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McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street [Part XI of an Investigative Report] [2 Degrees of Credendum]

The Art of Annihilation

August 11, 2015

Part eleven of an investigative series by Cory Morningstar

Divestment Investigative Report Series [Further Reading]: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XIPart XIIPart XIII

 

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” — Frantz Fanon, in Black Skin, White Masks

Prologue: A Coup d’état of Nature – Led by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

It is somewhat ironic that anti-REDD climate activists, faux green organizations (in contrast to legitimate grassroots organizations that do exist, although few and far between) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive will speak out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources while simultaneously promoting the toothless divestment campaign promoted by the useless mainstream groups allegedly on the left. It’s ironic because the divestment campaign will result (succeed) in a colossal injection of money shifting over to the very portfolios heavily invested in, thus dependent upon, the intense commodification and privatization of Earth’s last remaining forests, (via REDD, environmental “markets” and the like). This tour de force will be executed with cunning precision under the guise of environmental stewardship and “internalising negative externalities through appropriate pricing.” Thus, ironically (if in appearances only), the greatest surge in the ultimate corporate capture of Earth’s final remaining resources is being led, and will be accomplished, by the very environmentalists and environmental groups that claim to oppose such corporate domination and capture.

Beyond shelling out billions of tax-exempt dollars (i.e., investments) to those institutions most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (otherwise known as foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger to sell this pseudo green agenda to the people in the environmental movement; the feat is being carried out by a tag team comprised of the legitimate and the faux environmentalists. As the public is wholly ignorant and gullible, it almost has no comprehension of the following:

  1. the magnitude of our ecological crisis
  2. the root causes of the planetary crisis, or
  3. the non-profit industrial complex as an instrument of hegemony.

The commodification of the commons will represent the greatest, and most cunning, coup d’état in the history of corporate dominance – an extraordinary fait accompli of unparalleled scale, with unimaginable repercussions for humanity and all life.

Further, it matters little whether or not the money is moved from direct investments in fossil fuel corporations to so-called “socially responsible investments.” The fact of the matter is that all corporations on the planet (and therefore by extension, all investments on the planet) are dependent upon and will continue to require massive amounts of fossil fuels to continue to grow and expand ad infinitum – as required by the industrialized capitalist economic system.

The windmills and solar panels serve as beautiful (marketing) imagery as a panacea for our energy issues, yet they are illusory – the fake veneer for the commodification of the commons, which is the fundamental objective of Wall Street, the very advisers of the divestment campaign.

Thus we find ourselves unwilling to acknowledge the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist economic system, choosing instead to embrace an illusion designed by corporate power.

+++

 

Foundation-funded “progressive media” does its best to instill the possibility that states within the UN process will eventually pass a legally binding agreement regulating deep emissions cuts at a global level. Yet there is no evidence that this will happen. In fact, all evidence points to the contrary. The UN Conference of the Parties (the yearly world climate conference, with the first international climate conference taking place nearly four decades ago in 1979, in Geneva) no longer have anything to do with the environment, rather, they represent the largest annual gathering for an economic conference in the world [1]: a conference hell-bent on environmental markets and commodification and privatization of the Earth’s remaining shared commons. We find ourselves in a world whereby governments no longer preside over corporate power, it is corporate power that oversees, dominates and rules the world’s governments – a potent corporatocracy.

The fifth major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the first IPCC report to lend legitimacy to the concept of a global carbon budget (AR5 Synthesis Report, or SYR). The report reiterates that to stay below a 2ºC threshold (with a 66% probability) the world must not exceed the remaining carbon budget of 790 billion tonnes (790 gigatonnes of carbon). The budget excludes other greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, nitrous oxides and synthetic gases. (This IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (known as AR5) includes methane, but only with the 100 year deferred global warming potential of 25 rather than what should be 72-86 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years, at minimum.) It also excludes amplifying carbon feedbacks, which commit us to the vicious cycle of global warming unleashing more global warming.

The carbon (asset) bubble campaign is mired within the same realm as the so-called 2ºC target: deceit, duplicity and delusion, all encompassed in yet another linguistic dance. Assume that you can calculate where the very edge of danger lies and take humanity to that very precipice, all in the name of corporate greed. This defines the strategy of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), lockstep with corporate and foundation-financed so-called “progressive” media, as the key gatekeepers for empire.

The logic of the carbon bubble is summarized in a “Go Fossil Free” petition:

“When the world’s governments decide to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels, we will have a situation where businesses are forced to keep their coal, oil and gas reserves in the ground and therefore their share prices will drop significantly.” – Go Fossil Free Website, Petitions

To position front and centre in the public realm, a coupled hypothesis of unburnable carbon and a looming carbon bubble premised on the assumption/conjecture that one day, world governments will regulate greenhouse gas emissions – at which point corporations and industries will be forced (via regulation) to halt production of fossil fuels – is not only rich, considering we now exist under a corpotocracy, it’s beyond laughable. Even if a carbon-constrained future was a legitimate goal of states, the continuance of corporations and empire, means that continued as well as new oil production capacity will be necessary. In the dogmatic scenario known as the “new economy” (that is also unrealistically based on perpetual economic growth like the “old economy”), which is judiciously being constructed by states, corporations, marketing firms and empire, continuous new oil production capacity is a necessity. And zero attention is being given to the fact that the renewable energy industry (hailed as the magic bullet) is also a derivative and host of the fossil fuel industry. Consider that empire states destabilize and occupy resource/oil-rich countries in order to steal and control every drop of oil, rare Earth elements/metals and other natural resources – killing millions in the process – and then ask yourself who exactly (what agency or government) is going to regulate that fossil fuel reserves are no longer to be accessed?

