Sue Gray Set To Join Keir Starmer’s Team As Watchdog Gives Green Light

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The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA), which oversees appointments of senior civil servants after they leave their roles, has given the green light for former senior civil servant Sue Gray to join Labour as leader Keir Starmer’s chief of staff.

Wonder if she’s any good at anything & Starmer seems to be poor at spelling, ei? I sometimes wonder if he’s just a bit intellectually challenged tbh but undecided as yet.

Continue ReadingSue Gray Set To Join Keir Starmer’s Team As Watchdog Gives Green Light

Time’s Up

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Just Stop Oil's image reads "EVERYONE WEEK 16TH-22ND JULY You are welcome, you are needed".

Why we are in civil resistance

Our system is killing us. The root of the wreckage we see around us is a broken democracy, not a broken climate. Climate chaos is just a symptom of the endless greed of the powerful – who won’t stop until they’ve trashed even what they need to survive. 

This reality is so terrifying that we all want to believe it’s not true. Surely our lives are in good hands, minus a few bad apples. But for more and more people, these last shreds of comfort are going up in wildfire smoke. We’re told to watch the world burn while politicians license new oil – and still obey? 

If that makes your head and heart explode, there’s only one place to go: Civil Resistance. It’s the step we take when we definitively turn our backs on the criminals in power, refusing to give them one more second of our time and respect.

All over the world, this is happening. A Glasgow community spontaneously gathers to save neighbours from deportation. The Stop Cop City movement in Atlanta refuses to let the police raze the forest for a vast training complex. People block the subway in New York, in rage and defiance, after homeless black man Jordan Neely was murdered. Just Stop Oil’s partners in the A22 network send shockwaves across Europe – blocking roads, throwing paint over private jets, turning fountains black.  

Like these sister movements, Just Stop Oil is clear about what civil resistance means: we no longer consent to a system that doesn’t care if we live or die. A system so dysfunctional it’s willing to sacrifice us to a clique of criminals profiting from shortened lives, hunger and despair. Resistance means we no longer cooperate with a state that holds us in utter contempt, lies to us and treats us as worthless. If the State has no regard for us, we owe it nothing in return.

The good news amongst all this darkness is that civil resistance works. It’s not a miracle cure by any means, but the balance tips decisively in its favour. It’s got rid of dictators like Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, brought down segregation in the US, won votes for women, removed the British from India, and helped Polish trade unionists free themselves from Soviet oppression. Just Stop Oil could be just months away from joining this roll of honour.

The techniques of civil resistance can include strikes, boycotts, blockades, cultural disruption and occupations. Its results are just as varied. Civil resistance sometimes wins by sparking mass mobilisation, compelling people to leave the sidelines and join in. Sometimes by dividing the State against itself, winning over police and the judiciary. Victory can also come from raising the costs of keeping a system going – until it’s easier for the oppressor to give way. But behind all these tactics and objectives is the absolute withdrawal of consent from a system that’s failing in its duty to provide protection, care and justice for ordinary people like us.

Here, this failure is stark. Our government takes our hard-earned money, via taxpayer subsidies, and pours it into new oil and gas projects, which will lead to misery, deprivation, suffering and death. It breaks its own climate targets, marching us towards social, economic as well as environmental collapse. It lies to us and gaslights us – telling us new oil will cut our energy bills when we all know it’s going to be sold for profit on the global market, at a global price. As one of our spokespeople, Emma Brown, put it so clearly in an interview: ‘The British public isn’t silly.’ We know we’re being lied to. We know we’re being thrown to the wolves. 

If you can’t un-know these horrifying truths, join us in civil resistance before it’s too late. Policy and legislation can’t get us the change we need. They can codify the progress we make – but that will come afterwards. Now is the time to resist and that means all of us. The method will work its magic, but not without you.

Join Just Stop Oil on a slow march at midday every Saturday, at Parliament Square until we win.

Reading list

1. This is an Uprising, Paul Enger & Mark Engler

2.   Blueprint for a Revolution, Srdja Popovic

3.   The End of Protest: A new blueprint for Revolution, Micah White

4.   Don’t think of an Elephant, George Lakoff

5.   From Dictatorship to Democracy, Gene Sharp ( PDF Available free online)

6. “The success of nonviolent civil resistance”,  Erica Chenoweth (Ted Talk)

7. Rules for Revolutionaries, Zack Exley and Becky Bond

8. Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals, Jonathan Smucker

9. How Organisations Develop Activists, Hahrie Han

10. Reinventing Organisations:A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness, Frederic Laloux

Video & Film:

Bringing down a dictator (Serbian Uprising by Otpor!)

