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McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street | Part XI: 2 Degrees of Credendum

August 11, 2015

By Cory Morningstar

[Part I of this series, McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X]

“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.

 

[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 GreenThe Art of AnnihilationPolitical Context, Counterpunch, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. You can follow her on twitter: @elleprovocateur]

 

End Notes:

[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.”]

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street | Part X: Targeting Millennials: The 30 Trillion Dollar Jackpot

August 6, 2015

By Cory Morningstar

[Part I of this series, McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX]

“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, water, etc. (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.

+++

Millennials: The 30 Trillion Dollar Jackpot

“[T]here is one particularly desirable audience that’s watching closely: Millennials. This trend-setting, if not free-spending, group of 95 million Americans, born between 1982 and 2004, live and breathe social media and are broadly convinced that doing the right thing isn’t just vogue, but mandatory. With nearly a third of the population driving this trend, kindness is becoming the nation’s newest currency.” — Millennials Spur Capitalism With a Conscience, March 27, 2013

Naomi Klein, renowned author and board member of 350.org (one of, if not the most prominent environmental organizations of the problematic mainstream) devotes a large section of her book, This Changes Everything, to the divestment campaign as a legitimate tool in the fight against climate change. This divestment campaign may very well “change everything,” but not in the way Klein states. Rather, it is an extraordinary feat comprised of an army of well-endowed NGOs that has done a masterful job of manipulating the present young students (referred to as “millennials” in the media) and other well-meaning activists into essentially becoming shareholder activists for finance capital – all while believing that they are fighting some sort of radical “good fight.” Of further benefit to Wall Street is that the campaign also ensures these same students/youth will become shareholders of finance capital in the future. It’s a well-played public relations endeavour as well as a pivotal learning exercise in exploitation, social engineering and behaviour modification.

Divestment2

Yet “millennials” are not recognized and sought after by the establishment merely for their rampant consumerism (as 21st century “prosumers”) and narcissism (something inflicted by a devolving society stripped of culture and void of meaning). Nor are they sought after simply for the expansion of human capital. This fact is illustrated in the following Bloomberg article, March 3, 2015: Wall Street Has Its Eyes on Millennials’ $30 Trillion Inheritance:

“It seems the millennials are going to inherit a lot more from their Baby Boomer parents than just some tie-dyes, Steely Dan LPs and Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic books. To the tune of $30 trillion, according to Federated. That is some serious dough! … So it’s no surprise firms seem to have their Flash animators working non-stop to chase this big payday once the Boomers start croaking in earnest.”

Divestment3Divestment1

Images: Federated Investors Inc.: Millennials: The Next Big Thing

Divestment as Symbolism

“Similarly to that movement, fossil fuel divestment has rallied 400 campus campaigns across the country around a symbolic demand. As 350.org’s Jamie Henn explained in his response to the article, the goal ‘isn’t to make a direct economic impact by selling stock, it’s to stigmatize the industry to the point they start losing political power.'” — Why a Movement is Never a Farce, July 10, 2014

The author of the afore-mentioned article (Why a Movement is Never a Farce) cites the divestment campaign as symbolic in the following excerpt: “fossil fuel divestment has rallied 400 campus campaigns across the country around a symbolic demand.” (Emphasis in original) The author then references 350.org’s Jamie Henn’s response that the goal “isn’t to make a direct economic impact by selling stock, it’s to stigmatize the industry to the point they start losing political power.” These statements mirror the general consensus of those within the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC), that the divestment campaign has been designed and intended to be merely symbolic since its inception. As many have written, the Keystone XL campaign, was considered to be merely symbolic at its inception. Many journalists, activists, citizens, etc. still retain/accept this notion. However, considering the outcome, one must acknowledge the KXL campaign was not merely symbolic. Rather, in hindsight, the KXL campaign served to be both a strategic diversion and an infallible vehicle for a rail dynasty built by Warren Buffett, who benefited by the economic transition from pipeline to rail in transporting one of the most filthy fuels imaginable. Unbeknownst to most activists was that Buffett, the primary beneficiary of the campaign against the tar sands pipeline, funneled up to $26 million into the movement (2003-2011), and effectively brushed critical thinking under the rug. The question that must be asked is this: why are foundations, elite firms, plutocrats and oligarchs funneling millions of dollars for resources and media coverage into a global divestment campaign – is it more than mere symbolism?

It is tempting to attribute the growing divestment campaign to brilliant public relations, sharp marketing, feel-good greenwashing and nothing more.

For one who understands, even vaguely, the inner workings and functions of the NPIC, a first instinct may be to view the symbolic element of the divestment campaign as no more than another simple discourse along the following lines:

1) We don’t need to change the system or address the underlying values and worldview driving this physical and psychic destruction

2) The global divestment campaign confirms that the “market” can be and is the solution. Thus, it’s actually a strategic discourse, one that allows economic growth to continue unabated while those driving it appear to be looking seriously at climate change.

At least in part, this would seem to be an apt assessment to even a fairly seasoned environmentalist. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, openly admits that the intent of the divestment campaign is merely symbolic in both nature and purpose – stating that its key purpose is only to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry (demonstrating a talking point that has been reverberated down the divestment chain of command). But to conclude that this campaign is purely symbolic is, undoubtedly a grave (and dangerous) lapse in assessment.

In comparison, we must again consider the Keystone XL campaign that preceded the divestment campaign as far as level of importance since it was also often referred to as nothing more than symbolic. Quite the contrary, the KXL campaign was absolutely strategic in allowing Warren Buffett’s rail empire to set up and then flourish – completely unhindered. Further, campaigns such as KXL and fossil fuel divestment serve as captivating smoke and mirrors. Utilizing behavioural change tactics and behavioural economics, such critical discourse effectively stigmatizes any focus on confronting root causes – which is vital for maintaining current power structures. Thus divestment, much more than simply symbolic, must be considered an important part, if not the key element, of a pivotal meme that the establishment (via the NPIC and media) is embedding in the third revolution zeitgeist. This concept/language is part and parcel of the “new economy” marketing dictionary, in tandem with other key words AND memes such as B Corps, Natural Capital, the Biosphere Economy (the Financialization of Nature), etc., etc. Or to paraphrase a popular quote, frame it properly and it will come, with ‘it’ being defined as investment capital. Billions of dollars are being funneled into the NPIC to finance the implantation of such memes into your psyche. The ultimate goal is the further normalization of, and servitude to, corporate dominance while developing, building and nurturing acquiescence for the commodification of the commons.

“If some claimed that Stanford’s move was more symbol than substance, however, that hardly bothered the students. The symbol was part of the point. Divestment, says Peter Kinder, one of the pioneers of socially responsible investment (SRI) and coauthor of the groundbreaking 1984 book Ethical Investing, ‘is about marking the boundaries of acceptable behavior.'” — Dumping Coal Is Easy. But Who Will Divest the Rest?, September 9, 2014

In the September 9, 2014 Audubon article, Dumping Coal Is Easy. But Who Will Divest the Rest?, the author suggests that those embracing divestment invest “in ways ‘consistent with the Buddhist precept of ‘not causing harm.'” Yet the truth is that dumping all investments that contradict living in a way consistent with the Buddhist precept of “not causing harm” requires that we kill the western lifestyle. Not causing harm necessitates dismantling and transitioning from the industrialized capitalist system – completely. But how to tell middle class millennials and prosumers (the divestment campaigns’ target audience) that iPods and Starfucks does not jive with anything that resembles the Buddhist precept of “not causing harm”? Who wants to sell that unpopular (and unprofitable) campaign?

“Fossil Free” Stanford students are now pushing divestment from all carbon-polluting energy sources, but it is doubtful that these same students (the majority white and of privilege) understand that sustainability cannot and will not be achieved within the confines of capitalism … that the system itself is built upon and dependent upon the exploitation of the Earth’s most vulnerable people and the continued obliteration of the planet, its non-negotiable demand of perpetual and exponential growth, interwoven and built upon an industrial machine that cannot be separated from its origins of slavery and fossil fuels.

“And the activists are spreading the word using every social media tool they can find – including the British website pushyourparents.org, which reminds the geezers: ‘Mum and Dad, did you know your pension is f@!#ing up my future?’ Now there is a ‘massive, growing global movement’ that’s looking to ‘divest – and invest,’ to raise $1 trillion a year for new energy efforts: renewables like solar, biofuels, wind, energy-efficiency projects, materials science leaps, restoration projects, new investment portfolios. Huge investment management firms like BlackRock, which is partnering with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE Group, and smaller ones like Trillium, Calvert, Aperio, and Green Century are providing alternative, carbon-free ways to invest.” — Dumping Coal Is Easy. But Who Will Divest the Rest?, September 9, 2014

Yet mom and dad’s pensions are not fucking up their future due to fossil fuels alone. The pensions are fucking up their future due to the required growth of the investment – if the stock is to turn out monetary gain. For stocks and other investments to grow, nature’s resources must be converted to capital. It matters little whether they are conventional fossil fuels (the singular asset that makes Exxon-Mobil one of the most profitable corporation in the world), or solar and wind energy investments (products that are also carbon-based/dependent from cradle to grave). Nature’s resources must be voraciously consumed in order for investments to both earn interest and continually (and infinitely) increase in monetary value. Further, biofuels/biomass are perhaps the most egregious forms of energy of all when it comes to this false narrative, while “materials science leaps” will undoubtedly encompass genetically engineered food crops as a solution to our food scarcity issues. Restoration projects, as referred to by forestry, capitalists and the NPIC, are nothing more than ecological degradation carried out under the guise of sustainability: deforestation, loss of wetlands, loss of vital minerals/raw materials, soaring food prices, land grabs and loss of farmland, changing of Earth’s wind patterns and animal migrations, starvation and conflict. All are being implemented under the guise of environmental solutions. Consider BlackRock Investment Management, the biggest funds manager in the world, referred to in the afore-mentioned quote. In 2011, BlackRock founder and CEO Larry Fink stated that both agriculture and water investments would be the best performers over the next 10 years: “Go long agriculture and water and go to the beach…. Put those investments in the bottom drawer for 10 years. It’s unlike anything else we have in the world. Agriculture and water would even beat energy investments.” [Source]

Further indication of the mere “symbolism” of divestment as outlined by Paul Hamill, director of strategy and communications for the center-left American Security Project in Washington, D.C. in the following quote: “What they [divestment activists] want to do is to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere to tackle climate change, and that is spot-on — that’s what we really need to do. But divesting is not the way to do it. It’s almost like a glib PR stunt. It feels nice to go out and campaign, and it feels nice to try and divest from these companies, but it’s not serious.” The article in which Hamill is quoted notes that both Swarthmore College and Wellesley College decided against divestment “after internal audits found the colleges could each lose $15 million per year over the next 10 years under fossil fuel divestment policies:

“Daniel R. Fischel, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, released an industry-financed study last week that found portfolios with energy stocks did better than those without them over a 50-year period by 0.7 percent per year. Total university holdings are estimated at $456 billion, meaning that the projected cost of divestment would top $3.2 billion per year. ‘This strikes us as an excessively high price to pay for something even divestment proponents acknowledge is largely a symbolic act….'”

Based on the statistics above, $3.2 billion in losses per year (even if this figure is inflated due to the report being industry-financed), one may wonder who would assume such divested stocks, and by extension, would also assume a portion of this the $3.2 billion dollars. Whether capitalist or socialist, one must admit that if this report is at all accurate, the mere 0.7 percent that translates into 3.2 billion dollars per year seems far beyond simple symbolism. Regardless, few could argue with Hamill’s accurate observation that “[T]heir success that they’re measuring is whether institutions are divesting, not whether we’re reducing carbon emissions.”

It would be difficult to not notice the aforementioned “Fossil Fuel Free Funds” that are being promoted by universities across the globe. The notion that any investment fund can actually be referred to as “fossil fuel free” is asinine at best. The simple fact that there is not one single industry that does not rely on fossil fuel energy, in one way or another, is lost. This demonstrates a collective failure in the most basic of critical thinking exercises. Students are not only encouraged to dismiss a necessary critique of investment capital outright; they are celebrated for their ignorance and encouraged to promote it. Also lost, due to the encouragement to disregard a critical thinking analysis, is the simple fact that all successful investment is absolutely dependent upon consumption/consumerism and perpetual growth, the very main drivers of the biosphere’s destruction. The obvious end result – that “this changes nothing” – is lost amongst the self-congratulatory accolades.

