Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

Bill McKibben calls this the ‘most important thing he’s written’ in years

Read the whole thing to see why. Excerpts below:

If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

But the real numbers we have to worry about are:

The First Number: 2° Celsius

Copenhagen failed spectacularly…The accord did contain one important number, however. In Paragraph 1, it formally recognized “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below two degrees Celsius.”

Some context: So far, we’ve raised the average temperature of the planet just under 0.8 degrees Celsius, and that has caused far more damage than most scientists expected. (A third of summer sea ice in the Arctic is gone, the oceans are 30 percent more acidic, and since warm air holds more water vapor than cold, the atmosphere over the oceans is a shocking five percent wetter, loading the dice for devastating floods.) Given those impacts, in fact, many scientists have come to think that two degrees is far too lenient a target.

And here’s why even that teetering-on-the-edge-of-safe two degrees is all too likely to be surpassed:

The Second Number: 565 Gigatons

Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees. (“Reasonable,” in this case, means four chances in five, or somewhat worse odds than playing Russian roulette with a six-shooter.)

In fact, 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. “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a two-degree trajectory is about to close,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist. In fact, he continued, “When I look at this data, the trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of about six degrees.” That’s almost 11 degrees Fahrenheit, which would create a planet straight out of science fiction.

It gets worse:

The Third Number: 2,795 Gigatons

This number is the scariest of all – one that, for the first time, meshes the political and scientific dimensions of our dilemma. It was highlighted last summer by the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a team of London financial analysts and environmentalists who published a report in an effort to educate investors about the possible risks that climate change poses to their stock portfolios. 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.

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 why the GOP’s fossil-fuels-über-alles trajectory is so horrifically short-sighted and evil. What good will those “trillions” in fossil fuel reserves do when heat and drought make growing enough vital food crops impossible? Even before that happens, you have to consider how drilling for and burning fossil fuels sucks up trillions of gallons of water, thus competing with our agricultural needs right this minute.

Bill McKibben is right. Either the fossil fuel profits go, or a world that supports human life. The right choice won’t be painless by any means, but neither is amputation of a gangrenous extremity to save your body - and yourself - from certain death.

Jump to top

Create a PageThis is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.
Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.
Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
LGF User's Guide RSS Feeds Tweet

Help support Little Green Footballs!

Subscribe now for ad-free access!Register and sign in to a free LGF account before subscribing, and your ad-free access will be automatically enabled.

Donate with
PayPal
Square Cash Shop at amazon
as an LGF Associate!
Recent PagesClick to refresh
Weekend Box Office: ‘Black Panther’ Bounds to Record-Shattering $218M-Plus Bow In a defining moment for Hollywood, Disney and Marvel Studios' Black Panther exploded at the Presidents Day box office, bounding to a record-shattering estimate of $192 million for the three-day weekend and a projected $218 million-plus for the four-day ...
Thanos
15 hours, 49 minutes ago
Views: 94 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Brandi Carlile - the Joke (Official Video) From the album "By The Way, I Forgive You" available now. elektrar.ec Directed by Danny Clinch Produced by Lindha Narvaez for MILKT Choreography by Peter Leung Ballet sequence filmed by Middle Table Productions Connect with Brandi: brandicarlile.com facebook.com @brandicarlile ...
Thanos
1 day, 11 hours ago
Views: 134 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
School Shooter Nikolas Cruz Belonged to White Supremacist GroupThis my surprised face.... BREAKING: Nikolas Cruz, alleged perpetrator in the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was associated with white supremacist group Republic of Florida & participated in the group’s training exercises, according to the group’s leader. More info: ...
Scottish Dragon
3 days, 19 hours ago
Views: 381 • Comments: 2 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Your Medicine Cabinet Knows What AIls Youblog.timesunion.com HOFFMAN FILESYour medicine cabinet knows what ails you.By Rob Hoffman on February 15, 2018 at 5:27 AM1We all fancy ourselves experts when it comes to the human condition. We see our fellow human beings as open books, and we ...
rhoffman
3 days, 22 hours ago
Views: 397 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 1
Comments: 0
: 1
A.G. Schneiderman Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against the Weinstein Companies, Harvey Weinstein, and Robert Weinstein NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today filed suit against The Weinstein Company (“TWC”), Harvey Weinstein, and Robert Weinstein for egregious violations of New York’s civil rights, human rights, and business laws. The suit, filed ...
Thanos
1 week ago
Views: 927 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 5 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 2
Comments: 0
: 2
Portugal. The Man - Keep on (Official Video) Portugal. The Man - Keep On Video conceptualized, created and directed by Paulin RoguesFollow Paulin at instagram.com Catch Portugal. The Man on tour:portugaltheman.com WOODSTOCK available now!atlantic.lnk.to Follow Portugal. The ManWebsite: portugaltheman.comFB: facebook.com IG: instagram.comTW: @portugalthemanSC: SoundCloudYT: youtube.comTumblr: portugaltheman.tumblr.com ...
Thanos
1 week, 1 day ago
Views: 1,066 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Marvel’s Jessica Jones - Season 2 Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover ...
Thanos
1 week, 1 day ago
Views: 974 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 2
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Deadpool 2 Teaser Trailer - Red Band (2018) Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin The Merc with a Mouth takes a pop at Cable, Toy Story and Justice League in this teaser for the upcoming Deadpool sequel. Watch more entertainment and game trailers here!YouTube Watch the latest from IGN here!YouTube ------------------------------­----Follow IGN for ...
Thanos
1 week, 1 day ago
Views: 960 • Comments: 1 • Rating: 1
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Poll: Number of Conservative-Leaning States Drops to 39 (CN) – The number of conservative-leaning states has dropped from 44 to 39, according to a new Gallup poll released Wednesday. The survey, conducted over a number of polls taken throughout the year, found that 35 percent of Americans ...
Thanos
1 week, 4 days ago
Views: 1,068 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 3
Tweets: 0 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0
Shock Tactics: Why ‘Higher Risk’ Human Targets Get Stunned With Tasers NEW YORK – The maker of the Taser says the electroshock weapon is the safest tool on a police officer’s belt – with a few caveats. In pages of warnings, Axon Enterprise Inc advises police to beware that some ...
Thanos
1 week, 5 days ago
Views: 1,081 • Comments: 0 • Rating: 0
Tweets: 1 • Share to Facebook
Shares: 0
Comments: 0
: 0