed global temperatures higher. Even under the IPCC’s most optimistic scenario, in which the world’s emissions begin to drop sharply today and are reduced to net zero by 2050, global temperature will still peak above the 1.5-degree threshold before falling. In a statement, UN Secretary-General Antanio Guterres called the report “a code red for humanity,” and noted the 1.5-degree threshold is “perilously close.” “The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold is by urgently stepping up our efforts, and pursuing the most ambitious path,” Guterres said.

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Data Centres Exacerbate Droughts

A data center can easily use up to 1.25 million gallons of water each day — and “More data centers are being built every day by some of America’s largest technology companies,” reports NBC News, “including Amazon, Microsoft and Google and used by millions of customers.”

Almost 40 percent of them are in the United States, and Amazon, Google and Microsoft account for more than half of the total. The U.S. also has at least 1,800 “colocation” data centers, warehouses filled with a variety of smaller companies’ server hardware that share the same cooling system, electricity and security, according to Data Center Map. They are typically smaller than hyperscale data centers but, research has shown, more resource intensive as they maintain a variety of computer systems operating at different levels of efficiency.

Many data center operators are drawn to water-starved regions in the West, in part due to the availability of solar and wind energy. Researchers at Virginia Tech estimate that one-fifth of data centers draw water from moderately to highly stressed watersheds, mostly in the Western United States, according to a paper published in April…

The growth in the industry shows no signs of slowing. The research company Gartner predicts that spending on global data center infrastructure will reach $200 billion this year, an increase of 6 percent from 2020, followed by 3-4 percent annually over the next three years. This growth comes at a time of record temperatures and drought in the United States, particularly in the West. “The typical data center uses about 3-5 million gallons of water per day — the same amount of water as a city of 30,000-50,000 people,” said Venkatesh Uddameri, professor and director of the Water Resources Center at Texas Tech University. Although these data centers have become much more energy and water efficient over the last decade, and don’t use as much water as other industries such as agriculture, this level of water use can still create potential competition with local communities over the water supply in areas where water is scarce, he added…

Sergio Loureiro, vice president of core operations for Microsoft, said that the company has pledged to be “water positive” by 2030, which means it plans to replenish more water than it consumes globally. This includes reducing the company’s water use and investing in community replenishment and conservation projects near where it builds facilities.

Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

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Despite pandemic shutdowns, carbon dioxide and methane surged in 2020

Carbon dioxide levels are now higher than at anytime in the past 3.6 million years. Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020 despite the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic response, NOAA announced today. The global surface average for carbon dioxide (CO2), calculated from measurements collected at NOAA’s remote sampling locations, was 412.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2020, rising by 2.6 ppm during the year. The global rate of increase was the fifth-highest in NOAA’s 63-year record, following 1987, 1998, 2015 and 2016. The annual mean at NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii was 414.4 ppm during 2020.

The economic recession was estimated to have reduced carbon emissions by about 7 percent during 2020. Without the economic slowdown, the 2020 increase would have been the highest on record, according to Pieter Tans, senior scientist at NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory. Since 2000, the global CO2 average has grown by 43.5 ppm, an increase of 12 percent.

The atmospheric burden of CO2 is now comparable to where it was during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period around 3.6 million years ago, when concentrations of carbon dioxide ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million. During that time sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra.

Also: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/climate-change-carbon-dioxide-highest-level-million-years/

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Climate crisis has shifted the Earth’s axis, study shows

The massive melting of glaciers as a result of global heating has caused marked shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation since the 1990s, research has shown. It demonstrates the profound impact humans are having on the planet, scientists said.

The planet’s geographic north and south poles are the point where its axis of rotation intersects the surface, but they are not fixed. Changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet cause the axis, and therefore the poles, to move.

In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions.

The scientists found the direction of polar drift shifted from southward to eastward in 1995 and that the average speed of drift from 1995 to 2020 was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995.

Since 1980, the position of the poles has moved about 4 metres in distance.

“The accelerated decline [in water stored on land] resulting from glacial ice melting is the main driver of the rapid polar drift after the 1990s,” concluded the team, led by Shanshan Deng, from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Gravity data from the Grace satellite, launched in 2002, had been used to link glacial melting to movements of the pole in 2005 and 2012, both following increases in ice losses. But Deng’s research breaks new ground by extending the link to before the satellite’s launch, showing human activities have been shifting the poles since the 1990s, almost three decades ago.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed glacial losses accounted for most of the shift, but it is likely that the pumping up of groundwater also contributed to the movements.

Groundwater is stored under land but, once pumped up for drinking or agriculture, most eventually flows to sea, redistributing its weight around the world. In the past 50 years, humanity has removed 18tn tonnes of water from deep underground reservoirs without it being replaced.