Of course the corporate takeover of universities in order to further serve the establishment and intensify neoliberalism is well-documented.

Divest & Acquiesce

While the NPIC chimes in on divest-invest in euphoric harmony, nowhere are there calls to divest from “Black Friday,” international travel/flying, luxury vacations, private and company jets, personal automobiles, techo-gadgets, factory farming, the military industrial complex, the eradication/burning of trees for industrial scale biomass, etc., etc., etc. So it’s nothing more than pure spectacle when we claim we are “fighting” fossil fuels without fighting for radical reduction, restriction and rationing of all non-vital consumption in all developed countries.

In the January 14, 2015 Rolling Stone article, The Logic of Divestment: Why We Have to Kiss Off Big Carbon, the author writes that “Exxon Mobil, of course, scoffs at the notion that its ability to profit from its 25 billion barrels of proven reserves is in any way threatened. World governments, it wrote last March, lack the political will to impose the emissions reductions required to stabilize global temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius: ‘The policy changes such a scenario would produce are beyond those that societies.?.?.?would be willing to bear, in our estimation.’ Exxon calls this low-carbon scenario ‘highly unlikely’ and neatly deems it unworthy of financial analysis.”

One hates to side with a corporation such as Exxon, yet who could argue with this logic? On this issue, their insights are dead on.

350 and other organizational partners in crime know that Exxon is correct. They are well aware that Western society (specifically, the privileged class being their target audience and core supporter base) would not be willing to accept the necessary policies required to stabilize global temperature rise at 2ºC (even though this is no longer possible without intense geo-engineering since we are already locked in at minimum to 2.4ºC as of 2008). Those in decision-making capacity at the 350.org leadership level and the NPIC as a whole (and Exxon) understand that Western society and its composite countries are not about to give up ANYTHING – let alone live a bare-bones minimalist existence stripped clean of privilege. This is one reason why the mainstream environmental movement sells the divestment campaign (as part of the “new economy”) as a “win” against “the enemy” rather than speak to the necessity of dismantling the industrialized capitalist machine and the power structure that exists and thrives within it – this and its unacknowledged absolute dependence upon said machine, for its very existence, is the primary reason why its goals are “suspiciously” aligned with those who oppress us. Further, a dismantling of the system requires that the populace comprehend how the machine is put together and more importantly, understand the mechanisms in place that protect the current power structures, ensuring they remain intact. Tragically, this required change regarding the system, comprising institutional change at a macro level all the way to personal choices at the micro level, is something of which the Western world and its citizens are wholly unaccepting.

The non-profit industrial complex inculcates its followers into acceptance without invoking the required and necessary critical thinking process. A recent example of such can be found on a 350.org Facebook post (2,153 shares) dated February 13, 2015: “The New York Times just published an editorial explaining why President Obama’s final call on Keystone XL should be so straightforward. If you need any more proof that the climate movement is winning as we take to the streets today on Global Divestment Day, look no further than the pages of the world’s biggest newspaper.” Yet consider the reality. Obama’s statement from 2012: “Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some. So we are drilling all over the place – right now.” Today, in 2015, U.S. crude oil production has neared all-time highs and is poised to set a record. The U.S. produced 3.2 billion barrels of crude oil last year, according to EIA figures, a 30-year high. In 2013, the U.S. produced 2.7 billion barrels, up from 2 billion a decade ago. [Source]

“The climate movement is winning”?

In Rockefeller (and, in this case, both Warren Buffett and the New York Times) we trust.

The truth is that attempts to curb the desire (international vacations/flying), want (bottled water, unlimited meat consumption) or ill-described need (iPhones, etc.) in America would be one of the few (and probably only) things to incite the American populace to take to the streets, burning buildings and the stringing up of beaten politicians to the myriad of street lights.

As outlined by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the foremost organization regarding the global influence of fossil fuels, in its publication Resources to Reserves 2013, which forecasts the availability of oil and gas for future generations, the author of the aforementioned Rolling Stone article writes the following: “In June, the IEA released an independent analysis projecting that carbon curbs strong enough to meet the 2 degrees Celsius threshold could leave nearly $300 billion in stranded fossil-fuel investments by 2035.” Yet, at the same time, the International Energy Agency projects that fossil fuels will provide 75-80% of the world’s energy for several decades to come. [Fossil fuels currently meet 80% of global energy demand. Even if current policy commitments and pledges made by countries to tackle climate change and other energy-related challenges were to be put in place, global energy demand in 2035 is projected to rise by 40% – with fossil fuels still contributing 75%.”[Source] [Further note that we have already exceeded a 2ºC threshold in committed global warming.]

In the same Rolling Stone article, Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which is helping to promote and assist other foundations in the facile divestment plan, is quoted as saying: “‘If you own fossil fuels, you own climate change… and it’s not just owning their environmental impacts. You own their political impacts too’ – from the PR campaigns challenging climate science to the direct lobbying by oil companies of federal, state and municipal governments to block emissions limits. ‘You’re helping to build their war chest.'”

But the truth is that the 1% creating the global GHG emissions, which is the same 1% that hold shares in any investment, are the very ones that own climate change, whose high-consumption lifestyles continue to exacerbate the problem, regardless of whether they directly divest from fossil fuel stocks or not. What Dorsey deliberately omits is that environmental and political impacts from fossil fuel investments remain the same regardless of who owns them and that without dismantling an economic system to which most all people are enslaved, our efforts are futile. Dorsey speaks of owning political impacts, yet no one holds the NPIC accountable for their strategic campaign that neutralized and blocked radical emissions cuts and targets at COP15 in Copenhagen, which by all accounts should be considered a crime against humanity.

The truth is that the divestment campaign itself is the very thing “helping to build their war chest.” In the war chest we find “sustainable capitalism” by 2020, commodifying the Earth’s commons, privatization, and expansion of corporate power. Under the chest we find the requiem “The song remains the same,” with the affluent “Left” negatively impacting the environment with just as much fervour as the “Right” they criticize. Consider that the US, which represents a mere 4.45% of the world’s population, is responsible for a minimum of 27% of all global emissions, while simultaneously consuming approximately 24% of the world’s energy. Further take into account that each American consumer, the very target audience of the NPIC, requires “132,000 pounds of oil, sand, grain, iron ore, coal and wood” to maintain their current lifestyle each year. That adds up to “an eye-popping 362 pounds a day.” [Source: Juliet Schor, Plentitude, p. 44.]

It’s clear that the Wallace Global Fund is at the helm of Divest-Invest when one observes that it was the Wallace Global Fund that appointed the CEO of Phoenix Global Impact to project manage the Divest-Invest Philanthropy initiative as of March 2014. Simultaneously, Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, sits on all committees and working groups: 1) The steering committee, 2) Energy and Equity Working Group, 3) Organizing Working Group, and 4) the Investment Working Group. The Wallace Global Fund 990 filing reveals that their largest investment portfolio is that of Blood and Gore’s Generation Investment ($18,431,931.00), including Generation IM Credit Feeder Fund II L.P. (Private Fund, Cayman Islands) promoted by Generation Investment, see the following graphics:

Wallace Global Fund II 990

Wallace Global Fund II 2 990

All Eyes on Fossil Fuel Investments | All Eyes Off Militarism

Within the interlocking directorate of the non-profit industrial complex, it is of interest to note that Dorsey (Greenpeace Fund Board Member) is founder of the Human Rights and Environment Program of Amnesty International, having served as chair of the Board of Amnesty International USA. Amnesty, a vapid weapon in the destabilization of sovereign states (Venezuela, Libya, Eritrea, etc.) on behalf of NATO states, is silent on the devastating climate impacts and environmental devastation of militarism, which can in part be attributed to Amnesty International (and other NGOs) as they stoke the provocation of wars and conflicts. (Indeed, NGOs PLAY a critical ROLE in building public acquiescence for wars). [Further reading: A Tear for Africa: Humanitarian Abduction and Reduction] Remix: “If you entice and provoke destabilization campaigns, you own climate change… and it’s not just owning their environmental impacts. You own their political impacts (and the subsequent death toll) too – from the PR campaigns created to build acquiescence for the most egregious acts of violence, to the demonization campaigns, you’re helping to build their war chest, militarism being the most oil-exhaustive assault on the planet. Not fossil fuel investments, but militarism.”

+++

McKibben and 350.org would have you believe that it’s the fossil fuel corporations alone that are to blame: “The fossil-fuel industry is systematically undermining the planet’s physical systems…. We have met the enemy and they [sic] is Shell.” [Source] McKibben continues that “they [fossil fuel corporations] relentlessly search for more hydrocarbons” without mention of the capitalist consumption and growth fetish that drives the fossil fuel corporations to satisfy its economic demand for the most abundant and easily accessible resources available – a vicious circle if there ever was one. Of course, one cannot place blame on consumers (who are both willing participants and also victims) without highlighting the industrialized capitalist system that ensures all citizens are enslaved. Yet, even though this is the case, there is no mention of the necessity to dismantle the industrialized capitalist system by any members of the establishment, green environmental or otherwise. McKibben et al want to believe that if you change the “bad” products in the vicious circle – to “eco” products – via “sustainable investments” (which are just as dependent on infinite growth), the capitalist system will become, by default, compassionate and caring. Authors such as Stephanie MacMillan refer to this consumer trend as “lifestyleism”. Lifestyleism correlates with one’s own social class. It could be defined as the focus on changing one’s own behaviours within the present system, with the belief that if everyone followed suit, not only would society as a whole improve, but perhaps “immoral” capitalism could be reformed from within. Such illusions are lucrative for advertising firms and NGOs that prey upon hyper-individualism, identity politics, and behavioral change tactics (which target middle to upper income classes*) to not only create new financial markets, but also to protect the current power structures. Yet failure to confront the power of capital actually strengthens it. This is where firms such as Purpose Inc. come in; masquerading further corporate capture and market share as radical change. (*This is clearly apparent in the divestment campaign in which the vast majority of its participants are predominantly white and of privilege.)

“Taking a moral stand might be a starting point, but if morality doesn’t rise to an understanding of the system, it not only fails to change capitalist society – it helps reinforce it.” — The Dead End of Moral Individualism, April 14, 2015

In 2011 and 2012, the Wallace Global Fund invested a substantial initial sum of grant money in groups that would effectively lead the divestment campaign by targeting college students and campuses. Recipients included the Sierra Club Student Coalition ($180,000), the Hip Hop Caucus ($40,000), As You Sow ($160,000) and 350.org ($205,000). For decades, foundations (and the elites and corporate entities that funnel money into the foundations) have recouped their investments in (more accurately, exploitation of) enthusiastic, gullible and compliant students (albeit absolutely well-intentioned) who are effectively trained to focus on what is considered politically realistic (and “appropriate”, as defined by the state and NPIC) within the confines of the existing system. Students who challenge NGO doctrine with critical and radical analysis are ignored, marginalized, and treated as negative and/or divisive, while those who fall in line are recognized as positive “leaders.” These behavioural change tactics subtly and effectively crush most critical thinking.

“Mass organizations under this system (such as collaborationist unions and NGOs) are usually dominated by institutionalized bureaucracies whose very functions are, first: to make money, and second: to pacify the masses by diverting their discontent into compromises with capital.” — Stephanie McMillan, Capitalism Must Die!

Consider the article Fossil Fuel Divestment’s True Aim? To Remake Capitalism (February 20, 2015) and how it was highlighted/shared via social media by a 350.org staff (Canadian tar sands organizer and “divestment activist”). From the article:

“For young climate activists like Soron and Hemingway, such analyses overlook the divestment movement’s broader aim: which is to remake the value structure of capitalism. No less than the Swiss financial giant UBS thinks such efforts should not be ignored. ‘Many of those engaged in [divestment] are the consumers, voters and leaders of the next several decades….'”

