Emily Wurth, 202-412-1505
Americans Against Fracking on Obama Climate Change Plan
Statement by Mark Ruffalo
"President Obama deserves praise for prioritizing climate change, but if he's serious he needs to start by rejecting fracking for oil and gas. Fracking is a dangerous and toxic drilling process that greatly exacerbates climate change and threatens to put us over the edge. 400 ppm is a game changer that requires President Obama stand up to the oil and gas industry. We have clean and abundant wind, water, and solar alternatives that can power the entire U.S. and individual states, according to studies, with existing technologies at equivalent or lower costs than conventional fuels. President Obama can't claim to seriously address climate change and expand fracking for oil and gas - that's a stark contradiction," said actor/director Mark Ruffalo, a spokesperson for Americans Against Fracking.
The heat index—which combines air temperature and humidity—hit an astounding 58.5ºC (137ºF), the highest index ever recorded, in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday.
Amid a stifling heatwave this week Brazil is experiencing its highest temperatures ever recorded—a milestone that comes alongside global trends and fresh scientific data showing the world is far from meeting stated ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to curb the climate emergency.
According to the National Institute of Meteorology, temperatures in the southeastern city of Araçuaí hit 44.8ºC (112.6ºF) on Sunday, breaking the previous record set in 2005.
It was so hot over the weekend that international pop star Taylor Swift was forced to reschedule concerts nationwide.
Meanwhile, the heat index—which combines air temperature and humidity—hit an astounding 58.5ºC (137ºF), the highest index ever recorded, Tuesday morning in the country's second-most populous city of Rio de Janeiro.
Brazilians turned to fans, air conditioners and dehumidifiers to cool down, with utilities reporting record energy demand. Power outages were reported in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Amid the high heat, wildfires are burning widely in the Pantanal biome, the world’s biggest tropical wetlands spanning parts of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul states. The fires have ravaged an area about the size of Cyprus, or more than 947,000 hectares (about 3,600 square miles), according to the Environmental Satellite Applications Laboratory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The wildfires are arriving earlier in some places and with much more intensity. With summer not even at its height, fears are growing of what's to come:
"The Pantanal is a region that's used to fires," biologist Gustavo Figueiroa, head of the environmental group SOS Pantanal, told Al-Jazeera on Monday. "Normally, it regenerates naturally. But this many fires isn't normal."
Attributed in part to the El Niño effect, the historic temperatures in South America's largest country mirror the trend happening worldwide, with 2023 on track to be the hottest in 125,000 years , the result of burning fossil fuels and release of other heat-trapping gasses since the Industrial Revolution.
In addition to the heatwave and fires, heavy rains and damaging storms have brought severe flooding to other regions of the country, some resulting in the death of local residents and tens of thousands displaced.
Despite global efforts to reduce emissions and transition away from coal, oil, and gas, the latest figures from the United Nations in its 2023 Emissions Gap Report, released Monday,
that humanity is expanding its use of fossil fuels instead.
"The report shows that the emissions gap is more like an emissions canyon," U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement. "A canyon littered with broken promises, broken lives, and broken records. All of this is a failure of leadership, a betrayal of the vulnerable, and a massive missed opportunity."
New research, said one campaigner, "makes clear that the body in charge of implementing global policies to reduce GHG emissions is totally captured by the transnational companies that destroy the planet the most."
As the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis has wreaked increasingly deadly havoc across the planet over the last two decades, lobbyists and other representatives of oil and gas interests have attended United Nations-led climate talks more than 7,000 times in an effort to prevent world leaders from challenging their destructive business model.
That's according to new research released Tuesday by the Kick Big Polluters Out coalition just over a week before the start of COP28 in the United Arab Emirates.
Drawing on official attendance lists since COP9 in 2003, the research shows that the U.N. has granted at least 7,200 attendance passes to delegates for fossil fuel companies and industry trade groups, which often use their presence to peddle false climate solutions such as carbon capture.
The advocacy coalition stressed that its estimate likely understates the presence of oil and gas representatives at past U.N. climate summits given that many delegates didn't specify their affiliation or attended under the banner of nations where they do business .
At COP28, attendees will be required to disclose their affiliation under
new U.N. transparency rules
put in place earlier this year after two consecutive climate summits were inundated by fossil fuel lobbyists. At COP26, oil and gas lobbyists
had a larger presence
than any single country, and
more than 636 oil and gas lobbyists
Of the major oil and gas companies, Shell has sent the most staff—at least 115—to U.N. climate talks since 2003. The U.N. has granted a combined 267 attendance passes to disclosed staff from Shell, ExxonMobil , Chevron, BP, and TotalEnergies over the last 20 years, the new analysis says.
The report also shows that the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), a group whose members include Exxon and Chevron, has been granted at least 2,769 passes to attend U.N.-led climate talks since 2003.
"The research makes clear that the body in charge of implementing global policies to reduce GHG emissions is totally captured by the transnational companies that destroy the planet the most," Pablo Fajardo of the Union of Affected Communities by Texaco/Chevron said in a statement. "The COP must be freed from polluting companies, or the COP becomes partly responsible for global collapse."
George Carew-Jones of the YOUNGO youth constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change noted that the U.N. currently "has no conflict-of-interest rules for COPs."
"This unbelievable fact has allowed fossil fuel lobbyists to undermine talks for years, weakening the process that we are all relying on to secure our futures," Carew-Jones added. "Young people around the world are losing faith in the COP process—we desperately need strong safeguards on the role that oil and gas firms are playing in these talks."
The new research is likely to intensify concerns that fossil fuel industry influence at COP28—which is headed by the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company—will derail yet another critical opportunity to rein in oil, gas, and coal production, something that previous U.N. climate summits have failed to do in the face of worsening climate impacts across the globe.
Kathy Mulvey, accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, warned Monday that "without protections against conflicts of interest at COP28, the fossil fuel industry will be out in force."
"As we near the end of a year of devastating climate change-fueled disasters and record-breaking global average temperatures , the options to limit the worst potential impacts of climate change are narrowing," Mulvey wrote. "The fossil fuel industry has a lot to lose in the negotiations at COP28, and a lot to gain from continued diversion, distraction, and delay."
"Journalists are in severe peril as they cover the war that has claimed the lives of dozens of their colleagues," said the Committee to Protect Journalists.
A press freedom group said Monday that at least 50 journalists—most of them Palestinian—have been killed since the Hamas-led October 7 attack on Israel, to which the Israeli military responded with an indiscriminate bombing campaign in the densely populated Gaza Strip.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which began documenting media worker fatalities in 1992, 45 of the journalists killed thus far were Palestinian, four were Israeli, and one was Lebanese.
An investigation by Reporters Without Borders found that the Lebanese journalist—Issam Abdallah of Reuters —was intentionally targeted in southern Lebanon by strikes launched from the direction of the Israeli border. He and other journalists in the area at the time of the strikes were clearly identifiable as members of the media, wearing helmets and press vests.
CPJ said the first month of Israel's assault on Gaza was the deadliest on record for journalists, and the toll has continued to grow in recent days. Over the weekend, at least six more Palestinian journalists were killed in Gaza—including Bilal Jadallah, a previous CPJ contributor.
The Palestinian Journalists' Syndicate said Israeli forces "targeted" Jadallah's car.
"Bilal Jadallah helped CPJ document a deadly pattern of journalist killings by Israel Defense Forces and it appears that he fell victim to the same pattern on Sunday," Sherif Mansour, coordinator of CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement. "His killing leaves a gaping hole in the media landscape in Gaza, where journalists are in severe peril as they cover the war that has claimed the lives of dozens of their colleagues."
In addition to sounding alarm over the rising death toll, CPJ has expressed growing concerns about arrests of reporters, threats, censorship, attacks on media offices, and communications blackouts that have left journalists unable to safely do their jobs.
CPJ has documented several assaults on journalists, including by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Earlier this month, top Israeli officials—including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—amplified an Israeli media watchdog's false suggestion that Palestinian journalists were somehow complicit in the October 7 attack, an allegation that further heightened the dangers of reporting on the conflict.
"Journalists in Gaza are facing exponential risk," Mansour said Monday. "But their colleagues in the West Bank and Israel are also facing unprecedented threats, assaults, and intimidation to obstruct their vital work covering this conflict."
Israeli forces have repeatedly been accused of deliberately targeting reporters—a war crime under international law—but have yet to face accountability.
"Last May, we said the [Israel Defense Forces] must change their rules of engagement to stop unleashing the use of lethal forces against journalists and media organizations," Mansour told The Guardian on Tuesday. "We have not seen any indication that this has been done. This time, therefore, we have also called on Israel's allies, including the United States, Britain, and other European countries to pressure it to stop any use of lethal force against journalists."