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The Energy and Climate Weekly: Of lobbying and fossil fuel company losses, bike lanes and renewed calls for a speed limit
Most people will probably be happy about the continuing sunny weather in April, especially since it allows them to escape from the turmoil inside their own four walls for a walk or outdoor sports for a while.
Unfortunately, the unusually warm and extremely dry April reminds us of the climate crisis, which does not pause even in times of Covid-19. Already many media ask whether Germany threatens a new Durresommer this year. To answer this question, it is still clearly too early, as the interviewed meteorologists explain. Nevertheless, clear trends can be identified with regard to the change in April weather.
The temperature series of the German Weather Service (DWD) show that the temperature has been above average in almost every year since the turn of the millennium, and precipitation has been consistently too low since 2009. On Twitter, the DWD reported that only 3 percent of the typical amount of precipitation for the month fell in the first half of April, and in some parts of the country, such as Brandenburg, it was even less. On half of the area there is already the highest forest fire danger level.
Not only parts of Europe are plagued by successive drought years, but on the West Coast of North America, scientists are even talking about a "Megadurors". A historically unparalleled megadrought is underway in the western United States and northern Mexico, according to a new study by scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and climate change is playing the key role in it.
Although reliable weather records only go back to about 1900, researchers have used tree growth rings to trace soil moisture back to the year 800 n. Chr. reconstruct. Past centuries have also seen droughts and even megadroughts lasting decades, but the current one is exacerbated by man-made climate change and the resulting rise in average temperatures.
"It doesn’t matter if this is the worst droughts of all time", says co-author Benjamin Cook. "What does matter is that it will be much worse due to climate change." The effects of the drought are palpable: Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which provide water for agriculture, have shrunk significantly, forest and brush fires are increasing, and parched forests provide attack surfaces for insect pests.
Climate strike on the net
The Corona crisis also urgently needs to set the course for future climate policy. Climate protection must not be put on hold, nor must economic stimulus programs be launched that once again strengthen the fossil fuel and climate-damaging industries, as is now being demanded from various sides. It is absolutely necessary to prevent the fossil lobbies from asserting themselves here once again.
Such demands will certainly also be opposed in the "Net strike for the climate" on 24. April to be protested. It was supposed to be the third worldwide climate strike of the Fridays for Future movement, which now, in the face of an almost global lockdown, cannot take place on the Strabe.
"Any economic stimulus packages that are launched now must be socially just and, if used properly, can promote climate protection at the same time as demanding employment and value creation", declares the alliance of supporters.
Fossil companies use the favor of the hour
In the USA, violations of environmental regulations will no longer be punished if the polluting companies can only credibly claim that they have to pollute the air and water because of the Corona crisis. This was already decided at the end of March.
In addition, at a time of limited protest, attempts are being made to complete the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport oil from Canadian tar sands in the province of Alberta to Nebraska, from where it will be transported via existing infrastructure to the Gulf of Mexico.
The project had been halted in 2015 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and reauthorized by decree in 2017 by his successor in office, Donald Trump. Now, in early April, in the midst of the Corona pandemic of all things, which makes counter-protests impossible, construction work has begun again, as the Guardian reports.
It can be amed that this is a way to circumvent similar mass protests by indigenous people and solidarity activists as against the Dakota Access Pipeline in the Standing Rock reservation.
As if this were not bad enough, the fact that construction workers are being brought from across the country to nearby or indigenous territories in times of deadly epidemic brings back memories of dark chapters in North American history, when indigenous people succumbed in large numbers to diseases introduced and sometimes wantonly passed on by female settlers, as Bill McKibben describes in his Guardian article.
Fortunately, the all-clear is given for the time being. On 15. April, a Montana court ruled that construction had to stop until there was a sufficient environmental impact assessment of how the project would affect endangered species.
Such infrastructure projects appear questionable not only in view of the unforeseeable consequences for people and the environment and the fact that the Canadian tar sands had to remain in the ground in order to meet the Paris climate target. They also seem to be guided by a need for fossil fuels that doesn’t even exist anymore. But building and expanding fossil fuel infrastructure is always about setting the course for the future.
During the Corona crisis, the price of oil plummeted, and the price of American WTI crude even went into negative territory. This is due to the special situation in which fewer cars are being driven and hardly any flights are being flown, and production lines are at a standstill.
However, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) argues that the oil, gas and plastics industries are already in decline and that the effects of the pandemic will only accelerate this decline.