The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.
Global warming has been extremely profitable for billionaires, even though many of them mouth and endorse policies (but only failed and failing ones) against global warming. All of this will be fully documented here.
The public are actually strongly opposed to global warming, but they are very confused about the matter, largely because the policies that are advocated (by billionaire-fronts) and that have been tried against global warming, don’t work. Billionaires (and their many agents) hide from the public the only policy that actually would work. That, too, will be documented here.
The public’s opposition to global warming is clearly shown in a February 8th poll published by Politico, headlining “Poll: Citizens globally blast politicians’ lack of action to combat climate change”. It reports that globally, fewer than 20% answer No (including both straight-out “No” and “No, probably not”) to “Should fossil fuel companies be held responsible for the impacts their products have on the environment?” Depending on the individual country, from 61% to 90% answer Yes (including both “Yes definitely” and “Yes probably”) to that question — they strongly do want corporations to be held accountable for their impacts on the environment. (The lowest “Yes” are in both Japan and Germany 65%, and in U.S. 68%; the highest “Yes” is in Russia 90%.)
Though they do strongly want “accountability,” they (as will be documented here) don’t know how it can be imposed in a way that will actually have any realistic possibility of reducing the problem. Furthermore, the controlling owners of the fossil-fuel corporations and governments actually don’t want the public to know what would be successful policies on this matter — the answer to that problem is (as was noted above) actually hidden from the public. This combination, of ignorance by the public, and the ongoing profitability (to investors) of global warming, explains the failure, thus far, against global warming. It’s a failure that’s due to both billionaires and their governments. This is the reason why publics everywhere are disappointed at where the world is — and has been — headed on the global-warming issue.
Of course, the world’s approximately 3,000 billionaires control fossil fuel companies (or at least the largest ones). It’s reasonable to assume that virtually all of the top 100 fossil-fuel extraction companies are controlled either directly or indirectly by billionaires.
In other words: the world’s few super-rich have profited enormously from the build-up, in the atmosphere, of the global-warming gases that caused what might now be a runaway global warming. Though global warming is an enormous threat to the world’s future, it has immensely helped the super-rich become super-rich, and to grow their wealth while the rest of the global population have (in many countries) experienced only the downside of their degraded and increasingly rapidly heating environment.
Those fossil-fuels have thus been an immense engine of global wealth-inequality. Though the super-rich have experienced soaring wealth from the use of those fuels, the general population has experienced spreading exploitation and misery, from their use. If the end-result of this will be the end of our planet’s biosphere, then human civilization itself will have perpetrated this massive crime against not only its own future members but all animals. The stakes here could be that high — a curse upon all future generations.
Because of the poll that Politico published on February 8th, we now know that especially in Russia, but even in U.S. Japan, Germany, and the 9 other surveyed countries (South Africa, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Australia, China, India, France, and UK), at least two-thirds of the public want fossil fuels companies to be held responsible for the impacts their products have on the environment.
However — for the reasons that will be stated below — there is actually only a single way in which this can be done effectively; i.e., so as to actually stop global warming (if that is still even possible to do): This one way is for the government to outlaw purchases of investments (stocks and bonds) in fossil-fuel extraction companies, as will be described and explained here:
These companies (fossil-fuel extractors) exist in order to discover, extract, refine, and market, fossil fuels, in order for these fuels to be burned — but those activities are killing this planet. There is a way to stop this destruction of the planet from happening, but it is not being applied, and no country is currently even considering it. This way will be explained here. Some background is necessary, in order to understand it:
Buying stock in, and lending money to, these firms doesn’t purchase their products, but it does incentivize all phases of these firms’ operations, including the discovery of yet more fields of oil, gas, and coal, to add yet more to their existing fossil-fuel reserves. Unless these companies’ stock-values are driven down to near zero and no investor will be lending to them, all such operations will continue, and the Earth will therefore surely die from the resulting over-accumulation of global-warming gases.
To purchase stock in a fossil-fuel extractor, such as ExxonMobil or BP, or to buy their bonds or otherwise lend to them, is to invest in or fund that corporation’s employment of fossil-fuel explorers to discover new sources of oil, gas, or coal, to drill. Those discoveries of new reserves are what drive up the market-value of those firms. Such newly discovered reserves are excess inventories that must never be burnt if this planet is to avoid becoming uninhabitable. But these firms nonetheless continue to employ people to find additional new places to drill, above and beyond the ones that they already own — which existing inventories are already so enormous as to vastly exceed what can be burnt without destroying the Earth many times over. To buy the stock in such corporations (or else lend to them) is consequently to fund the killing of our planet. It’s to fund an enormous crime, and should be treated as such. The only possible solution to the global-warming problem — if it still can be solved — is to drive down the market-value of those firms. Outlawing new investments in those firms will do this and will simultaneously make impossible the continued employment by them of these explorers for new and unburnable reserves.