The same article was “re-tweeted” by 350.org’s main twitter account, 350.org Toronto and Divest SFU (Simon Fraser University), see below:

Remaking Capitalism Tweet Remaking Capitalism Tweet 2

The Fossil Free Indexes

The Fossil Free Indexes represent another important component of the “socially responsible investments” movement.

The Fossil Free Indexes “community” is comprised of 350.org – The Fossil Free Campaign [1], As You Sow, Ceres [2], Green America [3], Divest Invest [4] and Carbon Tracker Initiative. [“Carbon Tracker aligns the capital markets with the climate change policy agenda to make carbon investment risk relevant available today. They apply their thinking on carbon budgets and stranded assets across geographies and assets classes to inform investor thinking and the regulation of capital markets. Their research ranking public fossil fuel companies by the carbon content of their reserves includes: Unburnable Carbon: Are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?, Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted capital and stranded assets, and Carbon Avoidance? Accounting for the Emissions Hidden in Reserves.”][Source]

“‘If world governments put a cap on carbon, you would see that bubble burst and that would throw the world economy into disarray,’ she [Danielle Fugere, As You Sow’s president] said. Instead, the plan of As You Sow and other investors is to ensure ‘the bubble is going to be let out slowly in a way that nobody loses all their money.'” — Huge: Exxon Will Advise Investors on Carbon Bubble Exposure, March 23, 2014

The Board of Directors of As You Sow, an investment group dedicated to funding carbon-free and clean energy sources, is comprised of people with vast experience in business, investing and raising capital, like most boards of directors in the organizations behind the divestment campaign. Although most boast members with decades of vast experience in socially responsible investing, which is always quantified as incredibly successful (From the As You Sow Board of Directors profile page regarding Thomas Van Dyck, Chairman and Secratary: “Joining Piper Jaffray in 1997, he developed an investment management consulting team, now called the SRI Wealth Management Group, which moved to RBC Wealth Management in 2006, and is now one of the largest sustainable wealth management practices in North America”), Earth’s accelerating ecologic degradation conveys a different story. To further illustrate the murky relationship between these clean energy investment firms and the entities that underwrite them, Chevron, Exxon, Shell, BP, and Southern Company are listed among As You Sow’s “shareholder engagements.”

The Divest Invest resources on Fossil Free Indexes website include links to Cere’s Investor Network on Climate Risk [“the INCR is a network of 100 institutional investors representing more than $11 trillion in assets seizing the opportunities resulting from climate change and other sustainability challenges”] and the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change – the more recent, international in scope, Ceres coalition that is formed by the four regional climate change investor groups (also created by Ceres): the IIGCC (Europe), INCR (North America), IGCC (Australia & New Zealand) and AIGCC (Asia).

Also listed as a resource is the Responsible Endowments Coalition, which focuses on building the campaign within colleges and universities and which co-sponsored the Tellus Institute report with the Sustainable Endowments Institute and 350.org.

And while there is no actual definition of what constitutes “the new energy economy,” on the Fossil Free Indexes website, there are many leaders/executives with Wall Street backgrounds to be found.

Carbon Bubble Discourse

“This week has seen a new green meme emerge: the idea that investment in high-carbon companies is creating a ‘carbon bubble’ that could leave the world exposed to another financial crash.” – Why a high-carbon investment bubble could be the lesser of evils, July 15, 2011

Liberal “Guardian-esque” journalism touches lightly upon the fact that the market (i.e., fossil fuel corporations) easily dismiss the risk of “unburnable carbon” simply because “the world shows no sign of taking the two-degrees target seriously.” Where the journalism does not tread is on the very real fact that it is not “the world” that shows no sign of taking the two-degrees “target” seriously; it is the 1-3% of the world’s population that are creating 50% of the global GHG emissions who clearly show no signs of taking any limits seriously. This is the true hard math that remains excluded from discussion. Just a glimpse at the disturbing and vile “Black Friday[5] phenomenon, which is expanding around the globe, provides much clarity on the message: “We want more.”

The ferocious production of fossil fuels is only made possible by the consumption that drives it. The consumption does not take place within a vacuum. Thus, the “real enemy” (as constructed by Bill McKibben in this excerpt from his Rolling Stone article: “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.”) [6] is not the fossil fuel corporations per se. Rather, the real enemy is fervent mass consumption by a tiny minority of the world’s population. And although the industrialized capitalist system demands nothing less than this, the united call to dismantle the suicidal global capitalist economic system is nowhere to be heard. Instead, solutions are framed under reformist language and ideology such as B Corporations, Natural Capital, New Economy, Divestment, Compassionate Capitalism, Social Capitalism, Natural Capitalism, The Biosphere Economy, etc. It is worth repeating the assertion put forward in Blood and Gore’s Generation Investment report: “But the more important fact remains: the mainstream debate is about how to practise capitalism, not whether we should choose between capitalism and some other system.”

Similarly, 350.org board member and author Naomi Klein (referenced by McKibben on July 19, 2012) tells us that “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. But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.” Like the eco-amnesia that strikes Klein each time she criticizes “Big Green” without mention of Rockefeller’s incubator project 1Sky, which morphed into 350.org in 2011, Klein cites the very real terrible wages and sweatshops, without ever asking her ardent supporters (predominantly white, privileged, middle-class who identify with Klein and her lifestyle) to give up their iPhones, cars, flights … or anything else for that matter. Rather the answer is “comprehensive policies and programs that make low-carbon choices easy and convenient for everyone” and “growing the caring economy, shrinking the careless one.” Not surprisingly, this very blueprint and ideology is the foundation for the 21st century corporate “Who Cares Wins” pathology, whereby “kindness is becoming the nation’s newest currency.” The intent behind this pathology (made famous by TckTckTck founder/creator David Jones, former CEO of Havas), is the corporate capture of “millennials” by way of manipulation via branding, advertising and social media.

In 2009, Havas (one of the world’s largest global communications groups) and the United Nations partnered with 350.org, Avaaz, Greenpeace and Oxfam (in partnership with many of the world’s most powerful and destructive corporations) in order to establish credibility for the TckTckTck campaign that dominated COP15. The “demand” was a “fair and ambitious agreement” and a 2ºC target. The “agreement” we were given was the long pre-determined deadly “target” of 2ºC, with the NGOs having succeeded in undermining and making invisible the world’s most vulnerable states who demanded that the global temperature increase not exceed 1ºC. Leading up to the Paris climate change talks, the same NGOs will attempt to create legitimacy for policies that “change everything.” Our oligarchs can hardly wait to deliver on our demands: the financialization of nature, environmental markets, carbon capture and storage, biomass, and a score of other false solutions already well under way.

 

End Notes:

[1] “Based on the analysis in Unburnable Carbon, the Fossil Free Campaign is seeking to persuade the world’s college endowments, city and state pension funds, church investment managers and non-profits to divest from the 200 largest public coal, oil and gas companies in the world, ranked by the size of their proven carbon reserves, starting in the United States but already active on three continents.”

[2] “Ceres advocates for sustainability leadership, mobilizing a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.”

[3] “Green America’s mission is to harness economic power – the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace-to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America has a long-standing program on clean energy and climate change that uses diverse strategies to promote the development of renewable energy and to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Green America provides resources for individuals and institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies.”

[4] “Divest/Invest is foundations and individuals divesting from fossil fuels and switching to clean energy investments, joining college, health, pension funds and religious endowments doing the same. Ethically our investments shouldn’t contribute to dangerous climate change. Financially, fossil fuel stocks are over-valued as most of their reserves cannot be burned. We can get good, safe returns while helping to build a new energy system.”

[5] “What is Black Friday? Black Friday was a day where slaves traders in America held open market for slaves sales. Whenever a shipment of slaves came in, and there were hardly any disease or deaths amongst them (men, women and children), they call it a ‘Black Friday’ to celebrate the fortune they will make. However, if a shipment came in and there were mostly sick people, the traders call it a ‘Red Friday’, because of the bad outcome and ‘red’ because they would have to kill all the sick and weak slaves (because no one wanted to spend money feeding or treating those men, women and children).” [Source]

[6] Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is…. But what all these climate numbers make painfully, usefully clear is that the planet does indeed have an enemy – one far more committed to action than governments or individuals. 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.'” [July 19, 2012: Source]

[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 GreenThe Art of AnnihilationPolitical Context, Counterpunch, Canadians for Action on Climate Change and Countercurrents. You can follow her on twitter: @elleprovocateur]

Fossil Fuel Divestment Farce

A Culture of Imbeciles

May 1, 2015

by Jay Taber

McKibben and Steyer March-7

Above: Tom Steyer (left) and Bill McKibben (center). Peoples Climate March, September 21, 2014

 

As investigative journalist Cory Morningstar reports, fossil fuel divestment is a farce. Fossil fuel divestment — promoted by 350 — targets only publicly traded stocks; but pension funds targeted by the 350 divestment campaign invest hundreds of billions in privately traded securities, such as hedge funds and private equity, that are heavily invested in fossil fuel production–including fracking.

Compromising the 350 divestment campaign is the fact it has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from hedge fund managers like Jeremy Grantham and billionaire Tom Steyer, who has major investments in fossil fuels. Steyer’s Farallon Capital was, in fact, a target of 350, until he bought their silence.

Grantham, meanwhile, donated millions to buy the support of Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund and Greenpeace. As usual, the 350 Climateers are clueless about how they are being used by fossil fuel investors to undermine democracy and the environmental movement.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

 

McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street | Part IX: Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism

April 30, 2015

By Cory Morningstar

[Part I of this series, McKibben’s Divestment Tour – Brought to You by Wall Street, can be found here. Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII]

“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, 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, organizations (legitimate grassroots organizations do exist) and self-proclaimed environmentalists, who consider themselves progressive, while speaking out against the commodification of nature’s natural resources also simultaneously promote the divestment campaign. 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), water, etc. (environmental “markets” ). 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 most accommodating in the non-profit industrial complex (via foundations), the corporations need not lift a finger; the feat is being carried out by both the legitimate and the faux environmentalists in tandem with an unsuspecting public … a public with almost no comprehension of 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 – a fait accompli extraordinaire of unparalleled scale, with unparalleled 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, all corporations on the planet (thus all investments on the planet) do and will continue to require massive amounts of energies (including 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 the beautiful (marketing) imagery, yet they are somewhat illusory – the 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.

+++

Al Gore and David Blood

Blood & Gore Generation: of Commodification, Privatization, and Indoctrination

“Between 2008 and 2011 the company had raised profits of nearly $218 million from institutions and wealthy investors. By 2008 Gore was able to put $35 million into hedge funds and private partnerships through the Capricorn Investment Group, a Palo Alto company founded by his Canadian billionaire buddy Jeffrey Skoll, the first president of eBay Inc.” — Forbes, November 3, 2013

 

“Civil society has a central role in accelerating the transition towards Sustainable Capitalism. NGOs must take a 360-degree approach to the process of mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism, realising their ability to influence stakeholders in every part of the business ecosystem. NGOs must engage with investors, companies, regulators and policy makers to encourage the rapid and effective adoption of Sustainable Capitalism through campaigns, lobbying efforts and partnerships with the private sector.” — Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, February 15, 2012

For an accurate grasp of the true objective behind a national/international marketing campaign (the Keystone Pipeline campaign is another fine example), one is wise to bypass the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) in its entirety and go directly to researching the investment firms and corporations who are set to increase market share and reap billions in profits via such campaigns. Campaigns funded by foundations (set up by the oligarchs) serve and protect the system with well-oiled precision. Billions of dollars funnelled into the NPIC laundering machine, on which corporations would be taxed otherwise, have never been such a sound and secure investment.

Perhaps the most telling and revealing of the world the NPIC wishes us to embrace is the investment firm recommended by 350.org et al: Generation. [PDF: A Complete Guide to Reinvestment] Under the section “What types of reinvestment exist?, Mutual Funds,” the top two examples listed (four in total) are 1) Generation Investment Management Climate Solutions Fund II and 2) Generation Investment Management Credit Fund.

