The huge ocean current known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC – not the Gulf Stream!) shifts vast amount of water around the world. But scientists fear that by heating the planet and melting the Greenland ice-sheet, we’re already slowing it down, with the risk that it could collapse – a potential tipping point with huge consequences around the world. And a new study (published in 2023) has tried to pin down what could happen, when. So what do we actually known about this current, does it have anything to do with the Gulf Stream, and is there anything we can do to protect ourselves?
If one oil company is synonymous with funding decades of climate denial, it is Exxon. For decades, the oil giant copied the deadly playbook of Big Tobacco of sowing doubt about the evidence and delaying action.
The company funded a covert network of foot soldiers to deny evidence, delay action, and divert away from the industry. Between the late ’90s and 2005, the oil giant donated $16 million to numerous right-wing and libertarian think tanks to manufacture uncertainty about climate change.
The oil company spread such confusion and obfuscation despite knowing for decades that fossil fuels would cause global warming. The company knew by the ’60s that climate change could have catastrophic consequences. For example, a report for the American Petroleum Institute, on which Exxon is a prominent member, warned of the dangers of climate change and the risks to sea level rise if Antarctic glaciers melted.
We must keep trying to hold the companies to account for their failure to act, for their failure to future generations.
Nine years later, in 1977, Exxon’s leaders were told directly by a senior company scientist, James F. Black, about the looming climate crisis. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” he told Exxon’s Management Committee.
Decades after the company was first warned about climate change, in October 1997, the head of Exxon at the time, Lee “iron ass” Raymond, delivered a speech to the Fifteenth World Petroleum Congress in China.
As Steve Coll recalls in his book Private Empire, Raymond “devoted 33 paragraphs of his 78-paragraph speech to the argument that evidence about manmade climate change was an illusion.”
Months later, Exxon helped create a task force working with the American Petroleum Institute: “Victory will be achieved when average citizens understand (recognize) uncertainties in climate science” and when public “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of ‘unconventional wisdom.’” Where Big Tobacco led, Exxon followed with devastating consequences.
In 2006, nearly three decades after Exxon was first warned about climate change, the British Royal Society wrote to Exxon asking the company to stop funding organizations that feature information “on their websites that misrepresented the science of climate change, by outright denial of the evidence that greenhouse gases are driving climate change, or by overstating the amount and significance of uncertainty in knowledge or by conveying a misleading impression of the potential impacts of anthropogenic climate change.”
When Raymond retired, the Independent newspaper ran a front-page headline the following year: “The man who sold the planet.” The paper called Exxon the “Darth Vader of global warming” for its “denial that carbon emissions cause climate change.”
Commenting on the appointment of Claire Coutinho as the new Energy and Net Zero Secretary, Greenpeace UK’s policy director Dr Doug Parr said:
“We don’t envy the new energy secretary’s job. She’s picked up the baton for the final leg of a relay where her fellow runners have mostly been walking, sometimes backwards. Her department has a huge amount of catching up to do to tackle both the energy and climate challenges in her new job title.
“Fortunately, there are plenty of things that will deliver on both, from removing absurd blockages to cheap renewables to fixing our energy-wasting homes and bringing our power grid into the 21st century.
“In her maiden speech, Claire Coutinho described renewables as ‘one of the most remarkable success stories in the UK today’. Perhaps she could persuade the Prime Minister to build on that success story instead of blocking it. If she can do that, it’ll be good news for bill payers, the climate and the economy. We wish her best of luck with that.”
Analysts estimate the category 3 storm has already racked up a preliminary cost of $9.36bn, straining the insurance industry
Hurricane Idalia could become the costliest climate disaster to hit the US this year, analysts say, with massive implications for insurance and risk management industries.
The category 3 storm that barreled into Florida’s west coast from the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, then carved a path of destruction and flooding through Georgia and the Carolinas, has a preliminary price tag of $9.36bn, based on early estimates, according to risk analysts at UBS.
It follows 15 previous “individual weather and climate disasters” recorded in the US already this year by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) as unprecedented heat, wildfires, storms and floods escalate.
Cumulatively, Noaa said that by the end of July, which Nasa said was Earth’s hottest month on record, the total estimated cost of the damage caused by the disasters was $39.7bn. That figure does not include the estimated $5.5bn cost to rebuild the town of Lahaina following devastating wildfires that razed the Hawaii island of Maui this month.
Greens leader says Albanese government is ‘hellbent on opening more coal and gas mines’ and people must ‘fight back’
The Australian Greens leader, Adam Bandt, has called on people to join disruptive climate protests to pressure the Albanese government to stop opening new fossil fuel mines, saying he plans to help blockade the country’s largest coal port.
He has also written to the leaders of 16 Pacific Island nations suggesting they should make any support for an Australia bid to host a UN climate summit conditional on the government “taking stronger climate action”.
Speaking to climate activists in Melbourne on Wednesday night, Bandt said Labor was “hellbent on opening more coal and gas mines”.
He said more people needed to “get in behind” groups that engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience, naming Disrupt Burrup Hub, Rising Tide and Extinction Rebellion.
“The Liberals and Nationals were kicked out of office for thumbing their nose at the climate crisis … but with Labor it’s somehow more disappointing because you know they know what they’re doing is wrong,” he said, according to speech extracts shared in advance.
“Some Labor MPs might not get into politics to help out [oil and gas company] Woodside, but sure enough they end up there.
“Now we need to embrace the importance of protest and civil disobedience. We must come together and fight back.”
Bandt said the “law is often complex, but the morality is simple”.
“We might not all want to climb a coal bridge or sit in the foyer of Woodside, but we need to back the right of people to do so, and celebrate and feel joy from their action,” he said.