Beyond the county: Chevron cuts 7K jobs as oil profits shrink, Violence escalates in Middle East | TheUnion.com
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Beyond the county: Chevron cuts 7K jobs as oil profits shrink, Violence escalates in Middle East

Chevron cutting up to 7,000 jobs as oil profits shrink

DALLAS — Chevron is cutting up to 7,000 jobs, or 11 percent of its workforce, the latest indication of the toll that low oil prices are taking on the industry.

The two biggest U.S. oil companies reported huge profits for the third quarter. Chevron Corp. said Friday that it earned $2 billion, and Exxon Mobil Corp. earned more than $4.2 billion.



But those profits are down sharply from a year ago. Chevron’s profit was 64 percent lower than last year’s third quarter; Exxon’s profit fell 47 percent, its worst third quarter since 2003.

Both companies are slashing costs to boost profits. Chevron plans to cut capital and exploratory spending next year by one-fourth, with further cuts in 2017 and 2018 depending on the oil industry’s condition then.




That will include cutting the workforce by 6,000 to 7,000 jobs and shedding a similar number of contract workers, said Chairman and CEO John Watson. Many of the layoffs will be in Australia, he said, and an unspecified number will be in the U.S. Chevron has 64,700 employees.

Exxon doesn’t announce job cuts, and a spokesman declined to say whether the company had reduced its headcount in response to low oil prices. Vice president of investor relations Jeffrey Woodbury told analysts that Exxon has “continuously … right-sized our global function organization” and has the same number of employees today that it had in 1999, before its merger with Mobil.

Halliburton, Schlumberger and other oilfield-service providers have also cut thousands of jobs. While workers in the oil industry lose their jobs, consumers are saving money from lower energy prices.

The average U.S. household is expected to spend $730 less for gasoline this year than last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Household spending on natural gas, oil, and propane for heating homes this winter will decline by 10 percent to 25 percent depending on the type of fuel, the agency predicts.

Oil prices have fallen from over $100 per barrel in June 2014 to under $50 this month, and prices for natural gas have also dropped sharply. Watson said prices will eventually rise as production slows in response to low prices, but he said it was hard to know when that will happen.

Many industry experts agree, but the downturn in prices has lasted longer than most had expected.

“In the long run the industry can’t survive on $45 oil. There’s not enough money to reinvest, and that will eventually impact supply down the road,” said Brian Youngberg, an analyst with Edward Jones. He expects big producers including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to eventually reduce production and drive up prices.

When oil prices rise, Youngberg said, oil companies going through the current downturn will be more cautious about hiring and undertaking big projects.

California-based Chevron said third-quarter income plunged to $2.04 billion, or $1.09 per share, down from $5.6 billion, or $2.95 per share, a year ago. The latest results still beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for 79 cents per share.

Revenue fell 37 percent to $34.32 billion despite an uptick in production. Five analysts surveyed by FactSet expected $27.70 billion.

Exxon reported third-quarter net income of $4.24 billion, or $1.10 per share. Analysts surveyed by Zacks had expected 89 cents per share. Revenue fell 37 percent to $67.34 billion, beating the forecast of $61.71 billion among analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Exxon’s profit from exploration and production dropped from $6.5 billion to $1.4 billion, including a loss of $442 million in the U.S. However, so-called downstream earnings from refining and selling petroleum products jumped from $1 billion to $2 billion on higher refining margins.

The Texas-based company slashed third-quarter capital and exploration spending by about one-fifth from a year ago. It has cut stock buybacks that are often popular with investors by making remaining shares more valuable. It expects to spend $500 million on buybacks in the fourth quarter — down from $3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Both Exxon and Chevron, however, have continued to reward shareholders with larger annual dividends — 33 straight years for Exxon; 28 at Chevron.

2 Palestinian attacks, Israeli police say; 2 stabbers killed

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A Palestinian stabbed and wounded an American man at a station of Jerusalem’s light rail on Friday before he was shot dead by police, security guards and civilians, police said. An Israeli man was wounded in the cross-fire.

In the West Bank, two Palestinians carrying knives ran toward an Israeli checkpoint, drawing fire from troops who killed one and critically wounded the other, according to police and a Palestinian medic.

Friday’s incidents were the latest in a series of Palestinian attacks that began in mid-September and were accompanied by widespread unrest, including clashes between Palestinian stone-throwers and Israeli troops.

There were no further details on the identity of the American.

