In a stunning display of how political clout trumps (excuse me) common sense, nations of the world spend trillions every year subsidizing fossil fuels. It’s like paying people to drink poison. Check out one of the latest estimates:
A fossil fuel subsidy is any government policy that lowers the cost of fossil fuel production, raises prices received by producers, or lowers prices paid by consumers: they can consist of tax breaks and direct funding for fossil fuel companies. But subsidies can also consist of loans, price controls, or giveaways in the form of land or water at below market-rates, and many other actions.
They have been so high across the world, finds Dr. Radek Stefanski—an economist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland— that they are nearly four and a half times higher than previously believed.
So what’s the damage? It’s pretty colossal. For the last year in his model, 2010, Stefanski found that the total global direct and indirect financial costs of all fossil fuel subsidies was $1.82 trillion, or 3.8 percent of global GDP. He also found that the subsidies meant much higher carbon emissions released into our atmosphere.
Remarkably, the International Monetary Fund puts the price tag even higher:
In 2015, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) calculated that global fossil fuel subsidies amounted to a monumental $5.3 trillion, which is 6.5% of global GDP—up from $4.9 trillion in 2013. The IMF even had to revise its old figure for 2011, which originally estimated the global subsidies at 2 trillion dollars. The real figure for 2011, the fund concluded, was $4.2 trillion.
Read more here.
A “Grassroots Leadership Academy” bankrolled by the Koch brothers seeks to spread the free-market gospel:
One of the sessions, called the “Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” teaches attendees to argue that “a turn away from fossil fuel use would ultimately be disastrous to humanity — especially the poorest of the poor.”
Read more here.
Peter Barnes explains how protecting the environment and sharing the fruits of our economy more broadly can – and should – go hand-in-hand:
The failure to charge for common wealth — for example, letting polluters dump freely into our atmosphere — leads to what economists call “negative externalities.” The costs of pollution aren’t paid by polluters; they are shifted to pollutees, nature and future generations. And this market failure persists because no living individuals or companies would financially benefit from fixing it.But imagine a system in which everyone benefits from fixing this tragic flaw. In this system, polluters would pay and all living citizens, as joint beneficiaries and trustees of nature’s gifts, would get dividends. The higher the price for using the commons, the larger the dividends and the lower the externalities. The health of nature’s gifts would be directly linked to greater income for everyone.
Read more here.
A new study by Stanford University scientist Mark Jacobson and colleagues offers a blueprint for a fossil-free energy future in the 50 U.S. states and across the globe:
Globally, the transition to clean, renewable energy would create more than 20 million more jobs than would be lost in the transition. It would also stabilize energy costs, thanks to free fuels such as wind, water and the sun; reduce terrorism risk by distributing electricity generation; and eliminate the overwhelming majority of heat-trapping emissions that contribute to climate change.
Neil Young asks, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up and Save the Earth?”
A century ago, cities were “drowning in horse manure.” Today we are drowning in fossil fuel emissions. It’s time for the transportation revolution of the 21st century. Maybe this will be part of it:
This week’s student protests put the heat on Harvard:
“Throughout Harvard heat week, Harvard’s top decision-makers have been hiding from both their students and from the issue of climate justice,” protesters wrote in a statement on Wednesday. “They must face the broad, diverse, and growing coalition behind divestment from fossil fuels.”
John Ashton, formerly Britain’s top climate diplomat, writes in an open letter to the president of Shell Oil:
You deny your assets will be stranded. True, first tier assets are cheap, and those that are heavily invested in tend to bear fruit quickly. But your case also assumes failure on 2C and rates of renewables deployment long surpassed by reality.
The Bank of England is watching the carbon bubble. Bloomberg screens include a carbon risk valuation tool. The divestment movement may still be small but it is rallying young people, has moral authority, and can now make a prudential case as well as an environmental one.
Writing on the wall. Story of the world.
You could accept squarely that the days of yesterday’s business model are numbered, that the challenge now is to manage its decline and build alongside it a new business fit for today.
Bill McKibben writing in The Guardian on the coming shift in the world energy economy:
What in 2013 was the rallying cry of a few student campaigners has by 2015 become the conventional wisdom: there’s a “carbon bubble,” composed of the trillions of dollars of coal and oil and gas that simply must be left underground. Here’s the president of World Bank speaking in Davos: “Use smart due diligence. Rethink what fiduciary responsibility means in this changing world. It’s simple self-interest. Every company, investor and bank that screens new and existing investments for climate risk is simply being pragmatic….”
Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, did his best to explain the unwelcome news to the industry at a conference last October: the “vast majority” of the planet’s carbon reserves “are unburnable,” he said. When Shell’s chief executive hit back last month, calling a rapid transition off fossil fuel “simply naïve,” it was Tory veteran and chair of parliament’s energy committee Tim Yeo who told him off: “I do believe the problem of stranded assets is a real one now. Investors are starting to think by 2030 the world will be in such a panic about climate change that either by law or by price it will be very hard to burn fossil fuels on anything like the scale we are doing at the moment.”
Read his analysis here.
The powerful film (with English subtitles) on pollution – initially hailed, then banned, by Chinese officialdom:
From New York Times story on the ban:
On Friday evening [the day the film was banned], Xinhua, the state news agency, posted on Twitter, which is also blocked here, that “President Xi Jinping vows to punish, with an iron hand, any violators who destroy ecology or environment, with no exceptions.” That night, the United States Embassy air monitor in Beijing rated the air “hazardous.”
Read more here.
POSTSCRIPT: Chinese officials are not the alone in trying to suppress bad news on the environment. Check out the latest from Florida, here.