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Scooters return to their native habitat, and other brilliant coronavirus memes

In the weeks since Italy’s nationwide lockdown went into effect, reports of dolphins returning to the country’s waterways and canals running clear in Venice circulated on social media, prompting some to wonder whether humans, not COVID-19, were the real scourge. “Nature is reclaiming its spaces during quarantine,” one Twitter user said.

That sentiment may seem innocent enough — who doesn’t like to think about dolphins frolicking in a Venetian canal? — but it’s wrong on more than one front. Many of the reports of nature thriving in humans’ absence are bogus. Elephants getting drunk on wine and passing out in a field? Debunked. Water quality in Venice? More or less the same; the canals just look cleaner because boats aren’t churning up sediment every few minutes. Swans returning to Italian canals? They’ve always been there.

And there’s a darker — if unintended — side to claims that nature is better off without humans. It’s not only misanthropic to turn a blind eye to human suffering in the service of conservation; it also echoes some of the dark, racist strains of the environmentalist movement.

Luckily, Twitter has a way of simultaneously generating bad takes and quashing them. Those tweets about nature coming back spawned a new meme. Turns out, dolphins, swans, and elephants aren’t the only critters making a comeback thanks to the coronavirus.

Lime scooters returned to rivers, their native habitat.

Dinosaurs, thought to have gone extinct 65 million years ago, flocked to the streets of Lisbon.

While all of Italy was under quarantine, some of the region’s most iconic native fauna was spotted in nearby forests.

And London has seen a revival of its unique feral cat population:

See? Nature really is amazing. But, like it or not, humans are very much still here.


Scooters return to their native habitat, and other brilliant coronavirus memes

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Did BP really just pledge to become a net-zero company? It’s complicated.

Net-zero promises from companies and governments are popping up as often as new Netflix shows, and just like those algorithmically driven hours of entertainment, not all clean energy commitments are created equal. The language used to describe these targets has become as meaningless as the “natural” label on your package of Perdue chicken: “Clean energy” and “net zero” can signify any number of things, and even “renewable” changes depending on who you ask.

The point is, when a fossil fuel major like BP announces its ambition to become a net-zero company by 2050, as it did on Wednesday, it’s important to read the fine print.

To start, “net-zero emissions” is different from plain old “zero emissions” in that it allows for things like carbon offsets, carbon capture technology, and natural solutions like tree-planting to make up for continued emissions. In this case, BP’s net-zero target does not mean it will stop exploring new reserves, extracting oil and gas, or selling it at the pump. Confusingly, it doesn’t even mean the emissions from all the oil and gas products BP sells will be net-zero in 2050.

But all of that aside, the company’s plan does contain significantly more aggressive goals than its peers.

“Depending on the details, it has the potential to be the most comprehensive climate strategy of any of the major oil companies,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a sustainable business nonprofit. But like Logan said, it depends on the details, because while BP’s dreams are big, the company has disclosed few details on how it will achieve them.


One of BP’s targets is to reduce emissions from all of its company operations, which it says is about 55 million tons of CO2 equivalent, to net zero. That includes emissions from things like gas flaring at the wellhead, company cars, and the electricity it buys to keep the lights on. BP’s goal here is somewhat par for the course these days — most of the major oil and gas companies have some kind of emissions reduction target for their operations (though not all of them are net zero).

What’s noteworthy, said Kathy Mulvey, the fossil fuel accountability campaign director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, is that BP says it will measure and reduce its methane footprint at all of its oil and gas sites. “That points to the reality that BP doesn’t actually know exactly how much methane its operations are emitting,” she said.

Critics of these plans say that operational emissions are small potatoes, and that fossil fuel companies should be responsible for the emissions from the oil and gas products they produce and sell to customers, known as scope 3 emissions. This is where BP’s plan really stands out. The company aspires to zero-out the carbon emissions from the eventual combustion of all of the oil and gas it pulls out of the ground by 2050. Right now that amounts to about 360 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year.


In a speech about the plan on Wednesday, new CEO Bernard Looney tried to anticipate questions about this. He said that yes, this does mean BP’s oil and gas production will probably decline over time. “Does that mean we’ll be producing and refining hydrocarbons” — that’s fossil fuel industry–speak for fossil fuels — “in 2050? Yes, very likely,” he said. “Does that mean we’ll be producing and refining less of them in 2050? Yes, almost certainly. And our aim is that any residual hydrocarbons will be decarbonized.”

