Forge the Future #58 - Pondering what the future holds, and how to inspire change
|Oli Hall||Jul 8|| 1|
Welcome to Forge the Future, your weekly guide to all things climate.
XR NYC are starting a new campaign tackling the link between oil companies and the tech companies providing them services. More attention on this issue is definitely needed, given that several of the firms have made big noises on their commitment to the environment. XR have also issued a statement recognising the privilege of their tactics of mass arrest, and promising improvement and adjustments in tactics. It’s good to see them take this on board, and hopefully it will help to make their activism more welcoming for all who want to make their voice heard.
State of the Climate
CO2 levels this week: 415.35 ppm
This time last year: 413.76 ppm
Now that the numbers are in, it will surprise no one that Arctic Siberia hit record temperatures in June, with the region more than 5°C above normal throughout June. Temperatures deviated further from the historical average there than anywhere else on the planet. In the US, the southwest’s monsoon is running late, increasing the risk of dry lightning, a major risk for starting wildfires.
Torrential rains in southern China have left millions without homes, and caused massive economic losses. Precipitation this year is double to triple normal levels, and flooding has become an ever increasing problem in recent years. Kyushu in Japan was also hit by rain, causing floods and mudslides that have killed at least 44 in the worst disaster since Typhoon Hagibis late last year.
A new study has shed light on a strange ‘cold blob’ south of Greenland. Whilst the world has on average risen by 1°C over the past century, this area has cooled by around 0.9°C. However, this study has linked it to a combination of factors, from a weakening of warming ocean currents, changes in high-latitude ocean circulation and more. The work, mostly performed through climate models, clearly attributes the area to anthropogenic climate change.
The climate is a complex and massive problem, and the campaign to save it can feel hopeless at times. There’re so many interrelated battles to be fought, and it often seems that even if we push as hard as we can, and collectively do everything right, we’ll still end up failing. Climate messaging has become ever clearer, backed by undeniable science, and yet much of the wider public is reluctant to take action, despite clear support in surveys and polls.
To my mind, good arguments have a carrot and a stick, and at the moment it feels like the climate movement is nearly all stick. The threats are growing larger, and many folks are starting to feel the real world impacts of climate change around the world. That can be seen in the results of those surveys - people are waking up to the fact that the world needs to change, and something needs to be done. But when it comes to what, and how, I feel like the message is a bit fuzzy.
Part of this is perhaps due to the politicisation of climate change - it’s now strongly associated with the left, and thus in many minds a greener world means a world of socialism. But I feel like because so much of the message is about what we can’t have - we can’t have internal combustion cars, we can’t have aviation - we end up with a message that’s all negatives. I’m reminded of comments about the UK, my home country, around the Brexit vote - we know what we don’t want, but we don’t know what we do.
There are voices painting a brighter vision however - the solarpunk movement is a particular favourite of mine - and I think we should do all we can to elevate these mindsets. More voices from all walks of life promoting the benefits of a greener, more sustainable future can only be a good thing. One of the reasons I think Elon Musk has captured the public imagination, for all his personal failings, is that he makes the future seem exciting and sci-fi. It’s all electric cars and hyperloops and tunnels and AI (albeit with an unhealthy dose of megalomania).
I’m certainly not advocating that we all join the church of Musk, but I’ve certainly been thinking more on how to promote and build towards a brighter future in my own work. Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective, but shaping a positive world feels more energising than avoiding a negative one, though they are just alternate sides of the same coin. I’d like to make Forge the Future part of that movement, and I hope to share more with you soon on what that will look like.
US vs the Climate
This week has seen a series of setbacks for pipelines in the US, with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancelled due to spiralling costs and delays, and the Dakota Access Pipeline shut down for at least 30 days after a key permit was scrapped. The company working on the Dakota Access expansion invoked force majeure (normally reserved for war or natural disaster) to prevent oil companies walking away from the project. The tide is finally turning, and new pipelines in the US are becoming unbuildable.
An investigation into low-interest loans for rebuilding after Hurricane Matthew has found that they were disproportionately awarded to white communities, and that the pattern repeats across other disasters going back decades.
The UK has pledged £3bn of green spending as part of its recovery plan, far short of what the government promised just last year, and well behind other European countries. A recent survey found that only 6% of the UK public want a return to the pre-pandemic economy, with around a third wanting big changes towards a fairer and greener future.
The EU is considering a stricter climate pledge under the Paris agreement, as it looks to increase its 2030 emissions target to 50-55% of 1990 levels, from the current 40%.
The UK has given the go-ahead to the 1.8GW Norfolk Vanguard windfarm project, with the chancellor suggesting he is also likely to approve the 2.4GW Hornsea 3 project later this year.
A new giant flywheel project in Scotland could help preserve grid inertia as the UK shifts to a larger and larger volume of renewables.
Volkswagen’s Zwickau factory has produced its last ever combustion-engined vehicle after 116 years of production. The factory is being entirely switched to EVs this summer, with the first expected to roll off the line by the end of the year.
Global meat eating is expected to fall 3% per capita this year to the lowest since 2011, as a variety of pandemic related causes have pushed more and more people away from meat.
The members of CORSIA, the UN-backed aviation offset scheme, have agreed to move the baseline year for calculations back to 2019 in light of COVID-19-induced aviation reductions this year. The move is expected to save airlines $15bn.
An exploration of the destruction wreaked upon the Niger delta by the oil industry - one of the most polluted areas on earth, with a life expectancy of just 41.
HEATED explores how the gas industry is stopping at nothing to prevent clean energy policy, including accusing policy-makers of racism.
A look at the potential implications of million mile batteries on the burgeoning EV market.
The End Times
That’s all I have for you this week. As always, thanks for reading, and if you’ve any feedback or suggestions for me, I’d love to hear them (you can reach me at email@example.com). If you feel like sharing this, I’d massively appreciate it!
Stay safe, and see you next week,