The Children March (during the US Civil Rights movements)

Webinars on Momentum-driven organising: Ayni Institute (Carlos Saavedra)Post navigation

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Continue ReadingTime’s Up

El Niño could push global warming past 1.5℃ – but what is it and how does it affect the weather in Europe?

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A natural weather event known as El Niño is underway in the Pacific Ocean.
jon sullivan/Shutterstock

Manoj Joshi, University of East Anglia

Scientists have warned that 2024 could mark the year when global warming exceeds 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels. They attribute these predictions, at least in part, to the emergence of an El Niño event.

An El Niño is declared when the sea surface temperature in large parts of the central or eastern equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean warms significantly – sometimes by as much as 2℃. This additional heat in turn warms the atmosphere. During El Niño years, this warming contributes to a temporary rise in the global temperature by a fraction of a degree.

You can listen to more articles from The Conversation, narrated by Noa, here.

El Niño primarily affects weather in the tropics. Intense downpours that would usually fall on parts of south-east Asia or eastern Australia instead fall on the west coast of South America. This change can cause major drought and flooding on different continents, affecting food production and even weather-dependent sports like cricket.

But changes to the weather in these regions can have knock-on effects all over the world. Even thousands of kilometres away in northern Europe, El Niño tends to cause colder and drier winter weather.

Yet many factors affect European weather, especially during winter. So care is needed when linking unusual weather events in Europe to El Niño.

Storm clouds over the Andaman Sea.
Storm clouds over the Andaman Sea, Thailand.
Ian Murdoch/Shutterstock

What is El Niño?

The Pacific Ocean spans over 13,000 kilometres from its eastern edge on the South American coast to its western margins near Indonesia. The sea surface temperature changes considerably over this vast distance.

Normally, the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean is more than 5℃ colder on average than the western Pacific. This is primarily due to the upwelling of cold water near South America, a process in which colder water is pulled up from deeper down in the ocean.

However, this temperature contrast flattens or steepens every few years in a natural cycle called the El Niño southern oscillation (Enso). During this cycle, the strength of trade winds that blow westwards across the Pacific can strengthen or weaken, causing more or less cold water to upwell and flow along the equator.

We’re currently entering a period where the eastern Pacific will be warmer than it usually is – an El Niño event. Forecasts suggest that a part of the equatorial Pacific, regarded as a key indicator of Enso, has a 50% chance of warming by over 1.5℃ by the start of 2024.

How Pacific Ocean temperatures change during an El Niño event.

La Niña is the opposite phase of the cycle. It is instead characterised by cooler sea surface temperatures in these waters. This year brought an end to three successive La Niña years.

The western tropical Pacific region has some of the warmest ocean temperatures on Earth. Humid air tends to converge here, creating unstable conditions characterised by turbulent rising air known as convection by meteorologists. The result of this is towering clouds and intense rainfall.

The region with the highest ocean temperature tends to experience the greatest amount of rainfall. As the warmest ocean temperatures shift eastward during El Niño, so too does the location of maximum cloud cover and rainfall.

Each El Niño event is different. Some mainly warm the eastern Pacific Ocean, such as the 1997-98 event. Others cause more warming in the central Pacific, like in 2009-10.

How does it affect Europe’s climate?

Towering clouds and intense rains in the western Pacific create atmospheric waves known as Rossby waves. These waves extend over thousands of kilometres and travel into and along the eastward-flowing jet streams that encircle the planet’s mid-latitude regions. When the Rossby waves interact with the jet streams, they cause them to undulate.

As unsettled weather in the Pacific moves eastwards during an El Niño event, it influences the location of the peaks and troughs of these Rossby waves. This results in subtle changes in the positions of the jet streams. These alterations in the jet streams, which play a significant role in shaping weather patterns, can have notable effects on weather conditions worldwide.

Depending on the specific movement of the jet stream in a particular area, the effect can either lead to warmer or cooler weather, despite El Niño warming the global climate as a whole. El Niño tends to slightly warm Europe in summer and slightly cool northern Europe in winter.