To date, only one other fossil fuel company has made this kind of commitment, the small Spanish company Repsol. But unlike Repsol, which has set near-term goals to gradually reduce emissions over time, and hinted at some of the strategies it will use to get there, BP offered no benchmarks or blueprints. Looney said the company would share more information on the “how” of its transition in September.

But there’s one key caveat to BP’s scope 3 target. The oil and gas that the company extracts is only a portion of its business. During a Q&A session after his speech, Looney broke down how they are thinking about scope 3 on a whiteboard.

BP sells a lot more oil and gas than it digs out of the ground, he said, because it also buys these products from other companies. So while it plans to zero-out emissions from the products BP itself extracts, it’s aiming for a 50 percent reduction in carbon intensity from all the products it sells, including those it’s just a middleman for.

That leaves open the possibility for the total emissions from BP’s sold products to continue to rise, as long as the amount emitted per unit of energy decreases. In his speech, Looney estimated that right now, total emissions from all the products it sells are about 1 gigaton per year.

Ultimately, with a goal of reducing its footprint by 415 million tons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, BP’s new plan is worlds away from companies like Exxon and Chevron, which still claim they are not responsible for the emissions from customers using their products.

BP’s vision also includes a goal to increase the proportion of money it invests into non-oil and gas energy sources, like solar and wind, over time. Right now, that’s only about 3 percent of BP’s investments. But Looney declined to quantify the company’s target in this arena. “We don’t plan to commit to an arbitrary or preset number,” he said.

While critics have already leapt on the vagueness of the plan, Ed Clowes, a business journalist for the Telegraph, described BP’s dilemma aptly on Twitter. On the one hand, BP could stop selling oil and gas and self-destruct. But if it did, another company would step in to fill the gap, because right now, the world still (mostly) runs on oil. “BP has to be in the game to change it,” Clowes wrote.

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Did BP really just pledge to become a net-zero company? It’s complicated.

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Photos: What D.C. really looked like when the White House was tweeting about snow

On the evening of Sunday, January 12, the official White House Twitter account sent out a seemingly innocuous tweet.

Of all the things the White House has tweeted, a lovely picture of snow has got to be among the least concerning, right? Wrong.

I love the first snow of the year as much as the next gal, but whoever was in charge of the White House Twitter account could only have been one of three things: mistaken, lying, or hallucinating. That’s because on Sunday, the weather in D.C. rose to a balmy 70 degrees F. The day before, January 11, was even warmer — 61 locations across the East Coast broke or tied their record high temperatures that day. The picture was actually taken about a week earlier, when a flurry of snow did reach D.C.

Here’s what actually happened in D.C. over the weekend.

This woman purchased herself a nice ice cream cone and probably ate it in the park because, again, it was t-shirt weather in January.

These people enjoyed a scooter ride. Notice how they’re smiling in the sunshine and not grimacing into the icy wind. Notice their lack of gloves.

Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

Here’s a shirtless man showing off his cartwheel skills on the National Mall.

It’s quite possible that whoever manages Trump’s social media prescheduled the tweet last week without bothering to take a look at the weekend forecast. But it’s also possible that the Trump administration — which has rolled back environmental regulations, gutted federal science agencies, propped up a dying coal industry, and slashed funding for renewable energy — is so deeply in climate change denial that it made a point of lying about snow falling on the hottest day of winter.

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Photos: What D.C. really looked like when the White House was tweeting about snow

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God’s Doodle – Tom Hickman


God’s Doodle

The Life and Times of the Penis

Tom Hickman

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $10.99

Publish Date: October 21, 2013

Publisher: Counterpoint Press

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

“A remarkably entertaining and informative look at the male organ down through the ages . . . undeniably funny.” — Booklist   Throughout history, man has revered his penis as his “most precious ornament.” From small to large, thick to thin, smooth to wrinkled, Hickman lets the history of this mystery hang out for all to see. It is a stiff subject, but we easily settle in with the likes of Bill Clinton, Michelangelo’s David, and Shakespeare as they followed their heads. If you were to wrap your hands around anything less than two-inches, it should be God’s Doodle , a brilliant history of the penis that hits the topic right on the head. It reaches through time and looks at how the penis trended long before one was ever posted on Twitter.   You will be impotent with both laughter and information as you read “ . . . subtly, unhurriedly and mercilessly” (Alex Comfort, author of The Joy of Sex ), as Hickman discusses ancient literatures and mathematical quandaries of possible positions, such as Greece’s “the lion on the cheese-grater,” which still keeps scholars from being cocksure about the potential.   “[A] well-researched, dryly witty and worthwhile read.” — Salon   “Tom Hickman tells the story of its ups and downs with enthusiasm and a mostly straight face.” — The Economist

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God’s Doodle – Tom Hickman

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Here’s why Twitter’s political ad ban gives Big Oil a free pass

If you’re fortunate enough not to have a Twitter account, then you might have missed the news that the website’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, took the unprecedented step of banning political ads last week. In a Twitter thread (what else?), Dorsey explained the logic behind the move, which sets the social network apart from major competitors like Facebook, which has not banned much of anything, including neo-Nazis, in the name of “free speech.” “We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” he wrote.

Twitter’s decision, which will take effect on November 22, was hailed as a win for democracy and civic discourse. In a tweet, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York called the move a “good call,” adding, “if a company cannot or does not wish to run basic fact-checking on paid political advertising, then they should not run paid political ads at all.”

But there’s a significant downside to Twitter’s decision. Ads that “advocate for or against legislative issues of national importance,” like immigration, health care, and, yes, climate change, are on the chopping block. And when it comes to the issue of climate change, Twitter’s new policy gives oil and gas companies a leg up, and the folks who want to regulate those companies a kneecapping.

In recent years, Big Oil has finally wiped the smog off its glasses and read the writing on the wall: the public knows that a shortlist of multinational corporations are responsible for the lion’s share of the world’s planet-heating emissions. So those corporations shifted tactics lickity-split. Instead of denying that climate change exists, fossil fuel companies want you, and government regulators, to think that they’ve changed their oily ways. ExxonMobil says it’s investing heavily in developing a clean biofuel from algae. Shell produced several climate change manifestos with hopeful titles like “the Sky scenario” that it says have the potential to stop climate change. Chevron is saving turtles in the Philippines.

The problem is that these great initiatives are just a tiny sliver of what Big Oil actually does, which is — you guessed it! — dig up and sell oil. Algae biofuel is Exxon’s hobby (read: marketing ploy), oil is its day job. But it wants you, the consumer, to think that its top scientists are in the lab day and night working tirelessly to save the planet. Meanwhile, in Congress, these same companies are spending hundreds of millions every year to lobby against any kind of climate regulation that will hurt their bottom lines.

Twitter’s new policy allows ExxonMobil to keep filling up your newsfeed with ads about a biofuel that isn’t going to be commercially viable for at least another decade. But it bans a politician from buying ad space to tell you that, if elected, they plan to go after Big Oil.

Exxon’s efforts may not appear overtly political, but they absolutely are. Trying to hoodwink voters and regulators so that the government doesn’t hold polluters accountable is fundamentally at odds with Dorsey’s vision of earning reach instead of buying it. Has Big Oil earned the right to clog our newsfeeds with pictures of green gunk that’s ostensibly going to save the earth? Certainly not.

Twitter has put us in a tough spot. Yes, it’s good that, pretty soon, politicians and dark-money-fueled super-PACs won’t be able to force whatever nonsense they want onto the public. But the new ban will also tilt the online playing field in favor of companies that want to keep burning fossil fuels and against the politicians and groups that want to legislate them out of existence. Which is all to say that regulating civic discourse on social media is a gargantuan task and one that’s nearly impossible to do right. If you came here looking for an answer to this ethical dilemma, I’m sorry to disappoint. Go tweet @jack.

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Here’s why Twitter’s political ad ban gives Big Oil a free pass

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A member of the GOP says the Green New Deal is the next Fyre Fest. Wait, what?

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North Carolina Representative Mark Walker is trying to one-up Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s social media game. On Wednesday, the Republican released a trailer on Twitter that takes a … unique approach to Green New Deal fear-mongering:

The 90-second video plays off the recent Fyre Festival boondoggle and documentary. “A socialist utopia” scrolls across the screen as blond women smile and millennials party, “kill off all the cows, ban all the airplanes.” The actual Green New Deal resolution doesn’t call for banning cows or planes, but Walker and his team of what I can only imagine are a bunch of 20-year-old bros don’t seem to care.

Watch the trailer to catch this reporter’s favorite part, a five-second clip of partiers holding pitchforks and celebrating under a title card that reads “so much energy.”

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A member of the GOP says the Green New Deal is the next Fyre Fest. Wait, what?

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Donald Trump and Amy Klobuchar threw down over climate change this weekend

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In the midst of a snowstorm on Sunday, Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that she is adding her name to a growing list of 2020 presidential hopefuls. It only took a few hours for President Trump to weigh in on her race.

During her speech, the Minnesota Democrat included some details about her climate platform, saying that she would rejoin the Paris climate agreement on her first day as president. The 2020 contender also pledged to “reinstate the clean power rules and the gas mileage standards and put forth sweeping legislation to invest in green jobs and infrastructure” during her first 100 days in office.

Klobuchar didn’t say anything about the Green New Deal during her announcement, but the senator, like many of her fellow Democratic contenders, is a sponsor of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Senator Ed Markey’s recently introduced resolution calling for an economy-wide mobilization against climate change.

President Trump, who has a much different environmental record, took to Twitter hours after Klobuchar’s speech to belittle the candidate for bringing up climate change in the middle of a snowstorm. “Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures,” he tweeted, adding that she looked like a “Snowman(woman)!”

It didn’t take long for Klobuchar to hit back at the president. “I’m sorry if it still snows in the world but the point is that we know climate change is happening,” she said Monday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

If Trump didn’t catch her response on ABC, he probably saw her clapback on Twitter.

Don’t bring a combover to a climate fight, buddy!

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Donald Trump and Amy Klobuchar threw down over climate change this weekend

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets biblical on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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It’s as official as it ever was: The White House doesn’t want to be held responsible for acting on climate change.

In an interview on Fox News Tuesday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s urgent calls to action on climate change: “Look, I don’t think we’re going to listen to her on much of anything, particularly not on matters we’re gonna leave in the hands of a much, much higher authority, and certainly not listen to the freshman congresswoman on when the world may end.”

This came in response to an interview Cortez did on Monday with the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, during which she emphasized the 12-year deadline to slash carbon emissions enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change. She told Coates that young people are looking for bold moves on climate change, and condemned the “abdication of responsibility” by those currently in power.

In the third round on Wednesday, Cortez turned to the bible in a Twitter thread.

Others, like climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe, quickly chimed in.

The congresswoman summed it up by saying: “You shouldn’t need a Bible to tell you to protect our planet, but it does anyway.”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets biblical on Sarah Huckabee Sanders

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Russian trolls shared some truly terrible climate change memes

It should come as no surprise that Russian trolls, known for stoking the flames of America’s cultural divides, turned their attention to climate change during the longest election season of our lives.

A report released Thursday by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee — chaired by Texas representative Lamar Smith, a notorious climate denier — includes several examples of posts from fake social media accounts created by a Russian propaganda group called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The report discovered more than 9,000 posts and tweets from the group targeting pipeline fights, fossil fuels, and climate change between 2015 and 2017. IRA’s posts were specifically designed to appeal to either conservatives or liberals, without any middle ground.

United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

The memes, which appeared on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, were part of a “concerted effort to disrupt U.S. energy markets and influence domestic energy policy,” per the committee’s report. (Side note: The report also claims that Russia is funding U.S. environmental groups to undermine the U.S. fracking industry — a longstanding pet notion of Smith’s that lacks any substantial evidence.)

We’ve known for a while that the Kremlin has been poking its nose into environmental activism on the interwebs, thanks to a Buzzfeed story from October that showed how trolls seized on the Standing Rock protests. But the House report offers us some fresh examples of what they’ve been up to. To start with some pro-environment content:

United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

(For the record, no, the state of Iowa has not adopted a 100 percent renewable energy goal, but one of its utilities has.)

And here are two anti-environmental memes that highlight the apparent beauty of tar-sands oil:

United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and TechnologyUnited States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

In addition to their flair for raising hackles, it seems that Russian trolls have an eye for design. After looking at these memes, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’ve just been yelled at.

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Russian trolls shared some truly terrible climate change memes

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Sean Hannity fans are destroying Keurig machines for all the wrong reasons.

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Sean Hannity fans are destroying Keurig machines for all the wrong reasons.

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