Photos and Report: Extinction Rebellion’s Two Weeks of Timely and Urgent Actions Calling on Banks to End All Fossil Fuel Investments Now

5.9.21

“It’s Happening Now”: Highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis, Extinction Rebellion supporters hold up a banner by Lloyd’s Building on Leadenhall Street in the City of London on September 3, 2021, during their two-week long ‘Impossible Rebellion’ (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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When faced with the gravest existential threat to humanity’s future in our lifetimes — no, it’s not Covid, it’s catastrophic climate change as a result of the actions of humanity — homo sapiens, for all our vaunted ability to think and to understand complex situations, have found ourselves unable or unwilling to deal with it.

Three responses have been dominant over the many decades that this unfolding crisis has been apparent: firstly, denial, propagated by the climate change deniers in the fossil fuel industry and amplified by corrupt media; secondly, a complete lack of interest from those parts of the population (around a third in total) who have become completely disengaged from politics; and thirdly, and belatedly, a recognition of the severity of the crisis, but an acceptance that slowly-awakening politicians making promises about change that will take place decades from now is the best that we can do.

A fourth group is trying to do something about it, through non-violent direct action, to try to raise awareness of the urgent severity of the crisis, and the need for major structural changes to the way humans consume the planet’s resources, unleashing alarming quantities of greenhouse gases — primarily, carbon dioxide and methane — that are causing the earth’s atmosphere to change from one that supports an abundance of life to one that threatens it via increasingly hostile weather conditions, rising tides, melting ice and dying oceans.

Two movements in particular — the School Strikes for Climate movement initiated by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, and Extinction Rebellion, a primarily UK-based protest movement — have been trying to raise public awareness of the urgency of the crisis since autumn 2018. Their actions coincided with the publication of a landmark report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who warned, as the Guardian described it, that “there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.”

The report followed up on the Paris Agreement in December 2015, when, for the first time since efforts to tackle climate change through coordinated government action around the world were initiated in 1992, “a legally binding international treaty on climate change” was adopted by 196 countries. The goal of the agreement, as the UN explained, was “to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels”, with countries encouraged “to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.”

The IPCC report introduced a commendable sense of urgency to the Paris Agreement’s overly long timescale for drastic systemic change to humanity’s wilful disregard of the impact of our relentless consumption, and its core message — that we had only 12 years left to avert catastrophic and irreversible climate change — was taken to the streets both by Greta Thunberg and schoolchildren around the world, and by Extinction Rebellion, whose actions began with the occupation of five bridges in central London on November 17, 2018, and continued in April 2019 with an extraordinary week-long occupation of Waterloo Bridge, and the installation of a pink yacht emblazoned with the slogan ‘Tell the Truth’ — aimed at politicians and the mainstream media — at the busy junction of Oxford Street and Regent Street.

As a result of the combined actions of the IPCC, Greta Thunberg and XR — and Sir David Attenborough, who finally weighed in with a compelling one-hour BBC documentary, ‘Climate Change: The Facts’, climate change, and the need for urgent action to tackle it, rose up the political agenda. Council across the UK began declaring “climate emergencies”, and in May 2019, the UK government followed suit, becoming the first government in the world to declare a “climate emergency.”

Young Extinction Rebellion activists on the approach to London Bridge on August 30, 2021 during the climate campaigners’ two week-long ‘International Rebellion’ (Photo: Andy Worthington).

Noticeably, councils and governments were encouraged to recognise the significance of the climate emergency by polls that showed a majority of the British people embracing climate change as one of their most significant concerns. A poll by Opinium, in April 2019, “found 63% agreeing — including 25% strongly agreeing — with the statement: ‘We are facing a climate emergency’”, as an article on the Carbon Brief website explained, and when ComRes asked people to choose between the following statements — “I believe that climate change threatens our extinction as a species” or “I do not believe that climate change threatens our extinction as a species, but it does need to be tackled” — “54% agree[d] that climate change threatens human extinction, with only 25% disagreeing, while only 39% agree[d] with the compromise statement, with 47% disagreeing.”

