How the Travel Industry is Fighting Climate Change

As the effects of climate change materialize in the form of more frequent and destructive extreme weather events, various industries are looking at ways to reduce their carbon footprint with renewed intensity. As tourism contributes heavily to carbon emissions thanks to the emissions released by cars and airplanes, the tourism industry is looking for ways to make vacations more environmentally-friendly. The industry is deploying a variety of methods for doing so, from investing in more carbon-neutral infrastructure to educating tourists about the environmental impacts of travel and teaching them how to reduce carbon emissions. And as popular vacation destinations are being transformed by a changing climate, tourists are witnessing first-hand the disastrous impact of climate change, reinforcing the urgency of developing more environmentally-friendly practices like reducing carbon emissions, cutting back on waste, and exploring sustainable alternatives in all parts of life.

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According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the tourism industry is responsible for about 5 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, although others say the real figure is much higher than that. While this percentage may seem small, it accounts for a tremendous amount of carbon being released into the environment, and when it comes to tackling climate change reducing carbon emissions in whatever way possible is essential. Like major corporations in other industries, hotel chains are exploring ways to transform their businesses into ones that have a low or neutral carbon impact. Hilton, for instance, gets more than 50 percent of its electricity from a power plant that burns natural gas, which is a cleaner method than most popular forms of energy production, although it is not entirely carbon neutral. Hilton is also transitioning to using more energy-efficient lighting and appliances, including air conditioning systems that automatically turn off when they’re not being used.

Cruise lines, too, are trying to transition to a more environmentally-friendly business model. Royal Caribbean, for instance, is incorporating technology into their cruise ships that filters almost all of the sulfur dioxide emissions from their exhaust. The popular cruise line, having pledged to respect the oceans in the environment, has also invested in energy-saving lighting systems and has engineered the designs of their ships for optimum efficiency. Another cruise line, Hurtigruten, plans to transition to using liquified biogas, which is derived from organic waste instead of from fossil fuels.

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Educational efforts are part of how the industry is attempting to tackle climate change as well. Many hotels and tour groups encourage tourists to reduce waste by taking shorter baths and showers as well as reducing their laundry by re-using towels, among other strategies for minimizing waste. Tourist destinations, such as Lake Tahoe in Nevada, are trying to reduce their carbon emissions by improving their public transportation systems, reducing the extent to which people rely on cars to get around. Even luxury tourism brands are attempting to become more environmentally-friendly; The Brando, for instance, is a luxury resort that runs entirely on renewable energy, acting as a model for how other resorts can help to provide a luxurious vacation experience while completely eliminating their reliance on fossil fuels and harmful carbon emissions. 


As the global economy is currently strong, many expect that the tourism industry will continue to grow in the future, even as the nature of tourism itself changes due to climate change, both in terms of how a changing climate affects the weather conditions of tourist destinations and in terms of how the tourism industry is changing to reduce its contributions to the crisis. 

Microsoft Logo at store

Microsoft Plans to Become Carbon-Negative by 2030

Many major companies have publicly announced their commitments to reduce their contributions to climate change, particularly after the occurrence of a number of extreme weather events that are thought to have been made worse by the impact of human activity. Amazon, for instance, recently announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2040 by contributing to reforestation programs and switching to electric vehicles. Though Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said that he wants Amazon to lead the world in transitioning to carbon-neutral forms of energy, Microsoft has unveiled a plan even more ambitious than Amazon’s, as not only did Microsoft recently pledge to become carbon negative by 2030, but the company also announced a plan to remove all of its historical carbon emissions by 2050.

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Microsoft’s plan depends on the widespread deployment of carbon-capture technology which is currently expensive and not widely available. As such, a substantial component of the plan is to invest in developing this technology, as the company wants to spend $1 billion to fund innovation in this technology. The company has already been carbon neutral for the past eight years, as Microsoft is switching to renewable energy and purchases carbon offsets to negate the greenhouse gases they emit. The policy of being carbon-neutral is supported by a kind of internal carbon tax, as Microsoft charges its business units an internal fee for using greenhouse gases, driving these units to slash their emissions. Now, however, given the immediacy of the threat climate change poses, Microsoft has decided that their efforts thus far are not enough, and has pledged to radically transform their use of energy across their entire supply change.

