We’re facing a climate crisis. What comes next?
This is Katherine here, filling in for Eamon from London on this edition of The Loop.
This week we published an interview with Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, two of the key architects of the Paris Agreement, coinciding with the release this week of their new book, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis.
I got a chance to read the book last week before it came out, and I had the unusual feeling that I was reading something that felt revelatory, and new. That’s a rare feeling when you closely follow climate change—especially because the book is more of a rallying cry, and a how-to guide, than a breaking news exposé. (We’re all pretty aware that climate change is happening.)
The book takes the approach of marrying both the big picture, and the small, and spans thinking on climate change across areas as diverse as gender equality, artificial intelligence, and political polarization. After the initial chapter listing the undeniably grim future we’re facing, the authors take a practical, clear-eyed tone, imbued with what they call “gritty” optimism. That’s a brand of positive thinking that Figueres says isn’t about disregarding the pain caused by climate change, but is about realizing that, “if we put ourselves into a little box, the dark box of pain and grief and helplessness, we’re not going to do anything differently.”
Advocating gritty optimism means providing options for what comes next. The Future We Choose offers step-by-step suggestions on sustainable action for individuals (plant a tree; make a climate budget; vote) as well as for businesses, including prompts about what companies need to do even if they’re at the front of the pack.
“I’ve walked into many companies where they are exemplary on their climate action, and they say some version of, we’re doing everything we can, and policy needs to go further and faster,” says Rivett-Carnac. “And then I’ve said to them some version of, well, did you know that you are actually a member of several trade associations who are still lobbying against more aggressive policy?”
In our interview, Figueres and Rivett-Carnac also talk about why sovereign wealth funds are the next step in shifting climate finance; the “before” and “after” of the Australian bushfires; and why it’s okay to commit to net-zero—without knowing exactly how you’re going to do it. You can read the whole interview here.
Senator Elizbeth Warren published a letter urging BlackRock CEO Larry Fink to support her Climate Risk Disclosure Act—a bill Warren introduced in 2019 that would require companies to disclose their climate risk—and to provide more details on how BlackRock will achieve its new sustainability goals. Last month, in his own letter to CEOs, Fink said that climate change will reshape financing and that BlackRock will place “sustainability at the center of our investment approach.” CNBC
JPMorgan said it will stop financing some coal mines and coal-fired power plants, but most of the bank’s clients won’t be ruled out by the new restrictions. According to the Rainforest Action Network, the U.S. bank is the world’s largest lender to oil, gas and coal companies, financing some $196 billion worth of fossil fuel projects between 2016 and 2018. The strictest prohibition—no loans for companies with over 50% of revenues from coal—would only rule out 0.6% of that $196 billion loan sheet. Axios
Flight of fancy
London’s Heathrow Airport says it has become carbon neutral. The London airport has managed to reduce and offset its building, ground transport, and business travel emissions completely and plans to eliminate emissions altogether by 2030. There's just one catch: it doesn't count the emissions from the actual planes. However, earlier this month the U.K.’s aviation industry pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050—a commitment that will presumably mean planting a whole lot of trees. Meanwhile, plans for a third runway have been scuttled after a court ruling said, in part, that the plan conflicted with the U.K. government's commitment to the Paris Agreement. Sky News
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Oil demand was set to rise in 2020, then the coronavirus outbreak hit by Katherine Dunn
Did the ‘techlash’ kill Alphabet’s city of the future? by Robert Hackett
A study from Brown University found that roughly 25% of all tweets about climate change come from bots, according to The Guardian, which has seen a draft of the report. The study analyzed 6.5 million tweets in the weeks around President Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and found that the bots are overwhelmingly climate change deniers. About 5% of tweets in favor of climate action came from bots, while bots contributed 38% of tweets calling out “fake science.”