External noise

However, a colder-than-average winter in Europe is not guaranteed during an El Niño event. Europe’s winter climate is affected by various factors beyond El Niño, including conditions in the Atlantic, the amount of Arctic sea ice and the state of the stratosphere 15-40km above us (which is itself affected by El Niño).

For instance, the quasi-biennial oscillation – a regular reversal of winds that blow high above the equator – can alter wind patterns in the stratosphere. This can subsequently affect the position of the North Atlantic storm track, which influences Europe’s winter weather.

But even then, the underlying warming trend caused by climate change is making higher temperatures more probable in all seasons. Together, these other factors make any climatic signals from El Niño harder to detect and forecast. Caution must therefore be exercised before attributing anomalies in European winter weather to El Niño alone.

Imagine weekly climate newsletter

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Manoj Joshi, Professor of Climate Dynamics, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingEl Niño could push global warming past 1.5℃ – but what is it and how does it affect the weather in Europe?

Gaza freedom boat arrives in Liverpool this weekend to raise awareness of Israeli blockade

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Original article republished from the Skwawkbox for non-commercial use.

Freedom Flotilla will attempt to break sea blockade to deliver medicines and urgent supplies to besieged Palestinians

Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s ‘Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s boat ‘Handala’ will arrive in Liverpool this weekend as part of its European tour to raise awareness of Israel’s ongoing land, air, and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s ‘Freedom Flotilla Coalition’s boat ‘Handala’ will arrive in Liverpool this weekend as part of its European tour to raise awareness of Israel’s ongoing land, air, and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip. The boat’s tour aims to draw particular attention to the conditions faced by children in Gaza, who make up more than half of its residents. The boat is named Handala after the famous cartoon image of a refugee Palestinian child.

The boat will arrive in Liverpool late on Sunday 2 July and the crew will meet journalists and residents on Monday. The crew includes Zohar Chamberlain Regev, an Israeli citizen who has been part of previous attempts to break the blockade of Gaza, and Musheir El Farra, a Gazan who lives in Sheffield and has lost many family members in Israeli attacks, to tell his personal story of life for families under the siege.

Later on Monday, the crew will visit a local mosque and will spend their evening at St Bride’s church in Liverpool, where they will take questions from members of the public. Eddie Scraggs will talk about an inspiring project in Gaza where a Liverpool medical team from Liverpool has been performing kidney transplants free of charge and there will also be a short film about a youth project in Gaza called “We are Not Numbers.”

The Handala will leave Liverpool for Cardiff on Wednesday.

The 16-year blockade of Gaza has had devastating effects on the local population of the territory, many of whom are refugees. Water consumption is well below the internationally recommended minimum, while electricity is often only available for a few hours a day. The blockade is aggravated by Israel’s regular bombing of the Gaza Strip and attacks on Gazan fishermen. Earlier this year, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed 49 Palestinians, including 17 children.

The UN and human rights monitoring bodies have repeatedly condemned the blockade as illegal, drawing attention to its disastrous effects on services like essential healthcare, education and sanitation and access to food, as well as the crippling impact on Gaza’s economy. Children have been particularly hard hit by the blockade, with Save the Children reporting that four out of five children in the Gaza Strip live with depression, grief and fear.

After finishing its tour of Europe, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition has announced its intention to sail to the Gaza Strip next year, despite the blockade. A 2010 attempt by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla to break the blockade saw a brutal attack by Israeli commandos – while the boats were still in international waters – that killed nine passengers and wounded dozens.

Helen Marks, Secretary of Liverpool Friends of Palestine, said:

The blockade of Gaza is illegal, immoral and barbaric. It is designed to punish and control an entire population by limiting their access to the resources required to live fulfilled lives. It needs to be brought to an end alongside Israel’s wider system of apartheid exercised over all Palestinians.

The flotilla’s visit to Liverpool is an important means of raising awareness of these injustices and building the pressure on our Government to take meaningful action to hold Israel to account for its violation of Palestinian rights and of international law.

Original article republished from the Skwawkbox for non-commercial use.