“We are advocates for Sustainable Capitalism…. The first, which is our principal platform for activity, is a partnership model whereby we collaborate with individuals, organizations, and institutions in our effort to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable form of capitalism. In addition, the Foundation also supports select grant-giving related to the field of Sustainable Capitalism, engagement with the local communities where we operate, and an employee gift-matching program.” — Generation Foundation

Generation is an independent, private, owner-managed partnership with offices in London and New York. The firm was co-founded in 2004 by Al Gore and David Blood. From 1985 to 1999, Blood served in various positions at Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. From 1999 to 2003, Blood served as a Co-Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. Blood served as a director of Goldman Sachs International. Blood sits on many boards including his director position held at NewForests (“establishes US presence in May 2007 to capitalise on growing investment interest in environmental markets in the US”). Its investment strategies focus on forests, timberland, and environmental markets; “NewForests have a limited number of private accounts clients to develop particular project and policy expertise in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in other countries.” (REDD and Biomass). Blood also holds a position as director of The Nature Conservancy, the revolving door for Goldman Sachs executives. [Blood’s full bio].

Mark Ferguson, Peter Harris, Peter Knight and Colin Mark Le Duc are also co-founders of Generation Investment. Both Ferguson and Harris held prestigious positions at Sachs. Al Gore is Co-Founder, Chairman, and Partner of The Climate Solutions Fund of which Marc Le Duk is also a co-founder.

Generation is largely an institutional investment management firm, operating at the wholesale level (major pension funds, foundations, etc). The corporatocracy and covertness behind such investing is apparent when one considers the fact that law restricts the amount of information that firms (that focus on institutional clients) can provide, to “ensure that the general public is not enticed into investing in unsuitable and overly complex products”. [1]

“Mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism by *2020 will require independent, collaborative and voluntary action by companies, investors, government and civil society, which we hope to accelerate by advancing the discourse on the economic benefits of sustainability.” — Sustainable Investment Paper, Generation, February 15, 2012

[*David Blood: “…we say in our paper 2020, the truth is we have a view that it really needs to happen by 2015 – otherwise we are increasingly in trouble.” Breakthrough Capitalism Forum lecture, May 29, 2012]

A key area of focus is to ensure the capitalist system is kept intact; to establish the acceptable parameters of the “market revolution.” In particular, in concise language, Blood and Gore make it exceptionally clear that alternatives to the suicidal capitalist system need not, should not and will not be considered:

“Capitalism has great strengths and is fundamentally superior to any other system for organising economic activity. It is more efficient in allocating resources and in matching supply and demand. It is demonstrably effective in wealth creation. It is more congruent with higher levels of freedom and self-governance than any other system. It unlocks a higher fraction of the human potential with ubiquitous, organic incentives that reward hard work, ingenuity, and innovation. These strengths are why it is at the foundation of every successful economy.

 

“Critically, capitalism has proven itself to be adaptable and flexible enough to fit the specific needs of particular countries. Capitalism comes in many forms, from that practised in the US to the very different model that has been adopted within communist China. The causes and consequences of these variations are, of course, significant – but the more important fact remains: the mainstream debate is about how to practise capitalism not whether we should choose between capitalism and some other system.” [Emphasis added] [Source]

Generation Investment is acknowledged for its contribution in the May 2013 41-page document Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing in collaboration with Phil Aroneanu and Jamie Henn of 350.org, Bob Massie of the New Economics Institute and others interconnected within this campaign. The sponsors listed are 350.org, Responsible Endowments Coalition (REC), Sustainable Endowments Institute and Tellus Institute. [2]

“By Year Five of the simulation, the portfolio has become fossil free and its five-percent targeted reinvestment has been allocated, across a variety of asset classes, as shown in Figure 4. Half of the target (2.5 percent of the entire portfolio) can be re-allocated to sustainable, fossil-free domestic and international public equities, through existing strategies with investment managers such as Generation Investment Management, Impax Asset Management, Portfolio 21, and Trillium Asset Management, among others.” — Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing

Video: Ceres lecture featuring Bill McKibben with David Blood:

https://vimeo.com/66321774

Generation’s key action is “to accelerate mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism.” Insight into the coming corporate capture / commodification of the commons via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services” (PES) is made clear under the Current Initiatives section where it is stated: “Until there are policies that establish a fair price for widely understood externalities, academics and financial professionals should strive to quantify the impact of stranded assets and analyze the subsequent implications for assessing investment opportunities.” [Emphasis added.]

The top three sectors of focus for Generation are key to how the 21st century is being shaped: 1) Agricultural and Forestry Solutions (think genetic engineering, biomass burning, land grabs, and commodification of forests/REDD 2); Behaviour Change (think Avaaz/Purpose); 3) Bio-based Fuels, Plastics and Chemicals. (See all key sectors of focus that have been publicly disclosed.) (Note that 350.org et al are now publicly campaigning on/promoting the false solution of biofuels.)

Three such partnerships (publicly disclosed) include World Resources Institute, Natural Resource Defense Council (both represented on the Ceres board of directors), and The Climate Reality Project (formerly identified as Alliance for Climate Protection). Under Memberships and Initiatives, we find Ceres, the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and many others.

“We provide business-building expertise, access to Generation’s investment, corporate, NGO and sustainability networks and a long term strategic perspective and commitment to our portfolio companies.” [Source]

And the icing on the cake:

“Five percent of the profitability of the firm is allocated to The Generation Foundation, which will support global non-profit sustainability initiatives.”

Gore and Blood identify five key imperatives that “have the potential to accelerate the transition to Sustainable Capitalism”. The first imperative identified is the need to identify and incorporate risks from stranded assets.

Enter Carbon Tracker.

Carbon Tracker

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-10-638

Ruse: noun 1. an action intended to mislead, deceive, or trick; stratagem

Utilizing research from the Potsdam Institute [3], Carbon Tracker made the case for “unburnable carbon” in the July 2011 seminal report “Unburnable Carbon: are the world’s financial markets carrying a carbon bubble?” The report suggested that the top 100 coal and 100 oil-and-gas companies had a combined value in 2011 of $7.42 trillion, much of it based on reserves that can never be used. Such reserves are one example considered by Tracker that have the potential to become stranded assets – thereby exposing investors to risk. The tracker employs (and supplies) the so-called “carbon budget” as a measure (and apparatus) as to how much more carbon the world can continue to “safely” burn.

“The concept of ‘stranded assets‘ gained prominence last year when another report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative calculated that 60-80% of the world’s coal, oil, and gas reserves would be ‘unburnable’ if the world leaders agreed to emissions reductions to limit warming to 2°C…. In essence, any price on carbon or emissions reduction policy could cut oil demand enough to strand any number of a company’s proven reserves.” — Desmog Blog, September 13, 2014

Carbon Tracker’s second “unburnable carbon” report (Unburnable Carbon 2013: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets (PDF) is co-authored with LSE’s (London School of Economics) Grantham Research Institute. The Institute has been financed/supported in part by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) through a grant for US$2.16 million (£1.35 million) to fund several research project areas from 2012 to 2014. LSE’s Grantham Research Institute membership includes (but is not limited to) Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund; Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell Companies (India); Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF (US); and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of EL Rothschild Ltd.

The aim of the Grantham Research Institute is to strengthen the analytical and empirical underpinnings of the ‘green growth’ concept in relation to both developing and developed countries.” [Source] [GGGI Partners] Yvo de Boer is the Director-General of GGGI [People]. Prior to joining the global accountancy firm KPMG in 2010, Mr. de Boer led the international process to respond to climate change in the role of Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2006 to 2010.

Carbon Tracker could very much be considered the key stratagem, foundation, glue and more importantly, a veil or even a shield for both the divestment campaign (global in scale), and the so-called carbon “budget.” Reports, data and papers released by this foundation-financed think tank are pumped through the channels of power, the result being the legitimization of concepts that have no basis in reality if it were not for the non-profit industrial complex, in tandem with media, ensuring no one states – or even notices – the obvious, that the emperor has no clothes.

“A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or ‘hopelessly stupid.’ The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspects the assertion is true, but continues the procession.” [Source]

In this instance, the emperor is the oligarchy as a collective, the ministers are the sycophants that comprise the NPIC, and the townsfolk – not wanting to appear stupid or undeserving.

Reports such as Carbon Tracker’s serve to legitimate, normalize and thus sanction the already capitalist-sanctioned “activism” that deliberately assists in pushing forward particular policies and agendas already conceptualized (years and even decades in advance) by the funders and the elite.

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-3-1024

Consider who finances the work of the Carbon Tracker. “The work of Carbon Tracker has been made possible by the vision and openness to innovation shown by organisations such as the following”: The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Tellus Mater Foundation, Generation Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, The European Climate Foundation, The Growald Family Fund, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust ,The Polden Puckham Charitable Foundation, The Ashden Trust, Zennstrom Philanthropies, MAVA Foundation, The Velux Foundation, and The Grantham Foundation. After you consider the “who” behind the financing, consider “why” the financing.

Wallace Global Fund refers to its interest in funding Carbon Tracker as Support for a collaboration between climate activists and financial analysts seeking to align the action of world capital markets with the reality of global warming.”

“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.” — John D. Rockefeller

Millions of dollars funnelled through foundations into institutions, who in turn churn out reports, serve a pivotal purpose. Slick reports, marketing and PR build security (and acceptance/acquiescence amongst the populace) for the investment strategies belonging to the endowments (as well as the trustees) of the very foundations such institutions/NGOs are funded by. This is nothing more than polished PR at arm’s length intended/financed to promote said investments – as well as divestments. The appearance of an independent think tank evokes trust in the public realm. The oligarchs know how to manage, shape and modify behavioural change amongst the public. We are a public of rampant consumption and continued devolution, by design. There is little doubt that the billions of dollars the elite have pumped into the NPIC must quantify as one of the best long-term investments they have ever made.

The concepts of carbon budget, stranded assets and carbon asset bubbles have indeed gained traction with many people. This is in part due to the repetitive messaging of familiar language and unthreatening implications (via a massive injection of funding; Rockefeller et al must be pleased), the précis being that a person of privilege and monetary wealth can simply move his/her money from coal or Exxon and re-invest it into “clean” investments such as massive solar projects in deliberately impoverished Africa that will export the energy to those who already have it in Europe, geothermal, biomass projects that burn the remaining Earth’s forests and whole cultures into ashes, or REDD, which commodifies Earth’s forests for the even further expansion of capital. Pick your poison wisely. In less than 30 minutes we have “saved the world” and we still retain our wealth and privilege. Yet in reality, nothing has changed, the system demands continued growth, clean energy demands fossil fuels and vast resources from an already depleted planet, and the world continues to warm. To divest and feel no consequences is far preferred (by the 1% creating 50% of all global GHG emissions) than actual/tangible divesting from vacations (flying), personal automobiles, clothes dryers, steaks, lawn-mowers, leaf-blowers, Starbucks, etc. etc. etc. – including iPhones, iPods, iEverthing, with emphasis on the word “I.”

“The investor effort, called the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) initiative, is being coordinated by Ceres and the Carbon Tracker initiative, with support from the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change.” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

The organizations behind the quickly-emerging “new” economy are all very much interwoven, as are the players and key people. James Leaton, Research Director for the Carbon Tracker Initiative (2010 onward), was recently featured at the May 1-2, 2013 Ceres conference with 350.org’s McKibben and Bob Massie (former president and CEO of the New Economy Coalition). Leaton was also featured at the INCR Annual Meeting at the Ceres conference titled The 21st Century Investor: Ceres Blueprint for Sustainable Investing conference which took place April 30, 2013.

Carbon Tracker is identified as one of the key NGOs engaged with the US Divest-Invest Coordinating Committee (USCC). The combination of a need to be both an environmentalist and a capitalist (definitely not in that order) in the organization is represented in the following job posting:

As You Sow job description, February 13, 2015: “Organizations in the Coalition: 350.org, Responsible Endowments Coalition, Intentional Endowments Network, Hip-Hop Caucus, Energy Action Coalition, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Black Mesa Water Coalition, Carbon Tracker, California Student Sustainability Coalition, Divest-Invest Philanthropy, Divest-Invest Individual, Fenton Communications, Mayors Innovation Project, Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), New Economy Coalition, GreenFaith, Healthcare without Harm, Sustainable Initiatives at Partners HealthCare, As You Sow, or other organizations engaged with Divest-Invest.”

