When reporting on energy and environmental issues, perhaps rather than facilitating the greenwashing propaganda efforts of local corporations, the Star Tribune could place those corporations' claims in the context of established science so that the public can see the full picture.
Once again, the paper more or less glowingly trumpeted Xcel Energy's intention to achieve carbon-free energy production by 2050 ("Xcel says it can end coal's use by 2030," May 21), leading off with the Xcel CEO's self-praise of this as an "aggressive goal" and a "difficult task."
Why not accompany this ostensibly good news with some hard facts about carbon emissions, global heating and the real urgency of transitioning to clean energy?
Last year a comprehensive United Nations report supported by over 6,000 scientific references concluded that in order to limit global warming to an already quite harmful 1.5°C, the entire world, not just the world's most developed economies, will have to be carbon free by 2050. This means that wealthy nations, which have been most responsible for the carbon emissions causing this unfolding disaster and are most able to afford a quick transition to clean energy, will have to do so far faster than the global 2050 deadline.
Also last year, a comprehensive 1,656-page report by 13 U.S. federal agencies concluded that the climate catastrophe will cost Americans nearly $300 billion through deaths, sea level rise, and property damage by the end of this century. The world will become a much bleaker place long before that.
For example, an article published in the leading scientific research journal Science, based on research from scientists and economists from five different countries including the U.S., recently concluded that ocean fisheries will collapse entirely by 2048 due to a combination of ocean heating, pollution and biodiversity collapse. In other words, by the time Xcel achieves its stated goal, the world's oceans already will be giant, trash-filled dead zones thanks to human activity.
Xcel's goal to be carbon-free by 2050 is hardly a measure that will help prevent the climate disaster and mass extinction already underway. We need an immediate economic transition that corresponds to the urgency of the climate disaster, akin to mobilizing for a new world war in which the enemies are our own disastrous habits and the fuel and energy corporations that profit from them.
Xcel is one of those corporations. While claiming to aim for clean energy, why is Xcel building a new natural gas plant in Becker while also paying $650 million to buy Mankato Energy Center, which runs on fracked gas? The Star Tribune does not even include the latter fact in its lengthy article, nor does it mention that Xcel not only paid net zero federal taxes on $1.4 billion in revenue last year, but actually took money from the public, receiving $34 million of corporate welfare in the form of tax subsidies.
With those kinds of resources, Xcel executives do not need the Star Tribune to do their greenwashing for them. Instead, what the public needs is some science-based truth about the human-caused climate catastrophe and the real urgency of transitioning to zero carbon within the next few years — not by 2050 — to save the future of life on Earth.
Jason McGrath, of Minneapolis, is co-coordinator of Extinction Rebellion Twin Cities.