Continue ReadingGaza freedom boat arrives in Liverpool this weekend to raise awareness of Israeli blockade

Rishi Sunak Boasts That Oil Funded Think Tank ‘Helped Us Draft’ Crackdown on Climate Protests

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Original article by Adam Barnett and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines

The prime minister praised Policy Exchange, which received $30,000 from oil and gas giant ExxonMobil in 2017, for shaping laws that target green activists.

Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil's You May Find Yourself... art auction.
Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil’s You May Find Yourself… art auction.

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that a fossil fuel-funded think tank helped to draft his government’s laws targeting climate protests. 

Speaking at Policy Exchange’s summer party on Wednesday (28 June), the prime minister boasted that the think tank’s work “helped us draft” the government’s crackdown on protests, according to Politico.

OpenDemocracy reported last year that Policy Exchange’s US wing, American Friends of Policy Exchange, which provides funds to the UK branch, received $30,000 (roughly £23,700) from oil and gas giant ExxonMobil in 2017.

Two years later, Policy Exchange published a report entitled “Extremism Rebellion”, in reference to the environmental protest group, calling for the police and the government to clamp down on eco protests. 

An Extinction Rebellion spokesperson told DeSmog that this story “exemplifies the stranglehold that private interests have on our democracy.”

Ministers have been clear that new police powers are designed to stop climate protests. The former Home Secretary Priti Patel cited tactics used by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain when arguing for what became the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022. 

Sunak’s statement yesterday appears to confirm Extremism Rebellion’s allegation that sections of the 2022 law were ‘directly inspired’ by Policy Exchange’s report.

The “Extremism Rebellion” report said that legislation relating to public protest needed to be “urgently reformed” in order to “strengthen the ability of the police to place restrictions on planned protest and deal more effectively with mass lawbreaking tactics”.

This was implemented in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, which came into effect in April 2022 and awarded the police new powers to decide what constitutes a ‘disruptive’ protest and to more harshly punish those involved.

In the year to April 2023, more than 2,000 people were arrested and 138 spent time in prison for their involvement in campaigns by Just Stop Oil, the climate protest group.

Those encarcerated included two protesters who were each sentenced to more than two and a half years in prison – the longest sentences for peaceful climate protest in British history, according to the group – for causing a ‘public nuisance’ by scaling the Dartford Crossing.

This crackdown on protests has been continued by current Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a vocal critic of the UK’s net zero targets, who singled out Just Stop Oil when advocating further powers in the Public Order Act 2023, which received Royal Assent in May.

The legislation, which has been labelled as “draconian” by its opponents, allows the police to pre-emptively intervene to shut down protests and creates new offences for what it describes as “guerrilla tactics”, all of which have been used in recent climate protests.

The law criminalises protesters for attaching themselves (or coming equipped) to lock on to other protesters or buildings, threatening a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.

For organising protests that block key infrastructure including “airports, railways, printing presses, and oil and gas infrastructure” protesters are threatened with up to 12 months in prison, while tunnelling is set at three years.

The law follows a November report by Policy Exchange that said it was “imperative” for protesters who repeatedly obstruct the highways to be “swiftly arrested, convicted and punished”. It further urged that “magistrates and judges should be imposing severe sentences on repeat offenders who aim deliberately to harm the public by breaching the criminal law”.

Sunak, who worked at Policy Exchange before his 2015 election to parliament, also used the summer party to make a jibe about the Labour Party’s links to Just Stop Oil, one of whose funders, Dale Vince, has donated £1.4 million to the party since 2014. 

Sunak’s comments echoed the claim made often by senior Conservatives, that Labour’s opposition to new North Sea oil and gas projects is linked to Dale’s donation. Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, has repeatedly attacked Labour over the connection, writing in the Daily Mail that Labour has become “the political wing of Just Stop Oil”. 

In fact, the International Energy Agency has said that new oil and gas projects are not compatible with keeping warming below 1.5C – an international climate goal that has been adopted by the UK government.

Meanwhile, DeSmog revealed in March that the Conservative Party received £3.5 million from fossil fuel interests, high-polluters and climate science deniers last year alone.

Policy Exchange and Climate Change

Policy Exchange was co-founded in 2002 by Michael Gove, who has been a mainstay in the cabinet since 2010. The think tank continues to retain significant influence in Westminster: Policy Exchange alumni make up a greater number of special advisers in Rishi Sunak’s government than any other think tank.

At the 2022 Conservative Party conference, Jacob Rees-Mogg, at the time serving as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary, said: “I believe that where Policy Exchange leads, governments have often followed.”

