‘Shell knew’: oil giant’s 1991 film warned of climate change danger

by Damian Carrington and Jelmer Mommers : theguardian – excerpt (includes video)

Public information film unseen for years shows Shell had clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago but has not acted accordingly since, say critics

Film warned of climate change ‘at rate faster than at any time since end of the ice age’   What Shell knew about climate change in 1991(more)

The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered.

However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly.

Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.

“If the weather machine were to be wound up to such new levels of energy, no country would remain unaffected,” it says. “Global warming is not yet certain, but many think that to wait for final proof would be irresponsible. Action now is seen as the only safe insurance.”

A separate 1986 report, marked “confidential” and also seen by the Guardian, notes the large uncertainties in climate science at the time but nonetheless states: “The changes may be the greatest in recorded history.”… (more)

San Jose floods: City’s failure to raise alarm contrasts response to crisis at Oroville Dam

By : mercurynews – excerpt

When the Oroville Dam’s emergency spillway began to crumble earlier this month, phones throughout the region started blasting with emergency alerts, even sending shoppers at the local Wal-Mart to abandon their carts and flee.

When Coyote Creek in San Jose burst over its banks just over a week later, the first warnings for many residents that floodwaters were rising to their windowsills were rescue crews in boats knocking on their doors.

Now, as residents from three San Jose neighborhoods and two mobile home parks lament all they’ve lost and clean up from Tuesday’s flood, they are demanding to know why the city didn’t do enough to raise the alarm.

Authorities near the Oroville Dam faced criticism for a chaotic evacuation of nearly 200,000 people fleeing a wall of water that never came, but San Jose’s leaders are under fire for leaving so many residents unprepared for the city’s worst flooding in 20 years.

No lives were lost in either crisis, but the indecision and communications breakdown among city and water district officials in San Jose are raising questions about how authorities here prepared for and responded to an emergency that unfolded over two days last week.

“The public deserves to know all of the facts about why there was not sufficient warning to residents,” Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged Saturday. He will be holding a hearing in the next two weeks for a full public vetting. “There will not be any information held back.”… (more)

We are told that the San Francisco plan is “shelter in place”, since there is no realistic way to evacuate a city dependent on power to operate most public transportation systems. The more electrified we are the more dependent on that system. Rentals and shared vehicles will not go very far during a crisis.


Alameda: State panel rejects proposed waterfront hotel


ALAMEDA — A state commission has rejected a waterfront hotel planned for Bay Farm Island despite the city of Alameda having green-lighted the project.

The Feb. 16 decision by the San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission means city officials cannot issue building permits for the 98-room hotel proposed for a vacant 1.5-acre parcel in the Harbor Bay Business Park near Oakland International Airport.

“Quite simply, the project is too large for the parcel, would significantly obstruct views of the bay and substantially reduce access to the shoreline,” said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who also serves on the commission…

“No matter what they do, this project will not fit on this site,” resident Irene Dieter said. “It’s just not compatible with it.”…(more)


Oroville Dam Crisis Shows Why We Must Invest In Infrastructure

huffingtonpost – excerpt (including video)

WASHINGTON ― Every few years an actual or threatened disaster highlights the state of America’s crumbling infrastructure. President Barack Obama, for example, pointed to a 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which left 13 people dead and dozens of others injured, in his push for more federal funding to overhaul roads, bridges and waterways.

Another potentially catastrophic situation arose in California over the weekend.

Nearly 200,000 people were told to evacuate on Sunday as workers labored to repair a severely damaged spillway below the country’s tallest dam, which holds back California’s largest reservoir. Heavy storms in recent months had pushed water levels to historic highs at Lake Oroville, which supplies water to central and southern portions of the state.

The situation was so dire at one point that officials issued warnings to multiple communities near the dam. Water levels in the reservoir receded somewhat by late Sunday, giving authorities additional time to bolster an auxiliary spillway. But a new storm system arriving later this week could fill Lake Oroville to the brim once more, with no indication of when the thousands of displaced people will be able to return to their homes.

Failure to invest in infrastructure comes at a heavy cost. Collapses in the New Orleans levee system led to mass flooding, billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of deaths in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

One of Trump’s biggest promises for his first 100 days was to deliver a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to Congress. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) poured cold water over the idea of a large spending package in December, telling reporters he hoped to avoid “a trillion-dollar stimulus.” And with other items on Trump’s agenda ― including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and an overhaul of the nation’s tax system ― seemingly stalled on Capitol Hill, a major infrastructure bill could take years to land on the president’s desk…(more)


Report: Officials ignored Oroville Dam spillway concerns 12 years ago

abcnews – excerpt

Our media partner the San Jose Mercury News reports the environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, filed a motion with the federal government in 2005, urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the request after the state department of water resources and other water agencies said the upgrades were unnecessary…(more)

Spillway concerns have been ignored by federal and state officials for years because the government has a problem setting realistic priorities and policies. How do we reset a broken political system that ignores science ? We understand that seismic issues are not taken into account by CEQA.

