News of the Day:
‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ Is the Future
Andy Kessler, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2021
Fracking techniques could be used to generate energy with no carbon emissions.
Remember the cringeworthy “Drill, baby, drill” slogan from the 2008 Republican Convention? Maybe they were on to something, but not what you think. We’re bombarded daily with calls for sustainable, renewable and carbon chewable technologies to meet our energy needs. But the solution may be just underfoot.
Dig deep enough and, no surprise, it’s hotter than hell down there. Isotope reactions in the mantle under the Earth’s crust generate 20 terawatts of constant heat flow. Typically, the temperature rises about 25 degrees Celsius for every kilometer, or 75 degrees Fahrenheit for each mile, and more the deeper you go. The steam wafting out of hot springs in Yellowstone National Park or Iceland, places where the Earth’s crust is thin, shows how much heat the mantle gives off.
We already have a good-sized surface geothermal industry in the U.S. For $15,000 to $30,000, you can hire someone to dig a few hundred feet and install a heat pump that circulates heated water to keep your house cozy.
But that’s just scratching the surface. There is huge upside to digging down miles and injecting water into underground reservoirs—think radiators—and then the heated water is pushed back out to generate steam and electricity. It’s carbon-free—clean, green, and mostly unseen.
The trick is to get a large enough surface area to do the heat exchange. A typical vertical oil well might have 1,000 to 10,000 square feet of surface area. But it turns out that the same thing that’s been perfected over the past 30 years to make America energy independent can also increase that surface area—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
I called one of the industry pioneers, University of Texas engineer Mukul Sharma, who is sometimes called the Frack King (get it?) and has a startup named Geothermix that develops enhanced geothermal systems.
Mr. Sharma walked me through the process. Millions of oil and gas wells have been drilled in the U.S. over the past century. Maps exist that show the thermal conductivity of underlying rock by region—suggesting how deep you’d have to drill to get a temperature hot enough to generate cost-effective electricity, typically 0.5 to 4 miles down. After drilling down you can then drill horizontally and hydraulically fracture the rock to create an underground reservoir. With this technique you could get 10 million to 20 million square feet of surface area for the heat exchanger, thousands of times more than a standard well.
Mr. Sharma thinks we’ll have several commercially viable deep geothermal systems operating in the next five years, maybe costing $10 million to $15 million each, from his company and others like Sage Geosystems and Fervo Energy. He thinks by 2030 we’ll have second- and third-generation systems operating much more efficiently, just as fracking constantly gained in output as technology improved.
The promise of geothermal energy keeps getting better. The deeper you drill, the hotter the rock, and at maybe 10 kilometers, temperatures can reach 373 degrees Celsius or higher. The water that emerges is what physicists call “supercritical,” which means it holds more energy and can be 10 times as efficient doing heat exchange. A lot of invention is still required, especially for high-heat materials and drills that can operate at such high temperatures—not a trivial problem, but not insurmountable. For now, Mr. Sharma says, “the costs go up exponentially as you dig deeper and hotter.” A supercritical-water geothermal system might cost $50 million. But it might be worth it. Some scientists even think drilling into volcanoes might make sense.
Further in the future, we may not even need to fracture the rock, but instead use horizontal drilling and pipes to run fluid through closed-loop systems, with the heat exchange done through the pipes. You could do this anywhere if you drill deep enough, under New York or any other city.
So why are so few talking about deep geothermal? Eco-warriors seem to pine only for solar panels, carbon sinks and bird-slicing wind turbines. Maybe because anything having to do with drilling is considered dirty, even if deep geothermal is carbon-free. The knock on enhanced geothermal systems is the same as for fracking: Critics go on about the risk of seismic activity. But according to Mr. Sharma, that’s a canard. He says seismic activity from fracking wells is “fairly uncommon” and would be even less so with deep geothermal, because the wells are much deeper and you’re merely “circulating fluids” after the initial drilling to create the underground hot reservoir.
It’s early but, like fracking, this technology could change the energy industry over the next 20 to 30 years. Those that can absorb the risk could see huge rewards. Mark Twain once said, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” Maybe toward hell for both. Drill, baby, drill.
Oil and gas exports give the US a strategic geopolitical tool
Ellen R. Wald, The Hill, June 28, 2021
Earlier this month, Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana lifted the Biden administration’s attempt to halt lease sales for oil and gas production on federal lands and waters. Doughty issued a preliminary injunction on the administration’s plan after 13 states sued. The lease of federal lands for oil and gas production provides millions of dollars of revenue for the states and local governments and economies. Beyond the legal arguments, though, the resumption of federal land leases is critical to pursuing America’s geopolitical goals.
The United States is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, among them plentiful reserves of oil and natural gas. We can either use these resources to our own advantage, both domestically and as exports, or we can cripple our own energy production, limiting our potential. In this decision, we must consider that exported fuel is not only a source of wealth; it is also a powerful tool of geopolitical influence.
It can be tempting to dream of a world that uses less fossil fuel, but the Biden administration’s plan to halt lease sales would do nothing to further this aspiration. Rather, the Biden administration’s plan would curb only domestic oil and gas production, not consumption. In other words, it would cut supply while demand keeps rising.
The immediate result would be two-fold: higher prices and increased imports, often from countries that don’t align with our interests. Supply would stagnate or drop if domestic oil and gas production is not allowed to prosper. When supply is lower and demand continues to rise, as it inevitably will, prices rise. Under the Biden plan, we would pay more for our oil and gas.
President Obama lifted the ban on exporting U.S. produced oil in 2015. From then until 2020, U.S. exports grew while imports shrunk to the point where the U.S. actually exported more crude oil and petroleum products than it imported. Increased natural gas production not only enabled the U.S. to reduce coal use in favor of cleaner natural gas, but to start exporting liquified natural gas to other countries. And now the prices for these commodities are rising, so we should be experiencing an economic boon.
However, many oil producers are neglecting to pursue new projects, because they are wary of the Biden administration’s plans for oil and gas drilling. U.S. production is holding steady at 11 million barrels per day, whereas before in 2019, production was at 13 million barrels per day. The U.S. is now, again, a net importer of petroleum instead of a net exporter. Oil and gas demand, meanwhile, is within a hair of May 2019 levels. If the Biden administration continues to constrain production on federal land, we are heading toward a situation in which, despite vast and accessible resources, the U.S. once again would rely on foreign oil and natural gas.
Energy exports aren’t just about trade and growing the U.S. economy. In oil and gas exports, the U.S. holds a critical strategic geopolitical tool. For example, the Trump administration, in its Phase 1 trade deal with China, negotiated a requirement for China, the world’s largest oil importer, to purchase large amounts of American oil and petroleum products. In another part of the world, America’s abundance of natural gas can be used to counteract Russia’s influence on Europe. Through deals like the one recently concluded between the U.S. and Poland, we can halt Russian geopolitical encroachment on a Europe desperate for fuel.
The U.S. recently started selling crude oil to India, which used to rely on Iran and Arab Gulf countries for most of its oil. U.S. oil helps India remain independent of Iran’s influence and also has helped it stand up to OPEC and Saudi Arabia. If American oil is no longer competitive on the global market, a strategic democratic partner in a largely non-democratic region would be at the mercy of those powers.
One of the most important geopolitical benefits of domestic oil production and exports is countering Iran. For three years, U.S. sanctions crippled Iran’s oil exports. Many countries that used to buy Iranian light oil started buying the same type of oil from the United States. Now the U.S. is negotiating with Iran to end those sanctions, which would permit Iran to openly export oil. If U.S. oil leaves the market at the same time Iranian oil returns, the U.S. will hand our market share to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism.
