I wanted to share some thoughts that have been coalescing based on some recent articles that I’ve read.
What’s going on with the companies that we’re targeting?
A lot of divestment and climate movement work is predicated on the fact that we can weaken the influence of the fossil fuel industry–over our communities, our political system, and our future. Can we achieve this goal? There are two recent pieces of news that signal possible (keyword possible) traction. The first is big news that Exxon plans to disclose its carbon asset risk thanks to the work of a shareholder advocacy organization called As You Sow. This makes Exxon the first oil and gas producer to quantify the risk associated with climate change. So if a company acknowledges its risks, then does it have to take action to mitigate those risks? That would be the logical conclusion. But it still remains to be seen how Exxon will calculate its risk and if it will take any action after that.
Another development is that Shell acknowledged that climate policy will affect their profits. They see the ‘need to explore “economically viable” and “publicly acceptable” ways to reduce its carbon emissions.’ This news proves that the threat of the carbon bubble is very real and can have tangible impacts. And maybe it’s enough to push for fundamental change in business models.
How about the politicians?
Climate activists are also banking on the fact that politicians will wake up and take notice of a growing climate movement, stand up the fossil fuel industry, and start to push for serious climate legislation. Well, Hillary Clinton recently said that young people get the threat of climate change, and she called for a ‘mass movement’ to push for political climate action. Did the recent rapid growth of the climate movement lead her to say that publicly? Maybe so.
And 30 Senators recently stayed up all night to bring attention to climate change and try to rally political support. Why did Senators suddenly decide to stay up all night? Perhaps they were inspired by the rising student climate movement, the foundations, religious institutions, and thousands of individuals who are divesting. It could have been huge recent protests against Keystone XL. It’s impossible to draw causal links, but I’d like to think that the movement is finally getting the attention of the political system.
A recent Huffington Post poll reveals that many people think that climate change is serious–but that the consequences will kick-in after their lifetimes. Only 54% of Americans think that we’re already seeing the effects of climate change. There’s still a lot of ground to cover when it comes to building a truly broad-based, informed, and inclusive climate movement. But this is a task that people are confronting head-on, and I believe that we’ll get where we need to go.