2, 565, 2,795

Three numbers telling us where we stand in the case of climate change.

#1: 2 degrees Celsius is the conventional number scientist have agreed upon is the maximum raise in the global temperature we can reach before hitting disaster. Although, lately, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target. So far we’ve raised the average temperature just under 0.8 degrees Celsius. This has caused removal of one third of the summmer ice in the Arctis, 30% more acidic oceans 3,215 record high temperatures across US in June….etc..

“Any number much above one degree involves a gamble,” writes Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a leading authority on hurricanes, “and the odds become less and less favorable as the temperature goes up.” Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank’s chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: “If we’re seeing what we’re seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.” NASA scientist James Hansen, the planet’s most prominent climatologist, is even blunter: “The target that has been talked about in international negotiations for two degrees of warming is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.”

#2: 565 Gigatons. The amount of carbon dioxide scientists estimate we can pour into the atmosphere by mid-century with reasonable hope to stay under 2 degrees.
#3: 2,795 Gigatons. That’s the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal, oil and gas reserves of fossil-fuel companies and countries acting like fossil-fuel companies (Carbon Tracker Initiative). It’s the fossil-fuel we are planning to burn, without finding any new reserves.
You do the math.
This article puts fossil-fuel companies in new light
“Given this hard math, we need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization. “Lots of companies do rotten things in the course of their business – pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops – and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate leader Naomi Klein, who is at work on a book about the climate crisis. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”
Keeping the reserves in the gound means loss of money. Big money. Oil reserves is what fossil-fuel companies are valued on. – there’s simply too much money to be made on oil and gas and coal to go chasing after zephyrs and sunbeams.

The problem with the fossil-fuel industry is that it’s allowed to dump it’s waste – carbon dioxide – for free, like no other business. If you put a price on carbon, through a direct tax or other methods, it would enlist markets in the fight against global warming. That of course, would make fossil-fuel companies less profitable, and pose a real risk to stock price.

The fight, in the end, is about whether the industry will succeed in its fight to keep its special pollution break alive past the point of climate catastrophe, or whether, in the economists’ parlance, we’ll make them internalize those externalities.

Real change could be acheived with real movement, argues the article. Institutions to dump stocks that destroy our planet would not only be appropriate, but effective.
We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.

One Response to “2, 565, 2,795”
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  1. […] On Tuesday the Presidential election will take place. I have followed the debates, and without getting too much into politics, I can only remark how little the environment has been addressed. Both candidates want to boost US oil, gas and coal production. This may create temporarily growth and job creation, but is devastation in the long run. Just see my earlier blog post. […]

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