Tuesday, November 13, 2012

View from Above

The recent cover of New York Magazine captured a phenomenal shot of NYC immediately after hurricane Sandy, showing lower Manhattan completely dark except for the Goldman Sachs tower. The photographer, Iwan Baan, recalled that “As I looked at the glowing Goldman Sachs tower and the bright buildings surrounding this financial icon—I saw who has the power and how problematic that is for this country.”

This event, the outsize power of which is directly a result of climate change, has brought into stark relief the immense risks and dangers of climate change and the depth of the problem of energy production and its resulting carbon emissions.The International Energy Agency, which has been publishing energy charts for years, has now taken a public position that the current energy trends are completely unsustainable and threaten planetary existence. It points out that modest reductions in production and consumption won't make much difference in the accelerating trajectory of carbon emissions. A free report on the IEA key statistics is here.

The only possible response to this by the human community is an immediate and drastic reduction in fossil fuel production and use. This is entirely achievable, but will mean that these reduction goals must be committed to on a global basis, with no "cap and trade" games that allow more carbon to be emitted than are necessary to reduce emissions to the required levels, just so the fossil fuel industry can make its money going out the door. As one can see, the difference between these reductions is found in my discussion, based on a chart from the Global Commons Institute.

As I point out, the necessary reduction curve [red curve] was the initial number more or less agreed to by proponents of the big emissions reductions, such as Bill McKibben. However, after the cap and trade business came into play, that curve [yellow curve] was put out as the "new goal", and that has now been marketed by this "Do the Math" tour that only focuses on the Keystone Pipeline, not the vast network of oil and coal production across the globe. This yellow curve includes the allowance for the cap and trade market, but that isn't sufficient to slow down climate change. It simply allows the corporations to continue to make profit by selling carbon fuels for longer and at higher levels. It thus condemns the planet to irreversible climate change and its impacts on all life, not just human needs.

The necessary response is a drastic and immediate reduction in carbon emissions [grey curve], which will have serious global economic repercussions. But if the global community can shift rapidly to a new economy that embraces sustainable values, this change can become a possibility.

This kind of change does not have Goldman Sachs in its future.