The ugly truth is that leaving the fossil fuel reserves in the ground is precisely what would cause those of privilege to revolt. In 2013 the world consumed a staggering 7,896.4 million metric tons of coal, 91,330,895 barrels of oil per day (with more than 1/5 of this amount being consumed by the United States who represent less than 5% of the global population) and 3,347.63 billion m3 of natural gas (detailed fossil fuel consumption stats to follow). And now consider that there is no serious campaign, dialogue or emphasis in the public realm on radically altering Western consumptive lifestyles in any meaningful way.

Perpetual economic growth has been and will continue to be pursued at all costs. The system demands it. The world’s use of fossil fuels is increasing, not decreasing. The notion of unburnable carbon will only present itself if a global economic collapse occurs – and even then, oil/fossil fuels will be consumed by the military-industrial complex as cities throughout the world find themselves amidst chaos and conflicts. Every last drop will be burned. The system demands it. The notion of a legitimate carbon bubble is more in line with carbon credits being purchased and sold based on lands (carbon sinks) that do not exist, thus creating a bubble. Or, in an increasingly chaotic short-term situation, a collapse of some sort could be the result of “economic uncertainty” due to market volatility when oil prices fall, such as we have recently observed.

Lastly, the very fossil fuel corporations and oligarchs that benefit from absence of regulation coupled with infinite growth also create and/or finance the elite think tanks (via foundations), which in turn draft the very policies they wish to “abide by.” Those at the helm of the most powerful corporate institutions can also be found at the helm of the world’s most prestigious and influential think tanks as directors, board members, advisors and “fellows.”

It is incredibly difficult to envision the actual existence of “unburnable carbon”, whereby the “carbon bubble” would “burst” upon an agreed upon international agreement to ban further use of fossil fuels. A perhaps slightly more plausible scenario would be legislated/regulated reductions in fossil fuels, yet this would only serve to make the fossil fuels more valuable, not less. In fact, if the governments did agree to seal off the reserves (as oil explorations continue unabated to the tune US$674 billion each year), the 1-3% that create the majority of the global greenhouse gas emissions would revolt over the loss of their privileged lifestyles (not to mention the loss of instant heat and never-ending food on demand). Where legally binding budgets do surface, one can expect a main component of the legislative policy will include carbon trading and mass deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. It is true that coal could certainly lose its value, but this is true only because it can easily be replaced by natural gas (in the form of fracking) and other intensive forms of energy slightly less polluting (and likely more profitable) than coal. Further, the threat of coal as a “stranded asset” paves the way for CCS to be accepted and implemented as a “solution,” ensuring both business as usual as well as a new industry, meaning more infrastructure.

Further, oil accounts for approximately 29% of global fossil fuel reserves. Yet while pipelines are protested, along with fairly little concern by most about the bomb trains that have come with the fairly recent rail dynasty dominated by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (made possible in large part by the NPIC) there is zero interest in the fact that unless consumption is radically diminished (think mass free transit systems in tandem with rations or bans on personal driving and flights), the oil will continue to proliferate and flow, along with trains and pipelines, for there is no full-scale, mass-market alternative to crude oil, with its primary market being transportation energy. The “alternatives” that do exist are false solutions that carry out more damage than good – under the guise and falsehoods of “green.” For those who hold tight to the dream of a global conversion to electric personal automobiles (for those of privilege), consider that this would simultaneously guarantee the destabilization, annihilation and occupation of Bolivia, which holds the world’s largest known lithium reserves.

So how do we convince a mainstream populace that a global industrialized system that is interwoven with and dependent upon fossil fuels is able to transition to a world that can readily function without fossil fuels, without massive and radical disruption, if only we divest? The following statement conveys a clue and again, it circles back to language and framing:

“In their Wall St. Journal op-ed this week, Al Gore and one of his business partners characterize the current market for investments in oil, gas and coal as an asset bubble. I have been seeing references to this concept with increasing frequency… as well as in the growing literature around sustainability investing. However, the biggest risk I see that might eventually warrant considering divestment isn’t based on the merits of this analysis, but on the possibility of creating a self-fulfilling prophesy by means of drumming up social pressure on institutional investors. You might very well think that applies to this Wall St. Journal op-ed. I couldn’t possibly comment.” — Source: Five Myths About the “Carbon Asset Bubble”

Fossil fuel consumption levels at a glance:

• 7,896.4 million metric tons of coal in 2013 (21.6 million metric tons per day, 250 metric tons per second)

• 91,330,895 barrels of oil per day in 2013 (168 m3 per second)

• 3,347.63 billion m3 of natural gas in 2013 (9.2 km3 per day, 106,082 m3 per second)

• The coal we use each day would form a pile 236 metres (774 feet) high and 673 metres (over 2200 feet) across. We could fill a volume the size of the UN Secretariat Building every 17 minutes with the coal we burn.

• At the rate we use oil, we could fill an Olympic swimming pool every 15 seconds. We could fill a volume the size of the UN Secretariat Building with oil every 30 minutes.

• The rate at which we use natural gas is equivalent to gas travelling along a pipe with an internal diameter of 60 metres (196 feet) at hurricane speeds (135 kph / 84 mph). We could fill a volume the size of the UN Secretariat Building with natural gas in under 3 seconds. We use a cubic kilometre of gas (2.6 hundred billion gallons) every 2 hours 37 minutes and a cubic mile of the stuff every 10 hours 54 minutes.

[Details, calculations and sources for all above numbers are available in this methodology document.]

