The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Declining the Trojan Horse of Fossil Fuel Money
Dear Diary. Since grade school the vast majority of us know what the Trojan Horse was. Just to jog everyone’s memory, here is a paragraph from Wikipedia:
The Trojan Horse refers to a wooden horse said to have been used by the Greeks, during the Trojan War, to enter the city of Troy and win the war. There is no Trojan Horse in Homer’s Iliad, with the poem ending before the war is concluded. But in the Aeneid by Virgil, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks at the behest of Odysseus constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select force of men inside, including Odysseus himself. The Greeks pretended to sail away, and the Trojans pulled the horse into their city as a victory trophy. That night the Greek force crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back under cover of night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war.
During our Climate War there is a new type of Trojan Horse employed by “the enemy.” Dark money, or in some cases donations in the plain light of day, to universities and other institutions is being spent to keep doors open for some reliance on fossil fuels is a modern Trojan Horse. Please don’t except this gift lest the carbon dioxide Greeks come out of that horse to ruin our climate.
That’s what many of my Generation Z friends are imploring their universities not to do. Here is much more that popped into my Gmail in box today from the New York Times (You can sign up for this very informative newsletter…just a tip from the Climate Guy):
Photo Illustration by The New York Times; Shutterstock
A feud over fossil fuel money
Is it OK to accept money from fossil fuel companies?
At Stanford University, the question is ringing loud. This month, hundreds of students, faculty members and alumni, in an open letter, called on the university’s new climate school to decline funding from fossil fuel companies.
The letter was partly a response to an interview the school’s inaugural dean, Arun Majumdar, gave to my Times colleague David Gelles, in which he said the school was open to donations from oil companies. Majumdar said the school, known as the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, would be willing to work with companies “that want to diversify and be part of the solution.”
But the students and faculty members argue that fossil fuel companies just want to deflect attention from their role in a climate crisis that they continue to perpetuate. Accepting money from an industry with “a proven record of actively obscuring the scientific consensus on climate change,” the letter said, “presents a conflict of interest.”
It’s an issue that many institutions around the world, not only universities, are struggling with. Two environmental nonprofit groups, Stand.earth and 350.org, started a website to keep track of divestment pledges from universities, banks, companies and even Queen Elizabeth II. So far, the list includes more than 1,500 institutions and businesses worth some $40 trillion. (The New York Times accepts advertising from fossil fuel companies.)
In a commencement speech this morning at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, urged students to shun fossil fuel companies. “Don’t work for climate wreckers,” he said. “Use your talents to drive us toward a renewable future.”
Back at Stanford, a survey of students about measures they wanted the new climate school to implement found that refusing money from polluting industries was a top priority.
Celina Scott-Buechler, a doctoral student at the Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, said she thought the moment echoed the decline of the tobacco industry.
The parallels between the two cases are clear. Both sectors have been accused of running campaigns to mislead consumers and government institutions on the true dangers linked to their products. Both have faced lawsuits on those grounds.
In 2016, researchers unearthed documents that suggested that both oil and tobacco companies had hired the same public relations firms and research organizations to fight off allegations that their products were harmful.
There are also differences, though. As we know all too well, fossil fuels are central to modern life in a way that cigarettes are not, and it is an enormous challenge to change that. And, like Majumdar, many say they believe in working with companies on their plans to transform their businesses. The general idea is that collaboration on credible plans to transition to the clean energy sector is a lot more helpful than shunning companies.
For example, when the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, the largest of its kind in the world, announced in 2019 that it would divest from fossil fuels, it didn’t include oil companies that invest in clean energy technology.
Whatever happens, scientists say, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.
According to a timeline by the PBS program “Frontline,” four decades passed between the first scientific studies showing the dangers of smoking and the moment states started suing to recover what they had spent treating sick smokers in the 1990s.
It was around then that institutions started to reject tobacco money (The Times stopped accepting cigarette ads in 1999), though a few medical schools only decided to refuse donations a few years ago.
Scientists started to agree that human activity has an impact on the planet’s climate around the 1980s. But only in recent years have U.S. states filed lawsuits against fossil fuel companies. They are arguing, much like they did in suits against the tobacco industry, that companies misled them.
But activists in the divestment movement argue that, in the case of climate change, the planet doesn’t have decades to ramp up the pressure on fossil fuel companies.
Scott-Buechler said she hoped the research that she and others are putting out “can be a rallying call to move faster than the institutions of the past.”
An H&M store in central Stockholm. Fredrik Sandberg/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images
Before you go: Fast fashion and ethical shopping
What do you do if you want to shop responsibly but you have a limited budget? Some inexpensive fashion brands are better than others, but how long you wear the clothes is really crucial, writes Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic for The Times. Her advice: If you’re going to get something new, buy for the long term, not the weekend.
Last Friday’s newsletter characterized incorrectly the conclusions of a report by the World Meteorological Organization. While the agency did find that the world’s oceans have not been this acidic in 26,000 years, that time frame does not apply to heat in the oceans. (The last time oceans were this warm was more than 100,000 years ago.)
Here are some “ET’s” recorded from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:
Here is more climate and weather news from Tuesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
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