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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 12, @11:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-let-the-changes-get-you-down dept.

Why our continued use of fossil fuels is creating a financial time bomb:

We know roughly how much more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere before we exceed our climate goals—limiting warming to 1.5° to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. From that, we can figure out how much more fossil fuel we can burn before we emit that much carbon dioxide. But when you compare those numbers with our known fossil fuel reserves, things get jaw-dropping.

To reach our climate goals, we'll need to leave a third of the oil, half of the natural gas, and nearly all the coal we're aware of sitting in the ground, unused.

Yet we have—and are still building—infrastructure that is predicated on burning far more than that: mines, oil and gas wells, refineries, and the distribution networks that get all those products to market; power plants, cars, trains, boats, and airplanes that use the fuels. If we're to reach our climate goals, some of those things will have to be intentionally shut down and left to sit idle before they can deliver a return on the money they cost to produce.

But it's not just physical capital that will cause problems if we decide to get serious about addressing climate change. We have workers who are trained to use all of the idled hardware, companies that treat the fuel reserves and hardware as an asset on their balance sheets, and various contracts that dictate that the reserves can be exploited.

Collectively, you can think of all of these things as assets—assets that, if we were to get serious about climate change, would see their value drop to zero. At that point, they'd be termed "stranded assets," and their stranding has the potential to unleash economic chaos on the world.

Do you agree with this arguably pessimistic assessment of the situation, and have we already run out of time to take the action necessary to avoid exceeding climate goals? Criticism is easy, but what solutions do you have to the problem?


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  • (Score: 2) by bart9h on Thursday May 12, @01:08PM (19 children)

    by bart9h (767) on Thursday May 12, @01:08PM (#1244368)

    That's a noble goal, but is not enough.

    Many woman do want to have babies.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @01:17PM (17 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @01:17PM (#1244373)

    Many woman do want to have babies.

    So what? Look at the actual data aka reality. Number of kids in wealthy nations where women have rights is well under 2 per woman meaning the population shrinks. It's even dropping in poorer nations like India. Now if you have anecdotal evidence to the contrary, that is quite irrelevant to the actual population thing. Population reduction is already in the cards.

    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.TFRT.IN?most_recent_value_desc=false [worldbank.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @04:36PM (16 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @04:36PM (#1244450)

      But the birthrate is skyrocketing in other countries, specifically Africa, and that will offset any declines experienced in other parts of the world.

      The UN forecasts predict 11-12 billion humans by 2100, and 70% of that increase will occur in the African continent. And guess what, all of those 3-4B new people will want to be Americans. Not necessarily want to live in America, but like the rest of the world they will want an American lifestyle and be big consumers like Americans, eat like Americans, produce garbage like Americans, own cars and drive like Americans, live in the suburbs like Americans, and pollute like Americans.

      All populations boom and bust and humans are no exception. Human population hasn't busted since prehistoric times when mating pairs dropped down into the thousands or some say even just hundreds, but there wont be any bust happening in the upcoming century.

      • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DeathMonkey on Thursday May 12, @04:53PM (3 children)

        by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday May 12, @04:53PM (#1244458) Journal

        Or we could provide education and birth control to Africa...

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @07:37PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @07:37PM (#1244518)

          Yep, I'm not sure why Africa would be any different from the other inhabited continents. Once there's enough prosperity to guarantee that most lineages can continue with fewer children, that's usually what happens. Even on countries like China and India, the birth rates are dropping as they no longer need to have large families as a social safety net.

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday May 12, @07:52PM (1 child)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday May 12, @07:52PM (#1244531)

            Even on countries like China and India, the birth rates are dropping as they no longer need to have large families as a social safety net.

            Too little, too late. 1.26B Chinese, 1.06B Indians in 2000, 1.41B and 1.38B respectively in 2020. "Think Tanks" predict "peak Chinese population around 2030." Think tanks have been predicting population peaks for decades, they're a lot like fusion power: just around the corner.

            --
            Україна не входить до складу Росії.
      • (Score: 4, Touché) by vux984 on Thursday May 12, @05:55PM (8 children)

        by vux984 (5045) on Thursday May 12, @05:55PM (#1244475)

        "The UN forecasts predict 11-12 billion humans by 2100, and 70% of that increase will occur in the African continent. "

        This UN forecast?