The future of oil and gas production on federal lands and waters likely will face additional legal wrangling. However, from a strategic perspective, the answer is clear. We must continue to lease federal land for oil and gas production — both for the U.S. economy and to maintain American power and influence around the world.
There Isn’t Enough Natural Gas to Calm Down a Global Price Rally
Stephen Stapczynski, Ann Koh and Anna Shiryaevskaya, Yahoo! Finance, June 25, 2021
(Bloomberg) — Natural gas markets around the globe are rallying as the world’s importers have come to a stark realization: there isn’t enough supply to go around.
A long, frigid winter drained gas stockpiles from Louisiana to Germany, and utilities are struggling to build them back up. But unforeseen supply disruptions and a rebounding global economy are making it impossible to keep up. That’s setting up a desperate scenario as hot summer temperatures approach, and it’s bound to get even worse when demand peaks this winter.
Higher gas prices, which hit a 13-year high in Europe this week, will make it more costly to keep the lights on in Madrid or cool apartments in Tokyo, after scorching heat waves in some regions are already making it more expensive to run air conditioners. The cleaner-burning fuel is the latest commodity to add to the global inflation scare as the price of everything from crude oil to corn and copper surge.
If a gas deficit does develop during the winter months, it could spur European utilities to burn more coal, which has already started happening, and cause China’s power producers to curtail supplies to industries and cause blackouts like it did last winter. Households are set to pay sky-high utility bills and the worst-case scenario — albeit unlikely — is they won’t have heating or electricity when freezing temperatures hit.
“Supplies are already very tight, and that could get much worse if there is a cold winter,” said James Whistler, the global head of energy derivatives at Simpson Spence Young, an international commodity and ship broker. “We are seeing strong competition between Europe and Asia, and that is manifesting in the continuous rally.”
European gas prices have surged as inventories fell hit the lowest in more than a decade for this time of year, while rates in the U.S. and Asia have jumped to the highest seasonal level in years.
The gas sector had long been segmented between geographical regions, but the ramp-up in new supply of liquefied natural gas and growing liquidity in spot trading over the past several years has helped transform it into a genuinely global market. That evolution comes at a price, as Europe and North Asia now compete for a finite supply of LNG, which results in bidding wars that catapult spot rates.
At the center of the action is China, which in a surprise move is set to overtake Japan as the world’s top LNG importer for the first time this year. China is stockpiling supplies of the super-chilled fuel in order to power its booming economy and help it shift away from dirtier fossil fuels.
“China’s LNG demand in the past years keeps outperforming even the most bullish analysts,” said Henning Gloystein, global director of energy and natural resources at consultants Eurasia Group.
The mad dash is putting Europe at a major disadvantage, as Asian end-users increase prices to attract supplies away from the Atlantic. Europe — where spot prices have rallied by more than 65% this year — is facing thin gas inventories amid lower flows from pipeline suppliers and near record carbon prices.
Europe’s end-users have been forced to depend more on Russian pipeline supplies. Yet Gazprom PJSC’s unwillingness to ship extra gas via Ukraine has been one of the key factors that has catapulted prices at the Dutch Title Transfer Facility, the spot benchmark for Europe, to the highest level since 2008.
“We see TTF prices rising for the remainder of 2021 as Asian LNG demand is robust,” said Santosh Gupta, assistant manager at Drewry Maritime Financial Research. “I don’t see a catalyst in the short term that would bring down prices.”
Indeed, the situation is made worse by the energy demands caused by extreme weather — from last winter’s bitter cold in Asia to the current heat waves in the Western U.S. and severe droughts across the globe that have curbed hydro output.
With fresh memories of record-high Asian spot LNG prices last winter, the world’s top importers in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have been busy buying shipments for delivery between November and February, well ahead of normal, according to traders surveyed by Bloomberg. China’s importers were scolded by the government for not being well prepared last winter and they don’t want to make the same mistake twice, traders said.
