Rolling Stone is the go to magazine for investigative journalism. In the article: The Reckoning, we read “Climate change has some scary new math: three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is.” By Bill Mckibben, August 12, 2012 issue (the rest of this post—mostly– is quoted, cut and paste style, from the article).
A 2 degrees Celsius rise in temperature puts the Earth that we have come to know and love at huge risk, so much so, that a team of London financial analysts (and environmentalists) warn that future investment in fossil-fuel companies put stock portfolios at risk.
565 gigatons: the number that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by mid-century and still have reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. In fact, according to the article, “study after study predicts that carbon emissions will keep growing by roughly three percent a year – and at that rate, we’ll blow through our 565-gigaton allowance in 16 years, around the time today’s preschoolers will be graduating from high school.”
2,795 gigatons: This 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.”
Again, we have more than five times as much oil, coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground in order to avoid a meltdown. “Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.”
“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 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.
“If you told Exxon or Lukoil (Russian oil) 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.”
Within the span of one lifetime we will create a science fiction worst case scenario—a dead/dying planet (but those who can, will build a lifeboat–self-contained modules—prolonging select human life—the tortured souls who must bear the guilt of what they’ve (we’ve) done to our Mother Ship—Earth!