        Growing at a slower pace, world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100
        https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2019.html [un.org]

        I don't think you understand what "peak" means here. It doesn't mean, 9.7 billion in 200, 11 billion by 2100, and even more in 2150. It means, by 2100 the net global population growth will be ZERO or perhaps even negative.

        The UN is forecasting the population growth rate to continue to decline until growth stops outright, within a century.

        That's not the final word, of course. But pretty much everyone in the scientific community doesn't think global population growth continues unbounded.

        • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @04:00AM (7 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @04:00AM (#1244667)

          Then the UN doesn't understand evolution. The people who have evolved to want kids will replace those who have evolved to not want kids. It's just the way it works. If your parents didn't have any kids, neither will you. Contrariwise, if your parents wanted, and had, lots of kids then it is likely that those kids will also want and have lots of kids.

          • (Score: 2) by vux984 on Friday May 13, @04:48AM (6 children)

            by vux984 (5045) on Friday May 13, @04:48AM (#1244675)

            "If your parents wanted, and had, lots of kids then it is likely that those kids will also want and have lots of kids."

            That pre-supposes there is a genetic sequence for "wanting to have lots of kids" that can actually be passed on, and further pre-supposes that "wanting lots of kids" will actually result in evolutionary success of that gene. There's no real evidence of the former, but lets for the sake of argument imagine it was a thing. Even then, it's not hard to conceive of a cynical dystopian by our standards future where a family putting all its 'genetic eggs' into releasing a couple kids that it can give all the advantages to will out-compete genes from a family that tries to create bunches of kids it can't support competitively. A future sharing aspects of Gattaca for example.

            There are all kinds of plausible futures where the best chance of gene propagation is not "want to have lots of kids". There are lots of evolutionary tracks that have taken this route.

            Nevermind the impact of genetic engineering on evolution, artificial selection, etc. In a world that might want zero net growth, and advanced technology we can just eliminate that "wants to have lots of kids gene" whenever it appears.

            • (Score: 2, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @09:01AM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @09:01AM (#1244693)

              That pre-supposes there is a genetic sequence for "wanting to have lots of kids" that can actually be passed on

              That's kind of how evolution works.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @10:11AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @10:11AM (#1244700)

                I think it's unlikely, but it's actually possible that there isn't. There is a desire to have sex, and until recently that automatically meant kids. There must also be a drive to take care of kids once they arrive, but there is not necessarily a drive to actually have them.

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @10:05AM (3 children)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @10:05AM (#1244698)

              That pre-supposes there is a genetic sequence for "wanting to have lots of kids" that can actually be passed on, and further pre-supposes that "wanting lots of kids" will actually result in evolutionary success of that gene.

              Genetic, memetic, technological, it doesn't matter. All your arguments just change the parameters of the selection pressure. Right now, in the western world, the single most important selection pressure is whether or not lots of children are wanted. Virtually all current human evolution is towards the desire to have children.

              Even then, it's not hard to conceive of a cynical dystopian by our standards future where a family putting all its 'genetic eggs' into releasing a couple kids that it can give all the advantages to will out-compete genes from a family that tries to create bunches of kids it can't support competitively. A future sharing aspects of Gattaca for example.

              Unless you are going to advocate the termination of those "uncompetitive" kids, they certainly will outbreed your carefully cultivated limited offspring.

              Nevermind the impact of genetic engineering on evolution, artificial selection, etc. In a world that might want zero net growth, and advanced technology we can just eliminate that "wants to have lots of kids gene" whenever it appears.

              Your totalitarian gattaca world will simply apply an additional selection to resist the authorities. Future humans will be both rebellious and pro-kids.

              • (Score: 2) by vux984 on Sunday May 15, @11:48AM (2 children)

                by vux984 (5045) on Sunday May 15, @11:48AM (#1245091)

                Future humans will be both rebellious and pro-kids.

