Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America are the worst offenders.
WASHINGTON — If you asked us why a dozen people sat on the floor next to the A.T.M. in a Chase Bank branch on Friday, waiting for the police to arrest us for this small act of civil disobedience, we would come up with the same answer as the famous robber Willie Sutton: “Because that’s where the money is.”
We don’t want to empty the vaults. Instead, we want people to understand that the money inside the vaults of banks like Chase is driving the climate crisis. Cutting off that flow of cash may be the single quickest step we can take to rein in the fossil fuel industry and slow the rapid warming of the earth.
JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only offender, but it is among the worst. In the last three years, according to data compiled in a recently released “fossil fuel finance report card” by a group of environmental organizations, JPMorgan Chase lent over $195 billion to gas and oil companies.
- Wells Fargo lent over $151 billion,
- Citibank lent over $129 billion and
- Bank of America lent over $106 billion.
Since the Paris climate accord, which 195 countries agreed to in 2015, JPMorgan Chase has been the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels by a 29 percent margin.
This investment sends a message that’s as clear as President Trump’s shameful decision to pull America out of that pact: Short-term profits are more important than the long-term health of the planet.
There are few financial institutions untouched by these climate change-causing investments. Amalgamated Bank, Aspiration and Beneficial State Bank are notable exceptions. Local credit unions rarely have major investments in fossil fuels.
JPMorgan Chase, in contrast, has funded the very worst projects — projects that expand the reach of fossil fuel infrastructure and lock in our dependence on fossil fuels for decades to come.
If approved this year, the pipeline will carry 760,000 barrels of crude oil every day from Canada to terminals on the edge of Lake Superior. This project reroutes and expands existing pipelines so that more crude oil can flow to refineries in Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan and Ontario.
Tara Houska, a tribal attorney and member of the Couchiching First Nation Anishinaabe, has demonstrated the impacts on the ground. If built, the Line 3 replacement route will endanger the wild rice crops harvested for at least 500 years by the people native to the upper Midwest. Many Ojibwe nations in the region have opposed the project.
But it’s just as damaging if the oil doesn’t spill. Refined and burned as gasoline or jet fuel, it will spew carbon into the air, raising the temperature of the planet.
The victims of climate change are primarily people who have done little to cause the crisis. A World Health Organization senior scientist, Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, said in December that climate change is emerging as “potentially the greatest risk to human health in the 21st century.” In the same month, Oxfam reported that cyclones, floods and fires are now displacing three times as many people as wars.
Not all the victims of climate change are humans. An estimated 800 million animals have been killed in the Australian blazes, which came after record heat and drought. Neither of us have met a long-nosed potoroo; the news that Australia’s bush fires have likely driven it and other species to extinction makes the world seem poorer.
There’s nothing abstract about climate change any more. Slowing the pace of climate change is humanity’s great task.
One center of power in our world is political — that’s why young people have been demonstrating outside of parliaments, writing a Green New Deal and registering new voters: in the United States, 2020 will be a fateful year for changing the politics of climate.
But even if the most environmental candidates win, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be able to move our country at the pace science requires. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that if we want to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial temperatures, we will have to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, cutting them to net zero by around 2050 — and Washington is only one capitol.
It makes sense to go after the other center of power, too: the vast financial empire centered in our country. Insurance companies like Liberty Mutual and asset managers like BlackRock have also, through their investments in fossil fuels, enabled climate chaos.
These titans may be too big to pressure. Yet if we could get just one offending bank to move toward divesting from fossil fuels, the ripple effects would be both swift and global.
Imagine an announcement from JPMorgan Chase that it was immediately ending funding for new fossil fuel projects. It would echo around the world in hours, and there would be nothing the Trumps or Putins or Bolsonaros of the world could do to stop it.
We sat in and were arrested at Chase Bank on Friday for nothing smaller than the future of our planet. If you care about the climate, it’s worth moving your accounts away from these offenders. Cut up your credit cards.
If you want to stop climate change, follow the money.
America’s foreign policy establishment believed that China’s economic ascent would lead to political liberalization, and that China in the long term would become a benign actor in world affairs. That view has been falsified, but there is no consensus about what China wants and what threat it might pose to American interests. China is seeking technological self-sufficiency and even superiority in key industries. It has concentrated military spending on advanced technologies. Its Belt and Road Initiative proposes a trillion-dollar investment program to project China’s influence across the world. What is China’s grand design, and how should the United States respond to it?
David P. Goldman is a columnist at Asia Times and a principal of Asia Times Holdings LLC. He contributes regularly to the Claremont Review of Books and other conservative outlets, including PJ Media, where he writes the “Spengler” column. During 2013-2016 he was a managing director at Yunfeng Financial, a Hong Kong investment bank. Previously he was global head of debt research at Bank of America and head of credit strategy at Credit Suisse. He is the author of several books including “How Civilizations Die” (2011).
Mr. Moynihan, 58 years old, got the top role after CEO Kenneth Lewis unexpectedly announced his retirement in fall 2009. During that period, Bank of America faced major financial problems following acquisitions of Countrywide Financial Corp. and Merrill Lynch & Co. To stay afloat, the bank had to take $45 billion from the government.
.. After Donald Trump’s surprise 2016 election, bank stocks broadly jumped. Bank of America shares surged 74% between then and the end of 2017.
.. For the full year of 2017, the bank posted a $21.1 billion profit, excluding an adjustment from the tax cut, roughly matching the bank’s all-time profit record from 2006.
.. The bank issued millions of new shares during the crisis, however, so its per-share earnings remain far below where they were precrisis. Likewise its shares, unlike those of competitors such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co., remain below precrisis levels.
.. “Bank of America has done a sensational job under Brian Moynihan,” Mr. Buffett said
Financial shares have been among the best stock-market performers since the surprise election victory on Nov. 8. Among those, Bank of America has been the standout: the stock’s more-than-40% rise since Election Day is the best among the biggest U.S. banks and is 15 percentage points higher than the gain for the KBW Nasdaq Bank index.
.. The Bank of America windfall is thanks to a savvy investment Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.made in the bank in August 2011. At the time, the bank’s shares were foundering and markets were questioning whether Bank of America would have to raise additional capital lest it sink under what some feared was a looming deluge of mortgage-related legal claims... The terms were expensive for Bank of America: The preferred stock paid a chunky 6% annual dividend, or $300 million a year, and if the bank wanted to repurchase the shares it would have to pay Mr. Buffett a 5% premium... The real sweetener, though, was that Mr. Buffett also received warrants to purchase 700 million shares of common stock at $7.14 apiece at any time over the next 10 years. Although this was roughly where the stock was trading at the time, some investors groused this was overly generous to Mr. Buffett.. The halo effect of Mr. Buffett’s investment helped to quell some concerns around the stock, which rose.
The higher oil prices stemming from OPEC’s agreement to cut crude production should give some banks a boost.
.. In particular, higher oil prices could mean that banks will release some of the reserves they set aside earlier this year to protect themselves against soured energy loans. Such releases would increase banks’ earnings.
.. Fifteen of the largest U.S. banks amassed a combined $6 billion in reserves for energy loans, according to a Barclays analysis.