Key staff at Carbon Tracker demonstrate that a vital prerequisite to being hired/chosen by the Tracker is vast experience in carbon markets.

Prior to his role at Carbon Tracker, Leaton was a sustainability and climate change consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, focusing on the financial sector, advising blue chip clients on risks and “opportunities.” Prior to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Leaton spent five years at WWF as a senior policy advisor, focusing on the links between energy and finance.

“‘Assets are already being written down due to increasing competition between energy sources, air quality standards being introduced to reduce health impacts, and measures to reduce carbon pollution combining to change the energy landscape,’ said James Leaton, Research Director at Carbon Tracker. ‘Avoiding high cost, high carbon projects which are failing to deliver a return on capital will improve shareholder returns.'” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

Mark Fulton is currently an adviser to the Carbon Tracker Initiative and Senior Fellow at Ceres. He is a recognized economist (of 35 years) and market strategist at leading financial institutions including Citigroup, Salomon Bros and County Natwest. Prior to this role, Fulton was head of research at Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisors at Deutsche Bank (from 2007 to 2012). He is currently a member of the Capital Markets Climate Initiative, UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. From 2010 to 2012 he was co-chair of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative Climate Change Working Group. In 2011 and 2012, Fulton served on the technical committee of the UN Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All.

“‘Many of the responses investors have received from the companies thus far acknowledge that there is a legitimate risk issue around carbon reserves, and companies are open to continued engagement from the investor community to determine the scope,’ said Mark Fulton, a member of the Carbon Tracker’s Advisory Board and a Ceres adviser.” — Ceres Press Release, October 24, 2013

Anthony Hobley has been Chief Executive Officer of the Carbon Tracker Initiative since February 2014. Hobley played a key role in helping design the UK’s pilot emissions trading scheme and also in developing key aspects of the EU ETS (Emissions Trading System). Hobley was seconded to Norton Rose Fulbright’s Sydney office between 2010 and 2012 where he was heavily involved in the development of the emerging carbon and clean energy markets in Australia and Asia. He was a key figure behind the creation of the business advocacy group Businesses for a Clean Economy, a coalition of businesses arguing for a price on carbon. Anthony was also behind the creation of the business group Climate Markets & Investment Association where he is the current president. He also sits on the boards of the Verified Carbon Standards Association and on the Advisory Board to the Climate Bonds Initiative. [Source | Full Bio]

The Carbon Tracker advisory board is made up of representatives of carbon market institutions.

The board includes: Nick Robins (co-director of the UNEP Green Finance Enquiry), Lois Guthrie (CEO of the Carbon Disclosure Standards Board), Tessa Tennant (founder and board member, Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia – ASrIA), Ben Caldecott (programme director, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford) Catherine Howarth (CEO at ShareAction), James Stacey (head of sustainable finance strategy at Earth Capital Partners), Jemma Green (previously VP of sustainable finance at JP Morgan), Meg Brown (previously director of climate and sustainability research at Citi Investment Research), Stanislas Dupré (founder & director at 2° Investing Initiative), Bevis Longstreth (previously commissioner of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Laura Sandys (member of parliament for South Thanet), Mark Lewis (senior sustainability analyst and co-ordinator of energy transition & climate change research at Kepler Cheuvreux), and Neil Morisetti (director of strategy at UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy Department, previously special representative for climate change at the UK Foreign Secretary.)

Ben Caldecott’s elite standing in the interlocking directorate is extensive. Identified as a British environmentalist, economist, and commentator, he serves on the advisory board of Carbon Tracker, and as a trustee of the Green Alliance think tank. He serves as head of government advisory for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, director of the Stranded Assets Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, adviser to The Prince of Wales’ International Sustainability Unit, academic visitor at the Bank of England, and visiting fellow at the University of Sydney. He is head of European Policy at Climate Change Capital, directing the CCC think tank and advising CCC funds and clients on the development of policy-driven markets. Caldecott has previously worked as research director for environment and energy at the think tank Policy Exchange. Caldecott serves on the advisory network of the Natural Capital Declaration, which is key (discussed at length further in this report). Caldecott has worked in parliament and for a number of different UK government departments and international organisations, including UNEP and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Caldecott has been instrumental in building government support for “clean coal.” Thus, UK leaders are all calling for an end to unabated coal – code for carbon capture and sequestration/storage.

Ben C

Above: Business Summit on Climate Leadership 2011 Speakers. Ben Caldecott – Head of European Policy, Climate Change Capital, second in from far right (Flickr, Climate Group)

Carbon capture and sequestration (CSS) and enhanced oil recovery (EOR) (which uses the sequestered CO2 to recover more oil out of depleted oil fields) is a critical component of the “new economy.” CCS is to gain acceptance as a vital component of the new “low carbon” economy where societies can continue production/burning of both coal and oil under the guise of “emissions reduction measures.” In tandem with the quiet proliferation of biomass (supported by the NPIC) and other false solutions, this economy has already begun:

“In the Weyburn oil field in Saskatchewan, Canada – where CO2 from the Dakota Gasification Company’s coal gasification plant in Beulah, ND is piped north to pump into the oil field, buying 25 more years of oil production – 2.8 times more CO2 would be released from all of the extra oil they expect to produce than the amount they ‘sequester’ (ignoring reports of leakage). In the Permian Basin (TX/NM), 47% of the amount of CO2 pumped into the ground is re-released by burning the extra oil produced (that would otherwise stay in the ground).” [Source]

Stephen Tindale, former executive director of Greenpeace UK, is another “environmentalist” in support of carbon capture and storage. In a series on his website Climate Answers , the commentary CCS: What the EU Needs to Do – Part 1, with Nick Horler, chief executive of ScottishPower, is supported by Caldecott. Both Tindale and Caldecott have contributed significant language and concepts to the discourse on climate since this 2010 piece. Here we witness just one aspect of the many realms of genius behind the marketing/branding of the instrumental stranded/bubble/budget language that has “changed everything.” Coal in particular, has been identified and condemned by both the media and NPIC as a coming stranded asset. Thus coal is “saved” from stranded status when CCS is deployed; the “carbon bubble” refrains from bursting; and the amount of “unburnable carbon” in the “carbon budget” reduced.

As with all the shaping of our shared futures by the elite, the pathway to CCS is clear in the 2008 Green Alliance paper, A Last Chance for Coal, with contributions from Ben Caldecott while at the Policy Exchange think tank. The paper notes that it is critical Europe’s commitment to CCS be realized before 2020; 12 short years away from the paper’s publication date. The year 2020 is a critical date of vast significance – a recurring deadline for all environmental market solutions to be in place.

While the front figures in the “movement” such as 350’s Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein repeat and inflate the language of stranded assets, carbon bubbles, budgets, divestment and renewable energy, the issue of CCS is rarely mentioned or touched upon, while the most critical issue that has ever faced humanity, the financialization of nature, via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services,” receives no attention whatsoever. It’s not that these appointed “leaders” don’t understand the “this changes everything” world that the oligarchs have been working toward for decades. They do. Consider that Caldecott, as a key figure in the delivering/marketing of mainstream finance to “clean energy” partnered with 350.org for the 2014 “Stranded Down Under Tour” in Australia.

“It appears to us that divestment is the bait and engagement is the fishing rod – divestment is vital in hooking people’s attention, and the engagement tools and analysis is [sic] essential to reel the capex [capital expenditures] in. Investors and NGOs now need to have the patience to catch enough fish.” — Carbon Tracker Website

Most, if not all organizations and investment firms promoting or affiliated with the divestment campaign have vested interests in the expansion of false solutions such as CCS, biomass, carbon credits/trading and environmental markets – all clamouring to cash in on the promise of the most unparalleled wealth opportunity of the 21st century.

The Investor Expectations: Oil and Gas Companies was developed by the IIGCC with support from Ceres’ INCR, IGCC and AIGCC. It builds on the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative, through which 75 investors managing more than $3 trillion in assets engaged with 45 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. The CAR initiative is coordinated by Ceres and Carbon Tracker, with support from IIGCC and IGCC, which lead engagement with fossil fuel companies in Europe and Australia/New Zealand respectively.

The Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) Initiative: “In the long term, investors want to see fossil fuel companies adapt, remaining successful by: Focusing on fewer projects at the low end of the cost curve; Returning capital to investors; and Diversifying business toward cleaner, lower-carbon energy sources, including renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Divest-Invest

“The transition to a low-carbon economy will be the most significant economic change in history. It will be deeper, more fundamental than the industrial revolution, and faster than the technology revolution. And it’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years…. The leadership of Divest-Invest is important, the leadership at 350.org.” — David Blood, Generation Investment, Divest-Invest Transcript, Fenton Communications, Wallace Global Fund, and Inst. for Policy Studies, September 22, 2014

 

The common definition of a Divest-Invest commitment is a pledge to divest from the top fossil fuel companies within five years and to move those assets into clean energy investments. As the movement has spread, participants have tailored the timing and sequence of commitments to their particular circumstances. The working group has recognized the variety of these circumstances and has designed this process to allow institutions to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities. — Arabella Advisors, Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement, September 19, 2014

The global divestment campaign targets 200 of the world’s largest publicly traded fossil-fuel corporations: 100 from oil and gas and 100 from coal. These are ranked according to the size of their proven reserves. The Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement report (September 19, 2014) discloses the following:

“The working group relied upon self-reported data from individual commitments to determine the number and scope of divest-invest pledges. Individuals agreed to a standard pledge, and most completed a brief survey. The standard pledge (available at http://divestinvest.org/individual) states:

  1. I will make no new investments in the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies [as defined by the Carbon Tracker 200].
  2. I will sell my existing assets tied to these oil, gas, and coal investments within three to five years.
  3. I will invest in the new energy economy.

It is critical to note the language and the framing of the divest-invest campaign (which isn’t necessarily the same as divestment at large). To begin, the term “new” (in #3) refers to both the “new economy” and, in this instance, the “new energy economy,” which is strategic. As discussed in 2014 by Avaaz/Purpose Inc. co-founder Jeremy Heimans, the former term “green” (as in “green economy”) is, for all marketing intents and purposes, dead. For clarity, individuals agree to not invest in the top 100 public coal, oil and gas companies listed by the “Carbon Tracker 200.” All other investments appear to be fair game: biofuel/biomass, nuclear, the military-industrial complex/weapons industry, the chemical industry, factory farming, aviation, BNSF, pornography… it’s all up for grabs. One can move their investments from Exxon over to Lockheed Martin & make a killing – both literally and figuratively. Not only is there a plethora of fuel-intensive stock options/investments, those divesting are given a full five years to follow through on their commitment “to meet both their fiduciary and moral responsibilities,” meaning that a corporation/entity can announce their “commitment,” have 350.org greenwash their persona, and then five years later, when staff positions, economic opportunities, etc. have changed, toss it out with the bath water if they wish to do so. Further, it is not enough to simply divest – one must agree, most importantly, to “invest in the new energy economy.” Thus, the idea of starving the corporate stranglehold, even if only in a limited way, is effectively out the window.

Oil services companies, pipeline companies, refiners, holding facility companies, etc. are all fair game for those wishing to divest. Yet the reality is that none of these industries/companies make their big money from shareholders or stock markets. These companies make the bulk of their profits by booking reserves and selling their product directly to market. Further, most of the capital for the shale gas and oil revolution comes from private equity. “Big oil” has not been at the centre of it. Rather, the centre is comprised of smaller independent and private companies. The more one understands the industries and the business, the more one comes to the realization of what a hoax the “divest-invest” campaign actually is.

Divest-Invest Philanthropy

Divest Invest Allies and Advisors

The Divest-Invest NGO is comprised of three pillars: 1) Divest-Invest Philanthropy [4], 2) Divest-Invest Individual and 3) the Divest-Invest Advisors and Allies.

