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2013 Forum

The Math of Climate Change and Fossil Fuels

Last year 350.org held “Do the Math” rallies in 21 cities across the U.S to persuade the fossil fuel industry to leave most of their fossil fuel reserves in the ground so we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change. According to 350.org, the math is simple:

“...we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2C of warming - anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the safe amount. Fossil fuel companies are planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them.”

To that end, 350.org and others are advocating for a large-scale divestment campaign, modeled on the anti-apartheid campaign of the 1980s, to hit the fossil fuel industry where it hurts – in the pocket book. The campaign targets the 200 companies that own the vast majority of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves, which totals five times more carbon than can be emitted and still keep warming below 2C, a limit that nearly every country on Earth, including the United States, has agreed to meet.

Since the Do the Math Tour concluded, numerous divestment campaigns have arisen in the U.S. and around the world. They started last Fall at a few colleges and universities and have now spread to over 300 campuses across the country. At least ten cities, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Ithaca have committed to divest, and petitions are moving forward in 100 other cities and states across the country, according to 350.org. Regrettably, many environmental groups do not have divestment policies in place. Fortunately the Sierra Club does. According to Executive Director Michael Brune, the Sierra Club “has a policy of not investing in nor accepting donations from companies that profit from the extraction of natural resources, including mining, timber, oil, coal and gas.”

In addition to damage from climate change, there is also an economic argument for divesting from fossil fuels, even though many argue the contrary. According to a new report by HSBC, if countries agree to meet the 2C target increase and keep 75- 80% of their reserves in the ground, the write off of the value of those reserves could cause a market loss of up to 60% for companies like BP, Shell, and Chevron. This is referred to as the “carbon bubble.” Fossil fuel reserves will either be left in the ground, causing monumental market losses devastating to the economy, or will be burned and will exacerbate climate change. Either way, there will be pain. Consequently, some argue that divestment can in fact blunt the impacts to the economy when the carbon bubble bursts while simultaneously addressing climate change. That is, divesting now will lower the value of fossil fuel investments, so that if and when the carbon bubble bursts (when the industry is prohibited from extracting reserves), the damage to the economy will be minimized.

With carbon content in the atmosphere now surpassing the critical milestone of 400 ppm, the issue of divestment is especially timely. The Sierra Club is co-sponsoring a showing of a documentary about 350.org’s “Do the Math” movement which is not to be missed.

 "Do the Math | The Movie" The “Do the Math”  

Sunday, June 30th at 7:30PM at the First Unitarian Church, 220 S. Winton Rd. Rochester, NY 14610

Very important movie and panel discussion on Climate Change locally.  "Do the Math | The Movie" The “Do the Math” documentary is a 42-minute film about the rising of the movement in the United States to change the terrifying math of the climate crisis and challenge the fossil fuel industry. 

You’ll come away inspired to act! Sunday, June 30th at 7:30PM at the First Unitarian Church, 220 S. Winton Rd. Rochester, NY 14610 Additional Details:

See Bill McKibben at this best.  Panel discussion follows the movie.  Free and open to the public.  More Info at 350.org/math