Microsoft hopes that by investing a billion dollars into carbon capture technology, the company can drive innovation in the field, eventually bringing down the cost of the technology so that it is more practical for other businesses to use. With this technology, Microsoft hopes not only to make up for their own carbon emissions since the company’s founding in 1975, but to make it easier for other businesses to do the same. That being said, carbon capture technology is not without its critics, as some believe that the proliferation of this technology would delay the transition towards renewable energy sources and encourage companies to continue to emit carbon.

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A number of problems exist when it comes to using carbon capture technology, not the least of which is the question of how to safely and permanently store the carbon after it is captured. Despite the company’s commitment to becoming carbon-negative, Microsoft continues to do business with oil and gas companies, which belong to an industry that has significant interest in carbon capture technology. The decision to work with these companies has been met with criticism from within Microsoft, as employees wrote a letter criticizing their employer for working with Chevron and Schlumberger, two oil companies. Microsoft sees their use of carbon capture technology as an appropriate method of negating the carbon emissions created by these companies; however, the company is sure to be met with criticism from environmentalists for this approach, despite the audacity of their recent announcement and plan.

Forest of Trees

Genetically-Modified Trees May Be The Key to Reducing Climate Change

In what represents a potential breakthrough in scientific approaches to reducing the impact of climate change, scientists have created genetically-modified trees that do not emit a gas that contributes to poor air quality and global warming, without harming the health of the trees. Poplar trees give off isoprene, particularly when they are under stress like they would be during rapid changes in temperature or during a drought. Isoprene interacts with other substances to form ozone and types of aerosol, which have negative consequences on weather patterns. As poplar trees are widely used to create products like paper and plywood, and are also used as biofuel, the widespread adoption of genetically-modified poplar trees may enable a more environmentally-friendly method of producing these vital resources.

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According to the study, which was published in the journal PNAS, researchers observed the genetically-modified trees, which were planted in Oregon and Arizona, for a period of three to four years and concluded that they were capable of producing just as much biofuel as normal poplar trees, but without releasing harmful isoprene. Instead, the trees generated “alternative signaling pathways that appear to compensate for the loss of stress tolerance due to isoprene,” according to the lead author Russell Monson, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona. The researchers believe that neither the health of the trees nor the quantity of biomass produced were negatively affected by the genetic modification, giving hope that in the future, trees could be optimized to better suit the needs of a global climate that has been modified by human activity. As biofuel derived from poplar trees can replace traditional fossil fuels in a sustainable way, these new findings could pave the way for transitioning to a more carbon-neutral future.

The trees’ genetic code was modified by a process called “RNA interference.” In this process, specific genes are targeted and suppressed; in this case, the genes that are responsible for the production of isoprene are disabled. Multiple technologies exist in order to modify the genetic code of living organisms, including CRISPR, a newer technology that allows for even more drastic and precise genetic modification. In fact, traditional breeding of species, which humans have done for thousands of years, is itself a form of genetic modification, though it is a much slower and less precise way of altering the genetic makeup of an organism.

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When it comes to technologies that help to reduce the impact of climate change, the widespread planting of trees is often proposed as a method of mitigating carbon emissions, as trees use natural processes to store carbon and produce oxygen. However, planting a tremendous number of trees poses its own problems to ecosystems and the global climate, as not all of the gases released by trees benefit the environment. This is of particular concern given the advancement of technologies designed to autonomously plant large quantities of trees at a rate much greater than is possible with human labor, which is currently being deployed as a strategy for geo-engineering. As such, the future of harm reduction in connection with climate change may depend upon a combination of natural resources and cutting-edge technologies, as scientists of the future may be able to genetically optimize trees to maximize their beneficial impact on the environment. That being said, other strategies in addition to planting genetically-modified trees will surely be necessary in the fight against climate change, as carbon emissions continue to rise to increasingly-dangerous levels with no signs of stopping any time soon.