Fast forward two years — after the Covid-19 lockdowns offered people a glimpse of what a less hectic and frantic consumer-driven world might look like — and public recognition of the scale of the climate crisis, and support for actions to deal with it, remains at an all-time high. In January this year, a global survey of over 1.2 million people worldwide, including 550,000 aged between 14 and 18, found that “64% of participants saw climate change as an emergency, requiring urgent responses from countries”, with 81% of those surveyed in Britain agreeing with the statement, and in May another UK poll found that 33% of people in the UK were “very concerned” about global warming, and 47% were “fairly concerned” (although whether people are prepared to change their habits is more difficult to ascertain).

It should be no surprise, of course, that climate change is now firmly lodged at the top of people’s political awareness, as the effects of catastrophic climate change have continued to make themselves apparent in an ever more alarming manner. This year, “wildfires in California, Greece and Turkey, floods in Germany, China and  England, and heatwaves in Canada and Siberia”, as the Guardian explained, have made more people more aware than ever that climate change is all too real, and is also disastrous. Extreme weather now happens every year in places that used to experience it sporadically, while holiday resorts — still largely abandoned by foreign tourists because of Covid — would have been too hot to endure or literally on fire if those tourists had indulged in their usual summer holiday activities.

And yet, despite all the politicians’ “empty words”, as Greta Thunberg so accurately described them, progress on implementing the major changes to our economic systems that are required to try to keep global emissions below a 1.5C rise has been almost non-existent over the last three years, as emissions have continued to rise.

In response, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) dramatically upped the stakes on August 9, releasing a new report, summarising the “physical science basis” for climate change, based on the findings from more than 14,000 peer-reviewed studies, demonstrating that climate change is “widespread, rapid, and intensifying.” In a press release, the IPCC explained that its latest report “provides new estimates of the chances of crossing the global warming level of 1.5°C in the next decades, and finds that unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to close to 1.5°C or even 2°C will be beyond reach.”

The IPCC also noted, “Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion — such as continued sea level rise — are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.”

António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, responded to the report’s publication by stating, “This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet. If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as the report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.”

With that call for “immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” ringing in their ears, Extinction Rebellion’s “Impossible Rebellion”, a fortnight of actions in London that began on August 23, focused primarily on one overriding message: “Stop Funding Fossil Fuels.”

Targeting the funders of fossil fuel extraction in the City

Extinction Rebellion campaigners at Bank Junction on August 27, 2021, during the two week-long ‘Impossible Rebellion’ targeting the City of London (Photo: Andy Worthington).

The target, in particular, was the City of London, because, as the Guardian explained in an article in May, “if the City were its own country, it would outrank Germany as the ninth largest emitter of CO2 in the world.” The article followed the publication of a report by Greenpeace and the WWF, which showed that “the City provided loans and investments for projects and companies that emitted 805m tonnes of CO2 in 2019”, a figure that is “1.8 times the UK’s own annual net emissions for the same year, which totalled 455m tonnes when discounting aviation and shipping”, sectors that the UK government, conveniently, doesn’t include in its emissions calculations.

As the “Impossible Rebellion” began, the Guardian further explained that banks and other businesses “listed on the London Stock Exchange or financed from the UK account for about 15% of global carbon emissions,” and some of these were duly targeted in a number of actions over the last two weeks.

I took part in XR’s actions from the beginning of the “Impossible Rebellion”, on Monday August 23, when Covent Garden was briefly occupied, and a giant pink table erected to encourage the government to “come to the table” to discuss the crisis, and I followed the change in tactics when the attempt to hold that site was swiftly defeated and XR responded instead with numerous smaller actions at multiple locations, often moving more nimbly than the police, and catching them by surprise.