The Japanese government last month asked utilities to ensure stable fuel supplies this summer and winter amid forecasts for abnormally thin power reserves. Traders at Japan’s biggest importers said that they have been under more pressure to stock up on fuel and even restart retired gas-fired power plants.
There isn’t enough fresh LNG supply to meet this growing demand. The market had become accustomed to a steady stream of new mega-export projects, but the industry is currently in the midst of a lull period, where the next raft of new supply isn’t expected until the middle of the decade.
In the U.S., the so-called Henry Hub futures prices have more than doubled over the past year to the highest seasonal level since 2014. Inventories are 5.8% below normal for the time of year, the widest deficit since 2019 on a seasonal basis, signaling tighter supplies for next winter.
Shipping restraints could also add to winter woes. The odds of congestions at the Panama Canal are “very high,” which will force U.S. LNG cargoes en route to Asia to take longer passages around the Cape of Good Hope or the Suez Canal, limiting availability, according to Oystein Kalleklev, chief executive officer of shipowner Flex LNG in Oslo.
To be sure, there are a few factors that could help the global gas market avoid a crunch this winter.
An early start of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which connects Russia to Germany and has faced delays because of U.S. sanctions, could add much-needed supply to Europe and help the region avoid a crunch. Still, while pre-commissioning work is currently under way, the timing of first flow remains uncertain.
Likewise, a milder winter could reduce gas consumption and help utilities coast along with their lower inventory levels.
“Weather will have the final word on both price levels and volatility patterns,” said Gergely Molnar, an energy analyst at the International Energy Agency.
Meanwhile, traders may be forced to adapt to this volatile market as the supply deficit isn’t expected to disappear anytime soon.
“Supply will likely remain tight for the next two or three years as the industry makes up for the lack of new supply investments in 2020 and catches up with robust demand growth,” said Whistler.
Alaska Future Fund invests $10M in CORE
Shane Lasley, North of 60 Mining News, June 25, 2021
Contango ORE Inc. June 21 announced that it has raised US$10.9 million to fund its share of exploration and development of Manh Choh, a 1.2-million-ounce gold mine project in eastern Alaska being explored and developed in partnership with Kinross Gold Corp., as well as exploration on three other gold properties wholly owned by CORE.
The financing involved the issuance of 523,809 CORE shares at US$21 each.
Alaska Future Fund, an Alaska investment program launched in 2019 by Barings and Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., invested US$10 million into the financing.
Managed by Barings, a US$325 billion financial services firm owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, the Alaska Future Fund was formed to invest in projects that will benefit Alaska’s development while also generating strong market-based investment returns.
“This financing represents yet another important milestone for the company,” said Contango ORE President and CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse. “I believe attracting two premier financial institutions, the Alaska Future Fund and Barings, demonstrates the excitement around building Alaska’s next gold mine in partnership with Kinross and the Tetlin Tribe.”
Also excited about Manh Choh and the exploration projects owned by CORE, Van Nieuwenhuyse contributed US$1 million to the financing.
“I am also pleased to participate personally in this financing to demonstrate my resolve to add value for our shareholders, as well as to grow long-term value for the state of Alaska and Alaskans by building an Alaska-based and focused exploration and mining company,” he added.
The centerpiece of this Alaska-centric plan is the development of Manh Choh, where CORE outlined two gold deposits on a 675,000-acre land package leased from the Tetlin Alaska Native Tribe. These deposits – Peak and North Peak – host 9.2 million metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 4.08 grams per metric ton (1.21 million oz) gold and 14.19 g/t (4.2 million oz) silver in two adjacent deposits on the project.
With the idea of processing high-grade ore from Manh Choh in the mill at its Fort Knox Mine north of Fairbanks, Kinross paid US$93.7 million to buy a 70% joint venture interest in Manh Choh, with CORE owning the remaining 30% stake in the Peak Gold JV.
