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What We Know About the Guardian's Investigation into the 'Carbon Bombs' Waiting to Detonate

What We Know About the Guardian's Investigation into the 'Carbon Bombs' Waiting to Detonate

If you feel like the media is talking about climate change more than ever, then you’re not alone. The sheer scope of articles coming out on such a wide array of topics, all covered by the dark cloud of climate change, is staggering, even to those who have been clued into the true severity of the ongoing crisis for a long time already.

Whereas, over the past few years, mainstream news coverage of climate change has felt like a continuous murmur in the background – occasionally loud enough to be heard over other voices – 2022 has seen a tremendous shift in the way the world talks about the crisis. It appears to feed into every other issue, in some way or another, that we face.

A growing interest from the media

The connection that Covid-19 itself, that impossible-to-ignore beast roaming every part of the world for the past two years, holds with climate change is no secret, and neither is the fact that climate change could easily be the cause of the next global health crisis. The fuel crisis, while largely caused by the impact of the pandemic and, subsequently, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has thrown into sharp relief the devastating impact of a world that has been too slow to change, and too slow to safeguard against the negative consequences of fossil fuel dependence. A rapidly growing list of devastating environmental disasters – from flooding in Australia and Germany, snowfall in Japan, fire in Argentina, cyclones in the US, and many more – are being linked to dangerous climactic changes. 

We have talked recently about a number of documentaries and films created by prominent personalities from Hollywood. One of the clearest allegories for climate change in movie history, Don’t Look Up, has reached a staggering number of people. Within a single month, it garnered more than 322,000,000 viewing hours.

Since the meeting of world leaders in Glasgow at COP26, which was anticipated to bring about monumental changes around the globe, the greatest changes we have seen have been in the media. Many were left disappointed by the lack of action by the government since November 2021, but the newspapers have not failed to take the risk seriously, with climate change featuring more heavily – and more frankly – than ever before.

The Guardian’s Latest Investigation

On 11th May 2022, the Guardian unveiled their exclusive statistics on some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies, which opened the world’s eyes to some truly devastating plans. Their willingness and preparedness to undermine the global target of carbon neutrality by 2050 is clearer than ever before – as is quite how crucial it is that we emancipate ourselves from their authority.

But what do the statistics show us?

Key players in the fossil fuel industry, including Shell and BP, have invested billions of dollars into future projects involving oil and gas. These ‘carbon bombs’ guarantee a truly unprecedented level of CO2 being released into our atmosphere, each one hugely profitable for the companies in charge of them, but catastrophic for a world that is already on red alert for rising temperatures, disastrous climactic changes, and, in some regions, becoming inhospitable.

The carbon bombs

‘Carbon bomb’ is not a new phrase, and simply refers to any project that promises to release a devastating amount of carbon into the atmosphere throughout its lifetime, but the sheer number of carbon bombs currently in the pipeline for companies that should be looking into alternative energy sources is what makes the Guardian’s findings so terrifying.

There are, in total, 195 carbon bombs, from oil wells to gas fields, and they are located all over the world. More troubling than that is the fact that all of these projects combined account for the world’s entire carbon budget, although they do not account for every ‘carbon bomb’ in existence. In effect, this completely eradicates any hope of the world reaching its carbon target or, for that reason, being saved from the point of no return.

Twenty-two of those carbon bombs are located within the United States alone, although, under these plans, significant levels of carbon will also be released in Russia, China and Brazil, as well as many countries within the Middle East – and particularly Saudi Arabia.

Why are the key players choosing to invest in these carbon bombs?

Put simply, the oil and gas companies have chosen to invest in a bleak future for the simple reason that there is a tremendous amount of money to be made from these projects, because there is an even more tremendous amount of money to be made from exacerbating the globe’s dependency on fossil fuels.

Consider the fact that so many renewable energies – the perfect alternatives to oil and gas – are essentially free. Once installed, solar PV generates energy from the sun – and sunlight cannot be poured into barrels and sold for more than $100 a piece. Those panels – or offshore wind turbines – can be left to do their job for many years with minimal maintenance and, providing the sun is still in the sky or the wind is still blowing, they can create the energy we need.

For the general population, that is ideal. It divorces us from the turbulent world of fossil fuels and decreases our carbon footprints monumentally. Businesses can make a one-off investment into commercial solar, and enjoy the financial and social benefits of living outside of the fossil fuel fight. It works for everyone – except the people who stand on the other side of the price chart, and who make millions mining and selling these resources to countries around the world.

Why are the oil and gas giants not worrying?

As Prof Kevin Anderson points out for the guardian, it would appear that one of two things is causing the oil and gas giants to pursue these dirty profits. On the one hand, they may still be totally blind to the devastating risks of climate change and, even now, when media coverage is at a new high, unaware of the destruction they are funding.

On the other, it may simply be the case that they are hardened to the toll fossil fuels are taking – and will take – on the world. They simply do not care about the lives that will be lost to flood, fire, drought, famine, disease, and air pollution – and, somehow, believe that they will be capable of protecting themselves from the same fate.

If there is one thing that Covid-19 should have taught all of us, however, it is the fact that the sense of distance many of us were able to feel from natural disasters – the idea that ‘those things happen to other people, not me’ – does not hold water, and that we are all vulnerable to the effects of climate change, just in different ways.

Money has always been an incredibly powerful argument against sound reasoning – and, it seems, the more money there is at stake, the more the people at the top are willing to gamble with the lives of others. There is no sound argument in favour of fossil fuels anymore, and there hasn’t been for a long time – and yet, these companies continue to boast strong figures and make new investments into the future.

What now?

Unfortunately, while the Guardian’s investigation represents a floodlight on the insidious plans of the world’s fossil fuel leaders, we once again find ourselves at the beginning of a very long and arduous battle. The entire history of our awareness of climate change and global warning has been characterised by a sense of preparing – of knowing that a difficult road lies ahead – and even now, in 2022, it remains that way.

In the United States, indigenous groups continue to campaign against the desecration of their land to the benefit of a few greedy companies and individuals. Around the world, scientists and environmental campaigners continue to put forth more and more irrefutable pieces of evidence that prove quite how dangerous a path we are taking, collectively, by investing millions into more and more carbon bombs.

Already, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proven how rapidly the situation can deteriorate when the world’s ability to access the fossil fuels it relies on is suddenly cut off. By now, we should have the ability to fall back on a dearth of renewable sources – or, rather, have no need to ‘fall back on them’ at all. We should be dependent on good, rather than evil.

The UK government, and many other countries around Europe, have turned to alternative measures as the war wages on – but, unfortunately, those alternatives are not always ideal. We wrote recently about plans to increase the country’s reliance on nuclear energy, and why that is the inferior choice compared with truly renewable and sustainable sources like solar and wind.

Once again, we reach a point of waiting – waiting for a sign that things will improve, or for the moment we all fear when the world’s carbon goals are quashed once and for all.

 

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