The focus on the City, however, highlighted the role played by major banks and other organisations in suicidally promoting the climate crisis through their investments. On Friday August 27, a well-attended ’Blood Money March‘ through the City, with a carnival atmosphere maintained by XR’s samba bands, and with a focus not just on the City’s climate crimes but also on its colonial history, and the ways it still exploits the Global South, began at the Bank of England, which, as XR explained, “was built with blood money. Not only were 25 governors and directors linked to the slave trade, but the Bank had a fundamental role to play in enabling Britain to increase its role in the slave trade by underpinning the development of long-term commercial credit, which helped to finance the slave trade and the ensuing industrial revolution.”

The march then visited two locations where activists, unnoticed by the police, had prepared for the arrival of the main body of protestors by spraying red paint on two culpable organisations, Standard Chartered, and the City of London Corporation.

Extinction Rebellion activists at Standard Chartered headquarters in the City of London on August 27, 2021, having covered it in red paint as a protest against its funding of fossil fuels (Photo: Andy Worthington).

As we passed the headquarters of Standard Chartered, on Basinghall Avenue, “activists had already ‘scaled the entrance and poured blood-red paint across its glass facade’, as the Guardian described it, to highlight the £23bn that the company has invested in fossil fuels since the Paris climate accords in 2015”, as I explained in a post on the Facebook page of my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

As I also explained, “Founded in 1853, Standard Chartered is a British multi-national banking and financial services company, whose income in 2020 was $14.754 billion. Most people haven’t heard of it, because it doesn’t concern itself with the tawdry everyday business of retail banking, but it operates in more than 70 countries, and, as Wikipedia explains, ‘around 90% of its profits come from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.’”

The next blood-soaked stop was Guildhall, and the entrance to its North Wing, located between Aldermanbury and Basinghall Street, which activists had also already sprayed liberally with red paint. As I explained in my post, “Guildhall is the ceremonial and administrative centre of the Corporation of the City of London, which, as George Monbiot memorably explained in 2011, is a ‘medieval’ and ‘unaccountable’ organisation, ‘exist[ing] outside many of the laws and democratic controls which govern the rest of the United Kingdom’, and ‘the only part of Britain over which Parliament has no authority.’”

As Monbiot proceeded to explain, the City is “a kind of offshore state, a secrecy jurisdiction which controls the network of tax havens housed in the UK’s crown dependencies and overseas territories.” He added, “This autonomous state within our borders is in a position to launder the ill-gotten cash of oligarchs, kleptocrats, gangsters and drug barons. As the French investigating magistrate Eva Joly remarked, it ‘has never transmitted even the smallest piece of usable evidence to a foreign magistrate.’ It deprives the United Kingdom and other nations of their rightful tax receipts” and “has also made the effective regulation of global finance almost impossible.”

Red paint was also thrown on the doorstep, in Gresham Street, of the law firm Debevoise and Plimpton, which, as XR explained, “has represented Shell in UK court battles, defending them in a lawsuit brought by 40,000 villagers from the Niger Delta from claims against the oil giant over decades of oil spills.”

Extinction Rebellion campaigners by the Maples Group headquarters in the City of London as part of the ‘Blood Money March’ through the City on August 27, 2021 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

The next stop was the Maples Group, on Aldersgate Street by the Museum of London, who are part of “a group of law firms that operate in tax havens and enable companies and private individuals to avoid tax”, as XR Coventry explained in a Facebook post, adding that the march “arrived to find a giant plaque glued to the front of the building” declaring them to be “a law firm that facilitates the mass theft of tax revenues through tax havens.”

A final bloodbath followed in Paternoster Square, where the London Stock Exchange is located, and where, back in autumn 2011, the Occupy movement’s UK offshoot intended to stage an occupation, swiftly shut down by the City of London police, which led to the memorable occupation, instead, of St. Paul’s Churchyard in front of the cathedral.

Other notable actions aimed at the funders of fossil fuels involved JP Morgan, which ‘Banking on Chaos’, a report this year by the Rainforest Action Network , BankTrack, Reclaim Finance and other groups identified as contributing more money towards fossil fuel industries than any other bank, putting a total of $317 billion into coal, oil and gas firms” since the 2015 Paris Agreement, as part of the $3.8 trillion invested in those industries since 2015 by 60 banks in total. A helpful analysis of the report by the Guardian is here.

