Published On: Thu, Oct 18th, 2012

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math- Rolling Stone

In July 2012 Bill McKibben wrote an article in Rolling Stone magazine about Global Warming describing the terrifying math that should concern us all.

First, he wrote about 2 degrees celsius.  This is the politically agreed number that politicians around the world have agreed is the maximum increase in global temperatures that is acceptable.  That fact that they agreed to any limit was amazing enough.  The reality, however, is that scientists think that 2 degrees celsius is too high a target.  We have already exceeded 0.8 celsius and, due to lag in temperature vs what has already been released, even if we were to suddenly and miraculously stop all emissions tomorrow we would hit 1.6 degrees celsius.

Then he wrote about a second number 565 gigatons.  This is in reference to the maximum additional number of gigatonnes of carbon dioxide that we could release in the atmosphere before hitting 2 degrees celsius.

Finally he talks about a third number: 2,795 gigatons.  This is the amount of fossil fuel that we are currently planning on burning – 5 times higher than the 565 gigatons that we think is the maximum we can release before hitting 2 degrees celsius. This represents the oil, gas and coal reserves of major companies and countries that they plan to commercially exploit.  If they did not exploit them, their share prices would collapse.

He notes that:

Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break – if you own a restaurant, you have to pay someone to cart away your trash, since piling it in the street would breed rats. But the fossil-fuel industry is different, and for sound historical reasons: Until a quarter-century ago, almost no one knew that CO2 was dangerous. But now that we understand that carbon is heating the planet and acidifying the oceans, its price becomes the central issue.

And that it is time that university endowments, pension funds and insurance funds stopped investing in fossil fuel companies whose very actions would result in no future for our youth, no future for our old and catastrophic insurance claims.

The whole article is worth reading.  Click here.

Finally, it is also worth watching a short video done by Yale on the shocking loss of area and volume of summer sea ice in the Arctic over the past few years, cumulating in data about the loss of summer ice in 2012.  We are now expecting no summer ice in 3-4 years.


About the Author

- Tristan Fischer is the author of all the articles on History Future Now. He is the Chairman of Lumicity Ltd, a company developing renewable energy infrastructure projects, Chairman of Fischer Farms Ltd, a vertical farming company using hydroponics, and a board Director of Fish From Ltd, an onshore salmon company. He previously worked for Camco International, Shell Renewables and Citigroup. He was educated at Cambridge University. To find out more click here:

  • Bill McKibben lays out maths of global warming: fossil fuel companies will destroy the planet & should be stopped.

  • Sam

    A interesting counter-perspective is the fact that Antarctic ice is at record levels (see: Also, Bil McRibben’s comment that “the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break ” is quite misleading because we are all afforded that right…from driving our cars, to heating our homes…to living…every other industry involved in production…we all “dump our carbon dioxide waste for free”.

    There are dots out there but Bill has not connected them well.

  • mark perry

    “At the same time we could use the manufacturing process to build film style atmosphere processors. Is it so far fetched? If you can generate that much carbon you can remanufacture it into something useful. Breeze block is a by product of power stations why cant we ‘carbon lock’ other materials? The only hold back to this concept realistically is feeding the increase in population it allows. Given some of the ‘sickeningly’ bad options I have seen that is the real choice….Screw humanity or the world? If we are all in fair enough, but I am not taking the raw deal for some collective of supposed thinkers. ‘smart I like, smart ass I dont’ ;-)”

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