Vincent Humphrey, at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and not involved in the new research said it showed how human activities have redistributed huge amounts of water around the planet: “It tells you how strong this mass change is – it’s so big that it can change the axis of the Earth.” However, the movement of the Earth’s axis is not large enough to affect daily life, he said: it could change the length of a day, but only by milliseconds.

Prof Jonathan Overpeck, at the University of Arizona, US, told the Guardian previously that changes to the Earth’s axis highlighted “how real and profoundly large an impact humans are having on the planet”.

Some scientists argue that the scale of this impact means a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – needs to be declared. Since the mid-20th century, there has been a marked acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions and sea level rise, the destruction of wildlife and the transformation of land by farming, deforestation and development.

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Satellites show world’s glaciers melting faster than ever

Glaciers are melting faster, losing 31 percent more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years earlier, according to three-dimensional satellite measurements of all the world’s mountain glaciers.

Scientists blame human-caused climate change.

Using 20 years of recently declassified satellite data, scientists calculated that the world’s 220,000 mountain glaciers are losing more than 328 billion tons (298 billion metric tons) of ice and snow per year since 2015, according to a study in Wednesday’s journal Nature. That’s enough melt flowing into the world’s rising oceans to put Switzerland under almost 24 feet (7.2 meters) of water each year.

Half the world’s glacial loss is coming from the United States and Canada.

Almost all the world’s glaciers are melting, even ones in Tibet that used to be stable, the study found. Except for a few in Iceland and Scandinavia that are fed by increased precipitation, the melt rates are accelerating around the world.

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Twitter Bots Are a Major Source of Climate Disinformation

Twitter accounts run by machines are a major source of climate change disinformation that might drain support from policies to address rising temperatures. In the weeks surrounding former President Trump’s announcement about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, accounts suspected of being bots accounted for roughly a quarter of all tweets about climate change, according to new research. “If we are to effectively address the existential crisis of climate change, bot presence in the online discourse is a reality that scientists, social movements and those concerned about democracy have to better grapple with,” wrote Thomas Marlow, a postdoctoral researcher at the New York University, Abu Dhabi, campus, and his co-authors. Their paper published last week in the journal Climate Policy is part of an expanding body of research about the role of bots in online climate discourse.

The new focus on automated accounts is driven partly by the way they can distort the climate conversation online. Marlow’s team measured the influence of bots on Twitter’s climate conversation by analyzing 6.8 million tweets sent by 1.6 million users between May and June 2017. Trump made his decision to ditch the climate accord on June 1 of that year. President Biden reversed the decision this week. From that dataset, the team ran a random sample of 184,767 users through the Botometer, a tool created by Indiana University’s Observatory on Social Media, which analyzes accounts and determines the likelihood that they are run by machines.

Researchers also categorized the 885,164 tweets those users had sent about climate change during the two-month study period. The most popular categories were tweets about climate research and news. Marlow and the other researchers determined that nearly 9.5% of the users in their sample were likely bots. But those bots accounted for 25% of the total tweets about climate change on most days. […] The researchers weren’t able to determine who deployed the bots. But they suspect the seemingly fake accounts could have been created by “fossil-fuel companies, petro-states or their surrogates,” all of which have a vested interest in preventing or delaying action on climate change.

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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Status Lowered To ‘Critical’ and Deteriorating

The health status of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has officially declined from “significant concern” to “critical” for the first time, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced this week. CBS News reports:
It said climate change is now the biggest threat to natural World Heritage sites, including the world’s largest and most spectacular coral reef. According to the new report, one-third of the 252 natural World Heritage sites are now threatened by climate change. Previously, invasive species were listed as the top threat.

The Great Barrier Reef must contend with ocean warming, acidification and extreme weather to stay alive amid record heat waves. It has lost half of its coral to climate change since 1995, with its status now listed as “critical” — the most urgent designated status in the classification system of the UNESCO advisory board. Sites listed as critical are “severely treated and require urgent, additional and large-scale conservation measures,” the report said. Additionally, the report warns that plans to protect the reef long-term have been slow to implement, failing to stop or reverse the reef’s deterioration.
The report adds that four other Australian world heritage sites have also deteriorated and received lowered statuses — the Blue Mountains, the Gondwana rainforests, the Ningaloo Coast and Shark Bay. “Overall, more sites have deteriorated than improved since 2017,” reports CBS News.

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Exxon’s Plan for Surging Carbon Emissions Revealed in Leaked Documents

Exxon Mobil Corp. had plans to increase annual carbon-dioxide emissions by as much as the output of the entire nation of Greece, an analysis of internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg shows, setting one of the largest corporate emitters against international efforts to slow the pace of warming.

The drive to expand both fossil-fuel production and planet-warming pollution has come at a time when some of Exxon’s rivals, such as BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, are moving to curb oil and zero-out emissions. Exxon’s own assessment of its $210 billion investment strategy shows yearly emissions rising 17% by 2025, according to internal projections.