The Priority: Vigilance Against Threats to the Growth of the Global Economy

In the May 22, 2014 article, The Real Budgetary Emergency and the Myth of “Burnable Carbon,” the author states:

“[Prof. Kevin] Anderson says there is no longer a non-radical option, and for developed economies to play an equitable role in holding warming to 2°C (with 66% probability), emissions compared to 1990 levels would require at least a 40% reduction by 2018, 70% reduction by 2024, and 90% by 2030. This would require ‘in effect a Marshall plan for energy supply.’ As well, low-carbon supply technologies cannot deliver the necessary rate of emission reductions and they need to be complemented with rapid, deep and early reductions in energy consumption, what he calls a radical emission reduction strategy. All this suggests that even holding warming to a too-high 2°C limit now requires an emergency approach.” [Emphasis added] [2]

Of great interest is the radical emission cuts cited as necessary by Anderson: a minimum of 40% emission reductions by 2018, 70% by 2024, and 90% by 2030. Consider at the UN COP15 (2009), the G77 called for global emission reductions of 52% by 2017, 65% by 2020, 80% by 2030 and well above 100% by 2050, while the state of Bolivia called for the global average temperature to not exceed 1°C. Not surprisingly, no NGOs (nor climate justice groups or scientists) supported these radical emission cuts, which are very similar to Anderson’s cited in 2014. Rather, TckTckTck (which served as the lead umbrella organization) “demanded” that the world peak within eight years with a target of 2°C – double that of Bolivia’s 1°C. [Further reading: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide] Note that even after this betrayal to humanity and all life, there is no backlash against the NGOs under the TckTckTck umbrella. Even those who have knowledge of the incident (which should be considered as a crime against humanity) the “progressive Left” continue to stoke the flames of self-annihilation “following” their false prophets as they jetset the globe, financed by the world’s most powerful institutions and oligarchs.

Bolivia and G77, 2009  

  • • 52% by 2017
  • • 65% by 2020
  • • 80% by 2030

 

Kevin Anderson, 2014

  • • 40% by 2018
  • • 70% by 2024
  • • 90% by 2030

 

While it is true that “abusing the 2ºC analysis is a way of avoiding responsibilities and hard truths” (Professor Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at Manchester University, UK), what should be said for scientists creating a 2°C analysis/target, with full knowledge that 2°C was never safe based on the science, even as a “guardrail,” but merely a value judgment that would effectively serve to prevent or cease any and all potential restraints on an unfettered economic growth for decades to come? [Further reading: [Part 1] Exposé | The 2º Death Dance – The 1º Cover-up]

Consider the video published October 10, 2014 titled Conquering the World’s Risks: Highlights from the Annual Meetings 2014. Two of the world’s most powerful institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, make their greatest threat known – a reduction in the growth of the global economy:

“[Ending poverty by 2030] requires us to be vigilant against threats to the growth of the global economy.” — World Bank President Jim Yong Kim

World Bank on Growth

Of course, no oligarch worth his or her salt really could care less about poverty – unless/until they stand to profit or gain power from it. Poverty is a byproduct of industrialized capitalism as well as the very means that allows for exploitation. Exploitation is inherently built into the system. The idea that we must be vigilant against threats to the growth of the global economy to end poverty is akin to vigilance against threats to the military-industrial complex in order to achieve peace. Poverty cannot be separated from capitalism any more than death can be separated from the military industrial complex. Poverty is a direct result of capitalism, pure and simple, whether intended or unintended. Let us be clear: the real and only threat to the world’s most powerful institutions and the oligarchs they represent is anything that could inhibit the growth of the global economy.

2 Degrees of Credendum

Credendum [kri-den-duh m] 1. a doctrine that requires belief; article of faith. Origin < Latin, neuter of cr?dendus, gerund of cr?dere to believe | Definition of CREDENDA:  doctrines to be believed :  articles of faith —distinguished from agenda | Hypernyms (“credendum” is a kind of…): dogma; tenet (a religious doctrine that is proclaimed as true without proof)

Consider that the “target” of 2°C appears to be the most critical aspect of our climate change crisis amongst the establishment and media, in tandem with the privileged Left and especially so within the NPIC. Yet, the following reality is ignored: simultaneously we see these same individuals/NGOs attempting to calculate the very maximum carbon we can emit for that amount of (cataclysmic) warming via so-called “budgets,” with most of these calculations representing (but not emphasizing) high risk percentage scenarios of not exceeding the catastrophic “target” of 2°C.

The trap has been set. Instead of utilizing common sense to dictate the very rational conclusion that at this time, no legitimate carbon budget can even exist, we respond on Academia’s terms, within their framing, by scrutinizing over numbers and charts that are nothing but strategic diversion. This is our way of defending ourselves from Academia’s ridicule. Like an insect drawn in to the terminal lobes of the Venus flytrap, the pheromones released by this academic trap lure us to believe our preference of avoiding reality with unfettered delusion and distraction. Sanctioned and often peer-reviewed, it is more powerful and persuasive than all simple logic combined.

Yet, for a moment, let us step inside the trap to analyze the discourse.

The framing is the message “We can still continue to burn.” The very best place to hide a lie of this magnitude is in plain sight.

“Two degrees is a crime, an attack by the rich on the welfare of the poor. But there is simply no climate policy story to tell without the two degree myth. It is the ‘Once Upon A Time’ of the whole neo-liberal climate change fantasy.” — Chris Shaw, writer/researcher, climate change policy analyst

In the July 29, 2013 article How To Win The Media War Against Grassroots Activists: Stratfor’s Strategies, Steve Horn examined the strategies employed by Stratfor precursor Pagan International. “So named for its founder Rafael Pagan, corporate clients hired the company with the aim of defusing grassroots movements mobilized against them around the world.” The playbook is, was and remains simple: “isolate the radicals, ‘cultivate’ the idealists and ‘educate’ them into becoming realists. Then co-opt the realists.” This is exactly the function performed by the 2 degree “target”; hammered into the collective psyche, whereby only an “extremist” could question it.

