Re-Tooling Demand

This Financial Times article (subscription req’d) pulls back the curtain on rain forest destruction in Brazil to let us see what – and who – it’s all for:

At the recent UN climate summit in Glasgow, more than 100 national leaders committed to halt deforestation by 2030, and 30 financial institutions, including Storebrand, promised to eliminate the harmful practice from their portfolios by 2025. However, the signatories, including Brazil, Russia and Indonesia, did not indicate how it would be implemented or tracked, and environmental campaigners remain sceptical.

ADM and Bunge are among the world’s largest traders moving Brazilian soyabeans around the world. The increase in production of the commodity, largely used for livestock feed, has been a leading cause of deforestation of the Amazon rainforest as well as the destruction of Cerrado savannah.

The scale of soyabean production on deforested land and differing standards about what qualifies as acceptable activity makes tackling its presence in supply chains challenging for companies.

Both Bunge and ADM strengthened their deforestation policies last year in response to calls from shareholders. Storebrand, together with US fund manager Green Century, tabled a proposal at Bunge’s annual meeting asking it to tighten its policies, which was backed by 98 per cent of shareholders. Bunge has said it is committed to not having soyabeans from illegally deforested land.

As much as even the big fund managers and many governments get on board with divestment and ESG priorities in managing portfolios, this really points up the issue: the companies – and countries – who burn and mine for profit just aren’t going to give it up as long as it’s profitable. The whole ‘fiduciary responsibility to shareholders’ is baked into our ethos, as long as there is money to be made, dividends to be paid, stock to buy back, whatever.

For allies in COP26 and elsewhere, the approach has to include the goal to dismantle, and then re-assemble, the demand side. It’s worth being realistic about this – otherwise, we remain [eternally? That’s optimistic – ed.] captive to supply-side economic logic. As the ADM example highlights, the companies will never lead anywhere besides mining, digging, clearing, and burning.

Image via © Ricardo Beliel/Brazil Photos/LightRocket/Getty Images

Fishing Nets and Fighter Jets

Chinese_Fishing_Nets_CochinAnd I should have thrown Opening Day in there too, but, you know, symmetry.

The new IPCC report, building on previous assessments, has made the future impacts of climate change all the more specific and detailed:

Scientists are increasingly finding a greenhouse gas fingerprint in extreme weather around the world. In the UK, the floods of this winter and the droughts of three years ago are a potential sign of things to come: risks of floods, droughts and heatwaves will increase in future. This is because of carbon already in the atmosphere and what we will add in years to come – even if we are successful cutting emissions.

And it’s very true, I know some of these scientists, though I don’t look favorably on their new fondness for adaptation in the face of these changes. One – we don’t mean it. Two – we don’t mean us. If you have the means, you will continue to design and develop useless, needless fighter jets. Meanwhile, Bangladesh. Should be meanswhile. I’m calling the dictionary people tomorrow.

We should still be focused on mitigation – reducing the greenhouse gas pollution that leads to climate change – it is still the cheapest path:

Mitigation efforts bring many “co-benefits” in addition to their reduction of greenhouse gas pollution. They benefit human health, energy security, biodiversity, and the general resilience of our environment and economy. The figures in the article do not include the economic impact of these co-benefits, which significantly reduces the net cost of mitigation.

Likewise, climate change brings harmful impacts that are not included in the purely economic cost estimate used here. This is acknowledged in the article, but it bears repeating. Lost lives don’t have a recognized economic value, and many of the soonest and harshest impacts of climate change will be in poor countries that won’t make a big splash in terms of global GDP.

Image: Chinese fishing nets in Kochi (India) via wikimedia commons.

That Newspapers Are Generally Terrible

Like so many, many things, because of a fealty to investors and/or corporate governance that equals the same thing, newspapers are under a lot of pressure these days. This creates an enormous problem for newspaper reporting, which itself creates one Gargantua of a feedback loop, where newspapers keep sucking, reporting is inaccurate and sensational, newspapers keep sucking, the profit margin shrinks, reporting gets more sensational, which makes newspapers suck more, which makes them less profitable… ad abundantiam, they get skewed hyper-capitalistic sensationalist status quo.

A fine example of this, if one is needed, rests in the deflowering of the supposed takedown of the IPCC and the work of scientists connected to it. It would seem to be enough, on a blog about green, to write about how all the pushback against climate change and global warming is a bunch of wishful thinking on the part of first-worlders, Randians and energy suppliers. That even though they really really really want to believe it’s bunch of bunk and we can keep on digging and spewing and burning for as long anybody wants to, we actually can’t.

But NOOOOOOOO. You can’t just do that. Because green isn’t just about climate real’ry or fakery but about financialry, and because it is you’ve got to get a handle on at least a few of the interlapping conflicts going on and how they relate to the preservation of a way of life. It’s what one might call a complex system.

It is a way of life, right?