Top Stories

January 20, 2023


Exxon’s climate science may have increased its legal peril

Further revelations of the extent of ExxonMobil’s historical knowledge of the unfolding climate crisis may have deepened the legal peril it faces, with several US states suing for alleged deception. A research paper found that Exxon executives spent decades downplaying or denying the climate impact of its business practices despite its own scientists predicting climbing global temperatures as far back as the 1970s. More than a dozen states and municipalities have launched lawsuits against Exxon, other oil companies and trade associations, claiming that by concealing their awareness of climate change they committed fraud or false advertising. Several plaintiffs now believe their legal pursuit of the company has been bolstered by the latest analysis of its climate science work. Exxon denies lying to the public. (The Guardian)


US union membership rate falls despite organising efforts

The United States' union membership rate fell  to an all-time low in 2022, data released by a government agency showed. The percentage of wage and salary workers who belong to unions fell from 10.3% in 2021 to 10.1% in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the number of wage and salary workers who are members of unions, at 14.3 million in 2022, increased by 273,000, or 1.9% from 2021. The total number of wage and salary workers grew by 5.3 million, or 3.9%, most of them non-union workers. This trend comes despite a surge in union organising that began during the Covid-19 pandemic in the US and has included unprecedented efforts to unionise Amazon warehouses, Starbucks cafes, Apple retail stores and video game developers. (Reuters)


Insurance net-zero alliance ‘opens door to greenwashing’

The UN-backed Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA) has been called into question by environmental campaign groups for lacking ambition. Launched at the World Economic Forum, NZIA is a target-setting protocol that aims to align its 29 members with a 1.5°C global warming limit with a framework for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The launch of NZIA’s protocol requires members to set and disclose initial decarbonisation targets by the 31st of July 2023. However, NZIA’s decarbonisation plan has drawn criticism from activists who say the protocol “opens the door to corporate greenwashing” because it does not mandate insurance firms reduce the Scope 3 emissions of their customers. NGO Insure Our Future said the protocol enables insurers to aim for emissions cuts that are as low as 34% by 2030. (Eco-Business)


AI image creator faces legal challenges from Getty Images

Media company Getty Images is taking legal action against the makers of an artificial intelligence image-creation tool. The agency, which sells the rights to use photographers' and illustrators' images, said Stability AI's ‘Stable Diffusion’ system had infringed these. AI image generators “learn” to create images from simple text instructions by analysing human-made pictures, including those found online. Many artists and photographers say they use their work without permission. Stability AI said its Stable Diffusion is trained using a compressed file of 100,000 gigabytes of images scraped from the internet, including material sourced from Getty Images. Now the agency says it has begun legal proceedings in the High Court, in London. Getty Images stipulates that Stability AI “unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright”. (BBC News)


Paying farmers to sequester CO2 cheaper than capture tech

Paying farmers to plant woodlands, restore peatlands, and create nature-based carbon sinks would be billions of pounds cheaper than relying on carbon capture technologies, research has found. A report by think tank Green Alliance claims the UK can achieve its statutory net-zero emissions targets for the land-use sector by supporting farmers and land managers to create healthy natural carbon sinks, such as woodlands, peatlands and soils. Such an approach could potentially improve incomes for almost two-thirds of UK farmers, while helping to reverse the decline of wildlife, according to Green Alliance. The report estimates around 10% of the UK’s least productive farmland would need to be managed for carbon and nature by 2030, up from just a fraction presently. (Business Green)*

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