The 2°C “target” is and has been, a linguistic catchphrase utilized (1977), made dominant and accepted in popular culture (by scientists, media, etc.) to ensure unfettered economic growth would not be interrupted. 2 degrees is a unprecedented falsehood, as is the concept that we have a remaining carbon “budget.”

The So-Called Carbon Budget and the Two Degree Target

It is critical that the following information be absolutely understood.

2°C is not a scientific target. As its usage was first cited by neoclassic economist W.D. Nordhaus in 1977, it is a political target that was chosen in order to allow the economy to continue to grow. It flies in the face of science. When this “target” was accepted, it was well understood that “… beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage” (United Nations Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases, 1990). [Source]

Consider the guest editorial titled A changing climate for science and policy responses to the environmental agenda: from global prevention and mitigation to global adaptation, written by Eva Lövbrand and Bo L. B. Wiman, in which the authors state:

“Among the first criteria formulated in terms of manageable rates of change were those presented by a widely cited document authored by the 1988 WMO/ICSU/UNEP Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases (Rijsberman & Swart 1990), in which the response rate of ecological systems was addressed.

 

“The scientific call for global action to prevent the potentially disruptive changes in the earth’s environment paved the way for a global politics of the climate. However, when intergovernmental negotiations were initiated in February 1991, the idea of prevention was soon transformed into a more restricted mitigation agenda. Faced with high economic and political stakes in combination with continued scientific uncertainty, the negotiating parties failed to adopt strict targets and timetables for emissions reductions (Bodansky 1994). [Emphasis added]

Twenty-five years after the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases (AGGG) report, the vast majority of climate documents and scientists (who are also dependent on research grants) continue to imply that climate change will not become catastrophic until the planet reaches a global average of a 4ºC temperature rise. Although widely cited upon its publication in 1990, the AGGG report was eventually buried by scientists, governments, media and civil society.

Consider that in 1997 and 2001 Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (a Ceres Board Member since inception) both cited 1°C must not be exceeded (links below). Yet, approximately a decade later, under the TckTckTck campaign (co-founded by David Jones, Global CEO of Havas Worldwide, and Kate Robertson, UK Group Chairman, Euro RSCG Worldwide), the NPIC at COP15 in Copenhagen grossly undermined the small vulnerable states who fought for 1°C limit – by a full degree. During this period, Kumi Naidoo served as executive director of Greenpeace International while simultaneously serving as both president of the Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA; more commonly known as TckTckTck, of which Greenpeace is a founding member) and honorary president of CIVICUS (which receives substantial funding from Ford, the Freedom House and a multitude of other powerful institutions). [Further reading: The Most Important COP Briefing That No One Ever Heard | Truth, Lies, Racism & Omnicide]

[Greenpeace International Cites Maximum 1C [UNAGGG] | October 1, 1997]

[Friends of the Earth Finland Cites Maximum 1C [UNAGGG] | March 15, 2001]

Thus, as scientists stated 25 years ago in 1990, and what nature has proven to be absolutely correct, 1°C is not only a dangerous threshold, but must also be considered too high a risk.

Yet 2°C fills the echo-chamber of the NPIC in deafening unison as they repeat the lie of a “2°C target, beyond which the risks of ‘dangerous’ consequences of global warming escalate.”

Further, if aerosols (at present providing a protective layer/cooling effect) dissipate, it must be reiterated again that we’ve already hit (or more likely surpassed) a 2ºC equilibrium climate sensitivity warming and a 4ºC Earth system sensitivity warming. Again, there is no existing or remaining carbon budget. Again, our budget was spent long ago.

A 350.org sample letter for the divestment campaign states, “The scientific consensus is clear and overwhelming – 2ºC is the maximum amount of global warming without causing runaway climate change.”

Yet even if we were to accept the “agreed upon” “target” (based on a value judgement – not science) of 2ºC, we are not only already there, we are already past. In 2008, scientists Ramanathan and Feng concluded that even if the world were to reach zero net GHG emissions, we were already committed to 2.4ºC warming:

“Global average surface temperatures have increased by about 0.75 degrees Celsius since the beginning of the industrial revolution, of which ~0.6 °C is attributable to human activities. The total radiative forcing by greenhouse gases is around 3 W/m2, with which we have ‘committed’ the planet to warm up by 2.4°C (1.6-3.6°C), according to a climate sensitivity of 3°C (2-4.5°C) for a doubling of CO2. The observed amount of warming thus far has been less than this, because part of the excess energy is stored in the oceans (amounting to ~0.5°C), and the remainder (~1.3°C) has been masked by the cooling effect of anthropogenic aerosols.” [Ramanathan, V., and Y. Feng. 2008. “On Avoiding Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference with the Climate System: Formidable Challenges Ahead.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105.38: 14245-14250.]

The 350.org “Do the Math” campaign, which served as the groundwork for the 350.org/Ceres Divestment campaign, is founded on the very premise of a carbon budget:

“It’s simple math: we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming – anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth.” — 350.org Do the Math website

Catastrophe for life on Earth is already well underway. Today, having long ago entered the Anthropocene, the world’s sixth mass extinction event, scientists estimate the Earth is losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than the background rate previous to now, with dozens of species going extinct each and every day. Yet in a culture devoid of empathy and enlightenment, non-human life is not considered of great importance or significance. The irony is rich, since if humans had protected non-human life first and foremost, by simple default we would have protected/secured human life as well. Consider further that 55 tipping points (at minimum 47 irreversible) have already been crossed at 0.8ºC of warming.