The only people who will suffer from outlawing the purchase of stock in, and lending to, fossil-fuel extractors, are individuals who are already invested in those corporations. Since we’ve already got vastly excessive known reserves of fossil fuels, discovering yet more such reserves is nothing else than the biggest imaginable crime against all future-existing people, who can’t defend themselves against these activities. Only our government, today, can possibly protect them, and it will be to blame if it fails to do so. The single most effective way it can do that is to criminalize the purchase of stock in fossil-fuels extractors, and to bar loans to them. Here’s why:
The IMF says that “To limit the increase in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius — the more conservative of the goals agreed to by governments at the 2015 climate change talks in Paris — more than two-thirds of current known reserves, let alone those yet to be discovered (see Table 1), must remain in the ground (IEA 2012).” Obviously, then, what the oil and gas and coal companies are doing by continuing exploration is utterly idiotic from an economic standpoint — it’s adding yet more to what already are called “unburnable reserves.” Thus, waiting yet longer for a technological breakthrough, such as fossil-fuels corporations have always promised will happen but nobody has ever actually delivered (and such as is exemplified here), is doomed, because if and when such a real breakthrough would occur, we’d already be too late and the uncontrollably spiraling and accelerating mutual feedback-loops would already have made the challenge vastly more difficult to overcome than it is today. We’d simply be racing, then, to catch up with — and to get ahead of — an even faster rise in global temperatures than now exists. Consequently, something sudden, sharp, and decisive, is needed immediately, and it can happen only by a fundamental change becoming instituted in our laws, not in our technology. The solution, if it comes, will come from government, and not even possibly come from industry. For governments to wait, and to hope for a “technological breakthrough,” is simply for our planet to die. It’s to doom this planet. It’s to abandon the government’s obligation to the future.
On 13 November 2019, the International Energy Agency reported that “the momentum behind clean energy is insufficient to offset the effects of an expanding global economy and growing population,” and “The world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change.” Obviously, we are all heading the world straight to catastrophe. Drastic action is needed, and it must happen now — not in some indefinite future.
In 2020, I reached out to Carbon Tracker, the organization that encourages investors to disinvest from fossil fuels. Their leader, Mark Campanale, declined my request for them to endorse my proposal. He endorsed instead “a new fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty supported by movements calling to leave fossil fuels in the ground.” When I responded that it’s vastly more difficult, for states (individual governments) to mutually pass, into their respective nation’s laws, a treaty amongst themselves (since it requires unanimity amongst all of them instituting into each one of their legal systems exactly that same law), than it is for any state ON ITS OWN to institute a law (such as I propose), he still wasn’t interested. I asked him why he wasn’t. He said “I’ve chosen a different strategy for my organization.” I answered: “All that I am seeking from you is an ENDORSEMENT. I am not asking you to change your ‘strategy’ (even if you really ought to ADD this new strategy to your existing one).” He replied simply by terminating communication with me and saying, without explanation, “We don’t always agree.”
Here is that “treaty supported by movements calling to leave fossil fuels in the ground”. As you can see there, it was posted in 2012, and as of 8 years later when I checked, it had been signed by 8 individuals, no nations (and not even by any organizations). Mark Campanale wasn’t among these 8, and subsequently no signers have been indicated.
Some environmental organizations recommend instead improving labelling laws and informing consumers on how they can cut their energy-usages (such as here), but even if that works, such changes, in consumers’ behaviors, are no more effective against climate-change than would be their using buckets to lower the ocean-level in order to prevent it from overflowing and flooding the land. What’s actually needed is a huge jolt to the system itself, immediately. Only systemic thinking can solve such a problem.
