RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Klein writes: "Five years ago, when 350.org helped kick off the global fossil fuel divestment movement, one of the slogans the team came up with was 'We > Fossil Fuels.'"

Naomi Klein. (photo: Ed Kashi)
Naomi Klein. (photo: Ed Kashi)


The Politically Impossible Has Suddenly Become Possible

By Naomi Klein, The Intercept

13 January 18

 

ive years ago, when 350.org helped kick off the global fossil fuel divestment movement, one of the slogans the team came up with was “We > Fossil Fuels.”

The T-shirts and stickers were nice, but I have to admit that I never really felt it. Bigger than fossil fuels? With their bottomless budgets? Their endless capacity to blanket the airwaves and bankroll political parties? The slogan always made me kind of sad.

Well, yesterday in New York City, listening to Mayor Bill de Blasio announce that the city had just filed a lawsuit against five oil majors and intended to divest $5 billion from fossil fuel companies, I actually felt it. After being outgunned by the power and wealth of this industry for so many years, the balance of power seemed to physically tilt. It’s still not equal — not by a long shot — but something big changed nonetheless. Regular humans may not be more powerful than the fossil fuel companies now — but we might be soon.

Within minutes of de Blasio’s announcement going public, activists in London started tweeting at their mayor to step up in equally bold fashion. And while the press conference was still streaming live, several of us started to get emails from city councillors in other cities around the world, promising to initiate a similar process in their communities.

Such is the power of an action emanating from a center as symbolically important as New York City: What felt politically impossible yesterday suddenly seems possible, and the dominos start instantly falling.

It’s also extremely significant that the divestment and lawsuit were announced in tandem — because they have the potential to reinforce one another in a kind of virtuous market cycle. Part of the reason why fossil fuel divestment has picked up so much momentum over the past two years is that fossil fuel stocks have been performing badly. This is mainly because the price of oil has been depressed, but it is also because of market uncertainty created by the increasingly powerful climate and indigenous rights movements, and the signing of the Paris climate agreement.

All of this has raised the question of whether fossil fuel companies are really going to be able to get their pipelines and other infrastructure built, given the strength of the opposition. And they have also raised the question of whether these companies will be able dig up the huge oil, gas, and coal reserves that are currently factored into their stock prices — or are these are going to become stranded assets? Right now, we don’t know the answers to these questions, and that uncertainty can give many smart investors pause.

(The Trump administration, by ditching the Paris Agreement and opening up vast new swaths of territory for exploration, has been trying frantically to reassure the markets by sending the opposite message — that it’s back to dirty business as usual.)

Now, with New York City’s lawsuit for climate damages, the market is confronting the prospect of a cascade of similar legal actions — cities, towns, and countries all suing the industry for billions or even (combined) trillions of dollars in damages caused by sea-level rise and extreme weather events. The more suits that get filed, the more the market will have to factor in the possibility of fossil fuel companies having to pay out huge settlements in the near to medium term, much as the tobacco companies were forced to in past decades.

As that threat becomes more credible, with more players taking New York City’s lead, the investor case for dumping these stocks as overly high risk will be strengthened, thereby lending a potent new tool to the fossil fuel divestment movement. A virtuous cycle. Oh, and the more we are able to hit the industry in the pocketbook, the less likely costly new drilling and pipeline projects will be to go ahead, no matter how many precious national parks and pristine coastlines the Trump administration attempts to desecrate. If the economics don’t make sense, the drilling simply won’t advance.

That’s why New York’s actions are so significant, not just in New York or the United States, but globally. (It’s also why I got so cranky with the New York Times for treating it like a minor municipal event, buried on page 23.)

Yesterday was a big, good day for the planet – and we needed one of those.


e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+31 # futhark 2018-01-13 12:41
The Democratic Party now has the nominees needed in 2020 to oust the Trumplicans: Bernie Sanders for President and Bill de Blasio for Vice-President!
 
 
+1 # DrD 2018-01-15 06:46
Yes! Where can I buy the campaign buttons? ;)
 
 
+26 # soularddave 2018-01-13 13:15
So many *tipping points* regarding carbon fuels since Y2K. Hopeful degrees of awareness coming on line.

Europe knew since the Arab oil embardo 40 years ago. Higher prices and higher taxes have long been justified.

Good thing renewables have gotten less expensive, but the US government is sooo late to the party.

Meanwhile, we watch as China takes over leadership if the world.
 
 
+10 # elkingo 2018-01-13 16:39
Brava Naomi, as usual! Let's hope (and act)!
 
 
+8 # economagic 2018-01-13 21:32
"The more suits that get filed, the more the market will have to factor in the possibility of fossil fuel companies having to pay out huge settlements in the near to medium term, much as the tobacco companies were forced to in past decades."

An apt simile, as the business model and even some of the law firms are the same.
 
 
0 # Auteur47 2018-01-14 15:57
Trump is doing his best to eff up the world because there is money to be made. But with the economics working against fossil fuels in this day and age, will the oil companies proceed with further expensive oil exploration and extraction off our coasts and in the arctic?
News flash, the gigantic burning oil tanker off of China's coast has exploded! This event off the coast has resulted in an ecological disaster of enormous proportions.
 
 
+1 # PCPrincess 2018-01-15 11:51
To finish the cycle: If and when a lawsuit is successful; use the billions to build AFFORDABLE housing owned by the city and not greedy landlords. Hire locals to run and manage the new buildings. There are many great things to be done to give back to the little people, for it is the little people who have been forced to give so much to the oligarchs for decades.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN