For the rest of this month, Bill McKibben will be touring many cities in the U.S. to build a movement to stand up to the fossil fuel industry by a variety of means, including divestment to cut off the industry's financial and political support. This picture is from last night's event in Seattle! People are fired up and ready to go!
In 2009, the White House sent a clear message to Bill: President Obama can't do what needs to be done within the current political forces. "Make us do it. Build the movement that gives us the room to do the things that we want to do. Because they don't have it now."
We've seen a lot of denial, lies and delay over the past 3 years. Then this summer happened with extreme weather events that scientists linked to climate change: Heatwaves, wildfires, droughts and freak storms. Some more eyes opened to the reality that climate change impacts were happening right outside their window now even as the political elites engaged in climate silence.
Then Hurricane Sandy resulted in the Bloomberg Businessweek's frank cover story: "It's Global Warming, Stupid."
Bill's do the math tour is based on simple arithmetic: The world agrees that we need to stay below 2 degrees Celsius of warming to avoid catastrophe for life on Earth. We can only burn 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide in order to remain below 2 degrees Celsius. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry now has 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their reserves or 5 times the amount required to stay under 2 degrees Celsius. The upshot is a fossil fuel industry carbon bubble lying in wait that will make the housing bubble look tame.
Reducing the $$$ power of fossil fuel industry is not an idea limited to Do The Math Tour. Progressive lawmakers Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison introduced legislation last summer to "stop subsidies to the oil, coal and natural gas industries, preserving an estimated $110 billion over the next ten years." The legislation, "End Polluter Welfare Act, would do away with tax breaks, financial assistance, royalty relief, direct federal research and development and many loopholes that benefit the fossil fuel industry -- coal, oil, and natural gas --."
2013 is climate change year. We need to build the movement to help President Obama enact effective measures to address climate change. We hope you will support and join us with the first of our projects.
Even DC is now indicating that climate change might be on the table for 2013 too. President Obama noted in his victory speech the "destructive power of a warming planet." Senate Majority Leader Reid stated yesterday that "climate change is an extremely important issue" that we need to address.
Please help us build that movement to make them do it!
The Daily Kos Do the Math Team (PDNC, boatsie, citisven, rb137) is working with Bill, Daniel Kessler and Jamie Henn of 350.org to promote his tour through November with diaries here. If you are interested in writing a diary to help support and spread the word about this tour, please kosmail PDNC.
Would you like to interview Bill? We are arranging some interviews with Bill for kossacks attending his event. It will be a brief interview before the event for some who want to report on this event, which is not just a lecture, but a unique and interactive experience, in a diary at DK. So far, citisven and JanF will be interviewing Bill. If you want to join them, please kosmail PDNC.A video interview from last night's event in Seattle revealed breaking news: Unity College in Maine announced that it is the first college divesting from fossil fuels! President Stephen Mulkey said at a press conference this morning: "I know from speaking with other presidents that many more colleges in America are already grappling with this."
More breaking news at Seattle event last night!
Seattle mayor Mike McGinn took the stage to tell 2000 of his constituents that the city's treasurer has begun investigating divestment options for the city's money. I had lunch with him, and knew he was taking this seriously -- but this is the kind of forthright action that defines leadership, and he won huge cheers from the crowd when he made his announcement from the stage.A second related project will be happening November 11-18th: Environmentalists will be demonstrating outside the White House on November 18th to show our support for President Obama to deny the permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This is a demonstration of support, so no one needs to get arrested like the civil disobedience action last year. I will post a diary with more information before November 11th.
The scary math is below the squiggle!
The reason for the Do The Math Tour is explained in an article Bill wrote last July for Rolling Stone about "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math." EVERYONE needs to read his entire article.
Arguments about global warming "tend to be ideological, theological and economic." Focusing on math, as President Clinton likes to do, provides clarity to the complex issue of climate change with 3 simple numbers:
The first number is 2 degrees Celsius. The scientific view has been that any increase in global temperature must remain below two degrees Celsius or around 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. To provide some perspective of the dangers we face, we have now raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and this has "caused far more damage than most scientists expected."
The second number answers the question of how much carbon dioxide can we burn yet remain under two degrees Celsius? The answer is 565 Gigatons.
This idea of a global "carbon budget" emerged about a decade ago, as scientists began to calculate how much oil, coal and gas could still safely be burned. Since we've increased the Earth's temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we're currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we're already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target.The Third Number answers the question of the amount of carbon contained in coal, oil and gas reserves that the fossil fuel industry plans to burn? The answer is 2,795 Gigatons or 5 times the safe amount.
This number is the scariest of all … . The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. In short, it's the fossil fuel we're currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.What we face is a carbon bubble with far more harmful, widespread and dangerous impacts than the housing bubble:
…Which is exactly why this new number, 2,795 gigatons, is such a big deal. Think of two degrees Celsius as the legal drinking limit – equivalent to the 0.08 blood-alcohol level below which you might get away with driving home. The 565 gigatons is how many drinks you could have and still stay below that limit – the six beers, say, you might consume in an evening. And the 2,795 gigatons? That's the three 12-packs the fossil-fuel industry has on the table, already opened and ready to pour.
Yes, this coal and gas and oil is still technically in the soil. But it's already economically aboveground – it's figured into share prices, companies are borrowing money against it, nations are basing their budgets on the presumed returns from their patrimony. It explains why the big fossil-fuel companies have fought so hard to prevent the regulation of carbon dioxide – those reserves are their primary asset, the holding that gives their companies their value. It's why they've worked so hard these past years to figure out how to unlock the oil in Canada's tar sands, or how to drill miles beneath the sea, or how to frack the Appalachians.The fossil fuel industry is rolling in money to stop effective climate change measures partially because it is the only business allowed to dump its waste for free. Spreading the word of the fossil fuel industry's carbon bubble that sits lying in wait like a time bomb to harm and destroy people, wildlife and our natural resources should stir up public moral outrage at industry greed and callous disregard of humanity.
If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn't pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today's market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you'd be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren't exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won't necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can't have both. Do the math: 2,795 is five times 565. That's how the story ends.
This is not the first time that a divestment movement or campaign forced an industry to make change:
Once, in recent corporate history, anger forced an industry to make basic changes. That was the campaign in the 1980s demanding divestment from companies doing business in South Africa.While Bill travels across America in his sustainable bus, he will be joined by many guests in this tour:
…Movements rarely have predictable outcomes. But any campaign that weakens the fossil-fuel industry's political standing clearly increases the chances of retiring its special breaks. Consider President Obama's signal achievement in the climate fight, the large increase he won in mileage requirements for cars. Scientists, environmentalists and engineers had advocated such policies for decades, but until Detroit came under severe financial pressure, it was politically powerful enough to fend them off. If people come to understand the cold, mathematical truth – that the fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet's physical systems – it might weaken it enough to matter politically. Exxon and their ilk might drop their opposition to a fee-and-dividend solution; they might even decide to become true energy companies, this time for real.
You can help promote this tour by spreading the word on Twitter and Facebook, encourage people to buy tickets (go to this link to click onto city to sign up and buy tickets), giving donations for the tour, and promoting the tour with posters in your town or announcements at churches, schools or community meetings.
Many organizations have partnered with 350.org for this tour:
The fossil fuel industry has the power and money to keep delaying addressing climate change, and as Meteor Blades says, delay is denial. No more delay, no more denial, no more relegating climate change to some trivial issue that can be ignored.
What kind of future do you choose?