The Companies, The Politicians, and The People

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.

Public Opinion

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.

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2 Comments

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  1. Bill Moyers obsession with the corrupting influence of unlimited money in politics which I’ve followed his Journal for a long time has me convinced that the way our elections and campaigns are money-driven, there is almost no chance that the necessary actions to address climate change are gonna happen with either major political party. Maybe, just maybe if Al Gore had won two terms, there could have been some substantial progress made, but even that is doubtful with the intransigence he would have faced. And to say our citizenry is addicted to oil is like almost an understatement. I think it speaks volumes when they have like those lists of ‘most important issues’ to voters in an election season, and climate change is always near the bottom, which I find so strange to say the least, when it is the most important issue of the future. Modern people have very short attention spans and time horizons that they focus on, and poverty and economic struggling contributes to this ‘just living check to check’ mentality, and it’s understandable. People equate a shift away from carbon with higher personal expenses, and so subconsciously perhaps, preserve the status quo, even if on an intellectual level, they totally get the risks and dangers of runaway climate change. I get annoyed when there is yet another ‘record-breaking’ weather event, and weather folks on t.v. always carefully point out some variation of ‘although we can’t connect any one weather event to climate change….’, it’s irresponsible and innacurate, and the phrase seems to assuage the viewers’ fears that it was from climate change. It seems like the best hope is to localize and individualize the efforts. For example, imagine hypothetically, if everyone didn’t buy any fossil fuel products for a day, how much it would cost the fossil fuel companies. Nobody needs the government’s help to do a simple act like this. I think people get so accustomed to just shelling out, pun intended, 70 bucks, every week or two,just to drive their car, that they forget that maybe there are ways to reduce that, and really, it could improve their quality of life if done correctly and take that profit away from an evil industry and keep it in their own pocket or to a more responsible, moral business.

  2. Did H. Clinton give any indication of her opinion of Keystone back when she was Sec. of State and it was under her authority? That’d be more telling to me than whatever she would have to say in a run-up to any election, I read that so far recently she’s just dodged the question, which isn’t exactly reassuring or convincing anyways.

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