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The End of the World: 2028, Says Bill McKibben

BillMcKibben-111412Echoing Bill Clinton’s famous “It’s arithmetic” speech during the election campaign, environmental activist Bill McKibben is saying: “Just do the math.”

On a lecture tour around the country, McKibben says that unless we take action right now, we’re looking at global catastrophe in the year 2028. Here’s how it works:

Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that a global temperature rise of 2°C would have “catastrophic” consequences for the future of humanity – not to mention all the other animals. For temperatures to rise this high, the world will need to release 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Right now, fossil fuel companies have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their fuel reserves. Their business model depends on that fuel being sold and burned. And at current rates of consumption, the world will have burned up the 565 gigatons in 16 years. That means we’re out of options in 2028.

That’s why McKibben is going after the fossil fuel industry. And he calls his campaign simply “Do the Math.”

“Just like with divestment movement in South Africa over apartheid, we need to eliminate the oil companies veneer of respectability.”The oil companies don’t simply have huge financial power  (annual profits total $137 billion), they have enormous political power, which enables them not simply to fund climate change denial institutes and political candidates, but also to effectively write the laws that govern oil drilling and use.

On the other side of the equation, McKibben says, three out of four Americans now believes that the climate is changing and two out of three say the situation is dangerous. So McKibben is treating his lecture tour like a political campaign, partnering with local environmental groups and promoting them at his talks.

One thing he’s asking everyone to do is to stop investing in fossil fuel companies. “We’re asking that people who believe in the problem of climate change to stop profiting from it. Just like with divestment movement in South Africa over apartheid, we need to eliminate the oil companies veneer of respectability.”

Next stop on McKibben’s tour is Washington D.C. this Sunday, November 18th, where he’s holding a mass rally to protest the Keystone Pipeline that would bring oil from the infamous tar sands of the northern plain states and Canada all the way to New Orleans.

“We can no longer just assume that President Obama is going to do everything he promised during his campaign,” he told supporters. “We need to push him.”