Last night I watched the new documentary from 350.org on the train home. Do the Math draws from Bill McKibben’s recent speaking tour, which in turn draws from the Carbon Bubble reports to put a new angle on climate change. The math in the title refers to the vast carbon content of the world’s oil reserves, which is five times more than the maximum amount of carbon we can emit if we wish to remain within 2 degrees of warming. As McKibben puts it, this makes the fossil fuel companies highly dangerous: “if they carry out their business plan, the planet tanks”.
In response, the video serves as a launchpad for a new campaign approach – going after the fossil fuel companies directly. If the government won’t act to price carbon into the cost of fossil fuels, maybe pressure on the oil companies themselves will help instead. And that means going after the money.
Inspired by the divestment campaign that helped to isolate apartheid South Africa, the Fossil Free campaign is encouraging institutions to shed their investments in fossil fuels. They’ve had some successes already, as the film shows, pushing the message that “if it’s wrong to wreck the climate, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.” There’s a long way to go before the fossil fuel companies start to pay attention, but it’s a start.
“We know what the solutions are,” says McKibben, “the technologies that we need to get off fossil fuels and onto something else. The thing that’s preventing us from doing it is the enormous political power wielded by those who have made and are making vast windfall profits from fossil fuels.”