Bill McKibbenThu 21 Jun 2018 11.00 BST
From Wall Street to the pope, many increasingly see fossil fuels as anything but a sure bet. That gives us reason to hope
If you’re looking for good news on the climate front, don’t look to the Antarctic. Last week’s spate of studies documenting that its melt rates had tripled is precisely the kind of data that underscores the almost impossible urgency of the moment.
And don’t look to Washington DC, where the unlikely survival of the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, continues to prove the political power of the fossil fuel industry. It’s as if he’s on a reality show where the premise is to see how much petty corruption one man can get away with.
But from somewhat less likely quarters, there’s been reason this month for hope – reason, at least, to think that the basic trajectory of the world away from coal and gas and oil is firmly under way.
At the Vatican, the pope faced down a conference full of oil industry executives – the basic argument that fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground has apparently percolated to the top of the world’s biggest organization.
And from Wall Street came welcome word that market perceptions haven’t really changed: even in the age of Trump, the fossil fuel industry has gone from the world’s surest bet to an increasingly challenged enterprise. Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words: “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain: Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating and capital spending is falling. The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”