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25 August 2023 13:46

DeBriefed 25 August 2023: Canada’s wildfires; Ecuador chooses Amazon over oil; Getting angry about climate change

Robert McSweeney


Robert McSweeney

25.08.2023 | 1:46pm
DeBriefedDeBriefed 25 August 2023: Canada’s wildfires; Ecuador chooses Amazon over oil; Getting angry about climate change

Welcome to Carbon Brief’s DeBriefed. 
An essential guide to the week’s key developments relating to climate change.

This is an online version of Carbon Brief’s weekly DeBriefed email newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

This week

Canadian wildfires

STATE OF EMERGENCY: The premier of British Columbia declared a state of emergency this week in the face of Canada’s “worst wildfire season ever”, the Guardian reported. More than 35,000 people have been evacuated in the western Canadian province since the fires began late last week, reported the Independent, with the federal government deploying the military to help with relief efforts.

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Across Canada, fires have burned at least 15.3m hectares (38m acres) of land, nearly 10 times more than 2022 and roughly the size of New York state, reported Al Jazeera. The carbon emissions from the fires amount to more than double the previous Canadian annual record for wildfire emissions, set in 2014, noted Axios.

HUMAN INFLUENCE: While the fires rage on, a new rapid “attribution” study has quantified the human impact on wildfires in eastern Canada in May and June. As Carbon Brief reported, the unusually hot and dry weather that drove the record-breaking wildfires was made at least two times more likely by human-caused climate change.

Ecuador’s referendum on oil

HISTORIC VOTE: Citizens of Ecuador voted this week to halt the development of oil drilling in the Yasuní national park in the Amazon, the Guardian reported. In what Climate Home News described as a “first of its kind” referendum, the Ecuadorian public voted 59%-41% to ban oil exploitation in “one of the largest biodiversity hotspots on the planet”, which is “home to Indigenous people in voluntary isolation”.

OIL STAY PUT: The result will require Petroecuador, Ecuador’s state-owned oil company, to close all of its active oil wells and remove all infrastructure from a portion of the national park within a year, reported Axios. Petroecuador produces nearly 60,000 barrels a day from its current operations in the park, noted the Hill. The advocacy group Amazon Watch said the decision would “permanently keep an estimated 1bn barrels of oil in the ground”.

SETTING AN EXAMPLE: The Spanish-language online magazine Climática reported that ethnic groups Waorani, Kichwa and Shuar considered the referendum a victory and campaigners said that it was the first time Ecuador had “decided to defend life and leave the oil in the ground”. Brazil’s civil-society organisations said they expected their country to follow Ecuador’s example, Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo reported.

Around the world

  • ‘RECORD RAINS’: Tropical storm Hilary “unleashed furious flash floods” east and west of Los Angeles on Sunday, reported Reuters. Hilary was the first tropical storm to hit southern California since 1939, noted Al Jazeera.
  • MOVING ON: Frans Timmermans stepped down from his role as EU climate chief in order to “make a run for Dutch prime minister”, reported Politico. His temporary replacement is Maroš Šefčovič – described by the outlet as the European Commission’s “Mr Fix It”.
  • ‘WEEKS OF RAINFALL’: Authorities in Pakistan evacuated more than 100,000 people from large parts of the eastern Punjab region along the Sutlej river in response to flooding, the Strait Times reported.
  • ‘DIVERGENT INTERESTS’: An investigation by African Arguments revealed that the majority of trustees at four of the world’s biggest conservation NGOs “are closely linked to the finance industry”. The outlet noted that the “domination of financiers on the boards…seems to have coincided with a rising emphasis on market-based solutions to climate change”.
  • SPOILT FOR CHOICE: At the first 2024 Republican presidential debate in the US, only one of eight candidates – Nikki Haley, former US ambassador to the UN – acknowledged that climate change is caused by humans, the Independent reported.


The assumed number of penguin chicks surviving from four of the five known emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica’s central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea in 2022 after a total loss of sea ice, according to research in Communications Earth & Environment.