The reality is this: At less than one degree of warming, climate change has ALREADY become catastrophic for billions; not 1.5ºC, not 2ºC, not 3ºC, not 4ºC. A frightening reality that neither James Hansen nor any other leading climate scientist will dispute in private. We will likely soon lose the Arctic summer sea ice at under 1ºC. This will cause massive ecological disruption with unimaginable consequences. There is likely nothing that could be more catastrophic than losing the Earth’s Arctic summer sea ice, as the loss of the albedo effect will result in the sun’s rays (heat) being absorbed, as opposed to reflected, by the Arctic ocean, setting off a chain reaction of more intense, perhaps even unendurable feedbacks and warming with scorching temperatures. The most terrifying aspect is that we’re going to find out just how catastrophic this will be in the not-so-distant future. Natalie Shakhova, one of the world’s foremost experts on methane hydrates, gives us a hint:

“The total amount of the methane (CH4) in the current atmosphere is 5 gigatons. The amount of carbon preserved in the form of methane in the East Siberian Arctic shelf is approx. 100’s-1000’s gigatons. Only 1% of this amount is required to double the atmospheric burden of methane (which is approx. 23x more powerful than CO2). There is not much effort needed to destabilize just 1% of this carbon pool considering the state of permafrost and the amount of methane currently involved. What keeps this methane from entering the atmosphere is a very shallow water column and a weakening permafrost which is losing its ability to serve as a seal. It could happen anytime.” — Natalia Shakhova video/interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kx1Jxk6kjbQ

Pay very careful attention to what Shakhova tells us and then ask yourself how any self-respecting environmental spokesperson, politician, or scientist can carry on leading the public to believe we still have a carbon “budget” that we can afford to keep burning … a carbon budget that states we can continue to burn fossil fuels for decades to come.

Further, scientists have warned that when CO2 levels doubled 55 million years ago, Earth may have warmed 9°F in 13 years:

“The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper, ‘Evidence for a rapid release of carbon at the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum,’ concludes that sediment data indicates the carbon was released in the geologic blink of an eye. As the news release explains, Rutgers geologists Morgan Schaller and James Wright argue that … following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years. Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years. ‘We’ve shown unequivocally what happens when CO2 increases dramatically – as it is now, and as it did 55 million years ago,’ Wright said. ‘The oceans become acidic and the world warms up dramatically.'” [Source]

Yet 350.org founder Bill McKibben tells the public that “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.” [Source]

“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….” Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math, July 19, 2012

The approximately 565 gt more that we are told we can safely burn translates into atmospheric carbon concentrations of about 460 ppm CO2 and 550 ppm CO2 equivalent when accounting for all global greenhouse gas emissions. This translates into a 3ºC ECS (rapid/non-linear feedback) and 6ºC ESS (linear feedback) planet – far exceeding the already dangerous “target” of 2ºC.

Yet turn the page back to 2013. There was a further clamour in the echo chamber. For the first time, the IPCC describes the limits on how much more CO2 can be emitted to keep global temperatures below certain thresholds:

We may have just about 30 years left until the world’s carbon budget is spent if we want a likely chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees C.” — The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)

 

“Do the math, and the world only has 485 PgC (cumulative emissions) left in the budget. This balance puts us on track to exhaust our remaining carbon budget before the end of 2045 under a carbon intensive trajectory.” World’s Carbon Budget to Be Spent in Three Decades, World Resources Institute, September 27, 2013

And even if you are still unable to shake your belief in the IPCC/carbon budget theory, what is not stated is this: If the low-risk scenario is the one you would prefer, there is no carbon budget left at all:

“If a risk-averse (pro-safety) approach is applied – say, of less than 10% probability of exceeding the 2°C target – to carbon budgeting, there is simply no budget available, because it has already been used up.” — Climate Code Red, May 22, 2014 [3]

Climate Code Red goes on to warn that “on-going greenhouse emissions associated with food production and deforestation are often conveniently pushed to one side in discussing carbon budgets.… Most emission reduction scenarios are incompatible with holding warming to +2ºC, even with a high 50% probability of exceeding the target. In other words, food and deforestation has taken up the remaining budget, leaving no space for fossil fuel emissions. [4]

Consider that when non-CO2 forcings (ozone, black carbon/soot, methane, etc.) are taken into consideration (albeit conservatively at 210 billion tons – PgC; 1 PgC = 1 billion tons of carbon = 3.7 billion tons of CO2), the IPCC carbon budget that we are allowed to emit before breaking the 2ºC threshold is dramatically reduced. The probable carbon emissions that the Earth may experience were addressed by the IPCC in AR5 through the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP), the “four greenhouse concentration trajectories” (or scenarios) that explain the possible paths our carbon emissions may take and the resulting consequences. In the LEAST destructive (aka best-case) scenario, known as RCP 2.6, where emissions peak between 2010-2020, the carbon budget we are allowed to burn to stay under the 2ºC threshold is reduced further, from 1 trillion tonne, to 790 billion tons (PgC), when non-carbon emissions (210 billion tons, PgC) are factored into the equation. (Approximately 515 tonnes have been emitted since the beginning of the industrial revolution leaving 485 tonnes to emit and still stay below the aforementioned 2ºC) This implies a remaining budget of only 275 PgC, a significant decrease in the amount of resources available for us to burn by even the most optimistic of environmental scientists. [Source] Thus, even under the best of circumstances (RCP 2.6), we have only a 66% chance of staying below the 2C threshold. [Source] Considering the MOST destructive scenario, RCP 8.5, where carbon emissions continue unabated until 2100, or the continuation of “business as usual,” this extrapolates out to the carbon budget being exhausted in 2032, a mere lifetime of a teenager way when the (conservative) non-CO2 forcings are added to the equation. This all adds further confusion to a strategic and effective mathematical/scientific discourse. Further, permafrost melt and a magnitude of other feedbacks that are already well underway drag these dates closer to the future than most know or are willing to admit.

