• May 24th, 2024
  • Friday, 10:23:20 PM

Bone Chilling News Out of Antarctica

Manifestación en Washington, DC, contra la financiación de combustibles fósiles. (Foto: cortesía Ben Cushing)



Glaciologists have for the first time detected alarming signs in the world’s coldest place—East Antarctica. Due to recent years of extraordinarily warm temperatures, its ice shelves and glaciers are showing weakening symptoms, which are triggering fears that a region with a potential global sea level rise of 52 meters could enter an unstoppable melting cycle.


Almost at the same time, the UN Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change issued its most unequivocal report ever—in order to avoid the catastrophic effects of warming the atmosphere beyond 1.5 degree Celsius, humanity must stop expanding the use of fossil fuels at once, and warned us that we are on our way to 2.8 degrees of warming by 2100.


Even so, the oil and gas industry, with its overwhelming influence over the world’s governments, continues to behave as if we were in 1950. The Biden Administration has approved the Willow Project, a huge dirty energy venture in Alaska that will spew close to 300 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, and has opened 1.6 million acres in the Gulf Of Mexico to oil and gas extraction.


This planetary negligence demands a historic response.


This planetary negligence demands a historic response. More than two dozen states and localities have filed lawsuits against this industry seeking compensation for the disasters unleashed by the climate crisis, plus the costs of future disasters. The industry witnessed another legal battle with profound disappointment. The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that these lawsuits must be contested in local courts, where the industry confronts an uphill battle to prevail. And the virtual impunity this industry operates with is unleashing unprecedented pushback, including a study that proposes to press homicide charges against it.


“The fossil fuel industry have not simply been lying to the public,” states the study, in part sponsored by Public Citizen. “They have been killing members of the public at an accelerating rate, and prosecutors should bring that crime to the public’s attention. What’s on their ledger in terms of harm, there’s nothing like it in human history.”


So far, the most effective response has been impacting where it hurts the most, their pockets. The environmental movement has launched a national campaign to press the banks that continue to finance the expansion of fossil fuels. Even though a year ago, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and Citibank committed themselves to reach net-zero climate emissions, these banks still are the strongest financial backers of this industry in the US. The Willow Project alone will require some $10 billion in investments.


This is an international scandal. The International Energy Agency has also warned us that to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees, it’s imperative that the world ceases to expand fossil fuels. Since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, however, the banking sector has loaned $4.6 trillion to this industry. And even though it has been around for 150 years, the world keeps supporting it as if it were a startup. According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2020, the industry received $5.9 trillion in subsidies, or 6.8 percent of the world’s GDP.


The fossil fuel industry, regardless of its obscene profits, finds itself in a corner. The lawsuits and intense social pressure are spreading out to other sectors of the economy, who are afraid that the financial and social consequences of this international scandal may splatter all over them as well.


It’s good that not only the innocent feel the chill down our spines.


Javier Sierra writes the monthly bilingual column Sierra & Tierra.