                Yes, your carefree and authority averse Eloi will be unable to work together but make will be excellent breeders.
                Little better than zoo animals hunted for sport and food by the far more organized, regulated, and regimented society of Morlocks. :p

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, @07:36PM (1 child)

                  by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, @07:36PM (#1245414)

                  Go read The Selfish Gene and The Extended Phenotype by Richard Dawkins. They are both very entertaining as well as being a great introduction to evolution. Then sit in a quiet spot for a while and really think about it.

                  If you still don't see any problems with what you have posted in this thread then re-read The Extended Phenotype. At some point a lightbulb will go off in your brain and you will realize that your past understanding of evolution was woefully lacking.

                  • (Score: 2) by vux984 on Tuesday May 17, @07:33AM

                    by vux984 (5045) on Tuesday May 17, @07:33AM (#1245572)

                    I get all that; I've followed Dawkin's work. The ideas in the extended phenotype don't change the calculus here one bit.

                    You posit that there is some indomitable survival and propagation advantage conferred by 'wanting to have lots of kids', but that simply might well not be the case. Wanting to have a couple kids, while wanting to deprive others the option of having any kids so they expend engergy on yours instead, and going hard after anyone who wants lots of kids, while virtue signaling your choice to have a 'small reasonable number' to avoid other instances of this trait from attacking you and getting them to band with you reinforcing itself, perpetuating a society and culture around these ideas, legal systems, and the technology to support and enforce it, creating an entire advanced society in service to that strategy and to the exclusion of others ... to directly engage Dawkin's concept ... might be the genetic winningest move in the long run.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday May 13, @11:48AM (1 child)

        by Thexalon (636) on Friday May 13, @11:48AM (#1244708)

        I'm not too worried about a boom in the population of Africa. I know something about how average Africans live - I know a bunch of African immigrants and people who spent years in several different areas of the continent - and they on average use up far fewer resources than Americans do. If carbon footprint is a decent approximation of resource usage, than 1 American = 50-100 Africans (it of course depends a lot on where in Africa you're talking about, since Africa is huge and wildly varied politically and economically). Also, Africans have, on average, been able to skip over building lots of inefficient infrastructure that continues to cost Americans a lot of money to maintain without much benefit.

        For about 1/3 the wastefulness of Americans, Africans could live like people in western Europe. And they might even find a way to be more efficient than that, because there are some smart Africans who want that sort of thing. If you want to massively improve African quality-of-life without causing major environmental issues, the way you'd do it is to put an end to what could reasonably be called "corporate colonialism", where companies owned by Europeans or Americans like De Beers, Shell, and Nestle are in charge of extracting wealth from Africa's huge natural resources, rather than the governments of European countries, and of course without that wealth extraction you'd have less of a reason for countries and corporations to fund their favorite warlords and dictators.

        --
        Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14, @11:25PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14, @11:25PM (#1245026) Journal

          If you want to massively improve African quality-of-life without causing major environmental issues, the way you'd do it is to put an end to what could reasonably be called "corporate colonialism"

          My take is that Africa actually is doing better - quality-of-life and environmentally - because of that corporate colonialism. De Beers and Nestle might be nasty, but they're better (and better paying) than the local talent. And when the local business talent improves, those international businesses will have to offer more in order to remain competitive.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14, @12:10AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14, @12:10AM (#1244843) Journal

        But the birthrate is skyrocketing in other countries

        No it's not. For a glaring counterexample, the highest rate of absolute population growth was in 1988 [wikipedia.org]. Presently, we have about 50% more population than in 1988 and a 10% slower population growth rate. Somethings wrong with the narrative.

        The UN forecasts predict 11-12 billion humans by 2100, and 70% of that increase will occur in the African continent. And guess what, all of those 3-4B new people will want to be Americans. Not necessarily want to live in America, but like the rest of the world they will want an American lifestyle and be big consumers like Americans, eat like Americans, produce garbage like Americans, own cars and drive like Americans, live in the suburbs like Americans, and pollute like Americans.

        How about instead of treating this as a problem, we treat this as an enormous opportunity - getting the low fertility, prosperity, and incredible human benefits of the developed world for everyone, including those Africans.

  • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Thursday May 12, @01:53PM

    by Opportunist (5545) on Thursday May 12, @01:53PM (#1244384)

    Well, it's a start. Just imagine what could be accomplished already if we just did away with all the unwanted births.