The feedbacks that critically impact (and thereby substantially lower) all so-called carbon budgets are conveniently excluded. Such feedbacks include subsea floor methane hydrate, enormous subarctic and large tropical wetlands and global wetlands producing methane, forest loss/fires, Amazon drought due to Amazon die-back, Boreal forest die-back, albedo loss, fertilized peatbog decay, ocean warming and acidification, large-scale permafrost melt – CH4 & CO2, soil desiccation, and accelerating/rising tropospheric/ground level ozone.[5] These excluded (and accelerating) feedbacks make an already depleted (and fictional) carbon budget that much more obsolete.

We must ask ourselves, if we are already committed to 2.4ºC (2008), since the weakening permafrost that serves as a seal to keep the methane from entering the atmosphere could go at any time at under 1ºC (Shakhova) – how we can possibly have decades more in which we can continue to burn carbon? We must then ask ourselves, if the UN AGGG statement in 1990 that “… beyond 1 degree C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage” is true and if we are now witnessing this to be true (“The notion that 1.5ºC is a safe target is out the window, and even 1 degree looks like an unacceptably high risk,” according to James Hansen and Makiko Sato, research paper, 2011), how can we possibly have any carbon budget left?

The truth is that we don’t. And at least one of the world’s most powerful institutions has nonchalantly dropped the pretense in saying as much. On September 22, 2014, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) released a video. Upon the release of the video, the organization (incidentally a Ceres partner) also stated that:

“We have already added more than half the threshold quantity of 1 trillion metric tons of carbon (up to mid-2014, we have emitted about 582 billion metric tons). If carbon dioxide from fossil fuels continues to enter the atmosphere we will reach 2°C threshold in a few years.” [Scientific American, April 2009: “To avoid catastrophic climate change, the world will need to emit less than one trillion metric tons of carbon between now and 2050, according to two new papers published in Nature today.”]

This is perhaps the first time a global institution of such magnitude (in this instance the WBCSD) states that “we will reach 2°C threshold in a few years.” Of course the WBCSD is pushing forward carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) under the guise of clean energy, thus the intent of the warning must also be considered. [6]

It is also necessary to look beyond the stunning animation in a recent video (November 2013) produced by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and Globaia and funded by the UN Foundation for the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report. The video states: “Without deep emissions cuts, it is likely Earth will cross the target of two degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the target set by international policy.” Note that the chosen terminology “without deep emissions cuts” is deliberately misleading. The IPCC and leading climate scientists are fully aware that the planet cannot even begin to cool until we achieve zero carbon emissions:

IPCC assessment 2007 FAQ 10.3: “In fact, only in the case of essentially complete elimination of emissions can the atmospheric concentration of CO2 ultimately be stabilized at a constant level.” [Source]

Scientist Alder Stone explains this like brakes on a car. It is not until a car comes to a full stop that one is able to place the car in reverse and go backwards. (Note that even if zero emissions were to be miraculously achieved, there are still approximately three decades of emissions already in the pipeline due to inertia.)

The video continues: “If emissions keep rising at current rates, a four-degree rise by 2100 is as likely as not. This marks a vast transformation of our planet. It is very likely heatwaves will occur more often and last longer.” This nonchalant description (and the further “changes” described in the commentary) must be considered criminally negligent. A four-degree rise means likely death to most all life on the planet. Some critics and experts point to far worse. A member of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group concludes “[A] polynomial trendline already points at global temperature anomalies of 5°C by 2060. Even worse, a polynomial trend for the Arctic shows temperature anomalies of 4°C by 2020, 7°C by 2030 and 11°C by 2040, threatening to cause major feedbacks to kick in, including albedo changes and methane releases that will trigger runaway global warming that looks set to eventually catch up with accelerated warming in the Arctic and result in global temperature anomalies of 20°C+ by 2050.”

The video also purposely downplays the incredible and rapid demise of the oceans, stating: “The acidity of the ocean has increased 26% since the start of the industrial revolution.” While this is true, the oceans are being acidified faster than in the past 800,000 years, soon to be faster than in the past 300 million years. Phytoplankton, which provide us every other breath of oxygen we intake while processing more carbon than the world’s rainforests, have declined approximately 40% since 1950 showing 1% decrease per year between 1998 and 2012. Of course, simply stating that ocean acidity has increased 26% very much minimizes the phenomenal decline of our oceans.

The video ends with “Can we remain below two degrees? It is possible. But it is up to societies now to decide the future we want. For a likely chance of achieving the two-degree target, societies can emit another 250 billion tonnes of carbon. We burn about 10 billion tonnes of carbon a year. At current rates we will use this budget in about 25 years.” [Note that 350, Carbon Tracker etc. promote that we can “safely” burn more than double this amount.]

A recap via the echo chamber: “Societies can emit another 250 billion tonnes of carbon”; “the world will need to emit less than one trillion metric tons of carbon between now and 2050”; “the world only has 485 PgC (cumulative emissions) left in the budget”; “we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide”; 30 more years, by 2045, and so on and so on. Despite the 1ºC cited by the UN AGGG in 1990, and despite the committed 2.4ºC figure (Ramanathan and Feng) in 2008, today’s establishment is relentless in hammering home the messaging that the world can continue to emit billions of tons of carbon.