Lord Frost, is currently a senior fellow at the think tank. He was also recently appointed as a director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – the UK’s principal climate science denial group. This week, Frost – who also attended the Policy Exchange summer party – gave a speech criticising Sunak’s government for offering voters “more net zero”. 

Since 2016, Policy Exchange has hosted events at the Conservative Party conference sponsored by energy companies and trade groups including: wood-burning bioenergy firm Drax, gas and electricity supplier E.on, British Gas parent company Centrica, the gas and electricity industry body Energy Networks Association, gas generation company Cadent Gas, trade association Hydrogen UK, and the Sizewell C nuclear plant. 

According to VICE News, while the think tank does not advertise the cost of sponsored meetings at party conferences, other similar organisations charge over £12,000 to host an event, which lasts about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, the chair of the Policy Exchange board is Alexander Downer, who served as Australia’s Foreign Minister from 1996 to 2007. Downer has expressed climate science scepticism in the past, claiming that we are “going through an era” of global warming, and saying that Australian climate leadership would be expensive “virtue signalling”. 

Downer was appointed as the High Commissioner to the UK in 2014 by Tony Abbott, who also recently joined the board of the GWPF. 

Policy Exchange and 10 Downing Street have been approached for comment.

Original article by Adam Barnett and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines

Continue ReadingRishi Sunak Boasts That Oil Funded Think Tank ‘Helped Us Draft’ Crackdown on Climate Protests

High-Profile Allies of Anti-Net Zero Parliamentary Group Revealed in Telegraph Letter

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Original article by Adam Barnett and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines.

Conservative MP and former Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg. Credit: Simon Dawson / 10 Downing StreetCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

New allies of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of MPs and Lords have today been revealed in a letter published by the Telegraph

The NZSG campaigns against the UK’s legally binding net zero commitments. The letter reveals new supporters among influential Conservative MPs and peers not previously known to back the group including former Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-MoggLord Frost, Iain Duncan Smith, Andrea Jenkyns, Jonathan Gullis, and Miriam Cates. 

The chair of the NZSG, Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, coordinated the letter – which called for the suspension of a UK scheme that imposes costs on energy-intensive industries for their carbon emissions. The letter was signed by 29 Conservative MPs and peers.

The revelation comes as the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s independent advisory body on climate change, today stated that the UK is missing its climate targets on nearly every front. 

The government has been criticised for supporting the continued exploration of North Sea oil and gas sites, in the face of warnings from international climate and energy bodies. Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, has said that political leadership was “missing” in the pursuit of net zero. 

“The CCC’s report could hardly have been more damning – tearing the government to shreds over its abysmal progress on tackling the climate emergency, and its utterly misleading arguments that fossil fuel expansion is somehow necessary before reaching net zero,” Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told DeSmog.

“Yet this letter from the Net Zero Scrutiny Group proves that Rishi Sunak has clearly been spending more time listening to a group of climate delayers and deniers in his own party, rather than scientists and independent experts … It’s time for the prime minister to slam the door in the face of fossil fuel interests once and for all.”

All signatories of the letter were asked by DeSmog to confirm whether they were members of NZSG. Only two of the 29 parliamentarians – Conservative MPs Holly Mumby-Croft and Jack Brereton – denied being formally part of the group, while a third, Kelly Tolhurst, said that she was in favour of net zero but that “there is not just one way to meet net zero and it is right to raise concerns over policy that could impact the competitiveness of the UK.”

Founded in 2021, the NZSG has never released a full list of its members, meaning that the parliamentarians linked to the group can only be discerned from the individuals who sign its public letters. 

The New Allies

The list of NZSG allies released today includes individuals associated with the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s principal climate science denial group, which has extensive ties with the parliamentary caucus.

The letter in the Telegraph was signed by Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns and Lord Frost, both of whom are directors at the GWPF, which regularly questions the scientific basis of human-caused climate change. 

The majority (54 percent) of Conservative MPs who signed the NZSG letter are either current or former members of the European Research Group (ERG) – a faction of the Conservative Party that supported a ‘hard’ Brexit and was reportedly the model for the NZSG.

