If this Rolling Stone article doesn’t scare you, nothing will

As I have written in earlier posts, I strongly believe that the only way to compel the fossil fuel industry to stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere is to criminalize their activities.Attempts to introduce renewable energies into the market, to scrub the air of CO2 and bring down temperatures, to create complex economic trading mechanisms which amount to petty shell games to trade and bargain away this or that bit of a carbon credit, etc., are futile and frankly laughable efforts in the face of the fossil fuel industry whose rabid pursuit of higher profit margins and increasingly risky extraction methods and who are shielded from scrutiny by policymakers in the United States and abroad negate any cumulative benefits.

Bill McKibben of 350.org wrote an article (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719) which appeared in a 2012 Rolling Stone issue. It is an entirely accessible version of the science and makes a very compelling case. He boils down the numbers and the results should be terrifying to anyone who realizes their implications. However, the situation is actually far more dire than even he explains. Much of the warming in the atmosphere is already stuck there and is being “masked” by other feedback loops.

Indeed, the more cities around the world who decrease air pollution, the more the actual warming is unmasked. There is a different report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which explains this in a very technical and yet approachable manner. If you sit down with it in a quiet place and really dig into it, well, let’s just say you may not sleep well tonight. And before you say, “But, I’m not a scientist,” please let me tell you that I’m not a scientist either, but I understood it (and, on a side note, do you really want to be like Mitch McConnell  who seems proud of his stupidity?). And it is truly worth the effort. Here is the more in-depth explanation, which appeared in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:” http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14245.full.pdf+html

Read them BOTH and you are going to be charged WAY UP to demand change!


  1. Economic disaster or not … it really doesn’t matter if you can’t breathe or don’t have clean water & food.


  2. Hi, I have just written a new post on Bill Mckibben’s decision to step down as chair of 350.org. Have mentioned about the rolling stone article in it as well. Would be great to have feedback from someone like you who has been following this issue closely.


  3. Please note the part in the excellent McKibben article about what the loss of all those in-the-ground fossil fuel assets would have on the economy. IIRC — its been a few years since I’ve read that article last — we are talking about vaporizing some $30B to $40B in rapid order. That would probably devastate the global economy for two or three generations.

    I agree that we need to do something about climate change and eliminating the use of fossil fuels is critical. But we also need to keep the economic consequences in mind when we do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Edward, reckless, unregulated and unfettered capitalism cost the global economy something like $34.4 trillion dollars in 2008 (http://www.rooseveltinstitute.org/new-roosevelt/crisis-wealth-destruction). Has substantive reform come out of THAT mess? No. Having done some light research into the shenanigans at the Fed, I can tell you with near certainty that their relationship to those who they are supposed to be watching, reining in and regulating is upside down, unhealthy and not protecting the US citizenry from future meltdowns. Frankly, $30 billion in “stranded assets” doesn’t even make me blink. And I think that if the fossil fuel industry was forced to “keep it in the ground,” that number would actually be in the trillions. I am left to shrug and just hope that they choke to death on their tears.

      I have NO pity on any of them and as a matter of fact, the ONLY concern I have about them losing any of their money is that we, the people, will not drain their accounts sufficiently before that imminent moment does indeed come, and make them pay for the utter destruction they have inflicted on this planet and all the innocent life forms that have no voice to use in their own defense. Edward, I have learned so much these past few years while trying to figure out a) how we got ourselves into this mess, and b) why we can’t crawl out of it. I have had so many long-held beliefs pulverized into dust, and I’m honestly proud to say that. I had to open myself up to uncomfortable truths and come to grips with a reality I had only heard whispered about before this journey began. I will do literally anything, appeal to ANY form of justice I can grab on to, and take no prisoners to make a difference in this fight, if for no other reason than we humans simply must survive long enough to fix this beautiful, precious jewel we are lucky enough to have been alive on.

      P.S. I miss the Hitch, too.


      • I erred in my original comment; referring to billions when I meant trillions. Here is the relevant paragraph from the Rolling Stone article:

        “If you told Exxon or Lukoil that, in order to avoid wrecking the climate, they couldn’t pump out their reserves, the value of their companies would plummet. John Fullerton, a former managing director at JP Morgan who now runs the Capital Institute, calculates that at today’s market value, those 2,795 gigatons of carbon emissions are worth about $27 trillion. Which is to say, if you paid attention to the scientists and kept 80 percent of it underground, you’d be writing off $20 trillion in assets. The numbers aren’t exact, of course, but that carbon bubble makes the housing bubble look small by comparison. It won’t necessarily burst – we might well burn all that carbon, in which case investors will do fine. But if we do, the planet will crater. You can have a healthy fossil-fuel balance sheet, or a relatively healthy planet – but now that we know the numbers, it looks like you can’t have both.”