“It is now clear that the incremental-adjustment 2°C strategy has run out of time, if for no other reason than the ‘budget’ for burning more fossil fuels is now zero, yet the global economy is still deeply committed to their continuing widespread use.” — Climate Code Red, May 22, 2014

The numbers are large, inconsistent, and deliberately confusing, but the underlying message is not. And the take-home message is this: the carbon budget allows us to continue to burn for decades to come while remaining within the safe confines of the two-degree target (the strategy of deferring). Even more pathological is the framing of the language in regard to 2ºC: the phrase “for a likely chance of achieving the two-degree target” frames two-degrees as a goal [the definition of the noun ‘goal’: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result].

Such linguistic manipulation of truth is beyond criminally negligent. It is beyond criminal. It is madness.

Yet it continues almost completely unabated.

Consider that in the December 2014 Great Transition interview, author and 350.org board member Naomi Klein again refers to the so-called carbon budget, building/furthering the carbon budget’s manufactured legitimacy: “According to the analysis of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, between now and 2050, we need to leave at least two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground in order to keep global warming below the widely accepted threshold of two degrees Celsius. If this occurs, owners of these reserves will have to sacrifice trillions of dollars in profits.”

The globally constructed, sanctioned and accepted “two-degree target” (translation: continued business as usual, uninterrupted) has allowed an unparalleled planetary crisis of today (that reared its head decades ago) – to be accepted by civil society as a problem to be dealt with in the future, rather than today. Thus we have tolerated THIRTY-SIX YEARS of world climate conferences [source] and now find the apocalypse waiting on our front doorstep.

emissions since 1979

Graph: The First World Climate Conference was held on 12-23 February 1979 in Geneva and sponsored by the WMO. It was one of the first major international meetings on climate change.

“The idea of ‘burnable carbon’ – that is, how much more coal, gas and oil we can burn and still keep under 2°C – is a dangerous illusion, based on unrealistic, high-risk, assumptions.” — Climate Code Red, May 22, 2014

At this juncture it is imperative to step back in time, to the 2009 carbon budget.

An Inconvenient and Forgotten Budget

Below is a graph from the November 2009 Global Carbon Project: a carbon budget – never tabled at any COPs and never adopted by the IPCC. According to Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (founding director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change), this 2009 budget, grounded on the ideology that each citizen of the world has an equal right to the budget, demonstrates how, on the current trajectories of the United States and Australia (and we can assume Canada), the projected emissions budget to 2050 will instead be used up by 2020 – just a few years from now. How, in the new budget presented by 350.org, Carbon Tracker, the IPCC et al, have decades more of burning been magically made available? On top of the dismissal of this budget by not only the Obama administration but almost all those of privilege, the proposed budget did not make the necessary adjustments for those in developing states who have contributed essentially nothing to climate change. (This is often referred to as historic carbon debt based on the common but differentiated responsibility principle.)

“Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the Oxford 4 Degrees and Beyond Conference that ‘political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless.’ Schellnhuber briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration who chided him that his findings were ‘not grounded in political reality’ and that ‘the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this.’ Schellnhuber told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have even a chance of stabilizing the temperature increase at around 2ºC.”   — When Silence Kills | The Art of Annihilation, November 8, 2010

image008

Further, a more recent study by Steven Davis and co-author Robert Socolow of Princeton University reveals that the budgets being pushed by powerful institutions include annual emissions, and do not account for future emissions known as a carbon commitment. (Example: “Building a new coal or gas power plant is in reality a commitment to pumping out CO2 for the lifespan of a given plant – which usually ranges from 40 to 60 years.”) [Source] In the September 15, 2014 article, We will max out our carbon budget by 2018. What can we do?, the author surmises: “Together with the power plant commitment of 300 Gt laid out in the current study, that’s more than 700 Gt in carbon commitments on a global carbon budget of 1000 Gt. That leaves less than 300 Gt for future power plants, steel mills, cement plants, buildings, and other stuff that burns fossil fuels. At current rates we’ll have accounted for the remainder of the budget in only five years.”

Further, calculations by author/researcher Dr. Richard Oppenlander conclude that without using any gas, oil or fuel, ever again, the world would deplete the so-called 565 gigatonne carbon budget by 2030 without the use of fossil fuels even factored into the equation, all simply by raising and eating livestock.  [Read the suppressed stats on the impact of livestock on our climate and environment here.]

It is interesting that under the so-called budget we cannot burn the 80% of fossil fuel reserves (due to emissions) but we can continue to promote industrialized biomass under the guise of “clean energy.” Biomass ought to be considered perhaps the most destructive energy source of all. Aside from biomass burning being extremely polluting, aside from needing to preserve, protect and massively expand our current carbon sinks, specifically trees, corporations – with the blessing of corporate “environmentalists” – have decided to cut down the Earth’s foremost carbon sink, our forests, in exchange for big profits. The “leaders” of the movement say nothing. And that is precisely why they are appointed to these positions of power and influence and celebrity. More powerful than money is ego.

Conclusion: We have the United Nations, scientists, governments, global media, corporations, educational facilities, etc. etc. all echoing the three syllable term, the “2ºC target.” This term has been unremittingly reverberated throughout the echo chambers of corporate and so-called progressive media in tandem with the non-profit industrial complex. This constant reiteration did not reflect the 2ºC terminology, rather, it constructed it. Misleading statements, videos, interviews and both academic and scientific papers carefully and deliberately tone down any sense of immediate urgency, lending further “target” legitimacy to the 2ºC target, to which we acquiesce. Remember that the chosen word “target” is defined as “a goal to be achieved,” which strikes a chord, even if only on a subconscious level – which is far more powerful.