This includes Rees-Mogg, a former chair of the ERG who served as Business and Energy Secretary from September to October 2022. As revealed by DeSmog, Rees-Mogg spoke of his desire for people to “stop demonising oil and gas” in a private meeting with the head of the United Arab Emirates’s state investment company while serving in the cabinet. 

Rees-Mogg has a long record of opposing climate action. In 2014 he claimed that efforts to limit global warming “would have no effect for hundreds or possibly a thousand years” and in 2013 he blamed high energy prices on “climate alarmism.”

Rees-Mogg currently hosts a show on climate sceptic broadcaster GB News, as do fellow NZSG signatories Esther McVey and Philip Davies

New MPs not previously associated with the NZSG include Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, who at the National Conservatism Conference in May claimed that “epidemic levels of anxiety and confusion” among young people are being caused by teaching, among other things, that “humanity is killing the Earth”.

The NZSG allies also include several parliamentarians embroiled in controversies. For example, Reclaim Party MP Andrew Bridgen, who was expelled from the Conservative Party in April for comparing the use of Covid vaccines to the Holocaust. 

The Reclaim Party itself has a history of opposing climate action. Its website says that “net zero climate policies punish the poorest in society” and the party’s leader Laurence Fox has argued for scrapping “those woke billions” that “we are spending each year to appease the sun monster with offerings of net zero”.

Another signatory of the NZSG letter was Scott Benton, who had the Conservative whip suspended in April after a newspaper sting caught him offering to lobby on behalf of the gambling industry and leak confidential documents.

The full list of signatories was as follows: Craig Mackinlay, Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Sir Jacob Rees-MoggLord FrostEsther McVeySir John Redwood, Dame Andrea Jenkyns, Sir Robert Syms, Mark Francois, David Jones, Kelly Tolhurst, Sammy Wilson, Andrew Lewer, Jack Brereton, Miriam Cates, Chris Green, Jonathan Gullis, Philip Hollobone, Adam Holloway, Julian Knight, Marco Longhi, Karl McCartney, Holly Mumby-Croft, Philip Davies, Bob Seely, Greg Smith, Andrew Bridgen, Scott Benton, Baroness Foster of Oxton, Baroness Lea of Lymm, Lord Lilley, Lord Moylan, Lord Strathcarron.

Greg Smith told DeSmog that he is “committed to challenging assumptions on the best way to end our reliance on fossil fuels and decarbonisation.”

He added: “There is a lot of groupthink in this space that just doesn’t stack up when challenged and it is better to work out the better solutions now than wait for them to go wrong and mess up people’s lives.”

The Net Zero Scrutiny Group

The Net Zero Scrutiny Group was set up in 2021 and campaigns against climate action and for more fossil fuel extraction. The group has publicly pushed for more North Sea oil and gas exploration, the removal of green levies from energy bills, and lifting the UK’s ban on fracking for shale gas.  

As DeSmog has reported, the group has extensive ties to the GWPF and its campaign arm Net Zero Watch (NZW) – sharing personnel, resources, and campaign goals. 

NZSG chair Craig Mackinlay’s has employed GWPF and NZW head of policy Harry Wilkinson, a former researcher for GWPF founder Nigel Lawson, as a parliamentary aide. At the time of its launch, NZSG’s deputy chair Steve Baker MP was a director of the GWPF, and received £5,000 from GWPF chair Neil Record while in that role. 

Baker, who is not on today’s list, stepped down from GWPF in September to become a government minister, and in October said he was still administrator of the NZSG’s WhatsApp group but was no longer lobbying the government on climate policies. He received another £10,000 from Record in February.

NZSG’s policy demands track those of NZW, and Mackinlay has helped promote NZW reports. In March 2022, Mackinlay gave a supportive quote to a NZW report calling for “rapid” new North Sea exploration and for wind and solar power to be “wound down completely”. 

The GWPF continues to deny climate science. A recent paper called the UK’s record temperatures in 2022, which saw a 40C heatwave, “a warm year, but unalarming”. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s foremost body of climate scientists, says that “Climate change has already increased the magnitude and frequency of extreme hot events” and that “future extreme events will also occur with unprecedented frequency”.

The GWPF’s influence also appears to be growing. In May, Allison Pearson, the Daily Telegraph’s chief interviewer and a columnist at the newspaper, joined the GWPF board, where she sits with former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Lord Frost, and Andrea Jenkyns. 

Craig Mackinlay was approached for comment. 

