These posts are intended to share information and ideas about climate change and hence act as a roundtable. Again, I do not want to spend time in comments rehashing whether human activity causes climate change.
This edition picks up the theme of activism mentioned in Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality.
1. Blue sky
After the last election some friends of my younger brother, feeling blue, decided to turn blue into an optimistic colour, and invented the Blue Sky movement. To join all you have to do is ‘like’ the Facebook site put something blue on your front footpath visible from the road, take a photo and post it on the site. Yes, and take the Blue Sky Pledge, which includes reducing your own emissions, displaying blue for 12 months, and encouraging others to join.
Here’s one example:
I notice that people have been using the site to share links.
If you click on “Community” or “About” at the head of the Blue Sky FB page and then click “more” you’ll get the full Blue Sky spiel.
2. Go Getup!
Ben Eltham thinks GetUp! is currently Tony Abbott’s most dangerous opponent.
The figures from the rallies of 17 November were impressive. Some 60,000 people (25,000 in Melbourne) attended rallies around the country. There was good coverage on the evening TV news, impressive regional reach and scattered coverage elsewhere. However it is Getup!’s digital and social networking capacity that impresses, including half a million subcribers on the email list’
As you’d expect from a GetUp! event, its social media presence has been much larger than any traditional media footprint. According to figures provided by GetUp!, the Facebook page for the event saw 163,000 invites and 1.3 million impressions by more than half a million people. The day of the rally on November 17 saw seven million impressions on @getup posts made about the events on Twitter; 384,000 people liked, commented or shared the single photo of the Melbourne crowd on Facebook.
Eltham sees climate policy as “the central battleground of 21st century politics” and
A widespread community movement that mobilises around climate change therefore represents the best chance of limiting the Abbott government to a single term.
3. Figueres gives the coal industry both barrels
Leave coal in the ground and remake yourselves as a renewable energy industry, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told the international coal industry summit in Warsaw. The coal industry thought she would legitimise their use of new technology. She didn’t and was supported by a group of 27 international scientists from the US, Germany, Japan, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, who said that nearly 75% of the world’s coal reserves had to be left in the ground if global warming was to be limited to a 2C rise.
Along the way she warned them about the continued public acceptability of what they were doing.
4. Why the divestment movement against big energy matters
Speaking of public acceptability, Todd Gitlin, Professor of Journalism and Sociology at Columbia University, talks of growing activism in the US tertiary education sector. Some 400 divestment campaigns are currently underway at American colleges and universities. These campaigns have in turn established a national network. The campaign seems to aim at changing social norms so that for universities (Harvard for example has $32.7 billion in endowment funds), pension funds, religious groups and large charitable foundations investing in fossil fuel companies becomes ethically unacceptable.
Heather Long disagrees, suggesting that divested stock will simply be snapped up by others. Better to become an active investor and stir up trouble within.
Gitlin sees power in the informal network. The sums of money involved are too small to matter. It’s the noise the activists make that counts. The fossil fuel sector is very concentrated. Perhaps the top 200 who sank $674 billion into acquiring and developing new energy reserves in 2012 will start to worry whether what they are investing in will become stranded assets.
5. Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions
Between them, the 90 companies on the list of top emitters produced 63% of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1751 to 2010, amounting to about 914 gigatonne CO2 emissions, according to the research. All but seven of the 90 were energy companies producing oil, gas and coal. The remaining seven were cement manufacturers.
The list of 90 companies included 50 investor-owned firms – mainly oil companies with widely recognised names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP , and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton.
Some 31 of the companies that made the list were state-owned companies such as Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Gazprom and Norway’s Statoil.
Nine were government run industries, producing mainly coal in countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland, the host of this week’s talks.
There’s an interactive chart here.
6. Go fossil free
Fossil Free Australia are urging individuals as well as institutions to move money out of fossil fuels and into clean energy.
Led by 350.org Australia, we work in partnership with the Australian Student Environment Network to campaign for fossil fuel divestment from universities, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change to encourage faith-based divestment, The Vital Few to encourage super funds to invest more in the low-carbon economy and Market Forces to pressure our “Big 4” banks to stop funding destructive fossil fuel projects.
When big banks start to worry about stranded assets we might be getting somewhere.
There is also an international Fossil Free.
The disinvestment campaign in Australia was boosted by Bill McKibbin’s Do the Math tour. Doug Evans sees disinvestment as perhaps our last hope, having elected a climate denialist government and given a fossil fuel tycoon the balance of power in the senate.
For Bill McKibbin, now swinging through Europe, the maths are simple. The carbon budget approach demands that we emit no more than 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the future. Fossil fuel companies have reserves of 3000 gigatons. So according to my calculator we should mine no more than 18.8%.
An Oxford study found this divestment campaign the fastest growing ever.
It’s about stigmatisation and withdrawing the social licence. There’s hope yet!
7. The China excuse
350.org say the bottom line is we can’t use China as an excuse for climate inaction. We have our own ethical responsibility. Nevertheless China is doing a fair bit.
China has a goal of reducing its power generation from coal to below 65% by 2017, as well as getting wind and solar production up to 13% of the total energy pie. This is far from all that China can be doing to mitigate its climate impact, and we still need to encourage China to shift away from dangerous alternatives like Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) and nuclear, but these are steps in the right direction.
China is currently piloting carbon trading markets as a potential precursor to a carbon tax. You read right: China is considering a national carbon tax. This would be a significant step toward the world’s largest emitter curbing its climate change pollution.
I understand China has large reserves of shale gas, but it may not be as accessible as it is in the US.
8. On target for 15% emissions cut
Research by the Climate Institute finds that emissions cuts of 11 to 19% will be achieved if the current laws are not changed.
Under the current laws, emissions trading commences in July 2015. Unless parliament sets levels for the cap part of cap and trade by May 2014, automatic caps are provided under the legislation. These will yield 11 to 19% cuts by 2020. The variance comes from emissions created by industries and companies not covered by the legislation.