At JP Morgan’s offices in Victoria Embankment, on September 1, eight women activists, all dressed in black, carefully broke two of the office’s windows, and then posted a rather clever sticker that read, “In case of climate emergency, break glass.” On September 3, “sixty doctors, nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers delivered an urgent public health message” to JP Morgan’s skyscraper headquarters in Canary Wharf. As XR explained, “Four held a banner saying ‘End Fossil Fuel Funding’, others chalk-sprayed ‘CODE RED’ on the walls and the rest staged a ‘die in’ in front of the doors to symbolise the deaths caused by fossil fuel funding.” Significantly, “several doctors were forcibly removed quickly and aggressively by security.”

Also on September 3, activists who had spent the afternoon in the City ended up at the London headquarters of BlackRock, which I described in a post on Facebook as “the predatory US investment management corporation, and the world’s largest asset manager, whose income in 2021 was $22 billion.” In January this year, as the Guardian reported, it was still holding “investments worth $85bn in coal companies, a year after it promised to sell most of its shares in producers of the fossil fuel.”

As the Guardian explained, “A loophole in the asset manager’s policy means it is still allowed to hold shares in companies that earn less than a quarter of their revenues from coal, meaning it has held on to shares or bonds from some of the world’s biggest coalminers and polluters”, including “the Indian conglomerate Adani, the UK-listed commodities companies BHP and Glencore, and the German energy company RWE”, according to research by the campaign groups Reclaim Finance and the German campaign group Urgewald.

Earlier, the protestors had spent some time sitting in the street outside the Lloyd’s Building, designed by Richard Rodgers, which acts as a marketplace for the insurance and reinsurance businesses, and which has been regularly targeted by campaigners — to good effect. As the Guardian explained in December 2020, although Lloyd’s had been “criticised for being slow to exit fossil fuel underwriting and investment”, it eventually “bowed to pressure from environmental campaigners and set a market-wide policy to stop new insurance cover for coal, oil sands and Arctic energy projects by January 2022, and to pull out of the business altogether by 2030.”

XR’s repeated focus on City institutions’ investment in fossil fuels was commendable, but the scale of the crisis is such that numerous significant players in fossil fuel funding are probably breathing a sigh of relief that, after two weeks, they emerged largely unscathed.

Chief amongst them, as was explained in ‘Funding Climate Chaos‘, a report by the Rainforest Action Network and other organisations looking specifically at London’s polluters, are Barclays, who “lent fossil fuel companies almost £91 billion between the end of 2015, when the Paris Agreement was signed and 2019″, which made them “the 7th worst bank in the world and the worst in Europe”, as the groups established in their previous report about the 60 most polluting banks in the world, and HSBC ranked 12th globally, with £67 billion of support for the industry. On September 3, campaigners gained some coverage by staging naked protests in branches of Barclays and HSBC, and who also aimed to target Natwest and the Lloyds Banking Group, all of whom (along with Standard Chartered) “provided $56 billion to coal companies through loans and underwriting services in the two years up to October 2020”, as Reclaim Finance explained in ‘City of Coal: The Climate Crimes of UK Finance’, a report that was also published this year, and which also identifies numerous other investment companies that have “invested $47 billion in shares and bonds in the same coal companies.”

In addition, apart from the JP Morgan protest in Canary Wharf, London’s second financial district, in the former West India Docks, also escaped largely unscathed from the fortnight of protests, even though some of the 60 global banks most prominent in investing in the fossil fuel industry are based there — most noticeably, Citi, the second biggest investor after JP Morgan ($237 billion), who occupy one of Canary Wharf’s biggest towers. Other big investors in the City, who also escaped scrutiny, are Wells Fargo, the third biggest polluter ($223 billion), who are based on King William Street, by London Bridge, Bank of America, the fourth biggest polluter ($198 billion), who are based on King Edward Street, and RBC (the Royal Bank of Canada), the fifth biggest polluter ($160 billion), who are based on Bishopsgate.