It has become normalized. The spectacle, comprised of a single number united with a single letter (with a little circle between them), must be considered a feat in 21st century hegemony – a creation by those whose interests are served by the spectacle; a pasquinade for the impoverished and those not yet born. The 2ºC discourse must be considered perhaps the most deadly game of psychological warfare ever played on human society. Using simple language and steadfast repetition, the acceptance by civil society of this so-called “two-degree target” represents an unsurpassed feat in modern psy-ops.

In Summary

Divestment as symbolism:

  • The Do the Math tour, as the precursor to the global Divestment campaign, established and reinforced the false premise that the world retains a “carbon budget” that enables us to safely keep burning for decades to come.
  • Like 1Sky/350, the campaign is top-down, not grassroots up as presented. Not only has this global “movement” been sanctioned by the elites, it has been developed in consultation with Wall Street and financed from inception by the world’s most powerful oligarchs and institutions.
  • The campaign successfully invokes a certain naiveté and innocence due to the said premise (a moral divestment imperative) of the campaign.
  • It provides a moral alibi and evokes illusions of white saviour/moral superiority of those that divest/divest-invest while the very people divesting are those that comprise the 1% creating 50% of all global GHG emissions (anyone who can afford to board an airplane). Shuffling their investments does not change this fact or alleviate/absolve one’s role in accelerating climate change and ecological destruction.
  • Protesting fossil fuels cannot and will not have any effect on fossil fuel consumption, production or destruction without legitimately and radically addressing Annex 1 consumption, economic growth under the capitalist system, human population (specifically in Annex 1 nations), the military industrial complex and industrial factory farming.
  • The chosen campaign of divestment rather than the boycott of fossil fuels in combination with proposed sanctions on fossil fuel corporations demonstrates the insincerity of the campaign and its true intentions as sought (and developed) by its funders.
  • Divestment effectively constructs the moral acceptance of “green” consumption. The global divestment campaign confirms that the “market” can be and is the solution.
  • The campaign constructs and further reinforces the falsehood that there is no need to change either the economic system (beyond reforming capitalism) or dismantle the power structures that comprise it; nor is it necessary to address the underlying values, worldviews, classism, racism, colonialism and imperialism that are driving this physical and psychic
  • It diverts attention away from the proliferation of private investments, hedge funds and privatization – key mechanisms in the “new economy.”
  • It provides a critical discourse to divert attention away from the most critical issue of the 21st century: the commodification of the commons (in similar fashion to how the Stop the KeystoneXL! campaign was instrumental in enabling Buffett’s rail dynasty, only far more critical in significance).
  • It builds on the 21st century corporate pathology “Who Cares Wins,” whereby “kindness is becoming the nation’s newest currency.” The pathology behind this intent is the corporate capture of “millennials” by manipulation via branding, advertising and social media.
  • Direct contact with “millennials” in colleges and universities around the world invokes pre-determined and pre-approved ideologies as sought after/controlled by hegemony while building loyalties: future NGO “members” / supporters, future “prosumers,” future “investors.”
  • The campaign draws attention to the statistic that “just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made emissions” while making no mention that a mere 1% of people are creating 50% of all the global GHG emissions – the very people that comprise their target audience.
  • Although highlighting the fact that “just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made emissions” is critical, this information is being conveyed and utilized only to implement the financialization of nature.
  • The campaign stigmatizes fossil fuel investments which, by default, protect the 1% creating 50% of the global GHG emissions from similar stigmatization.
  • Success is measured by the number of institutions divesting-investing, and “shares/likes” on social media, ignoring the fact that divestment does nothing to reduce emissions as the world burns.
  • The divestment campaign presents a capitalist solution to climate change, presenting, repackaging and marketing the very problem as our new solution. Thus, the global power structures that oppress us are effectively and strategically insulated from potential outside threats.

 

Next: Part XII

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, Counterpunch, Political Context, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

 

EndNotes:

[1] “The climate summit in Cancún at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War.… [I]t’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization…. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.…” [Source]

[2] Anderson, K. (2014). “Why carbon prices can’t deliver the 2°C target”, 13 August 2013,  http://kevinanderson.info/blog/why-carbon-prices-cant-deliver-the-2c-target, accessed 19 May 2014; Anderson, K. (2012). “Climate change going beyond dangerous – Brutal numbers and tenuous hope,” Development Dialogue, September 2012; Anderson, K. (2011). “Climate change going beyond dangerous – Brutal numbers and tenuous hope or cognitive dissonance,” presentation 5 July 2011, slides available at http://www.slideshare.net/DFID/professor-kevin-anderson-climate-change-going-beyond-dangerous. [Source]

[3] A study from The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research shows that “the combination of a 2°C warming target with high probability of success is now unreachable” using the current suite of policy measures, because the budget has expired. Raupach, M. R., I. N. Harman and J. G. Canadell (2011). “Global climate goals for temperature, concentrations, emissions and cumulative emissions”, Report for the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. CAWCR Technical Report no. 42. Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research, Melbourne. [Source]

[4] Anderson, K. and A. Bows (2008). “Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends”, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 366: 3863-3882; Anderson, K. and A. Bows (2011). “Beyond ‘dangerous’ climate change: emission scenarios for a new world”, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 369: 20–44 [Source]

[5] The effects of ozone are well-known and documented in hundreds of papers, but because the reduction of nitrous oxide precursors from burning fuel and agriculture would threaten industrial civilization, it is a taboo subject. Links to research are here:  http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/01/29/whispers-from-the-ghosting-trees/

[6] [“We have already added more than half the threshold quantity of 1 trillion metric tons of carbon (up to mid-2014, we have emitted about 582 billion metric tons). If carbon dioxide from fossil fuels continues to enter the atmosphere we will reach 2 °C threshold in a few years. The projected emissions illustrated in the film are based on RCP 4.5, which is one of the four ‘Representative Concentration Pathways’ used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report.”]

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