Original article by Adam Barnett and Sam Bright republished from DeSmog according to their republishing guidelines.

Continue ReadingHigh-Profile Allies of Anti-Net Zero Parliamentary Group Revealed in Telegraph Letter

Current heatwave across US south made five times more likely by climate crisis

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Latest ‘heat dome’ event over Texas and Louisiana, plus much of Mexico, driven by human-cause climate change, scientists find

Texas Longhorn bull. Image Sheila Brown CC0 Public Domain

The record heatwave roiling parts of Texas, Louisiana and Mexico was made at least five times more likely due to human-caused climate change, scientists have found, marking the latest in a series of recent extreme “heat dome” events that have scorched various parts of the world.

More than 40 million people in the US, including those living in the Texas cities of Houston, San Antonio and Austin, have been placed under excessive heat warnings, raising fears over the health of people vulnerable to the heat and placing Texas’s energy grid under strain from surging air conditioner use.

The heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans by the burning of fossil fuels made the extreme heatwave at least five times more likely, according to a recent analysis by Climate Central, a climate science non-profit. The punishing heat, which is forecast to linger further throughout the week in Texas, is creating “stressful conditions for millions of people”, according to Andrew Pershing, vice-president for science at Climate Central.

Continue ReadingCurrent heatwave across US south made five times more likely by climate crisis

Tory minister makes baffling defence of water privatisation

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… MPs from different parties lined up to quiz the minister on how the government will tackle the crisis gripping the water sector. Among those to question Pow was Green MP Caroline Lucas.

She said: “Water companies had no debt when they were privatised. Since [then], they have borrowed £53 billion, and much of that has been used to help pay the £72 billion in dividends. Meanwhile, we have this appalling sewage scandal – particularly in the South East of England. We have a failing water company – the Southern Water company – that my constituents have no choice but to rely on and it’s considering raising bills by £279 per year by 2030, largely to pay for the investment that they should have been making in the previous years.

“Doesn’t that just show that the privatisation of water was a serious mistake and it needs to be permanently rectified?”

In an unbelievable response, Pow came back: “What I would say is that privatisation has enabled clean and plentiful water to come out of our taps.”

Continue ReadingTory minister makes baffling defence of water privatisation

Public Pension Funds Have Lost Billions on Their Fossil Fuel Investments: New Analysis

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Orifginal article by Dana Drugmand republished from DeSmog

Six major US retirement funds would be worth a combined $21 billion more today if they had divested a decade ago, University of Waterloo researchers find.

US public pension funds would be worth billions more if they divested from fossil fuels, researchers have found. Credit: Climate Clock

For U.S. public pension funds, divesting from oil, coal, and gas would result in overall higher financial value.

That is the key takeaway from a new study examining the past decade’s portfolio performance for several of the largest public pension funds in the country. The analysis by researchers at the University of Waterloo, published today in partnership with the organization, has found that the total cumulative value of six major U.S. public pension funds would have been about 13 percent higher had they divested from fossil fuel holdings ten years ago – equivalent to around $21 million in earnings.

Using Bloomberg Terminal data, the researchers looked at the actual portfolio performance between December 31, 2012 and December 31, 2022 of six funds: the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, California Public Employees’ Retirement System, California State Teachers’ Retirement System, New York State Teachers’ Retirement System, Oregon Public Employees’ Retirement Fund, and the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

Then they analyzed how the funds would have done over the same time period if the fossil fuel investments had been divested, and their value spread evenly among the remaining holdings.

The analysis found that while the total actual value of the six funds was $402.8 billion at the end of 2022, they would have been worth $424.6 without the fossil fuel holdings. 

“Financially it doesn’t make sense to stay invested [in fossil fuels],” Olaf Weber, a University of Waterloo sustainable finance professor and co-author of the study, told DeSmog.

He said the findings are consistent with other similar studies, such as a 2019 analysis which found that California and Colorado’s public pension funds would have been a combined $19 billion richer had they divested from fossil fuel holdings in 2009.

Although major fossil fuel companies have reported record profits over the past year, this growing body of research suggests that it has not significantly boosted the value of pension funds that remain invested in these companies. 

Experts have pointed out that in addition to the great volatility of the fossil fuel industry’s value,  the sector appears to be bound for long-term, perhaps even permanent, decline.