In her role as CEO of Phoenix Global Impact, Jenna Nicholas is consulting with the World Bank on social impact bonds; she is coordinating the Divest-Invest: Philanthropy Initiative, appointed by the Wallace Global Fund as of March 2014. Nicholas is an associate to Calvert Special Equities and sits on the advisory groups of the Impact Hub DC, Nexus Global Youth Summit and High Water Women. [Full Bio]

Allies and advisors of the Divest-Invest campaign are to ensure success: “Advisors and allies keep core campaign staff informed on various financial, business, community and legal trends relevant to the pledge and/or steps for follow-through…. In collaboration with Divest-Invest Philanthropy and many other movement partners and allies, we are accelerating the transition to a sustainable and equitable economy. [Source]

Such groups are popping up everywhere. Whether there are dozens, hundreds or even thousands has yet to be ascertained. But one thing is certain. They have been tactically preparing for the “new economy” windfall.

Consider the 2° Investing Initiative [2°ii], a multi-stakeholder think tank working to align the financial sector with 2°C climate goals: “Our association consists of more than 30 member organizations and 60 individual members, most of whom are serving in financial institutions (banks, asset management, private equity, brokerage, etc.). Some other members are experts from different fields (consulting, accounting, extra-financial analysis, etc.), either researchers (economy, climate economics), or public servants. Two of our members are Members of the European Parliament (former Ministers of Environment in their respective countries).”

Members:

2C Investing Members

Peers and links within this particular interlocking directorate include the Carbon Tracker Initiative (which coined the term “carbon bubble”), Long Finance, Finance Watch, OECD, Climate Change Capital, UNEP-FI (a partnership between the United Nations Environment Programme and financial institutions), Asset Owners Disclosure Project, Climate Policy Initiative, E3G (Third Generation Environmentalism), CDC Climat, McKinsey Global Institute, Climate Bonds Initiative, BNEF (Bloomberg), GABV (Global Alliance for Banking on Values), BankTrack and The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC is a Ceres initiative).

Over and over again we witness (yet ignore) the interlocking directorate: NGOs, executive board members, advisors, fellows, CEOs, politicians, bankers and media – all working together for the expansion of capital markets. And although the divestment campaign appears fresh out of nowhere, the NGOs assigned to capture the public’s trust, waiting in the wings, did not simply fall from the summer sky. The organizing and deployment is precise, strategic, seductive and global in scale.

As one investigates the history and financing of the divestment campaign, one begins to recognize specific organizations that appear/overlap more frequently than others, for example, Ceres, Ceres entities, United Nations organizations, 350.org and Carbon Tracker. These groups lead in shaping the public opinion and providing the discourse required to implement already conceived/awaiting policies that serve hegemonic interests (expansion of capital markets), while simultaneously securing, strengthening and insulating capitalism itself.

Investment Terminology

In the July 7, 2014 article, Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce, the author sheds much needed light on investment terminologies and information that are little understood by the average citizen:

“Notice the words ‘publicly traded.’ In other words, fossil fuel divestment would target only major corporations that are listed on the stock market. But pension funds and endowments, the entities largely targeted by the 350.org campaign, invest hundreds of billions of dollars in privately traded securities, such as hedge funds and private equity – vehicles that are invested at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. (In particular, hedge funds and private equity have been found to be the key financial backers of the fracking boom.) Were the Massachusetts divestment bill to pass, state pension funds would invariably still be invested in the fossil fuel economy.”

The20billioncarbonbubble1

Graphic: Public companies represent a small piece of the pie; $7 trillion in fossil fuel reserves as opposed to private and national companies that represent three times this market size. Source

The cautionary reference to hedge funds is significant. Note that Blood & Gore’s Generation Investment is a hedge fund. Also note the tight relationship between 350.org founder Bill McKibben, hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, the US Democratic Party and the crème de la crème of the establishment Left (to be discussed later in this report). On May 6, 2014 CNN reported that the top 25 hedge fund managers took home $21 billion among them.

The author [Why the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is a Farce] continues:

“The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

 

“The divestment campaign argues that 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies dominate the fossil fuel exploration market. But they ignore that such companies frequently depend on private equity and hedge funds for financing new investments when large banks are uninterested in taking on further risk. The public can rarely (if ever) verify that these types of arrangements take place, even if it is a teacher attempting to verify what her pension fund is doing with her money.

 

“Pension funds and endowments have not always invested in the private market. In the 1980s and before, in fact, they were almost exclusively invested in publicly traded securities. Laws such as the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Investment Company Act of 1940 allowed the public to verify how the companies in which pension funds and endowments were investing used their funds and provided transparency to investors in order to prevent fraudulent activity.

 

“By focusing only on publicly traded securities, the fossil fuel divestment campaign ignores the corporate misdeeds of a sector that holds billions of dollars of investments in a dirty energy economy.

 

“The same is not possible with privately traded alternative investments, which have been on the rise since the early 1990s. (It is difficult to ascertain why exactly pension funds and endowments have funneled assets into private markets, as there is little evidence that they perform any better than stocks and bonds and a great deal of evidence that they are far riskier. Private market money managers are notorious as great salesmen, and a series of pay-to-play scandals have implicated some of the largest hedge funds and private equity firms.) Regardless, today pension funds and endowments are by far the largest investors in hedge funds and private equity.” [Emphasis added]

carbon-tracker-presentation-anthony-hobley-at-sitra-helsinki-21-may-2014-6-1024

Above: Private and institutional investors represent Carbon Tracker’s largest/key target audience.

The author continues, citing conflict of interest:

“Further compromising the campaign is its questionable line of funding. It has received at least $350,000 from Jeremy Grantham, a hedge fund manager who oversees more than $500 million in assets for public pension funds in Massachusetts. According to a report from Inside Philanthropy, 350.org also receives funding from billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer. (The organization declined to state exactly how much money it has received from Steyer and Grantham.)

 

“Farallon Capital Management, which Steyer founded, has major investments at all levels of the fossil fuel economy. While he is no longer at the helm, during his leadership it pursued major deals in fossil fuels, as a recent report from Reuters showed. In fact, the firm had been a target of student activists before he began funding them.

“Grantham, for his part, argued in an interview with The Guardian that he felt that student activists should ‘stamp their feet’ to get their university endowments to divest from fossil fuels ‘because they can do that.’ With his firm’s significant investments in the fossil fuel economy – according to first quarter 2014 filings, $1.2 billion in Chevron, $570 million in ExxonMobil and $240 million in Monsanto – he, apparently, cannot.” [Emphasis added]

Jeremy Grantham apparently encourages others to stamp their feet and divest while his firm, decidedly, does not. He is not alone. Following the media saturation of September 22, 2014 that hailed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) divestment as a historic world event, few reported that RBF had decided to hang on to their Exxon stocks. [This is discussed at length later in this report.]

Here it is important to recall that Carbon Tracker is affiliated with London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute. Jeremy Grantham co-founded the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment in 1997. Funding was given to both Imperial College London and London School of Economics to establish the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In 2011, the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment donated $1 million to both the Sierra Club and Nature Conservancy, and $2 million to the Environmental Defense Fund. The Foundation has also provided support to Greenpeace, the WWF and the Smithsonian. [Source] As noted earlier in this report, London School of Economics Grantham Research Institute membership includes (but is not limited to) Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund; Vikram Singh Mehta, chairman of Shell Companies (India); Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF (US); and Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, chairman of EL Rothschild Ltd.

In the July 10, 2014 rebuttal, Why a Movement is Never a Farce, the author frames the divestment campaign as a Gandhi-esque movement. Yet there are items that an astute citizen must consider distinct red flags: “Endorsements have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank, and even former Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs’ COO Henry Paulson this past week.” Given the references to Gandhi and endorsements that “have come from such unexpected places as the World Bank,” it is of interest to note that Martin Luther King’s first trip to India to study Gandhi was paid for by the RJ Reynolds (tobacco empire) family (funneled through Quaker group American Friends Service Committee.) In a letter, an AFSC official writes that the trip seems to have been designed as a photo-op to “build up King as a world figure, and to have this buildup recorded in the US.”

The author then writes: “It is a sign of divestment’s power that it has gained endorsements from the likes of Wall Street, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into trusting either Wall Street or the White House to show us the way to a new economy. Accepting endorsement, however, is not the same as taking direction; fossil fuel divestment is a grassroots movement led by students, not billionaires, and is firmly committed to justice and solidarity. I know because myself and countless other students and recent alumni – with the vital support of nonprofits – have poured the last few years of our lives into building it. Call that misdirected, sure, but don’t call it Astroturf.”

Yet it’s not “a sign of divestment’s power that it has gained endorsements from the likes of Wall Street” – the divestment campaign is Wall Street. 350.org (with McKibben at the helm) developed the divestment campaign in consultation with Wall Street. The author is, however, correct that the purpose of the divestment campaign is very much “to show us the way to a new economy.” As 21st century lambs of the oligarch, well-intentioned students are utilized, used and misdirected via tactical manipulation.

Steyer, Bloomberg, Soros & the Democrats

McKibben and Steyer March-7

Photo: People’s Climate March, 2014. Bill McKibben (350.org founder) with Tom Steyer, hedge fund billionaire and founder of Generation Next

“It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” — George Carlin

An example of so-called progressive media amplifying Carbon Tracker’s disapproval of coal use in China (Carbon Tracker report: “Energy Access: why coal is not the way out of energy poverty”) appears straightforward. As does the slide presentation published October 29, 2014 by Carbon Tracker: Is Coal a Sinking Ship? Yet perhaps it isn’t.

Consider that the demand for coal in both China and India is going to do nothing but grow. Then consider this: In an effort to support its own mines and workers and economy, China is in the process of cutting all purchases of imported coal as rapidly as possible (April 14, 2015: “China’s coal imports decline by 42 percent during first quarter…. The international coal market is saddled with excessive supplies for the moment….”). India, still trying to provide basic power to citizens, is also rejecting further dependence on international coal. On November 12, 2014 the Power and Coal Minister of India, Piyush Goyal, stated “in the next two or three years we should be able to stop imports of thermal coal.” This position has been endorsed by India’s Prime Minister. This certainly puts a damper on U.S. plans to ship an additional 100 million tons of coal per year to Asia via three proposed coal ports – an aggravating deterrent that must also extend to Australia which plans to open mega coal mines in Queensland’s Galilee Basin, as well as the world’s largest port (at Abbot Point right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef) for export to China. Not only does India have more coal than Australia, India has 57 times more labourers.

A “no coal for China” anthem as sung by the non-profit industrial complex can also be interpreted as de facto promotion of natural gas/fracking, nuclear, etc. Consider the Bloomberg media coverage (referencing Carbon Tracker) in the article covering China moving from coal to gas. As Bloomberg (Bloomberg Philanthropies being a financial backer of Carbon Tracker) has been financing the fracking boom, one might question if there is a coordinated effort between Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson who, along with billionaire Tom Steyer’s Next Generation, have launched the Risky Business Project.

From the Risky Business website:

“Launched in October, 2013, the Risky Business Project focuses on quantifying and publicizing the economic risks from the impacts of a changing climate.

 

“Risky Business Project co-chairs Michael R. Bloomberg, Henry Paulson, and Tom Steyer tasked the Rhodium Group, an economic research firm that specializes in analyzing disruptive global trends, with an independent assessment of the economic risks posed by a changing climate in the U.S. Rhodium convened a research team co-led by climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University and economist Dr. Solomon Hsiang of the University of California, Berkeley. Rhodium also partnered with Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies around the world. The team’s complete assessment, along with technical appendices, is available at Rhodium’s website, climateprospectus.rhg.com.”

The Risky Business Project is a joint partnership of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute, and TomKat Charitable Trust (established in 2009 with funding from Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor), one of many financiers of 350.org (see image below). Additional support for the project has been provided by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the McKnight Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation. Staff support for the Risky Business Project is provided by Next Generation, also co-founded by Steyer.

350 Funders

Bloomberg Philanthropies also invests in oil and gas via Willet Advisors. Logic dictates that due to its holdings/investments in the gas/fracking industry, Bloomberg will therefore highlight any victories against dirty coal – including faux ones. Thus although the divestment campaign is successful in the stigmatization of coal corporations, the label of corporate pariah does not extend to carbon sequestration schemes, industrial biomass and a score of other false solutions that will comprise the bulk share of the “clean” economy. Rather, such false solutions are grossly labeled as victorious and sought after by the appointed “leaders” of the environmental “movement.” Consider the re-tweet of the article Shell’s Global Warming Strategy Is Psychopathic & Paranoid, Says Former UK Climate Envoy by Bill McKibben in which the gist of the argument is why Shell is dragging their feet on carbon capture and sequestration. Further consider that the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to convert Nevada’s Pinyon Forests to biomass that threatens ancient rituals is backed by partner organizations such as Sierra Club, in partnership with Barrick Gold and Barrick Corp. This is just one instance of biomass facilities planned or already in operation under the guise of “clean” energy and/or carbon neutrality.

