- About Us
- Community Guidelines

Advertising on BOR
- Advertise on BOR


We're Counting On You.

Burnt Orange Report is redeveloping our website for the first time in almost a decade.

We're counting on your support to continue providing you free and frequent coverage of progressive issues that matter to Texans.

Help us build a website that is as great as the content we publish on it.

Bill McKibben's Global Warming Math Will Scare The Daylights Out Of You

by: Adam Schwitters

Fri Jul 20, 2012 at 09:00 AM CDT

Bill McKibben, noted climate change activist and director of 350.org has responded to the recent spate of abnormal weather with an alarming article in Rolling Stone which he calls, “the most important thing [he’s] written in many years.”  Though it is long, it is well worth the read, even if its terrifying.

In it, McKibben reduces what we know about climate change into three basic numbers.  In a post on Daily Kos, he explains them:

 1) 2 degrees C–that’s what the world’s nations (even oil states) have agreed is the most we can possibly let temps rise. It’s actually too high–but it is the one thing about climate change that the world has agreed on

2) 565 gigatons co2–that’s roughly how much more carbon we can pour into the atmosphere between now and 2050 and have a reasonable chance of staying below 2 degrees. It’s not much–we burn about 30 gigatons a year, and growing, so at current rates would go by in 16 years

3) 2795 gigatons co2. This is the really scary number. It’s how much carbon the fossil fuel industry (and the countries that operate like fossil fuel companies) have already in their reserves. The stuff that props up their share price, lets them borrow money. The stuff they’re committed to burning.

What that means is: we now know for certain that the stated business plans of this industry will wreck the planet. It’s not even close–they’re planning to burn 5 x the carbon that any sane scientist sets as the absolute upper limit.

So stopping them doesn’t mean gradual shifts in trajectory. It means taking on this industry with at least as much vigor as we took on companies that did business with apartheid South Africa.

McKibben believes that the only way to slow down climate change, a process which could upend untold ways of life we take for granted (i.e. flowering plants like corn, wheat, and rice), is to mount a massive campaign of boycotts and public action in the vein of anti-apartheid protests in the 1980’s and early ‘90’s.  

 The three numbers I’ve described are daunting - they may define an essentially impossible future. But at least they provide intellectual clarity about the greatest challenge humans have ever faced. We know how much we can burn, and we know who’s planning to burn more. Climate change operates on a geological scale and time frame, but it’s not an impersonal force of nature; the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.


Copyright Burnt Orange Report, all rights reserved.
Do not republish without express written permission.

Tags: (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

Amazon Referrals
Buying Back-to-School Books?

Use BOR's Amazon Referral and we'll receive a share of your purchase, at no cost to you!

Click here to shop.

Connect With BOR

2014 Texas Elections
Follow BOR for who's in, who's out, and who's up.

Candidate Tracker:
-- Statewide Races
-- Congressional Races
-- State Senate Races
-- State Rep. Races
-- SBOE Races
-- Austin City Council

Click here for all 2014 Elections coverage


Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Texas Blue Pages

Texas Blue Pages
A career network for progressives.


Shared On Facebook

Burnt Orange Reporters
Editor and Publisher:
Katherine Haenschen

Senior Staff Writers:
Genevieve Cato
Joe Deshotel
Ben Sherman

Staff Writers:
Omar Araiza
Emily Cadik
Phillip Martin
Natalie San Luis
Katie Singh
Joseph Vogas

Byron LaMasters

Blogger Emeritus:
Karl-Thomas Musselman

Read staff bios here.

Traffic Ratings
- Alexa Rating
- Quantcast Ratings

Powered by: SoapBlox