How this is possible in a state as unstable as California?  These are the kind of CEQA reforms that we need to concentrate on, not administrative reforms that speed up the review critical process. How do we reform the broken system that is supposed to protect our major investments like dams and bridges? How do we turn the decision-making process into one that serves the public instead of corporate interests and political egos?

Neighborhoods all over the country are fighting  back with ballot measures like Yes on S in LA that would impose a moratorium on large development project approvals because the public does not trust the government to make the right decisions.

Oroville Dam: Motion to Intervene of Friends of the River, Sierra Club, and South Yuba River Citizens League filed on October 17, 2005: Motion

Time to pull the plug on VMT/Orcem

By Jeff Carlson : timesheraldonline – excerpt

A review of documents and communications related to the VMT/Orcem proposal reveal that the principals submitted an application before developing a viable project. The draft Environmental Impact Report prepared at great expense and circulated for public comment can no longer fulfill the legal requirements for sufficiency under the California Environmental Quality Act. Information recognized only after circulating the draft EIR exposed the fact that three quarters of the described operations will not be approved by a regional permitting authority. The project has now been reduced to a marine terminal with a slag cement plant tenant using only a quarter of the terminal capacity, without even the pretense of financial viability.

The major Vallejo Marine Terminal component of the project was described in the application, in the EIR, and in the applicant’s economic analysis as a break bulk cargo-handling operation. According to the applicants, this would “establish a key site of multi-modal and intermodal transportation and logistics, thereby enhancing Vallejo’s role in the regional and international trade economy.” Why they would think so is something of a mystery, since the cargo reports show demand for break bulk shipping has dwindled away to nothing, with the last activity recorded at any Bay port in 2006. VMT was always a business plan decades behind the times, and as it turned out not something that would be permitted by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission… (more)

Environmental Protection or Principal Constraint to Housing Production?

 : FoxandHoundsDaily – excerpt

”The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been turned on its head, becoming a full employment act for lawyers and their client neighborhood groups.

The result is that CEQA has become not a protector of the environment, but a promoter of sprawl, pushing the housing market away from existing neighborhoods and onto farmland, where the cows don’t sue.”

Those are the words of the Sacramento Bee which on several occasions both before and after this editorial appeared in 2003 has spoken critically of the state’s premier environmental law, CEQA.  That’s because rather than protecting Yosemite and the coastline, CEQA intervenes in every development project – especially housing – from downtown Oakland to suburban San Diego.

Signed by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1970, CEQA exists to assess and mitigate environmental impacts of development.  CEQA says:  “It is the policy of the state to . . . take all action necessary to provide the people of this state with clear air and water, enjoyment of aesthetic, natural, scenic and historic environmental qualities.”  The statute goes on to direct all public agencies “to develop standards and procedures necessary to protect environmental quality.”

Yet, CEQA is the most deliberate and often-used means to stop or seriously delay a development of any kind.  The tales of CEQA stifling housing production are legion.  But consider an environmental impact report (EIR) done in 2011 to bless a solar plant, no less, in San Luis Obispo County.  Before they were done, development skeptics – using CEQA – demanded, among other things, analysis and mitigation of the project’s aesthetic, agricultural, biological, cultural, geological, public service, transportation and water-use profile.  The final report was several hundred pages long…(more)

Proposed legislation calls for more affordable overnight accommodations along the California coast

By Dan Weikel : latimes – excerpt

Going to the beach may become more affordable if state legislators pass an Assembly bill introduced this week to increase inexpensive lodging along the coast.

The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Chula Vista) calls on the California State Coastal Conservancy to create a program that would preserve and add to the number of low-cost hotels, motels and hostels in coastal areas, particularly on parkland.

The bill would require the conservancy to work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and to develop a separate pilot program to explore the development, maintenance and operation of affordable accommodations by the private sector and nonprofit organizations.

“I grew up in a working-class family and got to enjoy the beach. There was easy access then,” said Gonzalez, who introduced the bill on Monday. “Now, people who grow up like I did don’t have that opportunity. Even for a middle-class family it can be cost-prohibitive to enjoy the beach.”… (more)


Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth

by Jess Shankleman and Chris Martin : bloomberg – excerpt (includes video)

Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”…(more)

%d bloggers like this: