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Mike Litt, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Credit monitoring and other services that are usually offered to data breach victims and other concerned consumers do nothing to prevent identity theft; they only detect certain types of fraud after it has occurred. A report released today by U.S. PIRG Education Fund aim to increase the awareness and use of the security freeze, also known as a credit freeze. The report explains that the freeze is the only security measure that can prevent new account identity theft.
"Only the security freeze can prevent someone from opening a new credit account in your name," said Mike Litt of U.S. PIRG. "Credit monitoring services may tell you but only after you've already been victimized. Worse, they are often offered after simple retail credit number breaches, even though they offer no help against unauthorized use of your existing accounts, which is the fraud most likely to occur from that type of breach."
A security freeze works by preventing a consumer's credit report from being shared with potential new creditors, such as banks or credit card companies. Most creditors will simply not issue credit if they cannot see the applicant's credit report or score derived from it. The report recommends that the best course of action for most consumers is to place security freezes with the three major national credit bureaus until they want to apply for credit, at which time they can easily unfreeze or "thaw" their reports.
"Whether your personal information has been stolen or not, your best protection against someone opening new credit accounts in your name is the security freeze, not the often-offered credit monitoring services, which only alert you after a new account has been applied for or opened," added Litt. "For this kind of ID theft, only a security freeze offers peace of mind."
The report, "Why You Should Get a Security Freeze Before Your Information is Stolen." offers the following information for consumers:
"Only the security freeze offers peace of mind against new account financial identity theft, but consumers still need to be vigilant about other identity threats and potential harms posed by the easy availability of non-public personal information, from both breaches and other sources," said PIRGER. "Check your accounts regularly, don't give out information to someone who phones - call the number on your bank or health insurance card instead -- and don't click on email links."
The report reiterates that neither credit monitoring nor a security freeze can detect or prevent unauthorized use of existing credit accounts or other types of fraud or identity theft. Regarding fraud on existing accounts, many banks and credit card companies already have mechanisms in place to detect such fraud and remove unauthorized purchases. Positively, the report notes that as of October 1, nearly all credit and debit cards have been replaced with "chip" cards. At the same time, most merchants will also replace their "swipe" terminals with "swipe or dip" terminals. A "chip" card that is dipped does not transfer actual account numbers to the merchant's computer at all, greatly reducing the number of potential existing account fraud victims. However, consumers should be aware that while chip cards will stop most in-person retail fraud they will have no effect on online fraud, although PIN debit cards will. Most banks, however, are only issuing "Chip and Signature," not "Chip and PIN" cards.
"If you can avoid running up credit card debt, always use credit cards online, not debit cards," added Litt. "If you haven't lost your actual debit card, but only had the account number stolen, your legal rights are quite strong, but why face cash flow problems after losing money from your bank account while you wait for the bank to investigate and put it back?"
The report also notes that paid credit monitoring services, which generally range from $9.99/month-$19.99/month or more, are not necessary because federal law requires each of the three major credit bureaus to provide a free credit report every year to all customers who request one -- if requests for reports from one of the three credit bureaus are staggered every four months or so, free credit monitoring can essentially be achieved.
"Sure, a credit monitoring service might detect theft faster than you might on your own, depending on when the theft occurs and when you check your reports. But is it worth the $10 - $20 or more in monthly fees to find out about theft after someone has already attempted to or successfully opened a new account in your name when you can monitor your own accounts and prevent such activity with less costly security freezes?" asked Litt.
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.
"Nothing less than a just global transformation... is required to ensure human well-being," researchers wrote.
If Earth were to get an annual health checkup akin to a person's physical exam, a doctor would say the planet is "really quite sick right now."
That's how Joyeeta Gupta, professor of environment and development at the University of Amsterdam, put it at a Wednesday press conference accompanying the publication of new research in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. Co-authored by Gupta and 50 other scientists from around the world, it warns that nearly every threshold for a "safe and just" planet has already been breached and pleads for swift action to protect "the global commons for all people now and into the future."
As Carbon Brief reported: "The new study develops the idea of 'planetary boundaries,' first set out in an influential 2009 paper. The paper had defined a set of interlinked thresholds that it said would ensure a 'safe operating space for humanity.' Its authors had warned that crossing these thresholds 'could have disastrous consequences.'"
"We cannot have a biophysically safe planet without justice."
The new paper, written by many of the same people, introduces justice considerations into the framework, leading the authors to propose a set of "safe and just" Earth system boundaries (ESBs) at global and sub-global scales, some of which are stricter than the "safe" limits outlined previously.
"For the first time, we present quantifiable numbers and a solid scientific foundation to assess the state of our planetary health not only in terms of Earth system stability and resilience but also in terms of human well-being and equity/justice," said lead author Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
The interdisciplinary team focused on five of the nine planetary systems identified in 2009—climate, biosphere, water, nutrient cycles, and atmosphere. To determine the health of these systems, they relied on the following eight measurable indicators:
As Phys.orgreported: "Safe boundaries ensure stable and resilient conditions on Earth, and use an interglacial Holocene-like Earth system functioning as a reference point for a healthy planet. A stable and resilient Earth is dominated by balancing feedbacks that cope with buffer and dampen disturbances. Cutting-edge science on climate tipping points features as one major line of evidence to set safe boundaries."
To establish "just" boundaries for each indicator, the authors assessed the conditions needed to avert "significant harm," which they defined as "widespread severe existential or irreversible negative impacts on countries, communities, and individuals from Earth system change, such as loss of lives, livelihoods, or incomes; displacement; loss of food, water, or nutritional security; and chronic disease, injury, or malnutrition."
As summarized by Carbon Brief, the researchers took into account the following three criteria for justice:
"The results of our health check are quite concerning: Within the five analyzed domains, several boundaries, on a global and local scale, are already transgressed," Rockström said. "This means that unless a timely transformation occurs, it is most likely that irreversible tipping points and widespread impacts on human well-being will be unavoidable. Avoiding that scenario is crucial if we want to secure a safe and just future for current and future generations."
According to the paper, "Social and economic systems run on unsustainable resource extraction and consumption" have pushed Earth past seven of the eight "safe and just" ESBs.
The paper includes the following image for reference. The Earth icons representing the current state of the planet should be in the green space, which marks where "safe" (red) and "just" (blue) ESBs overlap. Instead, they lie beyond the "safe and just corridor" for every indicator except aerosol loading.
When "safe" ESBs are looked at in isolation, the planet has entered the danger zone for six of the eight indicators. According to the authors, 1.2°C of global warming to date has pushed the world beyond the "just" ESB, which requires mean surface temperature rise to be capped at 1.0°C. For now, the climate still remains in the "safe" threshold, they say, even as the impacts of increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather are already being felt, especially by the poor.
However, Gupta stressed that "justice is a necessity for humanity to live within planetary limits."
"This is a conclusion seen across the scientific community in multiple heavyweight environmental assessments," said Gupta. "It is not a political choice. Overwhelming evidence shows that a just and equitable approach is essential to planetary stability."
"We cannot have a biophysically safe planet without justice," she added. "This includes setting just targets to prevent significant harm and guarantee access to resources to people and for as well as just transformations to achieve those targets."
As Carbon Brief pointed out: "This study is the first to assess Earth-system boundaries at a local scale, rather than analyzing the planet as a whole. This allows the authors to determine which boundaries have been crossed in specific regions and to identify 'hotspots' for breached boundaries."
As a result, researchers were able to produce the following map, which shows that more boundaries have been breached in certain areas, including Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and substantial parts of Africa, Brazil, Mexico, China, and the U.S. West.
Rockström told reporters that the eight indicators were "carefully chosen" to be "implementable for stakeholders... across the world."
The researchers hope that the "safe and just" ESBs they have put forth "will underpin the setting of new science-based targets for businesses, cities, and governments to address the polycrises of: increasing human exposure to the climate emergency, biodiversity decline, water shortages, ecosystem damage from fertilizer overuse in some parts of the world coupled with lack of access elsewhere, and health damage from air pollution," Phys.org reported.
"Stewardship of the global commons has never been more urgent or important."
Rockström and Gupta are co-chairs of the Earth Commission, founded in 2019 "to advance the planetary boundaries framework," Carbon Brief observed. "The concept has been widely used in academia and policy spaces, but has also attracted criticism from scientists who say it oversimplifies a complex system, or could spread political will too thinly."
Earth Commission executive director Wendy Broadgate, for her part, said that "a safe and just transformation to a manageable planet requires urgent, collective action by multiple actors, especially in government and business to act within Earth system boundaries to keep our life support system of the planet intact."
"Stewardship of the global commons has never been more urgent or important," she added.
In their conclusion, the authors wrote that "nothing less than a just global transformation across all ESBs is required to ensure human well-being."
"Such transformations must be systemic across energy, food, urban, and other sectors, addressing the economic, technological, political, and other drivers of Earth system change, and ensure access for the poor through reductions and reallocation of resource use," they added. "All evidence suggests this will not be a linear journey; it requires a leap in our understanding of how justice, economics, technology, and global cooperation can be furthered in the service of a safe and just future."
"Solar and wind are leading the rapid expansion of the new global energy economy," said IEA chief Fatih Birol, who added that "achieving stronger growth means addressing some key challenges."
Electricity generated by the sun and wind is set to soar to global record levels this year amid surging solar production and high fuel prices, a report published Thursday by the International Energy Agency forecasts.
The IEA's Renewable Energy Market Update Outlook for 2023 and 2024 notes that "the global energy crisis and policy momentum are driving robust growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power."
Global additions of solar PV and wind are set to increase 107 gigawatts to over 440GW this year, and growth will likely continue next year to reach a total renewable energy capacity of 4.5 terawatts—the equivalent of the total combined electricity output of the United States and China.
"Solar and wind are leading the rapid expansion of the new global energy economy. This year, the world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems—more than the total power capacity of Germany and Spain combined," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
\u201c\ud83d\udde3 \u201cThe world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems \u2013 more than the total power capacity of Germany & Spain combined\u201d\n\u00a0\nRead more from IEA Executive Director @fbirol on the latest trends in renewable energy markets \u2192 https://t.co/39ootu7F7a\u201d— International Energy Agency (@International Energy Agency) 1685619301
"The global energy crisis has shown renewables are critical for making energy supplies not just cleaner but also more secure and affordable—and governments are responding with efforts to deploy them faster," Birol added. "But achieving stronger growth means addressing some key challenges. Policies need to adapt to changing market conditions, and we need to upgrade and expand power grids to ensure we can take full advantage of solar and wind's huge potential."
According to the report:
Solar PV capacity, including both large utility-scale and small distributed systems, accounts for two-thirds of this year's projected increase in global renewable capacity in response to higher electricity prices caused by the global energy crisis, policymakers in many countries, particularly in Europe, have actively sought alternatives to imported fossil fuels that can improve energy security.
This shifting focus created a favorable environment for solar PV, especially for residential and commercial systems that can be rapidly installed to meet growing demand for renewable energy. These smaller distributed PV applications are on track to account for half of this year's overall deployment of solar PV—larger than the total deployment of onshore wind over the same period.
Meanwhile, the paper notes that "following two consecutive years of decline, onshore wind capacity additions are on course to rebound by 70% in 2023 to 107 GW, an all-time record amount."
The report continues:
This is mainly due to the commissioning of delayed projects in China following last year's Covid-19 restrictions. Faster expansion is also expected in Europe and the United States as a result of supply chain challenges pushing project commissioning from 2022 into 2023. On the other hand, offshore wind growth is not expected to match the record expansion it achieved two years ago due to the low volume of projects under construction outside of China.
The report predicts that "solar PV additions will continue to increase in 2024 while challenges remain for wind expansion."
\u201cIEA hedges rosy outlook for global renewables with caution on wind power. Global additions of renewable power capacity are expected to increase by one third in 2023 as growing policy momentum, higher fossil fuel prices and energy security concerns... https://t.co/gKrgVNI9ya\u201d— RenewableEnergyWorld (@RenewableEnergyWorld) 1685626348
"Global renewable capacity additions could reach 550 GW in 2024 in our accelerated case, almost 20% higher than in the main forecast," the paper contends. "This is mainly due to a more rapid deployment of residential and commercial PV installations, assuming a faster implementation of recent policies and incentives."
Earlier this year, IEA predicted that renewable energy will become the world's number one electricity source by 2025 thanks largely to a surge in wind and solar.
"We are close to a tipping point for power sector emissions," Birol said at the time. "Governments now need to enable low-emissions sources to grow even faster and drive down emissions so that the world can ensure secure electricity supplies while reaching climate goals."
The latest IEA report comes as countries set their sights on a global target for renewable energy ahead of this winter's United Nations Climate Change Conference—also known as COP28—in the United Arab Emirates.
"Bailing out protestors who exercise their constitutionally protected rights is simply not a crime," said one civil rights defender.
Rights advocates warned Wednesday that the arrests of three board members of an Atlanta-based bail fund could mark the beginning of a new era in the United States' treatment of peaceful protesters—one in which both demonstrators and those who support them are targeted by law enforcement.
Under the direction of the Republican state attorney general, Christopher Carr, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Atlanta Police Department carried out the arrests of Marlon Scott Kautz, Savannah Patterson, and Adele Maclean of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund (ASF).
The group offers financial support to people who have been arrested for protesting, including the dozens of people who have been detained for resisting the development of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known by critics as Cop City—a $90 million police training facility that would take up 85 acres of publicly-owned forest.
The three board members were charged with money laundering and charity fraud, leading state Rep. Saira Draper (D-90) to question the state's use of SWAT teams and helicopters to conduct the raid in a residential neighborhood.
"Peaceful protest is as American as apple pie," said Draper. "Using heavy handed tactics to suppress peaceful protest is shameful."
\u201cI don\u2019t know the specifics of the charges yet, but at this moment, SWAT and helicopters seem grossly excessive for arresting individuals accused of money laundering and \u201ccharity fraud.\u201d\n\nWhat I do know is weaponizing the powers of the state for political gain is abuse of power.\u201d— Rep. Saira Draper (@Rep. Saira Draper) 1685554334
Writer and historian William Horne denounced the arrests as "the behavior of a fascist police state."
Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, told The Intercept on Wednesday that the ASF is "the first bail fund to be attacked in this way." The funds have been used for at least a century to pool together communities' financial resources to help bail people, including civil rights protesters, out of jail.
"There is absolutely not a scintilla of fact or evidence that anything illegal has ever transpired with regard to Atlanta fundraising for bail support," Regan said.
She added in a press statement that "bailing out protestors who exercise their constitutionally protected rights is simply not a crime."
"In fact, it is a historically grounded tradition in the very same social and political movements that the city of Atlanta prides itself on," she said. "Someone had to bail out civil rights activists in the 60's—I think we can all agree that community support isn't a crime."
Plans for Cop City garnered national attention earlier this year after Georgia state troopers killed a forest defender named Manuel Esteban Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita, shooting him nearly 60 times.
Since Tortuguita's killing, nearly 30 people have been charged with domestic terrorism for allegedlydamaging property and trespassing while protesting Cop City.
More than 40 people in all are facing domestic terrorism charges, and three people charged with felonies have been placed in solitary confinement.
Civil rights attorney Alec Karakatsanis called the use of a "heavily militarized" police force to arrest three campaigners for alleged financial crimes "a bone-chilling development" that could have implications for the future of protesting in the United States.
\u201cTake a look at this. This logic, by the Republican Attorney General, would suggest that anyone donating to a bail fund or legal support charity is guilty of felony "terrorism" crimes. How liberal institutions react to this fascist abuse of power will be vital:\u201d— Alec Karakatsanis (@Alec Karakatsanis) 1685544745
Karakatsanis added that "everyone should be scared by" a statement made by Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who said arrests were "a reminder that we will track down every member of a criminal organization, from violent foot soldiers to uncaring leaders."
"When three community organizers who help to run a bail fund are arrested with an entire SWAT team on clearly bogus financial charges, it signals that not only is it illegal to protest, it's also illegal to try and support people who have been criminalized for protesting," Hannah Riley, a writer and organizer, toldHuffPost. "If bail funds aren't safe, what's next?"
State Rep. Ruwa Romman (D-97) noted that the targeting of the ASF comes as people in the U.S. are increasingly relying on mutual aid to access reproductive care.
"Are we going to see attacks on abortion funds," she said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "on bail funds, other types of funds that provide resources for those attempting to navigate our increasingly expensive and complicated legal system?"