I could go on and on with the list, but what it shows, above all, is the extent to which fossil fuel polluters are supported by the City and Canary Wharf, and how crucial it was for XR to repeatedly shine a light on these investors, with their core message of the last fortnight— ‘Stop Funding Fossil Fuels.’

Other interventions in the ‘Impossible Rebellion’

There were other memorable actions in the last fortnight that also deserve mentioning; chiefly, XR Scientists, who, with other groups (XR Youth, XR Families and XR Communities), occupied the Science Museum to protest about the museum accepting sponsorship from the oil polluter Shell for its current exhibition about climate change. This was the only instance during the ‘Impossible Rebellion’ of an energy company (London’s largest, with a market capitalisation of £111 billion) being taken to task, but they, and the next two biggest companies, TotalEnergies, valued at £86 billion, and BP, valued at £63 billion, should also be included in future actions.

Also worth mentioning is Christian Climate Action’s protest inside St Paul’s Cathedral last Sunday “to demand the Church of England divest from fossil fuels.” As one of those involved, the Reverend Canon Jonathan Herbert from Hillfield in Devon, said, “The Church Commissioners and Pension Board rightly don’t invest in companies producing arms or tobacco, but surely investing in fossil fuels, with what we now know, is almost as deadly. It’s time for the Church Commissioners to take a lead and divest from death-dealing fossil fuels.”

Other highlights included some of the more than 500 XR campaigners who have been arrested in the last fortnight risking imprisonment by revisiting the City on September 2, even though their bail conditions required them not to do so. All were wearing placards explaining their “crimes.” I photographed a woman in Paternoster Square with a placard that read, “Arrested for caring about the natural world”, and others included “Arrested for caring about my grandchildren”, “Arrested for calling out the real criminals”, and “Arrested for conspiracy to commit climate justice.”

Extinction Rebellion activists and their vintage bus, carrying a message of love, surrounded by police on the approach to London Bridge after the police had violently shut down the protest, August 31, 2021 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

In addition, there were a few memorable occupations — of Tower Bridge and its approach road on August 30, and of the southern approach to London Bridge the day after, although that occasion was marred by the only incident of heavy-handed policing that I saw, when protestors dancing on an open-topped bus decorated with balloons and a message of love were attacked by police.

The ‘Impossible Rebellion’ came to an end yesterday with a wonderful and very well-attended ‘March for Nature’, from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park, via Regent Street and Oxford Street, which featured carnival dancers and music, but even as everyone involved takes a well-deserved break, all eyes are on the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, running from November 1-12, which, as I explained yesterday, when I posted a photo from the march, “really ought to be the final chance for the world’s governments to commit to doing whatever it takes to cut greenhouse gas emissions drastically, not by 2030, but with immediate effect.”

Extinction Rebellion campaigners on the ‘March for Nature’ on Regent Street on September 4, 2021, during the ‘March for Nature’, a carnival procession with music marking the last day of the climate group’s two week-long ‘Impossible Rebellion’ (Photo: Andy Worthington).

In a London reawakening from Covid to a depressing resumption of traffic-choked roads, workmen on a permanently short fuse, and mindless consumerism, some hostility towards XR has been evident over the last two weeks, but numerous passers-by have been supportive, even as others have gawped at protestors with, seemingly, little or no knowledge of how fragile and largely counter-productive most of the “business as usual” of pre-Covid life truly is. With environmental disaster looming — as confirmed by climate scientists, whose message is only being amplified by XR — I can’t fault the group’s efforts to demand an immediate end to all new fossil fuel investments, as part of an almost unspeakably urgent need for the human race to fundamentally change the way we live, to prevent the wildfires and flooding we have all been confronted with this year from escalating, year by year, into a vision of hell on earth — and no, I’m not exaggerating. Listen to the scientists.

