Monday, November 19, 2012

Doing CO2 Math

By Gary Berg-Cross

The Do the Math Tour and Rally organized by blew into DC for a post-election  protest on Sunday Nov. 18, 2012. The Washington Post didn’t seem to cover it on a normal weather day.  The rally chanting "Forward to Clean Energy" included 3 thousand or so people and a symbolically inflated, plastic pipeline (for the Keystone pipeline that if approved would carry tar sans oil to a port).  The pipeline, lofted by protestors, was carried from Freedom plaza, across the ellipse and in front of the White House where the chants included "Hey Obama, we don't want no climate drama," and "Michelle Obama, tell your man, stop that dirty pipeline plan!." There people called on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all because it would open a vast new reservoir of carbon-based energy at a time when we need to be moving in the opposite direction - closing strip mines, offshore oil wells, and coal-fired power plants. This and other points were made by post-march speakers including Bill McKibben, Sierra Club President Allison Chin, Indigenous Environmental Network organizer Marty Cobenais, Gulf Coast activist Cherri Foytlin, and others.

The 21-city tour is yet another creative move from the mind and heart of environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben and worthy of note, so here are a few of the points it makes.

McKibben and his organization hopes the rallies and marches will ignite  groundswell of nationwide protest movement which in turn can be focused to pressure more traditional institutions to divest funds in the fossil-fuel industry and in the immediate stop the XL pipeline.

The challenge is great as past efforts since environmentalists and regular folk are:
“ up against the most profitable, powerful, and dangerous industry in history. But we have our own currency: creativity, courage and, if needed, our bodies." (McKibben quoted from his rally speeches)

Bill Clinton was able to make quite a point about arithmetic and things not adding up at the Democratice convention and environment Bill McKibben  used arithmetic to equal effect in Rolling Stone to discuss the  Global Warming's Terrifying New Math:

June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Now he adds year end stat that to this point 2012 has been the warmest year on record and points to a series of disasters (fires, floods, Sandy etc.) including “we melted the arctic this summer!” Former UN  Secretary General Kofi Annan has his own list:

 “Global warming is causing more than 300,000 deaths and about $125 billion in economic losses each year.”

What to do and where to start?  The big new statistics  concerns CO2, fossil fuel use and what it will do to the climate:

Rally at Freedom Plaza
Rally Stage
There's more fossil fuels (nearly 2,230 gigatons more) that corporations want consumers to buy and burn than climate scientists says is safe to do if people want to live on a planet the climate-wise resembles the one we live on now.  Even the most conservative governments in the world, he argues, have agreed that global warming should be limited to no more than 2°C. And climate scientists say to meet that target we can only emit an additional 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2)  into the atmosphere. But how much fossil fuel is in the ground? The fossil fuel industry itself says there is about enough reserves of fuel to produce  2795 gigatonnes of CO2. It’s simple math.  There is about  nearly five times what will produce a dire atmosphere.  Do we have the wisdom and confidence to leave some 4/5ths of the reserves where it is?  The fuel industry & funded  friends have a business model that externalizes damages.  They want to burn it all as spend their profits looking for more. As Bill says, our grandchildren  looking back 50 or more from now won’t be asking what we thought of the fiscal slope or sex scandals.  They will be asking about our moral wisdom. They will want to know what were thinking, doing and planning when the climate was changing around us.

Oh,  and with this in mind there will be another rally in February on President's day weekend.  This will be organized by front-line groups like the Sierra Club, the oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with 755,000 members, who will be driving the nation-wide efforts as a way of keeping pressure on Big Oil. is building a global movement to solve the climate crisis. You can connect with them on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for email alerts.  


Bill McKibben speaking at NTC rally:

DC rally: picture taken by Gary Berg-Cross


Edd.Doerr said...

Excellent. Dealing with climate change should get top priority. But we cannot solve the climate change host of problems without also dealing with the overpopulation problem, the mess well illustrated by the "hockey stick" visual. Humanists like Julian Huxley and the Ehrlichs were calling attention to this 50-60 years ago. I have been writing about it for as long. It is fundamentalist (Protestant Vatican, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon) that has been blocking all serious efforts to rein in population growth. Now is the time to push the Obama administration to take action. Beef up the UN Population Fund. Publicize the 1975 Nixon-Ford (!) MSSN 200 report on overpopulation. Etc. -- Edd Doerr (

Gary Berg-Cross said...

In the absence of aggressive government policies aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions, a number of leading organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank and others, have begun issuing analyses that regard potentially dangerous temperature elevations as not just a possibility should the status quo prevail, but a near certainty even if things start to change.

The latest report, released Wednesday by the United Nations Environment Program, suggested that greenhouse gas emissions levels are currently around 14 percent above where they need to be by the end of the decade in order to avoid what many analysts believe could be a risky level of planetary warming.