Based on the current resource, Kinross expects to produce 1 million oz of gold-equivalent, which includes the value of both the gold and silver recovered, from Peak Gold ore over a 4.5-year mine life slated to begin in 2024.
To advance this project, the Peak Gold JV budgeted US$18 million for 2021 to fund in-fill drilling, engineering, and environmental studies needed to complete a feasibility level study for a mine at the Peak Gold deposits; exploration to test other intriguing targets across the expansive Manh Choh property; as well as community relations activities in the Tetlin area.
CORE says the in-fill, metallurgical and geotechnical drilling portion of this program is complete, and the Peak Gold partners recently met to discuss and finalize targets for the exploration phase of the 2021 program. This exploration, already underway, is testing extensions of the Peak Gold deposits, as well as exploring additional potential resource areas on the property.
In addition to the work at Manh Choh, CORE is carrying out exploration on its Hona and Eagle projects, which are comprised of state mining claims adjacent to Manh Choh, and Shamrock, which is on state claims alongside the Alaska Highway about 70 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
Located about 15 miles northwest of the Peak Gold deposits, Hona hosts a gold-copper prospect originally identified and drilled by Kennecott Exploration in 1997.
Subsequent work by Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys found evidence of intrusion-related gold or porphyry copper-gold deposits at Hona.
Rock samples collected from a 5,000-meter-long mineralized area of Hona returned assays as high as 12.5 g/t gold, 10.09% copper, and 494 g/t silver.
Two holes drilled by CORE in 2019 encountered copper-gold-silver mineralization at Hona, with one of the holes cutting 17 meters averaging 0.41 g/t gold, 5.4 g/t silver, and 0.33% copper.
Reconnaissance level stream sediment and pan sampling at Eagle, a robust but earlier staged gold target northwest of Hona, has identified a six-mile- (10 kilometers) long corridor where every creek draining the northeast slopes of the mountains are strongly anomalous in gold, arsenic, and copper. Further sampling continued along the northwest trend shows additional anomalous creeks up towards the Dome prospect, albeit far fewer streams have been sampled in this area.
Follow-up field exploration, expected to largely focus on identifying drill targets in the highly prospective area between the Eagle and Dome prospects, is being carried out this summer at this exciting early-stage project.
Shamrock, the newest addition to the CORE portfolio, was staked by the company this spring.
Covering a large portion of the Richardson Mining District, the 52,920-acre Shamrock property is prospective for three types of gold deposits: gold in low angle quartz veins similar to those being mined at Northern Star Resources Ltd.’s Pogo Mine about 50 miles to the northeast; intrusive related gold deposits similar to Kinross’ Fort Knox Mine about 55 miles to the northwest; and high-level rhyolite intrusive dikes with associated clay and silica alteration which occurs in the Democrat and Banner dikes area of the property.
A compilation of all previously acquired geochemical sampling, drilling and geophysical surveys carried out at Shamrock is being used to guide the 2021 exploration on the road-accessible gold exploration property.
Remembering former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel
Rhonda McBride, KTOO, June 28, 2021
Throughout his 12 years as Alaska’s U.S. Senator, Mike Gravel relished stirring controversy, but he died quietly at his home in Seaside, California, on Saturday at the age of 91, surrounded by family.
Gravel, who served from 1969 to 1981 has been described as quixotic, quirky, and charismatic.
Gravel made a brief splash in the national headlines when he announced his bid for the U.S. presidency in 2019. He said he entered the race after a couple of teenagers asked him to run. But, it wasn’t his first bid for the office.
During his 2006 campaign for the presidency, one of his ads called “Rock” went viral on social media. It featured a stern-faced Gravel, who stood next to a pond and stared silently into the camera for about a minute, picked up a rock, hefted it into the water and then walked away without so much as a word.
“It was a metaphor for human life,” Gravel said in a 2017 interview. “You decide what you want to do in life, then you go ahead and do it. That causes ripples. You go ahead to your demise, and the ripples continue to have an effect on society.”
