Climate change triggers more earthquakes. The interests of the big oil companies are a factor
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On Monday, earthquakes in my country, Turkey, and neighboring Syria left unprecedented devastation and a death toll exceeding 16,000 people at last count.
We don’t know for sure what triggered this horrific natural disaster, but we do know that there is growing scientific evidence that climate change is increasing the risk of such tremors, as well as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.
“If a fault is primed or ready to rupture, all it takes is the pressure of a handshake to trigger it […] Environmental changes associated with rapid and accelerated climate degradation could easily do the job,” said Bill McGuire, professor of geophysics and climate risk at University College London. reported in 2012.
Additionally, NASA scientists have recognized that the retreat of glaciers due to global warming has been triggering earthquakes in Alaska in the last decades.
The impact is not limited to the Arctic. As melting glaciers alter the distribution of weight on the Earth’s crust, the resulting “glacial isostatic adjustment” drives changes in plate tectonics which could lead to more earthquakes, waking up volcanoes and even affecting the movement of the Earth’s axis.
This particular consequence of global warming “warns us of a seismically turbulent future”, a recent study concluded.
Unfortunately, it’s not just earthquakes. Climate and weather disasters quintupled over the past five decades, killing more than two million people, including 91% of victims in developing countries. And it only gets worse.
Is there accountability for Big Oil’s ‘ever more invasive means’?
Fossil fuel companies bear a significant responsibility for the climate emergency, yet enjoy near total impunity. At the same time, they are constantly reaping record profits, while ordinary citizens around the world struggle to pay their household bills.
A series of investigations and legal proceedings over the years have shown how the fossil fuel giants run the show: they use and abuse the rule of law to escape responsibility for environmental pollution, hoarding of resources and cronyism. Those who oppose it are often silenced.
Over the past decade, fossil fuel companies in the United States have targeted more than 150 environmental activists with lawsuits. Meanwhile, dozens of U.S. states are adopting “critical infrastructure” legislationincreasing criminal penalties against activists who protest against pipelines that will destroy the planet.
A study by the European Parliament also revealed that mining, oil and gas companies based in the EU increase impacts on Indigenous communities in an “ever more invasive way”.
Third-party litigation funding (TPLF) is another approach exploited by Western oil and gas interests, where applicants raise funds from outside investors who get the lion’s share of the profits.
Since 2012, US investment fund Tenor has backed a Canadian mining company’s $1.4 billion (€1.3 billion) claim against the Venezuelan government, enabling a court-ordered seizure of its Houston-based oil company.
Tenor is also targeting other developing countries and their governments, with a $4.4 billion (4.1 billion euros) claim from Gabriel Resources Ltd against Romania and a $764 million (712.4 million euros) of Eco Oro Minerals Corp against Colombia.
The curious case of the “Sultanate of Sulu”
Another company at the forefront of such cases is Therium, the London-based legal finance giant. In 2021, Therium supported the British company Victoria Oil & Gas against the Republic of Kazakhstan on the grounds that Astana breached an agreement with the company after driving it out of the country to take over its own oil field. Victoria Oil and Gas lost the deal.
But Therium scored a victory last year by funding the descendants of the long-defunct ‘Sultanate of Sulu’, which received a $15 billion (€13.9 billion) award from a French court against the Malaysian government.
The case claimed profits from Malaysia’s oil and gas projects in the eastern region of Sabah, based on a old colonial treaty with the British crown.
Plaintiff’s legal team also has ties to oil and gas interests.
Paul H Cohen of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, who speaks openly about use the European courts to confiscate “specific Malaysian assets” in several jurisdictions, has oil and gas customers regularly represented in international arbitrations.
Elisabeth Mason, another lawyer representing the Sulu heirs, works closely with executives from tech giants Google and Facebook.
Famously, both were accused of support organizations involved in climate denial And earn millions from ads for ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell or entities like The American Petroleum Institute – all qualified by activists as attempts at “greenwashing”.
Which is more important: the interests of a few, or our planet and its inhabitants?
I’m not suggesting a conspiracy. These cases only go to show how extraordinary influence fossil fuel interests still hold across sectors and national borders, despite mounting evidence that they are among those ultimately responsible for climate change and global warming. ongoing climate emergency.
The problem is systemic: there is a long-standing preference for the interests of fossil fuel companies and their allies over people and the planet.
It’s no wonder UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently demanded that fossil fuel companies that don’t set a “credible course for net zero” by 2030 “not be in business. “.
Governments must take this message seriously by joining forces to end this giant profit-making scheme against the planet.
How? Instead of being sued by them, governments should consider whether and how to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the damage their operations have caused to countless victims around the world. The potential proceeds should then be invested in the Net Zero Acceleration.
Otherwise, we will see more tragedies like the one that befell my country.
Professor İbrahim Özdemir is a UN adviser and teaching ecologist at Üsküdar University. He served as the Director General of the Foreign Affairs Department of the Turkish Ministry of Education and was one of the main drafting members of the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change endorsed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (UNFCCC).
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