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venerdì 4 settembre 2015

Four Horsemen of the Climate Apocalypse

The Rising Tide, by British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The four ghostly statues will only be visible twice a day at low tide. Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images

Jason deCaires Taylor’s four horsemen of the apocalypse, close to Houses of Parliament, are political comment on impact of fossil fuels

At high tide, you might barely know they’re there. But as the water level of the Thames comes and goes twice a day with the tide, the four ghostly heads – and the horses they sit atop – slowly emerge fully into view.
The sculpture, entitled The Rising Tide, has been installed near the bankside of Vauxhall bridge and is the work of Jason deCaires Taylor, 41, a British artist best known for creating the world’s first underwater museum in Cancun, then again in the Bahamas.

For the past decade, Taylor’s work has been motivated by conservation and redressing climate change, with his underwater museums solely designed to draw divers away from the most fragile and delicate parts of coral reefs. His newest work in the Thames, he says, is no different in its political purpose.
“Working in conservation, I am very concerned with all the associated effects of climate change and the state of peril our seas are in at the moment,” said Taylor. “So here I wanted a piece that was going to be revealed with the tide and worked with the natural environment of the Thames, but also alluded to the industrial nature of the city and it’s obsessive and damaging focus just on work and construction.”
The installation, which sits less than a mile from the Houses of Parliament, comprises four life-size shire horses, standing as a symbol of the origins of industrialisation but also as a warning for the bleak future it is creating for the world by their representation of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
While the bodies of the figures and horses are moulded from real life, each of the horses’ heads has been replaced by the “horse head” of an oilwell pump – a political comment on the impact of fossil fuels on our planet.
For Taylor, the position of the sculpture is particularly opportune. “I quite like the idea that the piece sits in the eye line of the place where many politicians and so many people who are involved in climate change all work and make these damaging deals and policies, yet who are in this state of mad denial,” he said.
The middle-aged suited figures that sit on top of two of the horses, looking defiantly into the distance, are also a direct reference to the politicians and businessman who Taylor believes are allowing climate change to continue under their watch.
Taylor added: “The suited figures are ambivalent to their situation – I wanted to create this striking image of a politician in front of the Houses of Parliament, ignoring the world as the water rises around him. And they are sitting on horses that are grazing, taking as much as they can from the ground.”
The work, which was commissioned as part of the Totally Thames festival, is the first of its kind to be installed in the river and Taylor admitted it had been a challenge to ensure the works could withstand the water and tidal changes. The horses, which were carried down the Thames in a large barge, were moulded from reinforced marine cement and have several tons of steel in their legs to keep them upright. The sculptures will be in place for at least a month.
According to Taylor, art had a vital part to play in the discussion around issues such as climate change, and was key in getting people to emotively engage with it beyond just facts and statistics. Having been a sculptor all his life, this was a central motivator in his decision 10 years ago to fuse his artistic practice with his climate change activism.
“I felt disillusioned that my works were just about creating art – I wanted to do something that maybe went beyond that and was actively beneficial,” said Taylor. “I started small, working a lot with artificial reefs, and found out about how a lot of conservation was about controlling people’s movements.
“It made me think about how art could divert people away from fragile areas, so the first underwater museum in Cancun was all about taking some of the 750,000 annual visitors away from these natural reefs and fragile environments and bringing them to an area where they minimise their impact.”
Taylor has spent the past year and a half building his next underwater museum in Lanzarote, which will take shape as a vast underwater botanical garden with about 300 sculptures. Once that is complete, he has an underwater project in Bali in the works, and has no plans to return his sculpture to dry land.
“It is this concealed world,” said Taylor. “If we walked past a forest that was disintegrating every day and with animals dead by the side of the road, we would be much more aware of our actions. But underwater, it is out of site and is a problem so easily ignored. So, a big part of my work is to bring people’s focus and their awareness to this destruction of our seas and of the natural world.”
  • Underwater sculptures emerge from Thames in climate change protest Hannah Ellis-Petersen 2 September 2015 
  • Oil drills at work in the Kern River oilfield in Bakersfield, California, Nov. 9, 2014.  Reuters/Jonathan Alcorn
    A new report argues that the CEOs of U.S. fossil fuel companies are financially motivated to expand their production of oil and gas.                                                                                                                                                                        Marathon Oil Corp. CEO Lee Tillman took home a $1.7 million bonus last year, in part because of the company’s expansion into the Texas and North Dakota shale formations. Meanwhile, Exxon Mobil Corp. executives saw higher payouts, thanks partly to the oil giant's drilling campaign in the Russian Arctic. That’s life in the energy business. As major companies amass greater amounts of oil, gas and coal, top executives are often rewarded with bonuses and incentive pay — and environmentalists say that’s a problem.
    Environmental groups say the energy industry's pay system is pushing companies to search for and extract more reserves -- no matter the carbon intensity or cost -- at a time when climate scientists are urging nations to leave fossil fuels in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change
    “The CEO pay system is one reason why the fossil fuel industry has been fighting so hard to continue a business model that’s locking us into a destructive path,” said Sarah Anderson, the global economy project director at the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal Washington think tank.
    Energy companies say their executive compensation programs are an important driver of success. For publicly held companies, rewarding leaders who improve financial performance and operational results is ultimately good for the shareholders, they say. Marathon Oil’s incentives and awards “align our executives’ interests with those of our stockholders,” the Houston-based oil and gas giant said in its 2015 proxy statement. “Our program is designed to reward executives for their performance and motivate them to continue to perform at a high level.”
    The CEOs of America’s largest public oil, gas and coal companies are among the highest-paid executives in the country. The heads of 30 top fossil fuel giants averaged $14.7 million apiece in total 2014 compensation, more than 9 percent higher than the $13.5 million average for the CEOs of S&P 500 companies, IPS found in a report released Wednesday. The top executives at Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips each earned more than twice the S&P 500 average.
  • Critics argue that executive compensation plans should reward leaders for investing in alternative technologies or diversifying operations, rather than efforts that increase the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Climate scientists say a substantial portion of the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels -- the target governments are striving to keep to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change, including substantial sea level rise, violent and frequent storms and disappearing ice caps. Even a 2-degree rise will have serious effects in any case.
    One-third of global oil reserves, half of natural gas reserves and more than 80 percent of coal reserves must remain unused from 2010 to 2050 to meet the 2-degree target, researchers at University College London estimate. “Our results show that policymakers’ instincts to exploit rapidly and completely their territorial fossil fuels are, in aggregate, inconsistent with their commitments to this temperature limit,” authors Christopher McGlade and Paul Ekins wrote in a January paper.
    Yet at 13 of the top U.S. oil exploration and production firms, executives are rewarded with bonuses for expanding fossil fuel reserves, IPS found in its report. None of the 30 energy companies on their list offer bonuses for diversifying into renewable fuel sources or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    Other forms of executive compensation encourage a similar dynamic at energy companies. CEOs at many U.S. firms -- not just oil, gas and coal producers -- can cash in their equity-based pay, including stock options and stock grants, within three to four years. Since they can quickly reap such rewards, leaders are discouraged from developing a longer-term strategy to prepare the company for the effects of climate change or potential government policies to limit fossil fuel production, Anderson and other critics said.
    Stock repurchase programs -- when companies buy their own shares back from shareholders-- can also deter fossil fuel companies from more sustainable business models, they say. Pouring profits into buybacks inflates the value of shares, further boosting equity-based pay for executives, and insulating leaders from broader market pressures, such as plunging oil prices and tighter federal regulations on coal-fired power plants.
    Buybacks also take valuable investment away from research and development in alternative and renewable energy technologies, critics contend. The IPS report found 23 out of the 30 leading U.S. oil, gas and coal firms repurchased a combined $38.5 billion in shares in 2014, or nearly six times the $6.6 billion in "clean energy" R&D spending from private companies last year.
  • Environmental and financial-reform activists are pushing to end buyback programs and extend the time horizons for equity-based pay, so that executives must wait 10 years or longer before cashing in their stock options and grants. Shareholder advocates are pushing corporate resolutions that would break the link between a company’s fossil fuel expansion and bonuses for top executives.
    “The reserves should not be a metric executives are rewarded on,” said Rosanna Landis Weaver, a project manager at As You Sow, a leading shareholder activist group. “They should be incentivizing their engineers to come up with the best solutions, instead of incentivizing them to waste more oil.”
    Shareholder resolutions so far have done little to shift the way CEOs at energy firms are compensated. At Exxon Mobil, activists have introduced 62 climate-related resolutions over the last 25 years, all of which were successfully opposed by management. Still, the number of shareholder proposals continues to rise, with a record 433 social and environmental resolutions filed so far in the 2015 proxy season, As You Sow found.
    Other groups are working from the outside to pressure changes within fossil fuel companies. The fossil fuel divestment movement, which is active on many college campuses, is urging individual investors, endowments and philanthropies to pull stocks out of oil, gas and coal companies, both to protect their assets from oil price swings and carbon regulations and to also send a signal that those firms are undesirable.
    About half the 30 companies surveyed by IPS are also listed on a separate index of 200 fossil fuel companies flagged by divestment proponents. The companies are ranked based on estimates of the total carbon dioxide emissions contained in their reserves of coal, oil and natural gas. Combined, the firms hold nearly five times the amount of carbon that can be burned for the world to have an 80 percent chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, according to Fossil Free Indexes.
    Concerns about executive compensation “are another layer of reason to get out of these companies, because this is not a fair-pay system,” said Vanessa Green, the global individual program director at Divest Invest, a Boston advocacy group.
    Anderson of IPS added, “The pressure on the companies to make this transition is only going to mount, and if they were smart, they would be proactive,” she said. “They would be spending less time fighting Obama’s climate agenda and more time thinking about how to position their companies for the clean energy future.”
  • Fossil Fuel Execs Have Little Financial Incentive To Fight Climate Change, Report Says  September 02 2015

  • Australian Government Failing To Curb Emissions 29 AGOSTO 2015


  • Capitalist Greed Pushing The World Into The Sixth Extinction 25 AGOSTO 2015

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