So, what ripples did Gravel’s political career set in motion?
During his 1968 bid for the U.S. Senate, he changed the way campaigns were run in Alaska forever.
Weeks before the Democratic primary, he rolled out a black-and-white film biography called “Man for Alaska” – a strategic slingshot that knocked out a political Goliath, Sen. Ernest Gruening, who had also served as Alaska’s territorial governor.
Gravel, who had a classic Hollywood “tall, dark, and handsome” magnetism, was filmed traveling across the state, surrounded by Alaska Natives.
In the final weeks of the primary race, the film aired repeatedly on Alaska TV stations — hand-carried by campaign workers, who flew to remote communities across the state. In most cases, the entire village turned out to watch.
“People really enjoyed the film,” said Irene Rowan, one of the campaign staffers who traveled the state. “You have to remember at the time there were no television or radio stations in rural Alaska or movie theaters in the villages.”
Rowan said she was part of a team of women, led by Gravel’s first wife, who went door to door at each stop.
Prior to Gravel, statewide campaigns focused almost exclusively on Alaska’s cities. Gravel was the first to court the state’s rural vote so widely, and the film became a turning point in his campaign. Within days of its release, Gravel, who had lagged in the polls, catapulted into the lead.
It would be the first of many times Gravel would defy conventional wisdom.
“I was very much a maverick,” he would later say of himself. “In my case, it was natural. I really didn’t have to do anything but be myself.”
Gravel said he did things differently, “I did not genuflect to authority. I questioned authority.”
Perhaps the best example of that personality trait: His efforts to put the Pentagon Papers in the congressional record on June 29, 1971. Gravel died just days away from the 50th anniversary of his dramatic midnight reading from top-secret documents, which revealed the U.S. government had systematically lied to the American people about the Vietnam War.
After Gravel was shut down for trying to read the Papers on the Senate floor, he used a subcommittee he chaired to make the report public. He intended to read all 4,000 pages of the report. Grainy film of the hearing shows an overwrought Gravel, who wiped his brow with a handkerchief and occasionally choked up in tears. Although he only managed to read a small portion of the report, he did enter the entire document into the record, which made it available to the public and the media.
Gravel said he received the Pentagon Papers from a Washington Post reporter, but there is no mention of him in “The Post,” a recent movie about the newspaper’s efforts to bring them to light.
At the time, Gravel’s actions reinforced his reputation as a showboat among his colleagues. He had also been ridiculed for some of his big ideas – such as a plan to build a domed city near Denali, which Gravel claimed the media distorted. He said his idea was inspired by large tents to shelter crowds at the Winter Olympics, a concept he said was very doable.
“We could cover hundreds of acres at the base of Mt. McKinley,” Gravel said, “by stretching a large, large tent.”
“We could control the climate so that we could truly enjoy a winter wonderland,” he said.
Gravel also proposed a train system to Denali, which used mag-lev, or magnetic levitation technology.
While most of Gravel’s big ideas fell by the wayside, one of them did hit the mark.
Tim Bradner, a longtime Alaska natural resources writer, says it was Gravel who came up with a way to rescue the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from the environmental lawsuits that stalled its construction. He pushed for Congress to pass a law that declared the pipeline in compliance with NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act.
“Nobody ever thought of doing anything like this before. It’s so out of the box. People thought, here’s another Gravel shoot-from-the-hip, pie-in-the-sky thing,” Bradner said.
But he said Gravel, who usually sought the political spotlight, ran a stealth campaign to sell his idea to senators. He made effective use of lawyers and energy experts to make his case.
It was not a surprise that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens fought the measure. He and Gravel were often at odds, but Stevens later voted for the legislation.
“Once there were 40 votes behind this strategy, the White House put its support behind it,” Bradner said. “It was quite a dramatic event when it happened. History tells us it was a 50-50 vote in the U.S. Senate. Vice President Spiro Agnew at the request of the White House cast the deciding vote.”