In all, 11 Israelis were killed in Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, and 66 Palestinians died by Israeli fire in the past six weeks. Forty of the Palestinians killed were said by Israel to have been involved in attacks or attempted attacks. Nineteen Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire in West Bank clashes Friday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Israel has blamed Palestinian attacks on what it says is anti-Israel incitement by Palestinian political and religious leaders. Palestinians say the violence is largely driven by the hopelessness many Palestinians feel after nearly half a century of Israeli military rule, with no end in sight.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Foreign Minister Riad Malki and senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat met Friday with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the court’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, to hand over documentation on the recent violence, Erekat’s office said.

Earlier, the Palestinians said they would submit 52 pages detailing what Erekat’s office described as extra-judicial executions of Palestinians by Israeli troops, as well as home demolitions and other forms of collective punishment. The documents were to be accompanied by video footage of some of the incidents, the statement said.

Rights groups have accused Israeli troops of using excessive force in some of the cases, a charge Israel’s military has denied.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli forces imposed new restrictions on Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled center of Hebron, residents said.

The military barred Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 25 from entering a major Hebron shrine that is revered by both Muslims and Jews, said senior Muslim cleric Munther Abu Felat. He said age restrictions were enforced only partially.

In recent days, Hebron has become a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence, with near-daily deadly confrontations at Israeli checkpoints that guard ultra-nationalist Jewish settlers in the center of the city. In these incidents, Palestinians have been shot dead after the military said they stabbed or tried to stab soldiers.

Hebron has been divided since the late 1990s, as part of what was meant to be an interim agreement ahead of a final peace deal that never materialized. Israel controls the city center, where 850 Jewish settlers live, while the remaining areas of the city are under Palestinian self-rule.

The most restricted area, near settler enclaves, is home to about 10,000 Palestinians, said Palestinian community organizer Issa Amro.

He said Palestinians were informed by troops at checkpoints on Friday that Palestinian non-residents would not be able to enter these areas, Amro said.

The Israeli military did not provide details.

In a statement, it only said that in light of recent stabbing attacks in the area, “several precautionary measures were taken to contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the well-being and safety of Israelis.”

The Jerusalem stabbing took place at a station of the city’s light rail — a frequent target of assailants in recent weeks. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said a Palestinian man stabbed a man, a U.S. citizen, waiting at the station, seriously injuring him.

As the assailant tried to stab another person, police, transport security guards and a civilian opened fire, seriously wounding him and hitting an Israeli civilian in the leg, she said. The Palestinian later died in hospital.

It’s not the first time Americans have been hurt in recent Palestinian stabbing attacks. Richard Lakin, an American educator and peace activist who worked for coexistence in Israel, died this week from wounds sustained in a Palestinian attack on a Jerusalem bus earlier this month.

Earlier on Friday in the West Bank, two Palestinians drove up to a checkpoint on a motorcycle, dismounted and then charged an officer from the paramilitary border police, Samri said.

Another officer opened fire on the pair, killing one attacker and wounding the other, Samri said.

Palestinian medics identified the Palestinian killed by troops as 18-year-old Mahmoud Sabaaneh from a town in the northern West Bank. They said the wounded man was in critical condition.

Video footage emerged later Friday showing a Palestinian with a large rock in his right hand chasing a soldier during clashes near Ramallah. At that point, the jeep starts driving at him at high speed and hits him.

The footage showed soldiers pushing back and using a spray on Palestinian medics and trying to reach the Palestinian struck by the jeep. Israel’s Channel 2 TV said it was pepper spray.

Earlier, Samri said border police in a jeep saw a Palestinian run toward an officer with a sharp object as the officer administered first aid to a Palestinian who was previously shot as he threw a firebomb.

She said the driver hit him with the jeep to prevent the attack.

Both Palestinians were moderately injured, she said.

Attack kills dozens in Syria as talks begin in Vienna

BEIRUT — A barrage of missiles slammed into an overcrowded suburb of the Syrian capital, killing at least 45 people on Friday, activists said, as world powers convened in Vienna for talks on how to resolve the country’s conflict.

The attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma — the latest on this rebel-held area that has seen hundreds of people killed over the past few years — was a stark reminder of the enormous civilian suffering inside Syria while negotiations over President Bashar Assad’s future take place abroad.

With 19 foreign ministers attending the meeting in Vienna, including those from regional powerbrokers Iran and Saudi Arabia, there was cautious hope that a small breakthrough would be achieved

“I am hopeful that we can find a way forward,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters, adding: “It is very difficult.”