The internal estimates reflect only a small portion of Exxon’s total contribution to climate change. Greenhouse gases from direct operations, such as those measured by Exxon, typically account for a fifth of the total at a large oil company; most emissions come from customers burning fuel in vehicles or other end uses, which the Exxon documents don’t account for.

That means the full climate impact of Exxon’s growth strategy would likely be five times the company’s estimate—or about 100 million tons of additional carbon dioxide—had the company accounted for so-called Scope 3 emissions. If its plans are realized, Exxon would add to the atmosphere the annual emissions of a small, developed nation, or 26 coal-fired power plants.

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From Climate Change to the Dangers of Smoking: How Powerful Interests Made Us Doubt Everything

BBC News reports:
In 1991, the trade body that represents electrical companies in the U.S., the Edison Electric Institute, created a campaign called the Information Council for the Environment which aimed to “Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)”. Some details of the campaign were leaked to the New York Times. “They ran advertising campaigns designed to undermine public support, cherry picking the data to say, ‘Well if the world is warming up, why is Kentucky getting colder?’ They asked rhetorical questions designed to create confusion, to create doubt,” argued Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University and co-author of Merchants of Doubt. But back in the 1990 there were many campaigns like this…

Most of the organisations opposing or denying climate change science were right-wing think tanks, who tended to be passionately anti-regulation. These groups made convenient allies for the oil industry, as they would argue against action on climate change on ideological grounds. Jerry Taylor spent 23 years with the Cato Institute — one of those right wing think tanks — latterly as vice president. Before he left in 2014, he would regularly appear on TV and radio, insisting that the science of climate change was uncertain and there was no need to act.

Now, he realises his arguments were based on a misinterpretation of the science, and he regrets the impact he’s had on the debate.

Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes discovered leading climate-change skeptics had also been prominent skeptics on the dangers of cigarette smoking. “That was a Eureka moment,” Oreskes tells BBC News. “We realised this was not a scientific debate.”

Decades before the energy industry tried to undermine the case for climate change, tobacco companies had used the same techniques to challenge the emerging links between smoking and lung cancer in the 1950s… As a later document by tobacco company Brown and Williamson summarised the approach: “Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” Naomi Oreskes says this understanding of the power of doubt is vital. “They realise they can’t win this battle by making a false claim that sooner or later would be exposed. But if they can create doubt, that would be sufficient — because if people are confused about the issue, there’s a good chance they’ll just keep smoking….”

Academics like David Michaels, author of The Triumph of Doubt, fear the use of uncertainty in the past to confuse the public and undermine science has contributed to a dangerous erosion of trust in facts and experts across the globe today, far beyond climate science or the dangers of tobacco. He cites public attitudes to modern issues like the safety of 5G, vaccinations — and coronavirus.

“By cynically manipulating and distorting scientific evidence, the manufacturers of doubt have seeded in much of the public a cynicism about science, making it far more difficult to convince people that science provides useful — in some cases, vitally important — information.

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Trolls Are Swarming Young Climate Activists Online

On the morning of August 25, 11-year-old Lilly Platt tweeted a video clip of a Brazilian Amazon tribe speaking out against deforestation. Awareness of the Amazon wildfires was already at a fever pitch, and the tweet exploded. Then, within an hour, a swarm of troll accounts started flooding her mentions with porn. Shortly after the attack, her mom, Eleanor Platt, made an online plea for help: “Dear Friends of Lilly, this is Lillys mum she is being targeted by revolting trolls who are spamming her feed with pornography. There is only so much i can do to block this. Please if you see these posts report them.” Over the course of the day, some of Lilly’s nearly 10,000 followers did just that.

Young girls like Lilly, who has been striking in her hometown of Utrecht, Netherlands, every Friday for the last year, are overwhelmingly leading a growing global movement to draw attention to the climate crisis. They spurred an estimated 4 million people across seven continents to walk out of work and school on September 20 — and they are getting attacked for it. They have faced a barrage of daily insults, seemingly coordinated attacks (like the one that targeted Lilly), creepy DMs, doxing, hacked accounts, and death threats. This is the new normal for young climate leaders online, according to BuzzFeed News interviews with nearly a dozen of the kids and their parents.

Personal attacks have always been a part of the climate denial playbook, even as fossil fuel companies secretly funded campaigns and researchers to question the scientific consensus on climate change. The most famous incident, 2009’s Climategate, involved scientists getting their emails hacked and then facing death threats. And as the politics of climate change begins to mirror the broader dark trends of global politics, weaponized social media — in the form of intimidation, memes, and disinformation — has emerged as the dominant vehicle for climate denial. But the rise of a new climate movement means there’s now a much more visible — and especially vulnerable — target: kids.

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