Writing in Rolling Stone, Bill McKibben brings us global warming's "new math," a collection of scary stats about the record-setting shifts in the world's climate, from the hottest rainfall ever recording (109' F in Mecca) to the record-breaking increase in the number of broken records in worldwide weather. McKibben's second set of numbers are the financial numbers -- companies borrowing against fossil hydrocarbons that are still in the ground, effectively incurring an obligation to dig them up and burn them -- that explain why no one is doing anything about the first set.
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June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.
Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.
Not that our leaders seemed to notice. Last month the world's nations, meeting in Rio for the 20th-anniversary reprise of a massive 1992 environmental summit, accomplished nothing. Unlike George H.W. Bush, who flew in for the first conclave, Barack Obama didn't even attend.
The BBC's Louise Redvers reports on the ghost town of Kilamba, Angola, a horrendously expensive high-rise enclave built by Chinese companies on a line of credit secured with Angolan oil, which has only seen 220 apartments out of 2800 sold. Kilamba is the most ambitious of several new towns being built outside of existing Angoloan cities by Chinese firms.
It's like a bizarro-world version of the Keynsian idea of getting the economy going by paying one group of laborers to dig holes and another to fill them in. But in this case, one group of workers are paid to pump oil, which is offshored to China. In exchange, a group of Chinese workers is paid to build a gate-guarded enclave for a non-existent pool of mega-rich locals that no one can afford to live in, and which gradually turns into a massive liability. Profit!
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The place is eerily quiet, voices bouncing off all the fresh concrete and wide-open tarred roads.
There are hardly any cars and even fewer people, just dozens of repetitive rows of multi-coloured apartment buildings, their shutters sealed and their balconies empty.
Only a handful of the commercial units are occupied, mostly by utility companies, but there are no actual shops on site, and so - with the exception of a new hypermarket located at one entrance - there is nowhere to buy food.
After driving around for nearly 15 minutes and seeing no-one apart from Chinese labourers, many of whom appear to live in containers next to the site, I came across a tiny pocket of life at a school.
At a private party hosted by
Shell Oil†, a model rig malfunctioned and spooged its dark ichor all over a guest. "I can't turn it off!" says one hapless organizer. Adds another: "Why are you filming? Can I have that phone, please?" [Read more: Occupy Seattle]
†Update: If you thought the irony too delicious for words, you were right: it's a hoax! Gawker's Adrian Chen got to the bottom of it. Read the rest
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones writes about a trove of new photographs documenting the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which released nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.
In the midst of the disaster, BP and its contractors did everything they could to keep people from seeing the scale of the disaster. But new photos released Monday offer some new insight to just how grim the Gulf became for sea life.The images were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request that Greenpeace filed back in August 2010, asking for any communication related to endangered and threatened Gulf species. Now, many months later, Greenpeace received a response from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that included more than 100 photos from the spill, including many of critically endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles dead and covered in oil.
More photos and more about what they reveal at Mother Jones. Read the rest
Image: A Dimock, Pennsylvania resident who did not want to be identified pours a glass of water taken from his well after the start of natural gas drilling in Dimock, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2009. Dimock is one of hundreds of sites in Pennsylvania where energy companies have raced to tap the massive Marcellus Shale natural gas formation. Residents say the drilling has clouded their drinking water, sickened people and animals and made their wells flammable. Picture taken March 7, 2009.
Over the weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reversed a commitment to deliver safe water to residents of Dimock, PA, a small village where natural gas drilling operations have poisoned water supplies. Why? So far, federal officials won't explain why.
Only 24 hours after promising them water, EPA officials informed residents of Dimock that a tanker truck wouldn't be coming after all. The about-face left residents furious, confused and let down — and, once again, scrambling for water for bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets.
Federal Agency Cancels Water Delivery to Pa. Town - ABC News.
In ProPublica's extensive reporting series on fracking in America, Dimock has been mentioned often. Christopher Bateman's 2010 Vanity Fair piece on fracking in rural Pennsylvania is another good read, and focuses on Dimock.
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A Canadian oil company called Paramount Resources has changed its name to Pixar. Seriously.
Previously known as Paramount Resources, I guess the executives got tired of being named after one of Hollywood’s has-been brands. As far as I can tell, this is not a joke, there’s even a serious sounding press release composed without a hint of irony. It’s being reported in the wider media as well.
Oil Company renames itself Pixar
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In Counting the Cost: corporations and human rights abuses in the Niger Delta, Platform and a coalition of NGOs accuse Shell Oil of funding vicious conflicts between rival gangs in the Niger Delta, bribing local militias to gain access to oil, and contributing to terrible human rights abuses in the region, including devastation in the town of Rumuekpe and the slaughter of 60 people there.
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The gang became locked in competition witha rival group over access to oil money, with payments to one faction provoking a violent reaction from the other. "The [rival gang] will come and fight, some will die, just to enable them to also get [a] share. So the place now becomes a contest ground for warring factions. Who takes over the community has the attention of the company."
Platform alleges that it was highly likely that Shell knew that thousands of dollars paid per month to militants in the town of Rumuekpe was used to sustain a bitter conflict. "Armed gangs waged pitched battles over access to oil money, which Shell distributed to whichever gang controlled access to its infrastructure."
Rumuekpe is "the main artery of Shell's eastern operations in Rivers state", with aroundabout 100,000 barrels of oil flowing per day, approximately10% of Shell's daily production in the country. Shell distributed "community development" funds and contracts via Friday Edu, a youth leader and Shell community liaison officer, the report said, an exclusive arrangement that magnified the risk of communal tension and conflict.