There were conflicting reports about the attack in Douma. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees group said government forces fired more than 11 missiles at a market. The Observatory said the attack killed 57 people, while the LCC said at least 40 perished. The different tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

Both organizations — and a third, Douma-based activist network — reported that dozens more were wounded in the mid-morning attack. The third group, the Douma Revolution network, listed the names of 45 people killed.

The Syrian National Council, the main Western-backed opposition group in exile, blamed Russian airstrikes for the “massacre” in Douma, saying 55 civilians were killed. It said it was the second deadly attack in the past 24 hours after Russian airstrikes bombed the main Douma hospital the previous day.

The sprawling suburb is a frequent target of deadly government airstrikes and barrel bombs dropped from helicopters. It is home to the Jaysh al-Islam rebel group, also known as Islam Army, which has claimed responsibility in the past for firing rockets on Damascus, the seat of President Bashar Assad’s presidency.

In August, airstrikes on Douma were said to have killed around 100 people, provoking sharp rebuke from U.N. and other officials.

Douma has been held by anti-Assad rebels since the early days of Syria’s conflict, which began in March 2011 with mostly peaceful protests but escalated into a full-scale civil war after a massive government crackdown. The conflict has claimed more than 250,000 lives and displaced up to a third of Syria’s pre-war population.

Amateur videos posted on the Internet showed gruesome images of bodies strewn among wreckage and young men sprawled on the ground of what appears to be a market. Pools of blood and flames could be seen as people cried for help.

Meanwhile, at least 15 people, including four children, were killed in airstrikes Friday on the northern city of Aleppo, activists said. It was not clear whether the strikes were Russian or from Syrian government aircraft.

Russia, a strong ally of Assad, began airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 30, saying it is targeting mainly the Islamic State group. Most of Russian airstrikes, however, have centered on areas where IS does not have a strong presence.

In Moscow, the Russian general staff gave its rundown of facilities in Syria that Moscow claims to have destroyed in the past month of Russian airstrikes. The statement said 1,623 targets were hit, including militant training camps, command points and communication hubs, as well as workshops for preparing explosive devices.

—Associated Press­

Gov’t: No damages for US official injured in office shooting

WASHINGTON — A Homeland Security Department employee, Kevin Kozak, rarely sleeps through the night and when he does, he sometimes wakes in a sweat. During the days, he can’t forget — flashing back to the smoke-filled room where a disgruntled federal agent fired 23 times at him inside a government office building, shattering his hand and left leg.

“They’re called daymares,” he said. In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Kozak described the February 2012 shooting that unfolded inside the Long Beach offices of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, which he said left him permanently disabled.

The Associated Press reported this week a new government investigation concluded that the Homeland Security Department had missed clear warning signs of supervisory agent Ezequiel “Zeke” Garcia’s descent toward violence and could have intervened before he started the deadly gun battle that left him dead.

Kozak spent seven months in a wheelchair and two years in physical therapy, re-learning how to walk. Doctors say if the pain continues to worsen, he may have to lose his leg.

The Homeland Security Department had briefly revoked Garcia’s authority to carry a gun, badge and credentials in August 2011, six months before the shootings, because he told his Los Angeles supervisor, John Rocha, that he had been taking Vicodin over the previous eight months for back pain. The agency returned Garcia’s gun after a cursory review — even though Rocha objected because he worried Garcia was suicidal or might hurt others.

Rocha said he was overruled and didn’t formally document his concerns over fears Garcia might sue him. More than three years after the shootings, the government hasn’t changed its rules to make it harder for federal agents to get their guns back in such cases.

The government’s new review identified no one person to blame for failing to predict the violence.

Kozak said the department was negligent and the shooting should never have happened. He filed a claim for $5 million in damages last year, just before the two-year anniversary of the shooting. The agency decided not to pay him a settlement and told him he could pursue his claim with a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

“I’m the last person who wants to sue the government, to fight my own people,” Kozak said. “I gave them a chance to do something on their own, to help me and my kids because it was going to be a long, long difficult road.”

The agency declined to comment on Friday.

Kozak, 54, returned to work for the agency earlier this year as legal counsel to the director of its Intellectual Property Rights Center. He said his life revolves around his young son and daughter. After he was wounded in the shootings, while waiting for medics, he said, he looked at their photos on his desk and yelled repeatedly, “I will not die on this floor, not like this. I will go home to my kids.”

Kozak has worked undercover targeting high-level cartels in Central America and the Caribbean, dealing with thousands of pounds of cocaine. He’s also a cancer survivor.

