Award-winning environmental writer and college teacher Bill McKibben is again trying to raise awareness about climate change and global warming - - this time with a long, documented essay in Rolling Stone. It's worth reading, down-loading or clipping from a hard copy.
As are stories overlooked before this summer's baking heat predicting average worldwide temperature increases of a ruinous 11 degrees Fahrenheit, while McKibben warns the +2 degree rise that some experts believe tolerable are catastrophically close at hand.
The climate change deniers who regularly tee off on this blog against the science and implications making up McKibben's positions will have their reflexive field day:
Rolling Stone? That tree-hugger McKibben?
And we're not just talking about right-wing blog trolls with time on their hands and anonymous screen names.
The same pro-carbon industry mentality is on full display at the administratively-inert, ideologically- compliant Scott Walker-run Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, which scrubbed its climate change web pages, but made sure to have a helluva Halloween party across its divisions and offices last year.
A couple of weeks ago, during record heat, a stretch of air pollution advisories and ruined crops in the field, this was the DNR's "Air Quality Tip of the Week":
For the week of July 1, 2012:"Happy Birthday America! No doubt about it, fireworks are a part of the festivities on the 4th of July. Yes they do cause air pollution, but the smoke is localized and disperses quickly causing little harm. Learn more"
But here's what should trouble anyone taking the time to read the essay: it scientifically predicts unsustainable Earth temperatures resulting from the aggressive and suicidal burning of carbon resources held by major multi-national and state corporations - - mining and consumption and combustion that seems inevitable because those corporations' profits and their countries' budgets and economies are at odds with life-saving resource conservation.
A central point McKibben is trying to make, and which he hopes will trigger awareness and then mass movements in opposition to the Carbon industry's agenda:
We have five times as much oil and 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 to avoid that fate. 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 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.
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.