Published on August 6th, 2012 | by danapointer0
Simple Math of Climate Change
2 — 565 — 2,795
Those three numbers are a simple measure of our future on this planet, according to author Bill McKibben. In a recent article published in Rolling Stone magazine, McKibben spells out some simple math of global climate change.
Given that so-called “climate change deniers” have been either roundly discredited or abandoned those denials themselves at this point, the global discussion of climate change has both lost urgency on the one hand, and grown more clearly dire on the other hand–at the same time.
As a long-time environmentalist and advocate, McKibben seeks to reinvigorate the world’s commitment to take immediate, meaningful steps to avoid catastrophic changes in our global ecosystem. That process boils down to these three numbers: 2 — 565 — 2,795.
FIRST NUMBER: 2
The official position of planet Earth at the moment is that we can’t raise the temperature more than two degrees Celsius – it’s become the bottomest of bottom lines. Two degrees.
— Bill McKibben
Years of rigorous scientific research and international consensus building have concluded that a 2-degree-Celsius rise in the earth’s temperature will push our ecosystem over a brink into “long-term disaster.” Actually, the data show that 2 degrees is clearly far too much of a rise, but international political expediency has drowned out that data and endorsed this number: 2.
SECOND NUMBER: 565
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.
— Bill McKibben
Decades — yes, DECADES — of data collection, research and the most sophisticated computer modeling, refined over those decades, have generated this upper limit of 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the overall atmosphere. So, that’s our planet’s budget. No fancy derivates or refinancing can increase that budget. It’s a physical reality. Anything over that amount is a crime against humanity. Plain and simple.
Okay, so how are we doing on our budget?
THIRD NUMBER: 2,795
2,795. it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.
— Bill McKibben
That’s how much carbon dioxide is sitting in inventory, headed to market. Some of it is still in the ground, but this number only includes the fuel that energy companies around the globe have already borrowed against as hard assets. So, we have a 5:1 deficit, and yet, the urgency surrounding this issue has waned to a whimper in our general consciousness.
Yes, the global financial system has made massive investments in energy companies against those fuel reserves; so if the globe wants to get paid for its investment, we’ll have to agree to destroy humankind’s ability to survive on the planet 5 times over. If that isn’t the very definition of a financial bubble, what is?
There you have it: our fundamental imbalance on this third rock from the sun. The three-legged stool of sustainability is impossibly cockeyed. One leg is 2-inches, one is 565 inches, and the third is 2,795 inches.