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Bill McKibben Saves the Planet Thru Fossil Fuel Divestment (and 350.org)

Bill McKibben told a sold-out show of 1,000 at UCLA that "we can only burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more risks catastrophe for life on earth."

 

On Sunday night, 350.0rg's Do The Math tour blew into town to spread the word about an 800-pound gorilla ignored by both the Obama and Romney Presidential campaigns, a gorilla which now goes by the nickname, Sandy.

Author-turned-climate-activist, Bill McKibben, told the sold-out audience of over 1,000 at UCLA's Ackerman Ballroom that "we can only burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and stay below 2°C of warming — anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on earth. The only problem? Fossil fuel corporations now have 2,795 gigatons in their reserves, five times the safe amount. And they’re planning to burn it all — unless we rise up to stop them."

McKibben says he was driven to organize the Do The Math tour after watching the string of extreme weather events that ravaged much of the US this year, from the devastating wildfires in Colorado, to record drought across much of the country, to the seemingly endless heat-wave that broke over 17,000 temperature records.

Today the International Energy Agency released its World Energy Outlook and confirmed estimates that the overwhelming majority of known fossil fuel reserves (75-80%) will have to be kept in the ground to avoid 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise.  350.org founder McKibben issued the following statement:

“A week after we launched the nationwide “Do The Math” tour, the planet’s chief energy watchdogs put out a huge report that essentially confirms what we’ve been saying: most of the carbon in the fossil fuel industry’s reserves has to stay below the ground if we’re going to keep the planet from disastrously overheating.

“For American leaders, keeping carbon in the ground means blocking the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, stopping coal ports on the Pacific Coast, ending mountaintop removal, and cracking down on rampant fracking. Easy long-term gestures aren’t enough any more; we’ve delayed so long that we have to stop exploiting new extreme energy.

“This is the basic, horrifying math of the planet we live on. Business as usual will bust it – that’s why we’re on the road all month and why a divestment campaign is suddenly building out of nowhere.

“Our math – from Rolling Stone and 350.org – is suddenly the mainstream math. It’s the fossil fuel industry that’s the outlying radical fringe.”

 

The Do the Math divestment campaign includes asking cities, universities, and pension plans to divest themselves of fossil fuel investments in order to pressure the industry to "leave it in the ground."  On the opening night of the tour, in a move that propelled the tour vigorously forward, Seattle's Mayor Mike McGinn vowed from the stage to begin divesting the city's holdings away from fossil fuels.

In further hopeful news, McKibben mentioned at the UCLA event that editors were astounded to find that his July 19, 2012, Rolling Stone article, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math," had amassed  more "Likes" on Facebook than their cover story on Justin Bieber.  In other words -- maybe, just maybe -- people are starting to re-prioritize their attentions and realize that, together, we can turn it all around.

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