Making such a change — outlawing the purchase of stock in, and prohibiting loans to, fossil-fuel extractors — would impact enormously the stock-prices of all fossil fuels corporations throughout the world, even if it’s done only in this country. It would quickly force all of the fossil-fuel extractors to eliminate their exploration teams and to increase their dividend payouts, just in order to be able to be “the last man standing” when they do all go out of business — which then would occur fairly soon. Also: it would cause non-fossil-energy stock-prices to soar, and this influx of cash into renewable-energy investing would cause their R&D also to soar, which would reduce costs of the energy that clean-energy firms supply. It would transform the world, fairly quickly, and very systematically. And all of this would happen without taxpayers needing to pay tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars, or for governments to sign onto any new treaties. And if additional nations copy that first one, then the crash in market-values of all fossil-fuels corporations will be even faster, and even steeper.
As regards existing bonds and other debt-obligations from fossil-fuels extractors, each such corporation would need to establish its own policies regarding whether or not, and if so then how, to honor those obligations, since there would no longer be a market for them. Ending the market would not be equivalent to ending the obligations. The law would nullify the obligations, but the corporation’s opting to fulfill those obligations wouldn’t be illegal — it would merely be optional. Perhaps most of the firms would opt to place all investors onto a dividends-only system, which would continue until the firm ends or is otherwise no longer producing or marketing fossil fuels.
This would be a taking from individuals who have been investing in what the overwhelming majority of experts on global warming say are investments in a massive crime against future generations. We are now in an emergency situation, which is more than merely a national emergency, a global one, so that such governmental action would be not merely advisable but urgently necessary and 100% in accord with the public welfare, and also in accord with improving distributive justice.
The only way possible in order to avoid getting into the uncontrollable feedback-cycles (feedback-loops) that might set this planet racing toward becoming another Mars is to quickly bring a virtual end to the burning of fossil fuels. That can happen only if fossil fuels become uneconomic. But common methods proposed for doing that, such as by imposing carbon taxes, would hit consumers directly (by adding a tax to what they buy), and thereby turn them into advocates for the fossil-fuel industries (advocates on the fossil-fuels-companies’ side, favoring elimination of that tax upon their products). In this key respect, such proposals are counterproductive, because they dis-incentivize the public to support opposition to fossil-fuel extraction. Such proposals are politically unacceptable, especially in a democracy, where consumers have powerful political voice at the ballot-box. Any carbon tax would also anger the consuming public against environmentalists. Turning consumers into friends of the fossil-fuels extractors would be bad. What I am proposing is not like that, at all. Investors are a much smaller number of voters than are consumers. Everyone is a consumer, but only a relatively tiny number of people are specifically fossil-fuel investors. To terminate the freedom those investors have to sell their stock, by making it illegal for anyone to buy that stock, is the most practicable way to prevent global burnout (if it still can be prevented). This needs to be done right now.
How was slavery ended in the United States? It became illegal for anyone to own slaves — and the way that this was done is that it became illegal for anyone to buy a slave. It made slaves unsellable — worthless to own.
Once it is done, those firms will go out of business. (First, these firms will increase their dividend-payouts to their stockholders while they lay off their explorers, but then they’ll cut their other costs, and then they’ll fold. But the objective isn’t that; it is to make their products uneconomic to produce, market, and sell; and this will do that, even before all of those firms have become eliminated.) All of today’s existing economies-of-scale in the fossil-fuels-producing-and-marketing industries will then be gone, and will become replaced by new economies-of-scale that will rise sharply in non-carbon energy, as R&D there will be soaring, while the fossil-fuels producers fade out.
If it becomes illegal to purchase those investments, then the market-value of them will depend ONLY upon the company’s future dividends. The higher those would be, the sooner the company will end. Unlike with black-market goods such as illegal narcotics, all investment-markets need to be legal in order for a company to be able to attract new investors. Those companies will be doomed and quickly die-off — or else STOP exploring for yet-more fossil fuels, and would go entirely into non-fossil-fuels endeavors. All fossil-fuels exploration will end. All fossil-fuels-promotion will end.
This is the only realistically possible way to avoid a possible global burnout. (Current scientific analyses of the vaporization of all of this planet’s water have been predicated solely upon an increase in solar intensity, but heat-trapping gases could enormously expedite the process, and humans would never get to experience an oceanless Earth, because agriculture would become impossible well before all water is gasified.)
Shell CEO Says Governments, Not Firms, Are Failing on Climate Change
On 14 October 2019, Reuters headlined “Exclusive: No choice but to invest in oil, Shell CEO says” and reported:
Ben van Beurden expressed concern that some investors could ditch Shell, acknowledging that shares in the company were trading at a discount partly due to “societal risk”.