Those involved in XR’s protests have, for the most part, crossed a line from which there is no going back. They recognise that the crisis we face is existential, and that efforts to set targets for the reduction of lethal emissions that involve taking action by 2050 are suicidally naive, and, most pertinently, that even efforts to reduce emissions by 2030 lack the urgency required to save us from an unbearably bleak and inhospitable future on a planet super-heating its atmosphere to the point of no return.

We act because there has never been a crisis like this before, in all of our lifetimes. We act for our children, for everyone’s children, and for all the other life forms with whom we share the extraordinary gift of life on what, throughout the entire existence of human beings, has been a uniquely bountiful planet. Ignorance will not save us. Denial will not save us. Every day we waste brings us closer to a future, not so very far away, in which everything we have taken for granted, and all the fleeting endorphin rushes of our self-entitlement and our pointless competitiveness, will be lost as we struggle to survive on a burning, flooding planet whose very atmosphere we will have turned against us.

Please get involved. We are nearly out of time. There is no tomorrow. There is only today.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

16 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, a detailed report about Extinction Rebellion’s fortnight of actions in London, primarily targeting the City of London, and demanding an immediate end to all investments in fossil fuels — the minimum that is required to tackle the alarming and irreversible climate change that is already underway, but whose worst effects can be mitigated if we act now — and not, as politicians like to think, by 2030 or even 2050.

    Included are some of my photos from the last two weeks, plus a detailed account of how awareness of a looming environmental catastrophe has grown, and information about the banks and other organisations targeted by XR — as well as others who only escaped attention because two weeks isn’t long enough to expose all the climate crimes of our banks and other financial institutions.

  2. Neil says...

    Hi Andy, Really good article. My take on the science of climate change is that co2 takes decades to effect the climate, and that the impacts we are witnessing now are more to do with emmissions from the second world war, and post war years, than recent times. So, even more grim than many currently recognise.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, that’s a very good point, Neil. There’s a NASA article here that, although it tries to maintain a balanced viewpoint, nevertheless explains that, Once [carbon dioxide is] added to the atmosphere, it hangs around, for a long time: between 300 to 1,000 years. Thus, as humans change the atmosphere by emitting carbon dioxide, those changes will endure on the timescale of many human lives.” As the article also explains, “Half of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in the last 300 years has occurred since 1980, and one quarter of it since 2000. Methane concentrations have increased 2.5 times since the start of the Industrial Age, with almost all of that occurring since 1980. So changes are coming faster, and they’re becoming more significant.” Even more reason to stop all fossil fuel emissions now! https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2915/the-atmosphere-getting-a-handle-on-carbon-dioxide/

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Andy, Ida blew up because of the overheated gulf waters, Its move up the coast keeping the strength was because of the overheated Atlantic. An EF-3 tornado in New Jersey – warnings in Manhattan. The Eastern half of the US is inundated with rains – flooding in Tennessee and Kentucky and now due to Ida while the West is burning and higher heats (I had 111 in my neighborhood in Seattle at the end of June – a town that has the least amount of air conditioning in the US. That included my apartment). Air quality across this nation is poor (Denver has had 3 decent days in over 60). A new island was found in the northern reaches of Greenland, Ice is melting and heat domes forming over the arctic.
    NOW politicos in the US are starting to discuss climate change but STILL not enacting any legislation to help. The US is the 2nd largest polluter on the planet.
    Damn, people! It’s not like we haven’t been warned for over 100 years.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the update, Jan. I’ve been watching what’s been happening in the US with great concern. At least the brain-dead denier-in-chief has gone, but can the Democrats grasp the enormity of what’s happening and actually do something? We need one significant western government to step out of the pack, declare a genuine emergency and start enacting legislation to shut down the biggest climate polluters immediately. 2030 won’t do. It needs to be NOW.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Exactly, Andy. I don’t see it being Biden.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t see it being anyone anywhere, Jan. That’s the problem. They have the science. The latest IPCC report spells it out more clearly than ever. We need to drastically cut emissions, and if no one is prepared to take a lead that’s simply not going to happen. The real test is going to be the COP26 summit in November.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    David Barrows wrote:

