“LOTS OF COMPANIES do rotten things in the course of their business—pay terrible wages, make people work in sweatshops—and we pressure them to change those practices,” says veteran anti-corporate-abuse leader Naomi Klein. “But these numbers make clear that with the fossil-fuel industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.”
The numbers she’s referring to are straightforward—they were first put forth in a report by a group of U.K. financial analysts a year ago, and they’ve now begun to seep into the debate about climate change. They show that if we have any hope of keeping the increase in global temperature below the 2 degree Celsius line (a goal so conservative that even the U.S. and Chinese governments have embraced it as their target), we can only emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide. But the fossil-fuel industry, it turns out, has 2,795 gigatons worth of carbon in its inventory—that is, five times what it would take to run the Genesis creation story backwards.
In other words, this is not a case of “bad business practices.” It’s not like Apple paying bad wages or making workers use dangerous chemicals. Those are deplorable, and correctable—they’re what the boycott or the shareholder resolution was invented for. That’s how we’ve fought everything from grape growers to sweatshops.