“I am afraid of that, to be honest,” he said.
“But I don’t think they will flee for the justified concern of stranded assets … (It is) the continued pressure on our sector, in some cases to the point of demonisation, that scares asset managers.”
“It is not at a scale that the alarm bells are ringing, but it is an unhealthy trend.”
Van Beurden put the onus for achieving a transformation to low-carbon economies on governments.
He didn’t suggest any specific policies which governments should take, but he did say “that not enough progress had been made to reach the Paris climate goal of limiting global warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.” Furthermore:
Delaying implementation of the right climate policies could result in “knee-jerk” political responses that might be very disruptive to society, he said. “Let the air out of the balloon as soon as you can before the balloon actually bursts,” van Beurden said.
He is, in a sense, trapped, as the head of one of the world’s largest fossil-fuel extractors. He doesn’t want to be “demonised,” but he is professionally answering to — and obligated to serve — investors who are still profiting from destroying the world. Though he acknowledges that consumers cannot initiate the necessary policy-change, and that investors aren’t yet; and though he doesn’t want government to do anything which “might be very disruptive to society,” he does want governments to “Let the air out of the balloon as soon as you can before the balloon actually bursts,” and he’s therefore contemplating — and is even advising — that governments must do the job now, and not wait around any longer to take the necessary decisive action.
Here’s what that type of governmental action would be (and unlike the Paris Climate Agreement, it doesn’t require an international consensus — which doesn’t actually exist among the nations). (That international agreement is likewise just a fake.)
The “Bridge Fuels” Concept Is a Deceit
The concept of “bridge fuels,” such as methane as being a substitute for petroleum, is a propaganda device by the fossil-fuels industry and its agents, in order to slow the decline of those industries. For example, on 16 November 2019, Oil Price Dot Com headlined “Why Banning Fossil Fuel Investment Is A Huge Mistake”, and Cyril Widdershoven, a long-time writer for and consultant to fossil-fuel corporations, argued against an effort by the European Investment Bank to “put more pressure on all parties to phase out gas, oil and coal projects.” Widdershoven’s argument is that “experts seem to agree that the best way to target lower CO2 emissions in the EU is to substitute oil and coal power generation in Eastern Europe with natural gas.” He says, “Even in the most optimistic projections, renewable energy options, such as wind or solar, are not going to be able to counter the need for power generation capacity. If the EIB blocks a soft energy transition via natural gas, the Paris Agreement will almost certainly fail.”
The unstated “experts” that Widdershoven cited are, like himself, hirees of the fossil-fuels industries. Furthermore, this go-slow approach is already recognized by the IMF and IEA to be doomed to fail at avoiding global burnout.
Furthermore — and this is perhaps the most important fact of all — government-support has largely been responsible for the success of fossil-fuel corporations (especially now for natural gas), and, if fully replaced by government-support going instead to non-fossil-fuel corporations, there will be a skyrocketing increase in R&D in those non-fossil-fuel technologies, which skyrocketing R&D, there, is desperately needed, if any realistic hope is to exist, at all, of avoiding global burn-out.
Moreover, billionaires have also hijacked the environmental movement and made suckers of its believers. For example, Elon Musk has become a centi-billionaire by peddling the idea of switching from fossil fuels to electricity. But the popular concept of ‘switching from fossil fuels to electricity’ as a supposed ‘energy source’ is fake because electricity isn’t an energy-source but only a way of delivering energy that is produced elsewhere, by fossil fuels, nuclear, or others. It’s a fraud, as a ‘solution’.
So, to each reader of this, I ask: If this is not what you propose, then what do you propose? People need to start talking about this — but NOT with the same underlying assumptions that the billionaires have been promulgating.
P.S.: In January 2021, I had sent this to, and never received any answer from any of the:
Dear EU Climate Commissioners:
What is needed is a method which (unlike international agreement on carbon-trading credits) won’t require agreement among nations, which are too corrupt to take the necessary collective action to avert catastrophe. Here’s the solution which could be implemented by, say, the EU, or even just Germany, or just India, or just China, alone, if not by any of the far-right countries (such as U.S. and Brazil), which action, taken by any one of them, would create the necessary cascading-effect that could transform the world and perhaps save the future (and please do follow closely the argument here, and click onto any link where you might have any questions, because this is a truly new idea, and every part of it is fully documented here): [and then came what you have just read. None of them responded.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this site. This site does not give financial, investment or medical advice.