Last week Friends of the Earth (FOE) Ireland held a screening of the recent film Do the Math, a climate change documentary by US environmentalist Bill McKibben. The screening was followed by a discussion and Q&A with FOE activist Camilla McCabe and climate scientist Prof. John Sweeney from NUI Maynooth.
First to the film, which runs for about 45 minutes. Presented by McKibben, an academic and founder of NGO 350 (www.350.org), Do the Math focuses on the impact of the large energy companies on climate change. The titular “Math” refers to three numbers:
- 2’C – the increase in Earth’s temperature agreed as the maximum by all countries at the climate change summit COP15
- 505 gigatons – the amount of CO2 we could pour into the atmosphere before going over 2’C
- 2795 gigatons – the amount of CO2 which will be produced if the world’s energy companies burn all the oil and gas they already have in their reserves
Founded on these compelling figures, McKibben’s message is simple, and focuses on keeping fossil fuels in the ground. His key suggestion for public action is divestment from oil companies i.e. organisations and individuals sell their shares. In particular McKibben focuses on encouraging Universities to divest any oil and gas investments. Interestingly, the film briefly mentions a price for carbon, but this option is not discussed. Even a few minutes devoted to other solutions besides divestment could have added to Do the Math. Check out the trailer here:
Perhaps more illuminating at the Friends of Earth event was the post-film discussion. Prof. John Sweeney spoke of how public interest in climate change has increased in the last 30 years, but noted that policy in Ireland still leans towards short-term interests and suffers accordingly. Camilla McCabe then spoke of FOE’s efforts to influence policy and suggested that their work in Ireland in the coming months would be focused on the 2016 General Election. Lastly, FOE Ireland Chairman Oisin Coughlan drew our attention to the Climate Bill, to be addressed and hopefully passed in the Dáil this coming week.
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