Will Fossil Fuel Divestment Work Fast Enough to Save Us All?

mining aus

cartoon from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Des Pensable copyright 2014.

Last weekend in Australia was the first of a proposed series of Fossil Fuel Divestment days. The idea is to popularize the concept of people helping to fight Global Warming by moving their savings from  banks and superannuation funds that invest in developing new fossil fuel projects such as coal and coal seam gas mines to banks and superannuation funds that avoid investing in fossil fuel projects.

The rationale is that if enough people move their funds then it will have a three-fold effect. Firstly it will make people aware that their savings are at significant risk of being devalued by a sudden crash of the market in fossil fuels (a carbon bubble). Secondly it will signal to the fund managers in banks and superfunds to more carefully examine the RISKS of Global Warming to the planet on their investment portfolios and finally it will reduce the amount of finance available for new fossil fuel projects. In short, if we dry up the funding for fossil fuel projects, the projects will stop.

The Divestment day was successful as judged by the interest it has created in the mass media. Divestment has been widely criticised by Australia’s Global Warming denier government ministers and the Mining and Energy lobby through the media as bad for Australia’s fossil fuel industry. Regardless of this hundreds perhaps thousands of people and some significant organisations including religious organisations and the Australian National University announced they were divesting. On the positive side it’s started off a new fossil free investment industry.

The concept of divestment in fossil fuels is quite recent and has been developed as a key strategy to stimulate Global Warming mitigation by US scientist Bill McKibben worried about the inaction by the western world’s government leaders. He argued when you look at the maths we have to keep 80% of all the known available fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to keep the world average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (2C) above the last century’s average. Others believe we have to keep it all in the ground.

The 2C was the limit set by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who have stated that all the evidence predicts that if we go above this limit then the world will likely face seriously damaging consequences which include a high sea level rise; increase in the frequency and severity of storms; increase in droughts and floods; more frequent and severe bush fires; reduction of food supplies; an increase in environmental refugees; increased international conflict and mass extinction of many plant and animal species.

The evidence also concluded that if we allow the temperature to rise more than 4 degrees C then it could well usher in the end of human civilisation. Most of the world governments including Australia have AGREED with the IPCC’s findings and have signed a declaration to help stop the temperature rising above 2C but the progress towards meeting this goal especially by the main fossil fuel polluter countries has been incredibly slow. So slow in fact that unless things change DRASTICALLY almost IMMEDIATELY we will have a 4 to 6C temperature rise by the end of THIS century and quite possibly a 3C rise by 2050.

You might well ask if the world is flirting with doom why aren’t our leaders doing what they are paid to do. If you ask that question you have totally missed the point that evolution tried hard to instil in all its creations. Bill McKibben is a biological scientist and understood that individuals survive because THEY ACT. They don’t sit around waiting for others to act first. If you want to survive then YOU will need to act yourself.

He also understood that a large proportion of the US public are conservative people who not only don’t know or refuse to accept that their own survival is at stake but also won’t know how to save themselves. They rely on power figures like government or religious leaders through a mind controlling corporate media to tell them how and when to act or react. The situation is little different in Australia with our Murdoch controlled press. Divestment is a safe option for them.

If they are worried that Global Warming might be true then moving their savings from one bank or super fund to another is EASY, it reduces the RISK of financial loss and makes them feel that they have done something positive to solve the greatest crisis our planet has faced in the entire history of humanity. A crisis that we have created and could fix if we can find political leaders not owned by the fossil fuel energy industry that have the guts to do so.

So will divestment of your bank and superannuation investments save the world? Probably not but it will help focus attention on the problem, reduce your risk exposure from a carbon bubble calamity and act as a salve to your conscience, assuming that you have one. I read an article by a professor of international relations this week who stated quite blandly “We are under no obligation to leave this world a better place than we found it.” I found that appalling! The real question is “Do we have an obligation to stop those who wish to mindlessly destroy it?” and the answer to that is YES!

If you want to see humanity and the rich biodiversity of life that we all take for granted SURVIVE this century. If you want air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat you had better become an ACTIVIST and fight for YOUR loved ones’ survival. If you wait for others to do it for you…. you and your loved ones will probably not make it.

Thousands of ordinary everyday Aussies from all walks of life from all age groups around Australia are becoming activists – they are the new Aussie HEROES. They are fighting against Coal Seam Gas mining and the development of 91 new coal mines in Australia. They are fighting to save the Great Barrier Reef; they are fighting to get rid of our current Global Warming denier government criticised by even our closest allies.

Join them and help Australia do the right thing which is to keep most of our fossil fuels in the ground and move to a renewable clean energy future THEN help plan how to transform our whole society to one which is more sustaining and caring about our land and future.

If you liked this article you can read more on my Des Pensable web site.

You might also like :

Information on moving your bank or superfund saving.

An excellent slide show on divestment to show others.

10 myths about Fossil Fuel divestment.

Keep it in the Ground Campaign

Top Ten Best Divestment Stunts (2015)

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Des Pensable

Des is a native of Sydney where he currently lives with his partner Joanne. He has a PhD in neuroscience and worked as a biomedical scientist where he published widely in several areas of science. Since retiring, he’s been a keen writer of poetry, stories and philosophy which appear on his web, blog site and on line literary publications. He is also a performance poet that appears regularly in venues around Sydney.

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