        • Edward, yes, of course, I understand the billions vs. trillions mix up.

          It is such an enormous, unimaginable sum of money to not “go after,” but that is precisely why the ante must, indeed, be “upped.” As we both know, they have a fiduciary duty to drill until there is nothing left to scrape up. That’s one side of the “scale.” The countermeasure is the fate of the entire planet, from the bottom of the (acidifying) ocean to the tallest mountain peak, where life somehow thrives. What does this end up meaning? It’s war. If only people would wake up and realize how much power they have, right at their fingertips. I’m very scared that when they do realize that, it will be too late.


          • The issue that I have here is that, when viewed through the lens of history, it is rather easy to see that climate change is just one of a handful of factors coming towards us in the next decade or two that could (and probably will) destroy our civilization. [Which, at this point (due to the magnitude and extent of our “empire”; by far the largest and most powerful in history), also amounts to the destruction of our species (and most others along with us, to boot).]

            Economic collapse and governmental inertia are just as dangerous and will likely combine with each other and climate change to spiral down into a “perfect storm” situation. Add to that mix disruptive technologies, and we have the “four horsemen” of societal collapse that is typical to most fallen empires since the Old Kingdom of Egypt over four millennia ago.

            Capitalism is (or, more accurately, “was”, as its time as the dominant socio-economic paradigm is now probably over) an immensely powerful tool for human development. But it is a blade comes with two edges. While it has undoubtedly led to better lives for most of the citizens that live under it (when compared to alternatives), and is the primary foundation for the exponential growth of population levels for our profoundly successful species, it has lead to the poisoning of the planet. What’s more, it contains within it — as Marx pointed out — the seeds of its own destruction… and ours.

            But it also possible that capitalism is merely the vehicle that we opted for in order to reach a destination that was inevitable from the moment we learned to control fire. It is, after all, the accumulated amount of atmospheric carbon from all the fires we have lit over that past 100,000 years or so that have led us to this climatological point.

            So: what good does it do to save the planet from the fires that cause climate change if we destroy the economy as well? And what chance is there of even having an option regarding that if we can’t reform the government by which we collectively make these decisions? Finally, what use is it to try to repair (or replace) our economic system, our means of governance and our environmental impact if we don’t (or, more likely, *can’t*) stop the rate at which disruptive technologies are making a mockery of all our attempts to address them?


              • “…I have to try to make this world a better place.”

                At a certain point, one needs to decide whether it is worth it to continue to investing in repairs to the old jalopy, or to just bite the bullet and buy a new car. We are at that point now.

                The Earth is an egg that has been gestating for four billion years, and the single organism that is about to emerge from it is the unified human race. Each of us is a single cell in this new creature, and it is a creature that is rapidly evolving; far, far beyond the time-scale of Darwinian natural selection.

                Its time to move out into the cosmos, and that is the project upon which we should be focusing all of our energies. We can’t fix this thing. Its just too late, and considering the fact that we haven’t even started yet makes all the more worse.

                There is also the added benefit of having something larger than ourselves to contribute to. This is an aspect of life many of us need these days.

                Liked by 1 person

  4. REMEMEBER that we cannot expect to reduce fossil fuels OR any other limited resource abuse without reducing OUR numbers humanely of course.. What is it going to take to look seriously at overpopulation and its ramifications??


      • There is a really interesting organisation called Population Matters, endorsed by people like David Attenborough, talks about educating woman and make contraception more readily available are all humane ways of reducing population. I also read a while back that India was offering consumer electronics to young people to get sterilised… Not sure how effective that has been though


  5. Marian – it should be okay to just hit the “share” button at the bottom that says, “Facebook.” I was able to do it from my phone and from my kids’ computers (?). I have also just put it on my Facebook page. Please let me know if there is still a problem sharing. You can always go to the post above, and then copy and paste the URL in your browser.

    Aren’t those articles show stoppers? Very important and haunting.


  6. Schatzie I read both the National Academy of Science paper, and the Rolling Stone article. I tried to share on facebook, didn’t work, so I’ll try again. It absolutely blew me away. I’m going to get everyone I know to read these two items. I’ve known for a long time what we’re facing, but this really spells out MANY more aspects. It is CRUCIAL that more and more people be aware of what humankind is facing.


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