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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: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @04:06PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @04:06PM (#1244443)

    What can you conclude from those incongruent actions? Are they idiots?

    No, or at least not relatively. One can legitimately argue (on the basis of research findings, too) that humans have a built-in cognitive bias against planning for the long-term. We want quick satisfaction today. Worry about tomorrow tomorrow. And if it's beyond the 5-year projection, who the hell cares?

    Are they so arrogant they'd drill holes in the bottom of a sinking boat? Do they think it'll be fine so they don't have to worry?

    I think they honestly don't care. They assume that infinite growth will continue forever in the economy and that money can solve any problems that pop up. They work with the general assumptions that the market works with, since most of the rich people you're discussing are heavily invested in that model -- which has some aspects of a religion, honestly. Obviously infinite growth forever is impossible, but how else do you explain how so many people seem to buy into that assumption with the stock market, etc.?

    We just saw Netflix have it's "Oh SHIT!" moment because apparently some people finally realized that infinite growth in subscribers can't continue forever. DUH! But... apparently, it was so utterly shocking to see Netflix numbers go down that everyone suddenly flees the sinking ship. Look at what happened with the housing market in the early 2000s. Look at BitCoin right now. People buy into stuff all the time thinking it will only ever go up. The real world doesn't work like that. Look at responses to just about any disaster -- in quite a few cases, good planning in advance could help a lot, but how many rich people or governments or large businesses do plan for disaster?

    Rich people aren't magically smarter than everyone else. They're usually luckier, more ruthless, and more dedicated in certain ways. And even if they are a bit smarter than everyone else, we all suffer to various extents to the cognitive bias about satisfaction now. If their friends all have oceanfront estates and that's what it takes to be a "rich guy," then aren't they going to have one to be "part of the club"? Same thing with the private jets.

    I know a guy personally who is basically self-made and recently became a billionaire. (Though with recent market shifts, maybe he isn't anymore... point is, he has hundreds of millions.) He's not a close friend or anything, but he is the direct boss of a couple members of my extended family. I spent a week with him at one of his houses a few years back... and yeah, it's oceanfront property. But it's in the "cool location" for rich people. For a while he owned two jets, for all sorts of weird reasons... but one thing I definitely heard him express several times in our conversations is how everything is about "keeping up appearances" for rich people. He didn't grow up poor, but he made his own money, and he found the pretentiousness of the "rich people lifestyle" to be insufferable. He's the kind of guy who'd show up wearing jeans at the "no denim" resort (where it's okay to wear a skimpy bikini, but god-forbid the blue jeans...) just to dare someone to call him on it. Even as a 70-year-old guy, he'd drive the scooter around the grounds rather than the golf carts almost everyone else used... just because.

    And yet, even for him, to socialize in the right circles, to be part of the culture of the money-making elite, he needed the trappings of the elite to be taken seriously. So he has most of that.

    All your examples tell me is that rich people like to do things that rich people do. It's a tautology. And no one's looking past the 5-year projection, or questioning assumptions about growth continuing forever.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, @06:40PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, @06:40PM (#1245390)

    Judging by the latest news in Variety about their culture statement, Netflix's OH SHIT moment was also about realising that the people waving the woke banner were only a subset of their potential subscribers, and that if they didn't appeal to a bigger audience, they'd get a smaller slice of whichever pies were available.

    I mean, go figure. Deplorables watch shitty made-for-TV movies too. Their money spends like anybody else's.