OP-ED: Texas Environmental News

Tipping points tipping

In a 29,000-word report presented to the Austin City Council in September, Climatediscovery.org suggested mainstream reports of Earth’s climate change impacts are understated. The Climate Emergency Response Report shows that tipping points, also known as Earth systems collapses, are now active in half of known tipping systems, including the Amazon collapse, thawing tundra, weakened ocean currents and extreme weather. These tipping systems were not supposed to become active until the end of the century but have now activated because of delay in climate change action. Bruce Melton, director of the nonprofit Climate Change Now Initiative and lead author on the report, cites research that shows rainfall in Houston and Austin are already at levels that were projected for end-century models. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the increase is creating runoff that is 50 to 100 percent greater than in our old climate. Melton said, “This amount of rainfall is
far more than our infrastructure engineering is designed to handle.” John Kerry, the nation’s climate czar, said earlier this year that present fossil fuel burning is on track to raise global temperatures 3 to 4 degrees C, well above the 1.5 C temperature rise that most scientists have endorsed as the edge of catastrophe. The report highlights recent research that shows these tipping collapses have already caused the Amazon jungle, northern permafrost zones and Canadian forests to flip from greenhouse gas
sinks to sources that are emitting, not absorbing, greenhouse gases with emissions of at least 3.5 gigatons every year and possibly as much as all transportation emissions globally. Melton said, “Our Earth systems are now warmer than their evolutionary boundaries and they are collapsing, to be replaced with species that can endure the changed climate. The collapses will not reverse unless we lower Earth’s temperature back to within the evolutionary boundaries of her systems, meaning that
current warming allows tipping to complete and become irreversible, with existential scenarios for humankind. Existential is forever and it is defined as, “events that could cause human extinction or drastically curtailing humanity’s potential.” With national and international climate change policies failing, Melton suggests that local and regional entities have the power to make change happen, saying, “After all, it is local and regional entities by far that have created the most infrastructure on this planet.”

Free Donziger

Nine United States legislators have called on the U.S. Justice Department to release environmental lawyer Steven Donziger from prison. Donziger, who battled Chevron Corp for years over pollution in the oil-rich Ecuadorian Amazon, won a $9.5 billion claim against the giant for water and soil contamination in an Ecuadorian Court in 2011. Chevron refused to pay and eventually convinced a New York Court to hear the case in 2014. Judge Lewis Kaplan not only ruled in favor of Chevron, implying no pollution occurred, but also was influential in Donziger’s New York state de-barring. Donziger’s house arrest in 2019 was followed by his conviction of contempt of court charges leading to his imprisonment. In the letter, according to Al Jazeera, the legislators demanded immediate action, noting that Donziger, was jailed on “petty contempt of court” charges stemming from his non-compliance in a lawsuit filed by Chevron, suggesting the DOJ is partially complicit in his targeting by Chevron. The letter also said the Biden Administration “must send a clear signal that it stands with communities harmed by pollution and environmental destruction and the lawyers courageous enough to represent them and not the corporations that benefit from polluting the water, air, and land of local people.”

U.S. oil and gas exports up

In another legislative letter, U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (District 30, Texas) wrote 10 Permian fossil fuel operators, including Chevron, to provide data on leaking methane. Chairwoman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, Johnson described the request as an attempt to understand whether their technology can actually stop emissions. The inquiry also seeks information about how to strengthen federal government methane monitoring and to what degree truth exists in the industry’s rhetoric. She also asked them to provide how much methane they’ve leaked annually since 2016. Methane is a gas 25 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas over the first 100 years of its release. In the meantime, Oil Change International reports that Permian oil production grew 135% from 2015-2020 while U.S. consumption was stagnant. Construction of pipelines and export terminals on the Gulf Coast intensified –– driven by exports, not rising U.S. demand. U.S. exports of gas have tripled since 2016, and if the current crop of proposed LNG plants goes ahead, including Sea Port Oil Terminal (SPOT) near Surfside Beach, Texas, Texas Gulflink terminal near Jones Creek, Texas, Rio Grande LNG terminal near Brownsville, Texas, and Plaquemines LNG terminal near Belle Chase, Louisiana, methane exports could substantially increase and provide expanded fossil fuel infrastructure for decades to come.