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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bursting the Carbon Bubble: 90 Companies

The Carbon Bubble came about because much of the fossil fuels in the ground can never be burned because doing so would doom our civilization. Yet, the stock market valuation of public fossil fuel companies reflect that investors think that all fossil fuels can be ultimately extracted and burned. Thus, we have yet another stock market bubble in the stocks of fossil fuel companies that will crater at some point in the future.

Kenny Ausubel writes in Epic Change -- Part 1:

In 1979 Exxon intern Steve Knisely was tasked with analyzing how global warming might affect future fuel use. Knisely projected that by 2010 there would be 400ppm of CO₂ in the atmosphere and "noticeable temperature changes." He foresaw the fossil fuel industry might need to leave 80% of its recoverable reserves in the ground.
By 1981 Exxon scientists and researchers had concluded that rising CO₂ levels could create catastrophic impacts within the first half of the 21st century. Yet starting in 1989, the same year as the Exxon Valdez spill, the company began arguing that the uncertainty inherent in computer models makes them useless for important policy decisions.
Exxon knowingly ramped up the fossil fuel industry despite the calamitous probabilities. Call it racket science. This is criminal behavior on the scale of a psychopathic James Bond cartoon villain.
In 2013, Richard Heede, a scientist at the Climate Accountability Institute, gathered a group of lawyers. He showed them that nearly 2/3 of the world's CO₂ and methane emissions dating back to the birth of the industrial era were the responsibility of just 90 companies.
The resulting lawsuits against these "carbon majors" are radical because they shift the culpability from developed countries to corporations. The lawsuits assign blame and name names. Big Carbon is taking it very seriously because a federal appeals court found that US cities and individuals suffering economic and other damages have standing to sue under the National Environmental Policy Act. The companies are also vulnerable to fraud and civil conspiracy charges for funding climate-deniers while internally acknowledging the science.
But isn't it time for a sentence of corporate death — capital punishment for crimes of capital?