Latest climate research

  • A study in One Earth found that “powerful vested interests [have] exerted their political influence” in the US and Europe to preserve “the status quo of animal-based production and consumption” and “obstruct competition” from more sustainable alternatives.
  • According to research in npj Climate Action, Pacific island nations would be more likely to meet their Paris Agreement pledges by using “culturally appropriate decision making”, such as “Talanoa, Talanga and community-based approaches”.
  • A new modelling study in Nature Communications found that pathways to 1.5C were still achievable – but at a higher cost – when hit by “new adverse information”, such as a limited rollout of still-emergent CO2 removal technologies carbon capture and storage and direct air capture.

(For more, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth daily summaries of the top climate news stories on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)


BRICS countries are set to control more than half of the world's fossil fuels production

The five BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – have announced the admission of six new countries from next year. At their summit in Johannesburg, the group announced that Argentina, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates will become full members from 1 January 2024, the Guardian reported. This chart, created by Carbon Brief’s Josh Gabbatiss, shows that the new, larger group will produce more than half of the world’s fossil fuels.


Getting angry about climate change

This week, Carbon Brief examines new research from Norwegian scientists studying the phenomenon of “climate anger”.

A Fridays for Future protest march, 11 August 2023, Lüneburg, Germany. Image ID: 2RGPJNJ.
A Fridays for Future protest march, 11 August 2023, Lüneburg, Germany. Credit: dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo.

The world can be an angry place. Whether it is paper straws, self-service checkouts or TV shows being cancelled, there are few things that do not inspire rage somewhere.

When it comes to climate change, this is often no different. A scroll through social media or flick through a newspaper will quickly lay bare the strength of feeling about global warming and how society should, or should not, respond. 

But does all this anger achieve anything?

New research, published last week, suggests that it just might. Based on interviews with more than 2,000 members of the public in Norway, the study found that anger is a strong predictor of whether a person attends a climate protest (pictured is a recent demonstration in Lüneburg, Germany) and supports climate policies.

This emotional connection was stronger than for those feeling sadness, fear, guilt or hope about climate change.

There are many reasons why a person might be angry about climate change, but the responses in the study were mostly related to the role that humans play, lead author Dr Thea Gregersen told Carbon Brief: 

“Many [respondents] mention human actions or inactions causing or failing to mitigate climate change, or they refer to negative human qualities, such as indifference. Sometimes people relate the inaction or negative qualities to specific agents, most frequently politicians.”

The feeling of climate anger was stronger among “women, younger age cohorts, and those placing themselves further left on the political spectrum”, the study noted.

But, while anger might spur activism or supporting climate-related policies, the study found that it was not linked to efforts to limit an individual’s emissions. This could be because angry people “generally want to punish or correct the wrongdoers’ misbehaviour”, Gregersen explained: 

“Participating in a protest aligns well with such an appraisal and reaction: you get to show those you see as responsible that you are displeased with the current situation. Trying to limit emissions in everyday life might not seem like the best way to vent anger, since it does not target the responsible people directly.”

The findings suggested that “those reporting stronger intentions to limit their climate emissions in everyday life score higher on sadness, fear and hope”, noted Gregersen.

With this finding, the paper differs from some similar studies, which found that anger was a driver of changing behaviour. One such study, published in 2021, found that not only is anger linked to “greater engagement in pro-climate activism and personal behaviours”, but that experiencing climate anger “was linked to lower depression, anxiety and stress” in respondents.

The study noted that “mental health and reactions to climate change are inextricably linked”, concluding that climate anger could be “harness[ed]” to “drive pro-climate action for the benefit of human and planetary health”. 

Watch, read, listen

‘DISTURBING CHANGES’: Writing for the Conversation, Prof Dana M Bergstrom from the University of Wollongong said that she has spent 40 years studying Antarctica and it “has never needed our help more”.

‘HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT’: In an article for Mekong Eye, Thai journalist Pratch Rujivanarom reported on how rising sea levels are forcing residents in Thailand’s low-lying areas to adapt or leave.

POWER STRUGGLE: In the Ezra Klein Show, a New York Times podcast, Jason Bordoff and Meghan O’Sullivan mapped out the ways decarbonisation will “upend the world’s economic and geopolitical order”.

Coming up

Pick of the jobs

DeBriefed is written in rotation by Carbon Brief’s team and edited by Daisy Dunne. Please send any tips or feedback to [email protected]

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