Bill McKibben Tweet CCS Shell 2

Steyer must be considered king hedge fund bourgeois extraordinaire with close ties to those in power. Time magazine, May 22, 2014: “So when Barack Obama appeared at Tom Steyer’s San Francisco home for a fundraiser last year, the President had to know there would be an ask. The 56-year-old Steyer is a hedge-fund billionaire and a major-league Democratic donor.”

August 6, 2014, Politico:

Billionaire Tom Steyer joined fellow liberal billionaire George Soros for a lunchtime meeting with Obama adviser John Podesta at the White House on Feb. 20, according to White House visitor logs. That was just days after Steyer pledged to spend $100 million on the midterm elections. Steyer also met with Podesta on March 31, along with NextGen Climate Action COO Josh Fryday and Denver attorney Ted White, managing partner of Fahr LLC, an ‘umbrella entity’ for Steyer’s various organizations.

 

“According to records, Steyer has visited the White House on at least 12 occasions since 2009 for meetings with top-level administration officials including Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley, Pete Rouse, Heather Zichal, Jon Carson and David Lane. Those records only cover through April, and Steyer is known to have attended a June 25 meeting with Podesta, John Holdren, Valerie Jarrett and others to discuss his ‘Risky Business’ report on climate change.”

Exploiting climate change destruction to garner votes for the Democrats is par for the course within the NPIC; exploiting climate change destruction to further unprecedented “climate wealth opportunities” is not only the best game in town – it’s the best game on the industrialized planet.

 

 

End Notes:

[1] Source: “M. Mills, personal communication, 2010.” In Howell, Robert. “The Challenge of Sustainability for the Financial Sector.” International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability.

[2] The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US) also serves to promote the divestment campaign in the “Education Center” where one finds “Fossil Fuels, Divestment & Reinvestment.” Within this section, under other resources, the link titled Institutional Pathways to Fossil Free Investing brings us back to the May 2013 41-page document Institutional Pathways to Fossil-Free Investing [emphasis added].

[3] “Thanks to the Carbon Bubble report, we now have some better numbers to help us grapple with that question. Based on research by the Potsdam Institute, the report suggests that if the world wants an 80% chance of staying within the 2ºC limit, we should avoid emitting more than 565 gigatonnes (GT) of CO2 by 2050. That equates to just one-fifth of the world’s total proven fossil fuel reserves, which contain enough carbon to produce a massive 2,795GT of CO2, the report estimates.”

[4] The DivestInvest Philanthropy steering committee and working group members include: Ellen Dorsey, Ellen Friedman, Richard Woo, Tom VanDyck, Melissa Beck, Jenna Nicholas, Farhad Ebrahimi, Vic de Luca, David Gordon, Florence Miller, Peter Martin, Anne Stetson, Jon Jensen, John Goldstein, Shally Shanker and Ginny Quick.

Just Say No to 350

A Culture of Imbeciles

April 30, 2015

By Jay Taber

privatization of commons

When 350 targeted Bolivia and The Peoples Agreement on Climate Change for subversion in 2010, it was an act of aggression with roots in the 2009 attempted coup — funded by the U.S. State Department — in reaction to the 2008 constitutional revolution of Bolivia’s indigenous peoples. The inspiration for the indigenous uprising, that saw the world’s first indigenous head of state elected, was the 2005 attempt at privatization of Bolivia’s water by the US-based Bechtel Corporation that foreshadowed the “new economy” promoted by 350 in 2014.

Privatization Future

That “new economy” builds on other privatization schemes on a global scale; REDD and other carbon-market shell games, like fossil fuel divestment, are the ultimate institutionalization of the theft of public resources by the finance sector. The finance sector – that in 2008-2009 devastated the US and EU economies through loan fraud and bank bailouts – has now set its sights on privatizing all aspects of life on earth.

waves_accounting_0

Cheerleading global privatization — enabled by UN agencies like the IMF and World Bank — are financier-sponsored NGOs like 350, Avaaz and Ceres–all of which have fundamental ties to Wall Street moguls and finance sector criminals. Having hijacked the environmental movement on behalf of Wall Street, these false fronts are currently pressing for changes in international law that would give the finance sector carte blanche in privatizing all of nature.

bank-of-natural-capital2

With the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a threat to globalization – the finance sector immediately began co-opting the indigenous peoples movement through foundation grants to compromised NGOs approved by the UN. These compromised NGOs and individuals are paid to legitimize the annihilation of indigenous nations via UN agencies in partnership with Wall Street.

Greed Economy

Indigenous peoples from five countries told the UN Rio+20 summit that the green economy is a “crime against humanity” that ‘dollarises’ Mother Nature and strips communities of their rights.

Photo: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

As indigenous nations challenge Wall Street and the UN over globalization, compromised NGOs like 350 distort reality through social and mainstream media. The “new economy” they promote is essentially what used to be called fascism. While finance sector puppets like Naomi Klein charm gullible liberals with bromides and syllogisms about sustainability, what they are in reality sustaining is totalitarian corporate control of world governance and human survival.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

WATCH: The New Economy: The Green Economy, Simply Re-branded

“We’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”

rebrand 4

WKOG Admin: It’s impossible not to notice the recent avalanche of advertisements and campaigns intended to propel “The New Economy” forward. Global in reach, drenched in holistic language and emotive imagery, these campaigns and advertisements are designed to create a global acquiescence (and even desire) for a new economic system. Yet rarely, if at all,  is the very premise of the “new economy” actually mentioned. That is, the financialization of Earth’s natural resources via the global implementation of “payments for ecosystem services” (PES).

The following text and video from the article This Changes Nothing. Why the People’s Climate March Guarantees Climate Catastrophe published September 15, 2014

In the video published on November 21, 2012, Heimans discloses that the “demand for the green economy is in a rut” during a lecture on Purpose’s innovative model of “movement entrepreneurship.” He states:

“…how else could movement building and mass participation help transform society? And that’s what we’re working on at Purpose. We’re thinking at Purpose not just how you build political movements but now what are some of the insights from that, that can be used to do things like scale demand for the green economy? Right? Demand for the green economy is in a rut. There isn’t large-scale demand it. What if we tried to build a movement around that and organize people in a systematic way….”

In the following Tedx talk (published September 7, 2012) the goal and the campaign to achieve the goal is made clear: kill “green” marketing (including the key term “green economy,” in order to push forward the green economy – without saying as much.

Heimans states:

“…Well, the results of our research really have two main conclusions I want to share with you today, and the first is a little startling and it may create a little bit of a disequilibrium… and that is that I think we need to kill the language and imagery and green in order to have any real shot at scaling sustainable consumption. Sustainable consumption just isn’t working right now as we’ll talk about in a moment. We’re going to have to kill green as a frame for consumers in order to try to rework that problem.”

It is worth repeating:

“Sustainable consumption just isn’t working right now as we’ll talk about in a moment. We’re going to have to kill green as a frame for consumers in order to try to rework that problem.”

Hence – you have the new terminology agreed upon and already being employed by both the foundations and the non-profit-industrial complex: The “new economy.”

Heimans continues:

“So they like the idea of green, it’s kind of a value they are happy to cloak themselves in, you know it’s a brand value, but the reality is market share just isn’t there because as soon as it’s even slightly difficult they’re out the door. So what do we do? So here’s some things that I think we can do that might up-end this situation and as I said it does require starting with killing green as a friend. We can’t lead with green, because most of the green products that are out there start by knocking on the front door and hitting you on the head and saying you know ‘We’re green, do the right thing.’ We need a radically different approach to the way we introduce this issue to consumers. We need to put green aside.”

Heimans summarizes the methodology:

“… the answer we think is to get behind the businesses that are at this intersection of mass participation where you can get lots of people in a network, you can grow market share very quickly of the new forms of businesses that are green, but don’t knock on the door and announce themselves as green. If we can do this, if we can create a new economy that takes these models that can very quickly acquire market share and we can give people a sense they’re part of something much bigger, we’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”

Heimans’ last remark is key: “If we can do this, if we can create a new economy that takes these models that can very quickly acquire market share and we can give people a sense they’re part of something much bigger we’ll build the green economy, we just won’t talk about it and we won’t say that we’re doing it.”

 

Distorting Reality

Public Good Project

By Jay Taber

network-independent-elites

For those who had high hopes for The Real News Network, the TRNN love fest with social capitalists like Naomi Klein and other con artists on Wall Street’s payroll — laundered by foundations like Ford, Rockefeller and NoVo — comes as a disappointment. So it should come as no surprise that TRNN start-up money ($350,000) came from Ford and MacArthur foundations. Two thirds of TRNN ongoing operating revenue comes from the rich.

After doting on Ms. Klein’s magical social revolution (funded by the Rockefeller Brothers and Warren Buffett), TRNN is now promoting Klein, et al’s “new economy,” that aims to place all control of social change in the hands of Wall Street front groups like 350, Avaaz, Ceres and Purpose. The solution to looting of state treasuries by financial institutions, according to social capitalists featured on TRNN, is to create non-profit co-ops that are dependent on philanthropy.

TRNN strategy is limited by dependency on capitalism, which funds them as gatekeepers. They offer liberals a place for venting rage, then point them toward false solutions, promoted by other capitalist-dependent liberals. TRNN has never exposed the brainwashing of liberal capitalism, because they are part of it.

Ironically, the only funding for research on violent white supremacy in the US has come from MacArthur and Ford. All my liberal colleagues take Ford or MacArthur money, and consequently have kept silent about Ford’s role in global privatization, as well as continental ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples.

Their research is valuable, but they are reluctant to acknowledge the significant contribution Public Good Project has made to their work, because we also expose Ford Foundation fraud. Until they and TRNN divorce themselves from this dependency, their message will continue distorting reality by omission.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

Crimes Against Humanity: Pro-War NGOs

Public Good Project

cochabamba06

Above: Participants sit in bleachers at the packed World People’s Summit on Climate Change and Mother Earth’s Rights, 2010, Photo by The City Project

As Cory Morningstar reported in 350: Agent Saboteur, the April 2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia, was the first and only climate conference that was led by indigenous peoples and recognized by the United Nations. The People’s Agreement — that resulted from this conference — called for 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide, and a 1 degree Celsius limit.

350UnderminesBolivia-1024x768

Attending the 2010 conference in Bolivia — created in response to the failure of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen — was 350 co-founder Kelly Blynn. After undermining emission reduction targets at Copenhagen, Blynn’s role at Cochabamba was to press for 350 parts per million, and a 2 degree Celsius limit, thus protecting the fossil fuel industry and the very lucrative 350 brand.

KleinGettyImages

Four years later — financed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Warren Buffett’s NoVo Foundation – 350 used the Charms of Naomi as a powerful new tool of social engineering by Wall Street. The civil society fad led by Ms. Klein in 2014 evolved into a cult of celebrity worship, as she and Bill McKibben hypnotized thousands of college students into believing divestment of fossil fuel was part of a magical social revolution.

ObamaInvest-Divest

Above: Image from Fossil Free Website (Endorsements)

The KXL hoax — yet another example of hypnotic behavior absent critical judgement — was funded by Buffett in order to distract attention from his oil-by-rail empire, now threatening communities across North America with “bomb trains” for fossil fuel export. By the time Klein’s followers figure out they were duped into being Buffett’s pawns, he and his friend Bill Gates will have made a fortune shipping Tar Sands bitumen and Bakken Shale crude.

cbr-loadings---annual-2008---2013

In the U.S. Army War College manual on psychological warfare, the stated objective is to destroy the will and the ability of the enemy to fight, by depriving them of the support of allies and neutrals. Some of the methods used in the manual are sowing dissension, distrust, fear and hopelessness. Since this manual was published, a new type of psywar has emerged in the form of false hope.