It was what Bradner calls a “classic Gravelian moment,” that eventually faded into history, because Gravel lost his bid for a third term in the Senate and left the state to launch other national political initiatives.
Gravel supporters say he never got credit for legislation that helped to build the state, such as his fight for the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, as well as his efforts to secure funding for the Alaska Marine Highway and other infrastructure projects such as early satellite communications.
Gravel’s family says he spent his last years working on what he called a “citizen’s amendment to the Constitution,” which he said was necessary to give the American people more direct legislative power.
Even as a state legislator, Gravel worked to get lawmakers more engaged with their constituents, especially in rural communities.
He served in the State House from 1963 to 1966, and in that short period of time rose to become Speaker of the House.
Bradner, who followed Gravel’s career closely, believes he may have been the first Speaker to conduct field hearings in rural Alaska.
“It was the first time that many urban legislators had been to a rural village,” Bradner said. “It had the effect of energizing rural political awareness.”
Gravel’s last visit to Alaska was in 2017 when he was invited to speak on the 40th anniversary of the pipeline.
Gravel said he hoped he would be remembered for his role in the pipeline, but also as “a person who tried to stir the pot, so people would question authority.”
“And if I have any advice to young people, it’s to question authority, because it may not be the right thing,” Gravel said. “Follow your bliss, if you want to be happy.”
Study: Climate lawsuits aren’t relying on the latest science
Andrew Freedman, Axios, June 28, 2021
Lawsuits filed against fossil fuel companies and governments for causing global warming have met a decidedly mixed fate, with most getting dismissed for failing to prove a causal link between emitters’ actions and harm done to the plaintiffs. However, that could soon change, a new study finds.
Why it matters: Courts are an important venue for cities, states and citizens’ groups seeking carbon-cutting mandates — especially as governments fail to slash greenhouse gases fast enough to avoid potentially devastating effects.
Driving the news: There have been a few recent successes in court cases, such as the move by a court in the Netherlands to require Royal Dutch Shell to make deeper cuts to its emissions.
Now a new study published Monday in Nature Climate Change that examined 73 court cases examined in 14 jurisdictions finds that plaintiffs aren’t using the latest and most compelling scientific evidence in court.
- Such evidence, researchers argue in the study, could help plaintiffs prove that a particular fossil fuel company or government has caused them harm via global warming.
What they found: The study finds that ongoing improvements in climate “attribution” science could help plaintiffs meet evidentiary tests for showing causation. That’s the research field that explores the extent to which human-caused climate change is altering the likelihood and severity of extreme weather events, such as heat waves and floods.
- The researchers, from European institutions and Harvard Law School, found that limitations in the scientific evidence presented to courtrooms may have contributed to their failure to prove a causal link between an entity’s emissions and harm suffered.
- The researchers found that those arguing climate cases are simply not taking advantage of the latest climate science findings. For example, the study says it’s now possible to break down the attribution of climate impacts to individual greenhouse gas emitters, such as a single oil and gas company.
- “Attribution science is a fundamental source of evidence for informing and substantiating causal claims about climate change impacts,” the study states.
- The study concludes that courts have wrongly found that it is too difficult to determine how an individual emitter has caused particular climate impacts.
What they’re saying: “There seems to be a considerable lag between scientific understanding and that filtering through into society. A much larger lag than I had expected,” Friederike Otto, a climate researcher who researchers extreme event attribution at the University of Oxford and study co-author, told Axios.
- “For me, as a scientist that means we really need to explain more what we do, how we do it and what that means in terms of what we know and what we don’t know for losses from climate change.”
- “In fact, recent months have shown that the courts can really catalyze some change. This will only be possible though if the evidence presented is as strong as it can be.”
What’s we’re watching: Whether this study results in any shifts in litigation strategies in the U.S. or abroad, which could raise the level of risk for business as usual at oil and gas firms and national governments alike.