“To survive all that and then damn near die in your office is kind of ridiculous,” Kozak said. “I’m not the same man that I was. Everyone else says ‘too bad’ and moves on, but I have to live this every day.”

Texas, California Lead Nation in Carbon Emissions

Everything is bigger in Texas. Its honky tonks. Its highway system. Its wind power industry. Its oil industry. And even, a new report says, its carbon dioxide emissions.

Texas emitted more carbon dioxide from burning energy in 2013 than it did at any point since 2004. And, for at least the 24th year in a row, the Lone Star State tops the list of the nation’s biggest carbon polluters, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Data released this week by the administration shows each state’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2013. Texas doesn’t just top the list, its emissions – 641 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – are almost double those of California, the nation’s second largest carbon emitter, which spewed 353 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide emissions from burning energy – mainly coal, petroleum and natural gas – are the driving force behind climate change. Recent climate policies, such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, aim to force states to cut their emissions from electric power plants running on fossil fuels, the nation’s largest source of carbon emissions.

“The general trend is emissions are down and are stable,” EIA analyst Perry Lindstrom said.

Emissions fluctuate from year to year because recent warmer winters have prevented many residents from heating their homes as intensely in some parts of the country, lowering the energy demand, he said.

Renewables, including wind and solar, are also playing a bigger role in stabilizing carbon emissions, he said. And, natural gas use for electric power generation continues to gain ground on coal, displacing it three times so far in 2015 as the leading fuel used in electric power plants.

Despite a slight uptick between 2012 and 2013, overall U.S. carbon emissions – including emissions from vehicle tailpipes, pipelines, and industrial and other sources – are down about 11 percent from their 2005 peak at 5.94 billion metric tons to 5.28 billion metric tons in 2013, according to EIA data.

Overall, 16 states saw decreases in emissions between 2012 and 2013, while 34 states released more carbon into the sky.

Some states show dramatic increases in emissions in recent years. That’s especially true in Nebraska, which has seen its emissions rise more than 61 percent since 1990. Most of the increase has occurred since 2010.

Lindstrom said two things are happening in Nebraska: Corn ethanol production has increased, requiring more natural gas, and two of the state’s nuclear reactors were temporarily shut down in 2013, requiring the state to use more coal to produce electricity.

Major fossil fuels-producing states also saw their carbon emissions climb in 2013.

Texas, the nation’s leading oil refiner and home to a shale oil and gas boom, saw a 4.5 percent jump in carbon emissions between 2012 and 2013 mainly because of the natural gas boom and gas pipeline construction, Lindstrom said.

Wyoming, a major oil, gas and coal producer, and North Dakota, the center of the Bakken shale oil boom, both emitted more carbon dioxide in 2013 than at any point since at least 1990.

Broken down per capita, Wyoming, the nation’s least-populous but one of its most geographically expansive and most fossil fuels-rich states, emits more carbon than any other state, followed by North Dakota, West Virginia, Alaska and Louisiana. New York, Vermont and California have the lowest per-capita carbon dioxide emissions.

On the other end of the spectrum, the District of Columbia has seen the largest overall emissions decrease since 1990 – 36 percent – followed by Delaware, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland, which saw emissions declines of between 17 and 24 percent.

States emitting the least carbon dioxide overall are the District of Columbia, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware and New Hampshire – states that are heavily reliant on hydropower and natural gas, and, except for D.C., are members of the nation’s first cap-and-trade program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Man charged in St. Louis area black church fires

ST. LOUIS — Authorities charged A 35-year-old black St. Louis man with arson for two of the seven church fires in a predominantly African-American part of the St. Louis region, and federal investigators said there is no evidence of a hate crime.

David Lopez Jackson was charged Friday in St. Louis Circuit Court with two counts of second-degree arson in the fires at Ebenezer Lutheran Church and New Life Missionary Baptist Church, both in the city. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said investigations continue into the other fires — three in St. Louis, two in nearby Jennings — and Jackson is a suspect in all of them.

The fires were set between Oct. 8 and Oct. 22. Five of the congregations are predominantly black, one is racially mixed and one is mostly white.

The fires spurred a hate-crime investigation to determine if the attacks were motivated by race or religion. But the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives downplayed that possibility in a statement on Friday.

“There appears to be no indication of a hate crime or sign … any one particular Christian denomination or ethnic group was being targeted,” the federal agency said.

Dotson gave no alternative explanation for the attacks, saying investigators “are still trying to understand” the motive.