How The Way You Travel Is Affecting Our Planet

This year there have been increased rumblings around the world about climate change with details regarding the way we are all collectively killing the planet seemingly being reported each day, but there are many ways we can do our own little bit to help save the world.

Currently air travel is being cited as the number one enemy in our fight against global warming. The amount of carbon dioxide that an East to West coast flight generates is around one metric ton. And that is a lot. Cutting down on the amount of times you take air travel can be a great way to reduce your own personal carbon footprint.

Earlier this year there was an event at Google Camp that centered on climate change and many high profile names were in attendance, including Barack Obama and the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry as well as environmental champion Leonardo DiCaprio. While the efforts of so many people should be applauded, there were many who thought the 114 private jets that were used to get to the $20 million event was slightly hypocritical.

Another pivotal moment in raising climate change awareness was the rise of environmentalist Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish girl who sailed around the globe to chastise the Western world for creating an environmental issue that her generation – and generations to come – will have to continue to fix. On the back of Thunberg’s successful cultural movement, the concept of flight shaming – or ‘flygskam’ – has risen.

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The Swedish word originated from an anti-flying movement started by Swedish singer Staffan Lindberg. Lindberg originally wrote an article vowing to give up flying which was also signed by five of his famous friends, including Thunberg’s mother Malena Ernman. Thunberg has taken the campaign – where they suggest people should feel ashamed for using air travel due to the massive negative impact it has on the planet – and incorporated it into her “awareness tour” around Europe.

We are not suggesting you drive each time you travel cross-country, or sail around the world to your next meeting or holiday in Europe, but you can travel more by train. However America has over 3.7 million square miles of landmass meaning there are obstacles here too. For instance, a train journey from Los Angeles to Houston is over 35 hours long and is clearly not feasible for most travelers, but by taking the train on shorter journeys you can “do your bit.”

Currently train travel is the most environmentally friendly way to get around and many passengers are “getting on board” with the idea. The Pacific Surfliner in Southern California has seen an increase in travelers with around 3 million using the train service in 2018. Getting from Hollywood to San Diego takes around three hours, roughly the same time as sitting in a car. The difference being that on a train you can do your work, move around and most importantly, reduce your carbon footprint.

Train travel is also seeing a huge resurgence in popularity in the Northeast Corridor with over 17 million journeys being taken each year.
But if train travel is not the best way for you to get around and you have to rely on your car why not opt for an electric vehicle?

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Not only are electric cars far more beneficial to the planet – each EV has zero exhaust emissions – they can also use renewable energy. By recharging your car from a supply such as a solar powered grid, you would be reducing your greenhouse emissions even further.

And if this was not enough to convince you to trade in your gas powered vehicle to an electric one how about the fact that most electric vehicles are now being made with eco-friendly materials such as bio-based or recycled materials.

Other benefits of driving an electric car are the running costs and health benefits. The cost to charge an electric car works out at roughly a third as much per mile as buying gas. They are also cheaper to maintain thanks to having fewer parts – for example, there are no exhausts systems, starter motors or fuel injection systems as well as many other parts that a conventional car would need.

And with less harmful exhaust emissions the air quality will improve, meaning better air for us to breathe.

So when you are planning your next journey ask yourself these important questions. Can I take my time getting there? Do I really need to fly? Would an electric car – bought or hired – be the better option?

And if you can utilize America’s vast train network make sure you sit back, think about how you have done your bit to help the planet, and enjoy the scenery going past. You will be amazed at what you have been missing.

Electric Plane

World’s First Electric Plane Flies For 15 Minutes in Canada

Climate issues and air pollution are a top priority for many countries around the world with the number of electric cars in many towns and cities steadily on the increase. But what about the aviation world?

It is a known fact that air travel is damaging the planet with American flights responsible for around 11 percent of our CO2 emissions. But what can we do to reduce it?

This week saw a seaplane, completely powered by electric, take its maiden flight in Vancouver, Canada, leading some to claim it as a “world first” for the aviation sector.

Harbour Air – who has a fleet of airplanes that carries around 500,000 passengers annually – and magniX carried out a test flight of an aircraft that had been fitted with an electric motor. And although the plane was only a small six seater aircraft, it has been hailed as leading the way to “the world’s first all-electric commercial fleet.”

Taking off near the Fraser River in Vancouver, the electric seaplane continued for around 15 minutes before landing safely.

It is hopeful that by bringing electric into the aviation sector, the amount of carbon emissions could be reduced. Similar to that of the motor industry, where electric cars produce between 17 – 30 percent less carbon emissions to that of a petrol or diesel powered car, it is believed electric airplanes can reduce carbon emissions significantly, something the high-polluting sector should be embracing.

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In a joint statement released by magniX and Harbour Air, it was claimed that “this historic flight signifies the start of the third era in aviation – the electric age.”

magniX, an Australian company, actually launched the plane at the Paris Air Show in June this year and states that the propulsion system – the companies used a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver which has a 750-horsepower (560kW) magni500 propulsion system – enabled them to create a “clean and efficient way to power airplanes.”

It is believed that Harbour Air, a Canadian operator of seaplanes, are aiming to have an all-electric fleet of airplanes, they currently have 40 aircraft, by 2022, however this all depends on whether they secure the relevant regulatory and safety approvals.

There are many benefits of having electric airplanes with zero emissions as well as a much lower operating cost. Yet they are proving to be a bigger challenge to engineers, unlike the concept of electric trains and cars, which do not travel such long distances. Currently the plane’s batteries are only able to fly about 100 miles in between battery charging, which severely hampers the majority of flights.

The size of the motors and batteries that would be needed to not only launch an electric plane but to also keep it in the air – and for several hours at a time – would mean that it could be difficult for the planes to be flown.

However these are only minor issues that can be resolved eventually due to the rapid advancements in electric flights. In 2017 a non-commercial electric plane crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans during a round the world trip.

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But will moving airplanes to electric engines actually help cut gas emissions in the aviation sector?

There has been increasing concern regarding the amount of pollution from flying and the impact it has on the planet, with many travelers aiming to reduce their carbon footprint in any way they can. For instance, many try to travel by alternative methods where possible, such as train, while others are utilizing websites that help give something back to the environment – such as BedandTree who plant a tree each time you book your travel through them – while many businesses now hold their cross-country business meetings via video conferencing apps – such as Zoom – therefore removing their impact on the environment completely.

Swiss bank UBS released a survey recently showing that flyers are trying to reduce their air travel due to their environmental concerns, with “flygskam” or “flight shame” spreading throughout the country. And in the United Kingdom it has been claimed that by 2050 the biggest source of air pollution will be from aviation.

However, the prospect of using electric airplanes for long haul flights continues to be a major challenge for those in the aviation sector.

Although there has been a significant advancement in generators, power distribution, electrical motors and controls, battery technology has not advanced as much.

With this in mind, the electric airplane we saw recently in Canada can fly around 100 miles (160km) on lithium battery power, according to AFP.

magniX chief executive Roei Ganzarski commented that “the [flight] range now is not where we’d love it to be, but it’s enough to start the revolution.” He has also questioned ‘’if people are willing to drive an hour to work, why not fly 15 minutes to work?”

Global Warming

Climate Models Were Always Right on Global Warming

There are many people across the United States of America – as well as the world – who do not believe the argument for climate change, with many arguing that climate models are over-predicting how fast Earth is heating up.

With startling regularity, the claim continues to be argued that there is proof that climate change is not happening as fast as the experts claim. These claims are usually based on individual examples of data that may have been misinterpreted, even though over the years multiple studies have re-examined different climate models and continue to conclude that they are still working well.

A recent study has extensively investigated all global climate models that were released between the 1970s and 2007, which includes the ones that were used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s first three reports.

Lead study author Zeke Hausfather is a climate scientist at the University of California in Berkeley and has also worked alongside Tristan Abbott and Henri Drake – scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and Gavin Schmidt who is a scientist at NASA. Hausfather comments:

“It’s always a sign that you’re onto a good project when your first thought is, “Why hasn’t anyone done this before?” No one has really gone back and gathered all of the old model predictions that were in the literature, in part because climate models have changed a lot.”

Obviously many of these original models have become archaic with newer models replacing them. Yet even with advancing technology helping to make clearer projections, most of the early models had got their predictions of how warm the Earth would increase by right. In fact out of 17 models, only three were found not to be accurate.

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However the latest study focuses on an often ignored, yet crucially important point regarding how climate models work. Each model has worked on the projections of future greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn predicts the level of warming expected.

But predicting most things can be difficult, especially when you try to predict carbon emissions, as there are many factors to take into consideration such as population growth and changes made within the energy landscape as well as economic shifts – all human factors making a difference to the natural world.

It was also suggested that in the past several of the models that had been criticized were actually pretty accurate as the simulation of the connection between greenhouse gases and temperatures were correct but the expectations regarding carbon emissions in the future were different to the emissions that were eventually created.

Basically, if scientists had entered the correct levels of greenhouse gas emissions when first creating the models, we would have seen the exact levels of future warming that they predicted.

During the 1980s James Hansen, a researcher for NASA, created a climate model that would eventually lead to him giving a congressional testimony on the threat of climate change. His testimony helped highlight climate change awareness throughout the world however due to his model over predicting warming by around 50% disbelievers were able to use his words as proof of global warming not being a real threat, due to their belief that scientists were prone to over exaggerate the facts.

Alongside his colleagues, Hausfather was quick to point out that the problem with his model was not the physics but the fact there was an assumption that there would be higher methane and chlorofluorocarbon emissions – both of which are dominant greenhouse gases – than there actually was.

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One of the reasons for this over-projection was the fact that the model did not allow room for the impact the Montreal Protocol would have. The Montreal Protocol was a global agreement to phase out chlorofluorocarbons in an attempt to protect the ozone layer and potentially repairing the damage that was already caused.

As Hausfather said, “If you went back and reran that model with the actual levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and methane and chlorofluorocarbons, you would have gotten a value that was indistinguishable from the warming that we’ve actually observed.”

Even with these issues addressed there are still many obstacles for the next climate models such as making sure that all assumptions regarding greenhouse gas emissions in the future are accurate.

There will also be a need to look at specific physical processes on Earth that are difficult to understand, including clouds which have always been hard to represent, even though many scientists think they will be an important influence in regards to climate change. And as each model gets more and more detailed, the emphasis on making sure these details are improved upon will be significant.

In summary, the latest study implies that conclusions from previous models have been accurate for many years when it comes to global warming.

As Hausfather said, “they haven’t been overestimating warming, but at the same time it isn’t warming faster than we thought. It’s pretty much warming just as we thought it would.”

Rising Sea Level

Rising Sea Levels Pose Greater Threat to Cities Than Previously Thought

Scientists have known for some time that global warming will lead to the melting of the ice caps, and in turn the rising of sea levels, threatening coastal cities. But scientists have disagreed over the timing and the extent of the impact of rising sea levels. New research, however, suggests that three times more people than previously thought could be affected by rising sea levels by 2050. The research was conducted by Climate Central, which is based in New Jersey, and was published in Nature Communications.

The new research, which uses advanced techniques based on satellite readings of land elevation, shows that previous predictions about the scope of rising sea levels were too optimistic. According to the new research, 150 million people currently live in areas that by 2050 will be below the high-tide line. Southern Vietnam, for instance, is at risk of disappearing almost entirely. Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s economic center, could collapse.

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Another country predicted to be strongly impacted by rising sea levels is Thailand, where the city of Bangkok is expected to be all but underwater in 2050. More than 10 percent of Thai residents live on land that will experience inundation in 2050, as do a quarter of Vietnamese residents, totaling more than 20 million people in those two countries alone.

Rising sea levels are expected to affect even those people who do not live in areas prone to flooding, as inundation of economic centers will have a drastic impact on the places that people work and live. Many of the world’s cities developed on coasts, putting them at particular risk for the effects of rising sea levels. Shanghai, for instance, is under direct threat of being consumed by water, as is much of the surrounding area. Mumbai, India’s financial capital and one of the world’s largest cities, is at high risk, as is the ancient city of Alexandria.

Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago.

While the reality of rising sea levels is all but confirmed, there are measures that cities can take to combat the effects of climate change. Already, 110 million people live in places below the high tide line, as seawalls and other barriers prevent flooding. In order to combat this particular threat of climate change, many of the world’s cities previously unaffected by flooding will have to invest in technologies like seawalls in order to survive the end of the 21st century. As these massive infrastructure projects can be costly and take a long time to complete, particularly vulnerable cities would be wise to make such investments as soon as possible.

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That being said, protective measures can only go so far and are prone to human error, as infamously occurred in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Also at risk are places where few people live, but have great historical significance, as they contain artifacts created by humans who lived centuries ago. Unfortunately, these places are the least likely to be shielded by the effects of rising sea levels over the rest of this century, as the cost of doing so is great and offers little economic return.

Rising sea levels, of course, are not the only effects of climate change. Another major environmental consideration for cities as time progresses is the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which pose a threat to both infrastructure and human life. Already, these effects are felt in the form of unprecedented, raging wildfires in California, which many experts believe to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Additionally, climate change has increased the intensity of hurricanes and other storms, as in the case of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas. While the reality of anthropogenic climate change is not in dispute among reputable scientists, ongoing research continues to reveal the various ways in which climate change affects and will continue to affect human life, oftentimes revealing that the impact will be more severe than previously thought.

Oil and Gas Plant

How Oil and Gas Companies are Grappling with Climate Change

Climate change presents a major problem for nearly every industry in the world, but the oil and gas industry is perhaps the most directly affected one. As the burning of fossil fuels is the most significant contributor to the greenhouse gas effect, oil and gas companies remain the target of blame for the crisis around the world. As such, these companies are faced with the challenge of reconciling their responsibility to the planet with their obligation to generate profits. Although the science on climate change and the activities that contribute to it has been settled for a long time, it has only been in the past few years that oil and gas companies have come to an agreement about the nature and urgency of the crisis. How they are adapting to a near-global consensus about the need to reduce carbon emissions, however, is more disparate, with some companies investing in alternative energy solutions and others focusing on improving the efficiency of oil and gas consumption.

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Perhaps the most striking example of the oil and gas industry’s involvement in shaping the future of energy consumption is the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, which was formed by many of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, and whose members include BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil, and Chevron, to name just a few. The initiative’s stated goal is to “deliver solutions for a sustainable low-emissions future,” and their member companies are “dedicated to the ambition of the Paris Agreement to progress to net zero emissions in the second half of this century.” The initiative’s plan for reaching this goal includes three components: reducing the energy value chain footprint, accelerating low-carbon solutions, and embracing a circular carbon model.

The first objective refers to reducing the amount of methane released into the atmosphere during each stage of the process of energy production, from transport and distribution to usage by final customers. Of all of the greenhouse gases, methane traps the most amount of heat in the atmosphere, making its release a primary concern for oil and gas companies looking to reduce their impact on climate change. The second objective refers to optimizing the efficiency of fossil fuel use by investing in technologies that are more energy efficient and researching new low-emissions pathways for the mid and long-term. The last objective refers to capturing carbon emissions and storing them safely or using carbon in products, and then neutralizing any remaining carbon.

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While the Oil and Gas Initiative is certainly a step in the right direction, the organization has plenty of room for improvement. Though many of the world’s major players in the oil and gas space are represented by the initiative, the organization accounts for only 30% of the world’s oil and gas production. And the initiative is mostly focused on making existing fossil fuel consumption methods more efficient rather than switching over to renewable energy platforms, like wind and solar, though they consider renewable energy as a necessary component of the future of energy production. 

Many critics, however, suggest that the approach taken by oil and gas companies is inadequate, and insist that the transition to the energy economy of the future necessitates intervention from governments around the world. These critics, which include organizations like the Climate Action Network, blame the oil and gas industry for suppressing research about the effects of carbon emissions, and claim that major political change is necessary, as meaningful change will not come from oil and gas companies acting alone. The Climate Action Network, as well as other environmental organizations around the world, call for policies like a carbon tax, government investment in renewable energy, and an elimination of subsidies on oil and gas. That being said, global demand for energy, and specifically fossil fuels, is higher now than it’s ever been, and even the most ambitious plans for reducing carbon emissions still recognize that fossil fuel use must continue in some capacity for decades to come.

Climate Change Protest

Young People Around The World Skip School in Climate Change Protests

Usually when we think of students skipping school we imagine they are up to no good, as teenagers are prone to getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. However, a massive global protest today shows that young people are organized, concerned, and focused on perhaps the greatest responsibility of all, which is our species’ obligation to ensure a habitable global environment for generations to come. For these students, many of whom are followers of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, climate change is an issue requiring immediate action, as they recognize their generation is likely to experience the most devastating impacts of the phenomenon of anyone living today.

The protests began early in the morning on Friday, September 20th, when instead of heading to school students in several countries took to the streets, marching and carrying signs. In Australia, 100,000 students protested in Melbourne, in an event which organizers described as the largest climate action in the history of the country and which shut down public transportation organizers. In Sydney, demonstrators gathered in a popular public park called the Domain, and carried signs with phrases like “You shall not pollute the land in which you live,” “You’ll die of old age / I’ll die of climate change,” and “We can’t drink oil / We can’t breathe money.” Australia’s Prime Minister described these protests as just a distraction, adding that he felt students would learn more in school than they would protesting.

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In the Philippines, protesters blocked the entrance to a Shell Oil refinery, and in China, the world’s largest contributor to climate change, no protests occurred as they were not authorized by the government. Demonstrators protested in Kenya, Poland, and Berlin, where one protestor carried a sign reading “Make the World Greta Again,” a clear reference to Donald Trump’s infamous campaign slogan and the aforementioned world-famous climate activist. Several cities in Britain saw protests, with the largest being in London, where students justified their absence from school by arguing that soon there may be no school to go to due to the magnitude of the threat. 

Given the degree of anger and concern surrounding the topic, demonstrators are unlikely to be placated no matter what world leaders say

In New Delhi, a city well-known for having tremendous problems with air pollution, children gathered around a government building and chanted “I want to breathe clean.” And in Mumbai, the rain did not deter child protestors, who wore oversized coats while demonstrating.

Despite lacking the authority held by other generations, children have been proactive in advocating for serious action to be taken on climate change, and are often at the center of debates about how to handle the crisis, whether explicitly or implicitly. Having grown up using the internet as a primary platform of socialization, young people have a unique ability to quickly and effectively organize, with geographical barriers presenting only a minor hurdle in their efforts. And while children’s concerns are often dismissed or imagined as exaggerated or unrealistic, young peoples’ understanding of climate change and its impacts follows from the strong global scientific consensus that climate change is real, caused entirely by human activity, that we are already experiencing the effects of it, and that the impacts of climate change range from devastating to apocalyptic depending on what action we take in response to it.

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The protests are being held two days in advance of a meeting of world leaders at the U.N. called the Climate Action Summit during which world leaders are scheduled to present their plans for reducing carbon emissions and taking other actions on climate change. Given the degree of anger and concern surrounding the topic, demonstrators are unlikely to be placated no matter what these leaders say, though the historic protests being held today are sure to come up in conversation. 

While this is certainly not the first time young people have organized in protest for a political cause, the protests being held today around the world are unique in their scope and ambition. Climate change is a problem that affects all young people, irrespective of their country of origin or economic class, though it affects lower-class people, who did the least to contribute to the problem, more severely than upper-class people. As such, the primacy of climate change as a political concern unites an entire generation of young people, as evidenced by today’s historic number of protestors. Though the effects of today’s protests are as of yet unclear, as Generation Z grows up and climate change continues to destroy communities around the world, the political pressure to take drastic action is sure to ramp up.

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