“Today the oil and gas sector is in a pitched battle for last place in the stock market,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of financial analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, during an April webinar timed to the release of a report calling for major hospital systems to divest from the industry. 

While the fossil fuel sector commanded about 28 percent of the stock market in 1980, it now accounts for about 5 percent or less of the market, Sanzillo said during the event.

Oil and gas sector profits “are unsustainable,” he said, “and their future is on shaky ground.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment ‘a Win-Win Situation’

One often-used argument for staying invested in fossil fuels is that it allows investors to try influencing companies through shareholder engagement. The problem with this argument is that shareholder engagement has not been very effective at compelling big polluters to take serious climate action. 

“The results show there is not really an effect of engagement because if [investors] put pressure on the fossil fuel companies to reduce production, it will have a negative impact on the share price as well,” Weber said. “So that’s kind of a conflict.”  

Weber and his colleagues also looked at the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the public equity investments of eight U.S. pension funds: the same six plus the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association and the Alaska Retirement Management Board. They found that if the funds had divested from fossil fuel holdings ten years ago, their cumulative carbon spew would have been about 16.6 percent or nearly 280 million tons lower  – the equivalent of the annual energy use of 35 million homes.  

“[Fossil fuel] divestments are able to create a win-win situation with higher financial returns and lower carbon footprints,” the researchers concluded.

Orifginal article by Dana Drugmand republished from DeSmog

Continue ReadingPublic Pension Funds Have Lost Billions on Their Fossil Fuel Investments: New Analysis

What is a heat dome? An atmospheric scientist explains the weather phenomenon baking Texas and forecast to expand

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A heat dome began sizzling Texas and its neighbors in mid-June 2023, with warm nights providing little relief. National Weather Service

William Gallus, Iowa State University

A heat dome occurs when a persistent region of high pressure traps heat over an area. The heat dome can stretch over several states and linger for days to weeks, leaving the people, crops and animals below to suffer through stagnant, hot air that can feel like an oven.

Typically, heat domes are tied to the behavior of the jet stream, a band of fast winds high in the atmosphere that generally runs west to east.

Normally, the jet stream has a wavelike pattern, meandering north and then south and then north again. When these meanders in the jet stream become bigger, they move slower and can become stationary. That’s when heat domes can occur.

Map of U.S. with a bubble over the Midwest showing arrows moving, with the ridge air sinking
Heat domes involve high-pressure areas that trap and heat up the air below. NOAA

When the jet stream swings far to the north, air piles up and sinks. The air warms as it sinks, and the sinking air also keeps skies clear since it lowers humidity. That allows the sun to create hotter and hotter conditions near the ground.

If the air near the ground passes over mountains and descends, it can warm even more. This downslope warming played a large role in the extremely hot temperatures in the Pacific Northwest during a heat dome event in 2021, when Washington set a state record with 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius), and temperatures reached 121 F in British Columbia in Canada, surpassing the previous Canadian record by 8 degrees F (4 C).

The human impact

Heat domes normally persist for several days in any one location, but they can last longer. They can also move, influencing neighboring areas over a week or two. The heat dome involved in the June 2023 heat wave in Texas and Mexico was forecast to expand deeper into the Southwest and South Central U.S.

On rare occasions, the heat dome can be more persistent. That happened in the southern Plains in 1980, when as many as 10,000 people died during weeks of high summer heat. It also happened over much of the United States during the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s.

A heat dome can have serious impacts on people, because the stagnant weather pattern that allows it to exist usually results in weak winds and an increase in humidity. Both factors make the heat feel worse – and become more dangerous – because the human body is not cooled as much by sweating.

The heat index, a combination of heat and humidity, is often used to convey this danger by indicating what the temperature will feel like to most people. The high humidity also reduces the amount of cooling at night. Warm nights can leave people without air conditioners unable to cool off, which increases the risk of heat illnesses and deaths. With global warming, temperatures are already higher, too.

One of the worst recent examples of the impacts from a heat dome with high temperatures and humidity in the U.S. occurred in the summer of 1995, when an estimated 739 people died in the Chicago area over five days.

This article was updated June 26, 2023, with the heat dome in Texas.

William Gallus, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Iowa State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingWhat is a heat dome? An atmospheric scientist explains the weather phenomenon baking Texas and forecast to expand