    I wish we could get these kind of numbers here in Washington, D.C. to protest inaction on climate change. So many problems with government linger here distracting activists from unifying with too many bosses and not enough joint actions. The 58th anniversary of the March on Washington is a case in point with its competing marches and three stages competing at the same time; the result: little coverage in spite of poignant and inclusive speeches by Reverend William Barber at the most appropriate stage — the Lincoln Memorial.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, David. I hope climate campaigners in the US can find a way to persuade people that climate change is an urgent existential issue, which everyone needs to embrace, whatever their other concerns. After the wildfires and the floods this year, it’s clear that a large number of Americans are directly affected by it, and while it’s a relief that Trump has gone, and that the US has rejoined the Paris Agreement, woolly promises by the Biden administration to get the US to “net zero” by 2050 fail, as in so many countries, to take on board the urgency of the crisis. No targets should look beyond 2030, and we need to start pushing NOW as the only truly viable date for an overhaul of our priorities as humans to keep the planet habitable.

    I see from recent polling in the US – in May – that around two-thirds of Americans ( and higher percentages of younger Americans) believe that “the climate should be a top priority to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations”, and even though – as in the UK – older people in particular show an unwillingness to voluntarily give up much to accomplish that, the fact that a majority of people have a basic understanding of the severity of the crisis is encouraging.

    A brave political leader would realise that he/she has a mandate for major change, particularly as Covid has shown that we can come together in the face of a global emergency. That was a demonstrably immediate crisis, but it shouldn’t take too much effort, armed with the science, and with people’s awareness of the serious climate change that is already taking place, to tell people that the time scale for this emergency is actually no less immediate.

    https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2021/05/26/gen-z-millennials-stand-out-for-climate-change-activism-social-media-engagement-with-issue/

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote, in response to 7, above:

    Agreed, Andy. I am not real optimistic at this point. We have no “leaders” on this planet, it seems. Most of them are just working for various global interests that pay them off with positions and the appearance of power. Maybe I am just a cynic in my old age but I find money to be the driving forces and that money is held by the owners of all those corporations raping the planet.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Unless there’s money to be made from alternative and cleaner forms of energy, Jan. Some banks, for example, are already decreasing their fossil fuel financing, as CNBC explained in an article in April. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/22/which-banks-are-increasing-decreasing-fossil-fuel-financing-.html

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    In addition, Jan, Bloomberg reported in May that “green bonds and loans from the global banking sector exceed the value of fossil financing so far this year”, with even the big dirty fuel-sponsoring monsters (JP Morgan, Citigroup and Bank of America) shifting investments to greener projects, and “pledg[ing] to facilitate at least $4 trillion of sustainable and climate-friendly deals over the next decade.” Tim Buckley, “a clean-energy investor who spent nearly two decades at Citigroup”, said, “We may well be at a powerful tipping point. Finance will only lead when the numbers make sense”, and as Bloomberg described it, “From a profit and loss standpoint, industry executives now have proof they can make money participating in the transition away from fossil fuels.” https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2021-wall-street-banks-ranked-green-projects-fossil-fuels/

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    There also seems to be significant interest, finally, in investing in hydrogen as a fuel. The BBC covered it last year. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53238512

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    But Andy, in the US, hydrogen for energy and automobiles comes from fracking.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Oh no, that’s a disaster, Jan.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    As a corrective to Bloomberg’s positive take on the “greening” of the banks most responsible for funding environmentally dirty fuels, here’s the Rainforest Action Network’s report from May looking specifically at the ongoing climate crimes of JP Morgan – ‘A Fig Leaf for Fossil Expansion: Assessing JPMorgan Chase’s 2030 Climate Targets’: https://www.ran.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/RAN-Assessing-JPMorgan-Chases-2030-Climate-Targets-May-2021-1.pdf

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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