The region is still recovering from the events surrounding last year’s police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb, and a grand jury’s subsequent decision not to charge the officer who shot him. Brown was black and unarmed when he was shot by white Darren Wilson in a case that helped spur the national “Black Lives Matter” movement, and it renewed concern about the treatment of minorities in and around St. Louis.

Most of the fires were during the night when churches were unoccupied, although one at a Catholic church was during the day when a priest was there.

No one was hurt in any of the incidents. Damage was mostly minimal, but New Life Missionary Baptist Church was so badly damaged that pastor David Triggs wasn’t certain if the congregation would rebuild or move.

In all seven fires the front doors were ignited. Dotson said gas was used as an accelerant in both fires that resulted in charges against Jackson. He said forensics evidence linked Jackson to the crime, though he did not elaborate. Surveillance footage also tied Jackson’s car to one of the fires, and Dotson said police found evidence in the car that included a gasoline canister and a Thermos bottle that smelled of gas.

St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said the fires hit at the heart of the community — places of worship.

“It’s just absolutely despicable that somebody would go after churches,” he said.

Msgr. Robert J. Gettinger of St. Augustine Catholic Church, damaged in a fire on Oct. 14, said he and his congregation of about 300 families, most of them black, are pleased that the suspect is off the street and no longer a threat, although Jackson was not charged Friday with the fire at the Catholic church.

“There was a fear in a lot of people, so you’re certainly relieved,” Gettinger said. “Hopefully he’ll get some kind of help.”

Gettinger was also relieved that the attack was apparently not racially motivated.

“It’s helpful” for the region, Gettinger said. “We don’t need anything else like that with Ferguson going on.”

The Rev. Rodrick Burton of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in Jennings, which suffered damage Oct. 10, agreed.

“I believe the St. Louis community will have a sigh of relief,” Burton said. “Given our history of racial division, it will be a great relief that it is not motivated by prejudice.”

The churches represented several denominations — two Catholic, two Baptist, one Lutheran, one Church of Christ and one non-denominational.

California fines water suppliers for failure to cut back

SAN FRANCISCO — State officials for the first time are fining California water suppliers for failing to meet a mandated 25 percent reduction in water use in the battle against a widespread drought.

The $61,000 fines are being imposed on Beverly Hills, Indio, Redlands and the Coachella Valley Water District.

Beverly Hills officials said in a statement they may impose additional fines and hire extra staff to meet its savings goals. Officials with the Coachella Valley Water District said they, too, will develop new ways to encourage greater water savings.

Redlands spokesman Carl Baker said the city learned of the fine late Thursday and said officials will seek direction on how to respond from the City Council on Tuesday. He declined to elaborate.

Indio said it has been working hard to meet state water conservation goals, including adopting a drought penalty surcharge and offering rebates for water customers who get rid of their grass.

The Indio Water Authority said the utility will explore additional programs.

“We are committed to conserve,” General Manager Brian Macy said in a statement.

For a fourth straight month, Californians as a whole have cut back water consumption by more than 25 percent since Gov. Jerry Brown put that mandate into effect last June.

“Millions of Californians have saved water during the summer months, which are the four most critical months to save water,” said State Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus.

“This is important and wonderful, and we are thankful for all of the effort by individuals and agencies. Now, we need to keep it up as best we can, even as we hope for as much rain and snow as we can safely handle.”

In September, Californians reduced water use by more than 26 percent.

Statewide cutbacks amounted to 27 percent in August, 31 percent in July and 27 percent in June.

That put the state more than halfway toward its goal of saving 1.2 million acre-feet of water between June 2015 and February 2016.

An acre-foot or 325,851 gallons is about enough water to supply two households for a year.

“Up and down the state, residents and water suppliers are making the necessary sacrifices needed to help California meet its conservation goals. However, some urban water suppliers simply have not met the requirements laid before them,” said Cris Carrigan, director of the Office of Enforcement. “For these four suppliers, it’s been too little too late to achieve their conservation standard.”

Beverly Hills, with its huge mansions, including many fronted by sprawling, emerald-green lawns, has drawn the ire of Los Angeles residents who have complained of excessive water use by their wealthy neighborhood. Some of the city’s homes have been targeted by so-called “drought shamers” who post videos online of water being wasted and allowed to run into the street.

Redlands actually has a link on its website that people can use to report water wasters, and city officials say they have taken numerous efforts to cut usage, including limiting watering days and installing drought-resistant landscaping in public places.

Once a sleepy agricultural area 70 miles east of Los Angeles, the city of 70,000 has grown into a bustling LA suburb in recent years. Indio, a desert resort town 20 miles east of Palm Springs and with a population of about 70,000, is located in the typically hot, dry Coachella Valley section of Southern California.

Carrigan acknowledged the $61,000 fines being sought would have more impact on smaller districts but pointed out that continued violations could lead to a cease and desist order with potential fines of $10,000 a day. The water suppliers can appeal the fines.

Three hundred and eighty nine suppliers reported water use in September. The figures showed that the four communities missed mandated targets by between roughly 9 and 12 percent. For example, Beverly Hills was 11.7 percent off its 32 percent conservation target, or the equivalent of 175 million gallons of wasted water, officials said.

The announcement of fines comes as Brown declared a state of emergency Friday to address a massive tree die-off exacerbated by four years of drought.

Paris Agreement Could Put Leash Around Global Warming

World governments are cooperating as they work to slip a leash around the monstrous problem of global warming, but new analysis shows that leash will need to be severely tightened in the coming years if damage from future warming is to be meaningfully reduced.

There is a month remaining before a critical two-week U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change begins in Paris. Following years of talks, most of the world’s governments have announced the pledges that they plan to offer under the hoped-for Paris climate pact, even as the draft agreement continues to take shape.

On Friday, the United Nations released its analysis of those pledges, showing that the global populace is beginning to pursue a rich medley of approaches for stemming warming – and for adapting to it.

Those approaches include putting caps and prices on carbon dioxide pollution, slowing deforestation, and reforming farming practices. Developing countries often emphasized the need for international help in meeting more ambitious goals, such as through financial support.

Developed countries, such as the U.S., and those in the European Union, pledged to reduce rates of greenhouse gas pollution by specific amounts in the coming years. Others, such as China, vowed to end the yearly increases in their annual pollution rates within chosen timeframes. Some countries simply listed the policies that they plan to enact to help address climate change. Policies included in many of the pledges also covered efforts to adapt to a warming world.

The pledges “begin to point us in the right direction,” said Jamie Henn, a spokesperson for the nonprofit 350.org.

“The problem is they’re still pointed a few degrees off from where we want to go,” Henn said. “I think the level of ambition can increase as the politics change. If a clear signal is sent out of Paris, that might be enough to trigger major investors to move even further toward pulling out finance for major fossil fuel projects.”

One thing is soberingly clear from the analysis: the pledges won’t be enough to hold global warming below 3.6°F, or 2°C. Although that is an official goal of the ongoing U.N. climate talks, leading scientists have warned that much warming would trigger severe impacts, including flooding and worsening wildfires. Temperatures have risen at least 1.5°F since 1880, driving up sea levels and making heat waves and storms more intense.

The pledges under the planned Paris pact collectively cover nearly the full gamut of forces that are driving increases in global temperatures, including the burning of fuel for energy, agriculture, logging, and the rotting of waste. The pledges don’t just address carbon dioxide – other greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxides and some coolants are also covered.

The variety of approaches taken by different countries, and the different gases and timelines covered by their pledges, made it difficult for the U.N. to precisely assess their anticipated collective impacts. Those impacts will also be influenced by economic and population trends, by the pace of growth and innovation in the renewable energy sector, and by natural disasters.

Even if all of the pledges become reality, humanity is expected to release 11 to 22 percent more climate-changing pollution in 2030 than was the case in 2010, the analysis concluded.

“The aggregate total” of the expected effects of the climate pledges should be taken “with a grain of salt,” said Alex Hanafi, an Environmental Defense Fund attorney who has been participating in lower-level U.N. climate talks in Germany and elsewhere this year. “We may be able to get more than that.”

Overall, the U.N.’s 66-page analysis emphasized hopefulness. It noted that the pledges reveal “a clear and increasing trend” toward national laws and policies that reduce rates of climate pollution. “Many” of the pledges “are already backed by existing national legislation or policies and several have triggered national processes to establish relevant policy frameworks.”

Experts are hopeful that future rounds of climate negotiations will lead to pledges that will do even more to combat climate change. During the Paris talks, diplomats will be asked to agree on timelines for reassessing climate pledges. With renewable energy prices falling, and with political backing for climate action rising, regular assessments could lead to increasingly ambitious pledges.

“They have to agree to return to negotiations periodically, in order to revisit the levels of ambition,” said Harvard University economics professor Robert Stavins, an expert on international climate diplomacy. He said he considers a proposal to review pledges every five years to be a “reasonable” one. “Will that be agreed to? I don’t know.”

—Associated Press


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