Showing posts with label koch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label koch. Show all posts

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stranded whales


A dead whale on the beach is big and smelly. It is no use to itself and it spoils the beach.  So when whales get stranded on beaches, hundreds of people turn up to help get them back to sea before they die and the beach is a stinking mess.

In a similar way, fossil fuel interests are fighting to prevent their coal, oil and gas assets from becoming stranded assets. Their main tactic is to dig up as much as they can as fast as they can, before the world cottons on and puts strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

A report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative reveals the scale of climate risk. To limit the chances of exceeding the UN's agreed warming limit of 2C to 20%, the amount of CO2 that can be emitted between now and 2050 is 565 gigatonnes. But the known fossil fuel reserves declared by energy and mining companies is equivalent to 2,795 gigatonnes of CO2. That means, if the world acts on its climate change pledges, 80% of those reserves can never be burned and are stranded assets.

The IEA has said that if concerted action is not taken as early as 2015, then 45 per cent of the world’s fossil fuel plants would have to close early over time to meet the 2°C scenario.

There is growing risk that money invested in coal mines, oil, tar and gas reserves, and their associated pipelines, train lines, ports and shipping facilities will be closed before their productive life is realised. They will become pipelines and train tracks to nowhere.

Banks and investment funds are beginning to take climate risk into account in judging whether or not to invest in big new fossil fuel infrastructure. Experts warn that the huge reserves of coal, oil and gas held by stock exchange-listed companies are ''sub-prime'' assets.  HSBC says that the declining ceiling of allowed emissions intensity should force more capital into lower carbon technologies.
As the urgency increases, we expect more banks and institutional investors to factor 2°C targets into their financing decisions.
Countries like Canada are strenuously resisting efforts to count the carbon cost of their fossil fuel reserves. Canada is resisting EU initiatives to account for the higher carbon footprint of their tar sands compared with regular oil. They fear that their tar sands will be stranded as uneconomic assets if the true cost was recognised.

In contrast, countries like Ecuador recognise that their oil reserves are valuable if they are NOT tapped. They are  seeking payment for not drilling in the Yasun√≠ National Park which is regarded as one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. They have asked for $3.6 billion, about half the estimated value of the reserves, to leave the oil in the ground and protect the Yasun√≠.

In effect, Ecuador is trying to prevent healthy whales from beaching. In contrast, the vehement efforts of the Koch brothers and Australia's mining magnates, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, to promote mining at any cost, will serve to drive more whales onto beaches and leave them stranded there.

Australian poet, John Blight (1913-1995), wrote this sonnet in the 1960s. It captures beautifully how hard it is for humans to care about very big subjects, even if they are potentially devastating.

Death of a Whale
When the mouse died, there was a sort of pity;
The tiny, delicate creature made for grief.
Yesterday, instead, the dead whale on the reef
Drew an excited multitude to the jetty.
How must a whale die to wring a tear?
Lugubrious death of a whale; the big
Feast for the gulls and sharks; the tug
Of the tide simulating life still there,
Until the air, polluted, swings this way
Like a door ajar from a slaughterhouse.
Pooh! pooh! spare us, give us the death of a mouse
By its tiny hole; not this in our lovely bay.
-- Sorry, we are, too, when a child dies:
But at the immolation of a race, who cries?