Communications-in-Conflict-

Above image: Communications in Conflict

With support from foundations like Ford, Gates, NoVo, Rockefeller and Soros’ Open Society Institute, U.S. propaganda now has a vast new army of non-profits that serve as a fifth column for destabilization campaigns worldwide. Embodiments of false hope – like Avaaz, Purpose and 350 – use social media as a means of social manipulation.

SocialMediaManipulation

In Welcome to the Brave New World—Brought to You by Avaaz, Morningstar notes that Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello has had a long relationship with the convicted inside-trader George Soros, and was one of the most pro-war members of the U.S. Congress. Along with Ricken Patel, Perriello made it popular for civil society to become complicit in crimes against humanity.

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In 2014, the New York public relations firm Purpose created a campaign to rally international support for NATO to bomb Syria. The campaign was backed by the New York lobby Avaaz. The CEO of Purpose, Jeremy Heimans, is a co-founder of Avaaz. His associate, David Madden, is co-founder of Purpose, Avaaz and MoveOn—a Democratic Party associated PAC. Avaaz and MoveOn are funded in part by the billionaire hedge fund mogul Soros.

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In Imperial Civil Society, Jay Taber observes that the power of moral sanction is something Wall Street takes very seriously. So seriously, that hostile takeovers of authentic civil society organizations, and full-fledged displacement by corporate false fronts, has led compromised NGOs to promote privatization, austerity, and military aggression. According to Maximilian Forte, the main purpose of the burgeoning civil society fad – that comprises the international bureaucracy of neoliberalism — is to take over basic functions and powers of the state.

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Destabilizing foreign governments, using NGOs like Avaaz as provocateurs, puts authentic non-profits and journalists at risk. Indeed, the imperial network of financiers like Soros makes NGO entrepreneurs in the pro-war champagne circuit accomplices in crimes against humanity.

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As affiliated entities, 350, Avaaz, Ceres, MoveOn and Purpose enable the Democratic Party to market itself as a friend of the environment and supporter of democracy, while simultaneously serving Wall Street’s agenda. What those familiar with serious fraud might call “the long con”. As Morningstar describes The Art of Social Engineering by Avaaz, the role they serve for their funders is not unlike that of corporate media.

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Paralyzed in a state of collective hypnosis, naive followers of the non-profit industrial complex have become missionaries of empire. From Bolivia to Syria, NGOs now help destabilize and overthrow foreign regimes hostile to American dominance. “Avaaz,” says Morningstar, “is arguably the world’s most powerful NGO”.

Internet Fraud: Avaaz, Purpose, 350

April 11, 2015

by Jay Taber

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Soliciting donations and selling memberships in an enterprise that is wholly contrary to that promoted on the Internet is a federal felony in the United States. Internet fraud in the US is policed by the Federal Trade Commission, and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General.

Avaaz, Purpose and 350 use the Internet for fraudulent purposes, i.e. “humanitarian intervention” and fossil fuel divestment campaigns. As these organizations are a product of the Democratic Party, and tools of Wall Street moguls like Buffett and Soros, they will not be prosecuted for fraud.

They could be charged under international law for abetting crimes against humanity, but with the UN controlled by the US, this will not happen. That leaves civil society moral sanction. Moral sanction against these NGO adjuncts to the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense, because they are politically immune to prosecution by the Department of Justice.

 

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

 

 

Fetishisms of Apocalypse

The Corner House

by Larry Lohmann

Note: An excellent interview with Larry Lohmann follows this piece.

September 20, 2014

Climate change and other environmental campaigns often try to mobilize people around the idea of avoiding apocalypse. This short piece for Occupied Times explores some of the weaknesses of this approach.

To anybody who has ever gone around Europe or North America giving talks or workshops on environmental politics, the scene will be familiar. At some stage a person sitting in the front row will stand up to wonder aloud what the point of the discussion is given that the world is going to hell so fast. A list of terrifying trends will then be laid out. At least three “planetary boundaries” out of nine have already been breached. Humanity now appropriates between 20 and 40 per cent of nature’s net primary production. The proportion of atmospheric carbon dioxide is now higher than it was 10 or 15 million years ago, when sea levels were 100 feet above current levels. If temperatures continue to rise and release even a small amount of the carbon still locked up in the soils and ocean bottoms of the Arctic, we’re fucked. If any doubt remains about whether apocalypse is really on the way, just look at all those crashed civilisations of the past (Easter Island and the Maya are regularly invoked) who also failed to pay attention to “ecological limits”.

The tone of the recital is that of a grim call to order. Those present have just not been registering the facts, and clearly the volume has to be turned up. Why sit around sharing experiences of financialisation, environmental racism, or the enclosure of commons when climate change is about to fry all of us? There’s no time for social transformation. Ruling elites have to be persuaded to act in their own interest now. So obvious is all this to the person in the front row that at this point they may just get up and leave – not so much in protest at the triviality of the proceedings nor out of conscious disrespect for the other participants as from a sense that now that the people present have been alerted to the situation, it’s time to take the message elsewhere.

In a meeting of the kind I describe, the front-row apocalyptician will probably get a respectful hearing. This is a person, after all, in possession of an impressive body of research and statistics – and who is more than justified in insisting that the status quo is untenable. Yet one or two things are likely, rightly, to raise a tremor of unease among those present.

One is the implicit dismissal of class politics. The apocalyptician’s reasoning is as follows. We’re talking about a catastrophe that could kill everybody and everything. Who could have an interest in bringing that on? No need now for the Marxist project of trying to understand how capital accumulation continually recreates human interest in destruction, because, ex hypothesi, no one could ever want destruction to that extent. Catastrophic climate change makes distinctions between hotel room cleaners and hedge fund managers irrelevant. “People” become the universal political subject. Climate politics moves out of the realm of, say, class struggle between workers in Chicago and the financiers of energy projects that pollute their neighbourhoods, or between indigenous bands in the Amazon and the oil companies despoiling their territories. Instead, it becomes – to quote the words of US climate movement guru Bill McKibben – a battle in which generic “human beings” collectively learn to submit to the Great Other of “physics and chemistry”.

For the apocalyptician, the spectre of universal catastrophe may look like a good way of rallying a middle class who may not directly suffer from the impact of fossil-fuelled globalisation. But for many listeners, to flatten out existing social conflict in this way feels disempowering. If the threat of global collapse is supposed to spur us all toward concerted action, why does it seem instead to paralyse the political imagination, spook ordinary people into putting their rebellious instincts on ice, and deaden discussion among different social movements about the lessons of their struggles? Why does it lead so easily to despair or indifference – or even to a sort of sado-masochistic or death-wishy pleasure in the pornography of doom? And why do the remedies proposed – “we need a crash programme to keep atmospheric concentrations of CO2 equivalent below 350 parts per million” – sound so parochial?

Indeed, instead of unifying political struggles, apocalyptic obsessions often seem to shrink transformative politics to the vanishing point. Slavoj Zizek has remarked that whereas it is precisely out of struggles against particular forms of oppression that “a properly universal dimension explodes … and is directly experienced as universal”, “post-political” campaigns against abstractions like “CO2” suffocate movement expansion because they close off possibilities for people to see their own strivings as a “metaphoric condensation” of global class struggles.

***

Yet isn’t the deeper problem with the appeal to apocalypse not that it is “apolitical”, but that it is all too political in a pernicious way? Not that it is “disempowering”, but that it is all too empowering of the technocratic and privileged classes?

Take climate apocalypse stories, which are currently reinforcing the old capitalist trick of splitting the world into discrete, undifferentiated monoliths called Society and Nature at precisely a time when cutting-edge work on the left – often taking its cue from indigenous peoples’, peasants’ and commoners’ movements – is moving to undermine this dualism. On the apocalyptic view, a fatally-unbalanced Nature is externalised into what Neil Smith called a “super-determinant of our social fate,” forcing a wholly separate Society to homogenise itself around elite managers and their technological and organisational fixes.

By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.Thus disaster movies – not to mention the disaster stories broadcast on the news every evening – are not produced just to feed our sneaking joy in mayhem. They also present narratives of technocratically-minded stars responding on our behalf to “external” threats in which they are portrayed as having played little part. Books like Collapse by Jared Diamond, meanwhile, replace complicated political stories of long-term survival, struggle, and creative renewal among civilisations like those of the Easter Islanders or the Maya with fables of apocalypse and extinction in which one non-European society after another supposedly wipes itself out through its rulers’ failure to “manage” the Menace from Nature. By “disappearing” entire peoples and their adaptations, this manoeuvre merely applies to the past the tendency of apocalypticism to hide the complexities of current conflicts involving imperialism, racism and capitalism.

The expert Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) follows the same procedure, avoiding collective inquiry into the ins and outs of capital accumulation in favour of a simplistic narrative pitting Society against a Nature consisting of greenhouse gas molecules. Except that unlike the apocalyptician visiting the activist meeting, who chooses to get up and leave after speaking, the IPCC is actually statutorily required to “present the global warming science” as if it contained a politics-free message from Nature itself, requiring no discussion, and then get up and walk out in order to allow the sanitised missive to sink into Society (a.k.a. the delegates to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

Although they can hardly be accused of drawing back from analysing the dynamics of capital, some flavour of this approach lingers on even among some thinkers on the left such as John Bellamy Foster and Naomi Klein, who, contemplating apocalypse, are tempted to fall back on creaking Cartesian slogans according to which not only does Capitalism act on a wholly separate Nature (“Capitalism’s War on the Earth”), but Nature itself somehow acquires that long-coveted ability to overthrow Capitalism (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate”).

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Apocalypse stories are always about rule. Every community, perhaps, recounts its own apocalypses, paired with its own ideals of elite or revolutionary response. St. John’s biblical apocalypse found its answer in God’s infinite love. In early capitalist England, the threatened apocalypse of rebellion on the part of an emerging, uprooted proletariat was countered by, among other things, a new discipline of abstract Newtonian time that promised to keep everyone in line. Marxist visions of capitalist  apocalypse are typically matched with projections of political redemption through revolution.   Southeast Asian millenarianists gambled on a moral cleansing of the worldly order, as do some  survivalists in the contemporary US, where doomsday religious rhetoric has often gone hand in hand
with rampant extractivism and free-market ideology.

The prototype modern apocalypse story is perhaps that of Malthus, with his 1798 vision of uncontrollably breeding hordes whose ravening after land would “sink the whole world in universal night”. Helping justify the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, Malthus’s tale also energised murderous 19th-century famine policies in British India, powered Garrett Hardin’s 20th-century polemics against commons and communism and serves as an unacknowledged foundation for countless World Bank economic reports and research projects in biology and “natural resource management”. Finding an echo in Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” apocalypse speech, it also haunts the immigration policies of UKIP and other British political parties.

Of equally enduring influence has been the slow-motion apocalypse prefigured by 19thcentury
thermodynamics: heat death, when capital can extract no more work from the universe, all the lights go out, and the machines rumble to a halt. While this particular catastrophe story has ceased to be the object of the obsessive brooding that it was among North Atlantic intellectual classes in the 1800s, it too remains active today, hovering ghostlike in the background of every post-Taylorian drive to sweat labour and other resources, as well as every energy-saving programme or excited politician’s appeal to the “white heat of technology” or “increased efficiency for national competitiveness”.

Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In the global warming debate as well, apocalypse has come to be invoked mainly to tell us what will happen if we don’t adopt innovative business practices. Al Gore’s famous documentary An Inconvenient Truth heightened viewers’ anxiety about global warming by enjoining them to think of themselves as frogs being slowly boiled alive, only to climax with a paean to capitalist competition and the “renewable resource” of US “political will”. In Carbon, an August 2014 climate campaign video from the Leonardo di Caprio Foundation, cartoons of a rampaging, Transformer-like “fossil fuel robot” without a human face stomping around the planet laying waste to all living things alternate with interviews with bland, besuited North American and European technocrats and  politicians drawling about carbon prices as the solution to all our climate problems. Which half of this composite vision is the more terrifying is, for me, an open question.

Justice Matters – Larry Lohmann

Published on Mar 13, 2015